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Riding the Retail Media Wave: Why Agile CreativeOps is the Cheat Code for eCommerce Platforms to Crack Retail Media

Amidst the pandemic, supply chain constraints, and market volatility, the retail industry has continued its upward growth trajectory, demonstrating the sector’s commendable resiliency. As of 2022, the global retail market reached a value of about USD 23 trillion and the industry is expected to further witness healthy growth in the coming years. The thriving eCommerce market has played an important role in augmenting this growth. 

Not only is the retail industry growing but it is rapidly evolving as well. With the coming of retail media, both eCommerce and omnichannel retailers are turning into media networks by monetizing ad inventory with much coveted first-party user data. In their Q4 earnings reports for 2021, Amazon and Walmart posted $31.1 billion and $2.1 billion in digital ad sales, respectively – numbers that have shaken the retail sector.

However, to harness the true monetization potential of retail media, retailers need to have a sound creative infrastructure in place that can aid personalization of ads, ensure brand consistency at scale and deliver faster campaigns. In short, retail media needs an agile and efficient CreativeOps system that gives them maximum output, all while saving time and costs.   To start off, let’s delve a little deeper into the growth of retail media and the massive business opportunities it unlocks for eCommerce and omnichannel retailers.

The Rise of Retail Media

Search engines were considered the first wave of digital advertisement and social media the second. While these two channels remain quite important for brands today, it is the third wave of digital advertisement i.e. retail media that is taking the world by storm. 

So far, retail websites were mostly seen as means to a transactional end. People visit the website, buy what they want and leave. However, now they’re evolving into powerful marketing platforms which serve as a holy grail for business intelligence as well. These retail platforms offer first-party data to marketers which is more effective than cookies ever were.

Brands are increasingly using this upcoming opportunity to get the most out of their ad spend. Retail media targets people right at or near the point of sale when people are much more receptive as compared to when they are casually scrolling on social media. That is what makes retail media so effective and popular. To put things in perspective, Amazon is USA’s third-largest advertising platform! That’s not all. Globally, retail media already represents 10.7% of ad spending, and this figure can well go up to 60% by 2027.

Given the effectiveness of retail media, it isn’t surprising to see that brands are clamoring for ad spaces on retail websites and apps, helping retailers generate significant revenue from their retail ad sales. However, any retail platform that wants to establish itself as an effective advertising platform needs to have a sound creative architecture to ensure that the advertisements are personalized across languages, regions, offers, etc. Lack of personalization would limit the reach of ads thereby directly impacting conversions. Retailers may also need to experiment with different messaging on ads to see what works the best. Then comes the need for conducting brand compliance checks across all the ads created and ensuring that all advertisement campaigns go live on time. 

All of this requires a robust CreativeOps system that automates content production, streamlines various aspects of creative operations like brand compliance checks, feedback loops, and finally feeds in insights with minimal human intervention. But what we see in most enterprises currently, is a fragmented relationship between people, processes, and technologies; tools that lack the ability to scale production, teams that lack efficiency and data awareness, and manual processes that push timelines and chip away at creativity. 

In this article, we will dive deep into the problems that plague the traditional CreativeOps system, inhibiting retail brands from monetizing faster and better.

Addressing the Basics: Inability to Scale Becomes a Roadblock in Personalization and Experimentation

With the retail industry surging, more and more players are entering the playing field, making it even more pertinent for brands to stay digitally relevant. And given that today 93% of all communication is visual, retail networks need to start functioning like a content factory churning out high-quality creative content at scale with minimal human intervention. 

Be it social media, retail media or push notifications, for every channel, brands need to push out designer-grade ad creatives which need to be personalized across languages, regions, customer behavior, etc. To add to that, they need to be experimenting with different messaging and visuals to see which gives them the optimal result. And of course, then there are sales and events during which the need for banners skyrockets. When we bring all of these aspects together, what we get is an endless demand for creatives by the brand, the supply of which can’t be fulfilled by legacy CreativeOps. Getting personalization alone right can mean creatives uniquely tailored for residents of 5 countries, 50 states, or 500 cities and experimentation means having multiple variants of that many creatives with different messaging and visuals.

While the demand for creatives keeps skyrocketing day after day, all designers have at their disposal are traditional design tools that offer no scope for scale. They end up spending the lion’s share of their time on manual and repetitive tasks like size adapts and minor copy changes leaving them with very little time for being creative. 

