Creative inspirations you should see: Volume 3

1.  Bloomingdale's - Friends & Family promo series


Bloomingdales designed a series of promotional creative for their annual Friends & Family event - and it surely has caught people’s attention.  It's unique and ubiquitous - the neon-light style and animation is hard to miss, and each of their digital properties puts this series on the front page - website, emails, and mobile. It teaches us how to make an impression - be unique, consistent, and everywhere!


2. Banana Republic - Celebrity fashion showcase

This Banana Republic interactive creative is something a marketer could easily build using Likelihood's Intelligent Creative platform

Banana Republic invites celebrities to showcase how to style with their pieces. It’s inspiring and convincing at the same time - this is how celebrities love and wear the brand, and you should too.


3. Zara - Video creative

This Zara interactive video creative is something a marketer could easily build using Likelihood's Intelligent Creative platform

It’s always a feast for your eyes when it comes to the Zara website, and now they've added video elements to make it pop that much more. It’s not a direct product video, but rather a background to create the mood and compliment the style. A smart move!


4. Sephora - It's a Curl Thing

This Sephora interactive creative is something a marketer could easily build using Likelihood's Intelligent Creative platform


Sephora uses GIFs to illustrate the curl types of women’s hair, which otherwise would left to a bland explanation in text. It’s eye-catching, easy to understand, and brings focus to the main content - the products that would shine your hair.


If Customers Can Print Your Website, You're Doing Digital Wrong

When’s the last time you printed your website? Our guess is ... never. Because why would you print something that's meant to be consumed digitally? But think about your home page for a minute. How hard would it really be to recreate your homepage “experience" on paper?

As it turns out, if you’re one of the top 75 e-commerce retailers in the U.S. (or anything like them), it may not be that hard at all.

We visited the website homepage (on 1/26/2017) of each of the top 75 e-commerce retailers in the U.S. to analyze just how digital their digital home really was. We looked for any sign of interactivity or engagement that didn’t simply take the user to another page — that is, any experience that we couldn’t easily recreate with a little paper (invented 100 BC), scissors (1500 BC), and Scotch tape (1925).

In the following interactive graphic, we show the Top Ten — really the Only Ten — things you can do on an e-commerce homepage that are directly relevant to a shopper's experience, along with what % of the top 75 U.S. e-commerce retailers offer such a feature:

As these numbers prove, today's mainstream e-commerce experiences are digital only in name. Here’s that same Top Ten list from the interactive graphic, this time in bullet form:

  1. SEARCH FOR CONTENT | 99% of homepages allow users to search for products directly from the homepage. In most cases, the user is taken to another page to see their search results, but it's at least functional, so we'll count it. (And yes: 99% means that one retailer did not even offer a search function.)

  2. ENGAGE A NAVIGATION MENU | 91% of homepages reveal additional content when a user hovers or clicks on a navigation menu (typically a sub-category menu, sometimes with a promotional creative).

  3. BROWSE “TRAYS” OF PRODUCTS | 47% of homepages let users click to see the next set of products in a "tray.” Likelihood covered the ubiquitous use of trays on e-commerce websites in another recent blog post called The Internet of Trays.

  4. ROTATE PROMOTIONAL CAROUSEL | 43% of homepages let users click to see another promotion in a rotating carousel. There is a growing body of evidence, however, that website visitors rarely engage with standard carousel content beyond the first image shown.

  5. VIEW DETAIL ON PRODUCT HOVER | 24% of homepages reveal some additional information upon hovering over a product image in a tray. Typically, this is the product price or rating. Alternatively, the hover state may be a simple call to action like “quick view” or “add to cart.”

  6. SEE PRODUCT “QUICK VIEW” | 13% of homepages show product details in a “quick view” upon clicking a product image in a tray. This is a welcome digital engagement, as it allows shoppers to quickly evaluate a product before deciding to purchase, or otherwise escape back to the homepage without waiting through two additional page loads.

  7. WATCH A VIDEO | 9% of homepages let users watch a video. Often these videos are auto-played, not self-initiated, so users may see them whether they want to or not. Still, videos are an excellent attention-getter, and not something one can print, so they certainly count as a digital experience.

