In this article, taken from our latest Inspiring Great Retail report, UX Director Chris Jones explores this question. Chris shares his thoughts and extensive experience on what a creative ecommerce website means to him and how thinking a little creatively about your site can enhance the customer experience and improve conversion.

Over to Chris...

I was delighted to see that one of the themes of the Winter issue of Inspiring Great Retail was creativity in ecommerce. It’s a subject that is very close to my heart and at the centre of many of the projects that I work on.

There’s often much talk about “best practice” ecommerce design and the tension that exists between what is tried and tested versus new ideas, novel designs, creativity. So, which is the right approach for successful ecommerce?

My career has taken a trajectory similar to that of a faulty rocket – not exactly what you’d call a linear path. I started as a graphic designer creating training packages in the early days of digital, moving to print design, branding and advertising, before settling back into digital with ecommerce website design. This is no bad thing and has given me a great appreciation of the power of creativity, whether that be a TV ad, a brochure or an ecommerce site.

When ecommerce first came along, many retailers didn’t quite know where it sat in their structure. Was it part of marketing? IT? Operations? Most opted to plonk it in with marketing – websites have words and pictures, so surely it’s marketing, right? Bit by bit, as online spend grew, it became apparent that ecommerce was a separate entity and a department in its own right, a mixture of marketing, IT and operations. For some retailers, that was the point where they lost creativity on their website. Creativity was the marketing department’s thing, only to be used in ad campaigns and branding. What would those slightly geeky web designer types in ecommerce know about it anyway? As the excellent examples in this report show, quite a lot actually.

But what about “best practice” ecommerce design? Won’t coming up with a new, more creative design threaten what the UX textbooks say will deliver the best conversion rate? Shouldn’t we just do what our competitors are doing, play it safe? It’s an understandable viewpoint, but one which can weaken your ecommerce greatly. The most powerful ecommerce design is that which marries both creativity and best practice learnings.

It’s not creativity or best practice – creativity is best practice!

If you’re designing something new, whether it be a small A/B test or an entire ecommerce site, consider a more creative approach. What would that piece of copy sound like if it were more friendly or less formal? How much better do your products look if you light them in an interesting way when being photographed and fill the screen with them, letting your customers really see the detail? How about those users who want to be inspired with the latest trends – are you giving them a way of shopping that includes this in their journey? What creative ways can you come up with of demonstrating the benefits of your products? The examples in this report will give you some great inspiration and don’t forget, you can always user test your solutions to find out which works best.

Creativity is an essential part of great ecommerce. It can be a key differentiator in your online offering, surprise, delight and get customers coming back for more. Without it, you run the risk of being an also-ran that never reaches its full potential.