To address that gap between demand for creatives and its supply, retail media networks need a lean and agile CreativeOps infrastructure that offers automated creative production. Now when we talk about automating creative production, we aren’t talking about a platform that will eliminate the scope of a designer. In fact, we are talking about a platform that will automate all the redundant and repetitive tasks of size adapts, copy changes, background removal, etc for 1000s of creatives, giving designers time to actually be creative. Not just that,  features like spreadsheet import can make personalization at scale a reality. Designers can create one base template and then by uploading a spreadsheet with all the required fields, they can create thousands of personalized variants of that base template in no time.

Dealing with the Mundane: Brand Compliance Woes, Feedback Loops, and More

Establishing a system that enables the production of 1000s of creatives with minimal human intervention is for sure a challenge. However, every retailer would agree, that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Next comes the need for checking each of those creatives against 50 brand guidelines, coordinating with designers if those creatives are non-compliant, and finally storing and managing those assets.

Ensuring brand compliance is crucial for all enterprises. However, for retail brands, brand compliance isn’t just about maintaining consistency and avoiding legal battles. In this immensely crowded and competitive retail industry, a retailer’s brand identity is what sets them apart from their competitors. After all, studies have shown that consistent presentation of a brand has been seen to increase revenue by 33%. However, manually checking for logo placement, color guidelines, font, and n number of other rules across 1000s and 1000s of creatives is both inefficient and error-prone.  

Let’s imagine another scenario. A marketer reviews one of the sale banners to find out that the brand colors used in it are incorrect. They ping their feedback to the designer over slack.  Upon not getting any response from the designer for a couple of hours, the marketer calls the designer only to know that the designer has already emailed their response to the marketer. So a simple problem that could have been solved in minutes with efficient communication and collaboration ended up taking hours. Now imagine this problem at scale, where teams are working across the globe, operating in different time zones. Asynchronous feedback across multiple communication channels can cost teams hours if not days. Additionally, there’s always the possibility of feedback getting lost in translation owing to miscommunication which can prove to be quite expensive for the retail brand. 

The last piece of this puzzle is storing and managing assets. Making endless creatives sounds great till we are confronted with the challenge of efficiently managing those creative assets. Traditionally the answer to it was google Drive, dropbox, or even offline on our respective computers. However, what happens when you need a banner creative from 2020 for a campaign that needs to go live urgently? Scrolling through various storage platforms will of course end up consuming a lot of time, thereby pushing campaign timelines and costing you business opportunities. 

These are challenges that most of the retail brands out there face. And the way to address this challenge is to set a robust CreativeOps system in place that automates brand compliance via text and image-based compliance rules and nudges. A shared workspace where all stakeholders can collaborate seamlessly to share feedback and get quick approvals. And finally, a smart digital asset management solution can be the answer to all your asset storing and managing woes. Features like smart tagging can ensure intelligent storing of assets under the right categories and global search can help your team find any asset at any time with just a simple search.

Bridging the Gap: Creative Analytics for Optimal Campaigns

When we talk about analytics, the first thing that comes to mind is campaign performance metrics. However, that doesn’t tell us enough about how ad creatives are performing, which design elements work or don’t work, leaving designers with very little context about which creatives are driving engagement and which aren’t. This gap in knowledge forces designers to work solely on assumptions that greatly limit the potential of a campaign. 

Apart from overall campaign metrics, retail brands also need creative-level analytics which will make the team aware of the performance of the creative and not just the campaign in general. These data points will provide much more context to the designers and empower them to create more optimal designs without having to rely on mere assumptions. Advanced features like contextual visualization, competitor analysis, industry intelligence, etc. can further strengthen a designer’s arsenal to create more impactful designs. These data-inspired designs have much greater chances to drive higher engagement and conversions.

With the intelligence layer of creative analytics added, marketers also get much more visibility and real-time understanding of campaigns resulting in timely creative refreshes and optimal campaign performance. 

For a growing media industry like retail,  which needs to think about customer communication every single day, having a powerful and streamlined CreativeOps system becomes imperative. An agile  CreativeOps platform brings together the best of creative production, creative operations, and creative analytics to empower existing teams, processes, and tools to do more. 

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Sreetama Chakraborty

Sreetama Chakraborty

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