  8. UPLOAD YOUR OWN PHOTO | 4% of homepages invite users to upload photos for consideration in a user-generated content gallery. More than 4% show user-generated content galleries on their homepages, but only a few let users interact right then and there.

  9. DIRECTLY SHOP CREATIVES | 1% of homepages (i.e., just one of the top 75 U.S. e-commerce retailers) allow users to directly shop products within creatives. Rather than creatives only serving to take users to another page of products in a category or collection, this approach is a welcome way to bring relevant content forward into a shopper's journey.

  10. DO OTHER “DIGITAL" THINGS | 8% of homepages offer users any other kind of interactive experience (e.g., gift registry creation, shopping list builder, vehicle selector) beyond the first nine covered. Instead, users are left to scroll up and down the page in hopes that they will click through to a category or collection and eventually find something they want.

Other than the most basic digital functions, most e-commerce homepages aren’t much more than a glossy catalog posted online. To their credit, some retailers are experimenting with new ways to tell their brand story, engage customers, and to shorten their path to purchase. However, when we speak with those retailers, most tell us that such “enhanced experiences” — even simple ones — are difficult to get off the ground because they require additional development resources, which are always a bottleneck. As a result, most creative ideas are abandoned, and websites remain forever plain.

Retailers have a golden opportunity to get ahead of the pack by upgrading their digital experiences. Without turning this into too much of pitch, Likelihood's intelligent creative platform enables marketers, merchandisers, and creatives to build engaging, interactive creatives — such as the interactive graphic above — without code, and without delay. We also sprinkle in our artificial intelligence secret sauce to automatically generate millions of potential permutations so you can offer each individual customer a unique, relevant experience.

Simply put, we think it’s time to finally make digital … digital! 

The Internet of Trays

Personalization is ugly.

We don’t mean "organizing the data needed to personalize is messy” or “integrating a personalization vendor is difficult.” We really mean, to quote Melissa Liotus from retailer Crate & Barrel: “Personalization is ugly.” Gross-looking. Aesthetically unpleasing.


Today’s predominant method of displaying personalized content to shoppers looks something like this:

e-commerce personalization tray

Surely you recognize this look: typically 4-6 product images in a row, stuffed in various sections of a website in hopes of catching a shopper’s eye with a specific product. We at Likelihood refer to these content blocks as “trays”. Popularized by Amazon many years ago, it now seems strange to find an online retailer who doesn’t use trays in some form. Being quants at heart, we decided to measure the industry's collective fascination with trays by visiting the top 50 U.S. retail websites to catalog (a.k.a. count one-by-one) all the trays being used to present content to shoppers.

To keep our dataset clean — and to keep ourselves from going crazy — we completed our tray-counting project in one afternoon: Thursday, December 1, 2016. Near the end of Cyber Week, this is a time when retailers need to put their best content forward to help their shoppers find what they came for (or entice them to buy something they didn’t come for) so they can meet their numbers for the holiday season.

Since e-commerce sites, especially those of large retailers, can have tens of thousands of unique pages, we focused our counting efforts on three key types of pages: the home page, one representative department/category page, and one individual product detail page (or PDP, for short) for each retailer. Across these three types of pages, we counted a total of 328 trays displayed by our top 50 retailers, meaning their shoppers saw an average of 6.6 trays per retailer along a fairly direct path to purchase. Factor in visits to multiple departments and very likely many PDPs before settling on one item to buy — plus additional trays that pepper the add-to-cart and checkout processes — and shoppers can easily be exposed to thirty or forty trays during a single visit to a single retailer.

For all the hype in the marketing technology world around personalization and revolutionizing customer experience, it seems that all we’ve really given consumers is a horizontal hot mess of product promotions. We’ve since dubbed this phenomenon "The Internet of Trays”: 

Key takeaways from this infographic:

  • All but one (i.e., 98%) of the Top 50 retailers displayed at least one tray somewhere along their main path to purchase. The lone exception? Apple. Interpret that however you wish.
  • 63% of retailers displayed at least one tray on their home page. In every case, these trays came “after the scroll.” They also tended to highlight popular or sponsored products, and avoided implying that a tray’s contents were personalized to that shopper.
  • 76% of retailers displayed at least one tray on their department/category pages. These pages were the most guilty of showcasing seemingly random content in trays that were labeled as personalized (e.g., “Shoppers like you …”).
  • 90% of retailers displayed at least one tray on their product detail pages. Trays on these pages tended to be labeled as personalized and were more reflective of site browsing behavior, but were also more likely to be stacked on top of one another with redundant labels or content. For example, Amazon displayed five trays on the PDP we viewed: "Frequently Bought Together”, "Customers Who Viewed This Also Bought”, "Sponsored Products Related To This Item”, "Inspired by Your Browsing History”, and “You viewed”. A helpful way to up-sell? Or the digital equivalent of throwing merchandise over a shopper's dressing room door?
  • Bonus fact (not shown in infographic): 9 of 50 (18%) retailers also displayed a gallery of user-generated photographs on their home page or in another prominent location. While not nearly as prevalent as product trays, it is easy to see parallels between the two. As with any trend, what may at first seem fashionable may soon prove a fad.

Online shoppers can spot algorithmic personalization a mile away in its current tray form. As trays become increasingly ubiquitous, they will become decreasingly effective — leaving over-reliant retailers at risk. Innovative companies who experiment with more inspiring (and less ugly) ways to present personally relevant content are more likely to earn their way onto industry Top 50 lists in 2017 and beyond.

Likelihood uses artificial intelligence to help you build relevant, inspiring, engaging creative content at 1:1 scale. Ed DeCaria is the head of product at Likelihood.

Creative inspirations you should see: Volume 2

1. Logo animation from Christian Louboutin

Inspiring Christian Louboutin interactive logo

This unexpected and tasteful animation is unique and on-brand. Explore ideas that leverage interactivity to make your brand and creative content stand out from the crowd!


2. Stylish model shots with graphic elements from Free People

Photography plays an essential part in today's digital experience, but Free people pushes it to the next level by incorporating beautiful graphic design. Photography + design is a beautiful way to elevate those lifestyle shots you have and elevate your message!


3. Store-like web experience from Maybelline is a site that women can linger for hours and shop as if they were in the store. The way they present cosmetic products mirrors what people usually experience offline, such as this creative example. Product category lists and "customers also viewed" trays might be the easiest thing to put on your website, but is it the most favorable form for your customers?


4. 360-degree rotatable product image from Sunglass Hut

Sunglass Hut uses raw product assets in a novel way to create a more interesting, useful digital experience for its shoppers

Shoppers always want to have a full grasp of the product before they click the button to buy.  Sunglass Hut makes sure they can shop without hesitation with this 360-degree rotatable image feature.  Think about how you might take product shots differently if you could incorporate them into interactive experiences like this.


5. Subtle animation on homepage hero from Pacsun


The subtle animation on this creative draws attention from shoppers and transforms it from a simple photo carousel to a more immersive experience. It reminds shoppers of the upcoming winter and all the fun they will have on the mountains!


Creative inspirations you should see: Volume 1

Our product helps designers and marketers put better creative in front of their customers. To inform how we build our product, we are constantly looking at, evaluating, and often admiring creatives we see out in the wild.  We want to call out and share the ones that stand out, so we're starting an ongoing series to do just that. Here are some creative inspirations you should see - appreciate them for what they are, get new ideas and learn best practices, and simply please your eyes. Here we go!


1. Lifestyle + product shots from Pink

This creative series from Pink unleashes the creative potential of great-looking product photography through a consistent template and art direction. Why should a photo shine only once then sit in the dark forever? Use them creatively to catch shoppers' attention not only on monotonous product listing pages, but also from the beginning of their journey - in emails, on the homepage, on category pages, etc.


2. Shoppable images from Club Monaco

This Club Monaco shoppable creative is something a marketer could easily build using Likelihood's Intelligent Creative platform

Club Monaco strives to provide better customer experience by making their images shoppable. And the interaction is well-thought: it's effortless to view items featured in a dozen images without leaving the page or being interrupted by prompts.


3. Visual navigation from MAC Cosmetics

This MAC Cosmetics interactive visual navigation is something a marketer could easily build using Likelihood's Intelligent Creative platform

Instead of showing a tired list of navigational categories, MAC Cosmetics takes another route of wowing shoppers with stunning creatives. Invigorate your site where customers least expect it.


