Manuel Bordé, Global Chief Creative Officer at VMLY&R Commerce, sat with Communicate to explain how creative commerce is so much more than e-commerce.
How do creativity and commerce work hand in hand?
We are getting into a very exciting hybrid world, this really cool intersection between culture and commerce where the practice of commerce is not just limited to going to a store or a website, but can happen anywhere – bringing a lot of digital components into the physical world. So, creative-wise, we need to move beyond thinking that commerce is just going to be a website where your brand experience is having your products in the product detail pages. It truly is an open canvas; creative commerce-born ideas can tap into basically any media, and we’re aiming to put together and merge the brand equity and the conversion aspects of communication or of campaigns. That is super exciting for us.
Even the definition of commerce is not set in stone, it’s evolving alongside tech. We hear about social commerce, conversational commerce. So, how would you define creative commerce?
Yes, we’re now hearing about entertainment commerce, sustainable commerce, live-streaming commerce. It really became like a massive canvas.
Take “Sent by Glade,” for example. For a candle and fragrance brand like Glade, the biggest challenge is how to do sampling. So, they found a new channel to be able to deliver the scent via a partnership with Walmart, which is one of the biggest retailers in the US, filling the pouches of the [Walmart delivery] boxes with scented air instead of regular air. When consumers opened their pack, they could pop the packet and smell the fragrance. Until there, it was not commerce; it was a beautiful sampling activation. What actually made it commerce was the addition of a QR code to the packet. The moment that you capture the person with the experience, they have the option to convert.
So, creative commerce is making sure that you bring that element of conversion to the brand experiences that you’re putting on the table, making sure that you give the opportunity to get consumers to buy the product. Why wait until that person walks into a store in the future and then remember the TV spot that you just did? Technology now allows us to give those options, so [consumers] can scan to buy, or swipe to buy, or click to buy, or any other action that can drive the conversion.
Is it fair to say that e-commerce is no longer appropriate and that, rather, omnichannel really came into its own across the board?
Exactly, especially because, when we say e-commerce, our mind immediately goes to those product page sites. Almost every single exercise of commerce, whether it’s a fully digital immersion or a physical immersion, has an ‘e’ component to it.
What are the key creative trends that you’re seeing in commerce today?
There is a big push on social commerce. All the social platforms are realizing how it’s not just about the awareness; brands want to make sure that they can have a conversion element there. So, they’re starting to include shoppable features to make sure they offer the same experience that you can have in a built e-commerce site.
Sustainability is [also] key, especially with younger generations that are very conscious of consumption, wastage, etc. It’s not just about sustainability in terms of eco-friendly packaging, but also in terms of how brands support social causes, address social issues.
And I do think that we are going to see more and more that hybrid shape of commerce coming to life, with more and more brands willing to give out experiences that are offline or in-person but enhanced by digital components like AR and VR.
Another thing that we’re looking at as well is how commerce can also be married easily with entertainment. Commerce is the arm that drives the sales and digital agencies are the ones that drive the brand equity and brand awareness, but you have a very nice middle point where you’re creating commerce that also drives brand equity, entertains, and has these collaborations and partnerships, in the gaming world for example.
What do you think of gaming commerce’s potential?
It’s booming, so much that it became kind of like sports, with managers, influencers, and brand sponsorships. Music artists are even using games like Fortnight to launch their records now. There are a lot of ideas to get people to build their worlds, or build worlds for brands, or to get brands themselves to come in and be a proactive part of a game. For example, now we’re doing an initiative in Japan where we’re literally turning an e-commerce website into a game. You create a character and that character goes through the city, walks into stores, buys, connects with other people.
And now, everyone’s talking about NFTs; are NFTs going to be just a token, like art, or are they going to become the next digital loyalty card or item that will allow you to own a piece of the brand, for example?
To keep up with all of this can seem challenging. So how do you keep it fun?
That’s important. We’ve done a couple of great initiatives to keep everyone’s mind fresh in terms of what’s happening in commerce. A lot of key markets had a perception of commerce as the shopper world – the formula iteration and repetition of the message up here and a million deliverables inside the store. So we established a really proactive, global methodology that we call “Brave” and that allows us to push ourselves, to push our clients, and to push the industry away from the shopper world and into a more exciting direction. As part of this initiative, we created workshops making sure that we recognize great work out there; and we created these quarterly reviews for all the different markets that are an open space where the most junior to top leading management can present and discuss ideas rooted in commerce.
The strategic planning community has another session called “Sparks” where they look at trends in commerce, in culture, and they feed all this to us.
That, and keeping that community really connected and collaborative, has helped us elevate our game, keep it exciting, and start to put work out there that represents the commerce that we want to present, not the commerce that just has an ‘e’ before it.