4. Interactive page from Chanel

This Chanel interactive creative experience is something a marketer could easily build using Likelihood's Intelligent Creative platform

Playful, dynamic, and fun, Chanel's fall-winter 2016/17 show doesn't just shed light on the latest fashion trends, but also pushes the envelope for digital experience. Moving simultaneously with the mouse on the screen, the page unveils the highlights both on and off the stage, with videos and photo collections for fans to dig into.  


5. GIF in email from Urban Outffiters

This Urban Outfitters creative looping "video" is something a marketer could easily build using Likelihood's Intelligent Creative platform

Sometimes a static image can't do justice to how awesome and versatile your product is - and that's where a GIF should come into play! This example from Urban Outfitters not only shows the details of the product, but also sparks our imagination with possibilities.

Why We Started Likelihood

When we sat down and started thinking of what problem we wanted to tackle at Likelihood (pre-name), we had an inkling that we wanted to do something to improve customer experience by applying our expertise in large datasets and real-time decisioning. We also had an inkling that we wanted to do it in retail.  

While it was (and still is) a noisy space, we fundamentally believed (and still do) that most retail customer experiences are broken, and that there is room for marked improvement by changing the way things are done in digital marketing and digital commerce.

Growing trend: visual content and navigation

More and more retailers were shifting from the traditional search and browse navigation metaphor to employing much richer content both as a means of storytelling and as a means of navigation:

Website content and navigation is becoming more visual

Problem: showing the wrong visual content

We dug deeper and firmly believed that the new, more visual approach that people are trying “looked better” (scientific term).  But we noticed time and again that the status quo approach pretty much amounted to a bunch of good photographs that obviously came from the brand, but that generally didn't resonate with us in the moment or help us get from point A (the thing I’m looking for or don’t quite know that I’m looking for) to B (getting that thing).

As pointed out by and Hubspot here, it’s clear that most of you agree:  “Nearly three-fourths (74%) of online consumers get frustrated with Web sites when content (e.g., offers, ads, promotions) appears that has nothing to do with their interests.”

Problem found! We know how to fix that! We decided to start tackling the problem of picking the right visual content to show to the right individual at the right time, using real-time data and real-time decisions.  This would be different than most segment-based approaches to A/B testing and personalization because it would truly be operating at the individual customer level, doing so in real-time, and not require someone to write rules.  (This would also be a misstep, learning experience, and result in a pivot - but another post on that some other time)

Harder problem: not enough visual content

We spoke to several digital marketers and creative directors across retail and in the agency world.  We heard loud and clear that it would be fantastic if the right content was chosen automatically, if there were actually more than a few content options to choose from.

We dug deeper on why there wasn’t more content at their disposal and found consistency across the board:  It’s expensive to produce, it takes forever and our team is already occupied with upcoming campaigns and seasons.

The real problem was with the content supply chain.  About 200,000,000 people a year in the U.S. shop online, but there are only about 90,000 creative professionals listed on LinkedIn in the retail industry - numbers that just don’t realistically add up to shoppers getting individualized content.  

What if machines could help?

So we asked people, hypothetically: what if artificial intelligence could be a force multiplier for your creative team and get you more content for your customers? We got a lot of silence and quizzical looks. We had potential customers tell us we were crazy for trying and others tell us that it sounded great, but the details would be in the execution and they’d believe it when they saw it. We got a lot more of the latter. It seemed hard and interesting to do and there was value to create, so we decided to give it a shot.  

So we’ve set out to create a new arrow in the quiver of digital marketing, commerce, and creative professionals in the retail space. One that produces more relevant, engaging, and inspiring creative content, on demand, using machine learning, artificial intelligence, and guidance from marketing and creative teams. We call it Intelligent Creative, and we look forward to showing it to you and giving you an ongoing peek into why and how we build it.

We have had a lot of fun with hypotheticals about what we might make possible. And we’d be curious what you think. Ask yourself:

  • Am I happy with the creative we have today and how we use it?
  • What creative assets and experiences would we have if I weren’t already strapped supporting upcoming seasons, campaigns, and launches?
  • What would I do if we had 10x the creative designers we do now?
  • What would I do if we could have 1000x the creative content we do now?