February 06, 2018

In 2017, retail eCommerce sales worldwide reached $2.304 trillion, a 24.8% increase over the previous year, eMarketer estimates.

Progressive brands are taking the eCommerce space extremely seriously, while others are not even close. The smart brands that take more of a lead now are building eCommerce directly into their design strategies — creating brand assets that work natively across online and traditional retail channels.

The majority of consumer brands are only just getting to grips with this, but everyone is quickly waking up to the fact that their products have to live (and succeed) in a primarily digital environment.

Recently, we sat down with Spencer Ball, Creative Director of Anthem Worldwide (Singapore) to discuss how brands are building smart experiences to enhance the retail experience via eCommerce.

What are the strategies brands are using to increase their presence in online sales channels?

The absolute minimum is to have packaging that is designed to work online. The pack is a brand’s last piece of real estate or media, so optimizing this for eCommerce can have a direct impact on a brand’s ability to stand out on the virtual shelf and trigger purchase.

Web-optimised packs remix the physical design to present the brand in more powerful, targeted way. Essential information is enhanced while supporting detail is discarded. Options like flavours and pack sizes can be lost on screen, so it’s common for shoppers to buy the wrong product, which can have disastrous implications.

READ: 3 Ways to Connect Consumers with Relevant Content in the Right Moment

Like any other channel, a key function, benefit or ingredient can clinch the deal at the shelf. The dynamic nature of eCommerce creates opportunities to link a product to a story or the brand’s provenance at the tap of a screen.

Brands that create rich content and connect it to the point-of-purchase are the ones that will win shopper’s hearts and loyalty in the future.

How important is the brand website in this equation? What function should it serve?

Brand websites that don’t evolve will quickly become redundant. With social media and the integration of eCommerce (if you look at what China has achieved with WeChat), a brand’s website has to provide something pretty interesting to be of much use.

Investing in a mobile-optimised website is crucial. According to eMarketer, mobile commerce (mCommerce) sales totaled $1.357 trillion, making up 58.9% of digital sales. Quite the jump in share from just 40.2% in 2015 — with no plans on stopping soon.

I think fashion and alcohol brands are good examples of brands reinventing their websites to be more experiential and immerse us in their culture. Nike use their website to showcase future innovations or provide exclusive news on limited edition tie-ups.

Remember back to 2010 when Heineken’s personalized bottles were sold exclusively through it’s .com website?


Photo credit: Fast Company

This wasn’t simply an attempt to refresh their website for eCommerce needs, this was the response to consumer demand for highly personal and connected products. Shortly after that, the brewery launched a mobile app that allows consumers to write their own custom toasts.

eMarketer expects that by 2021, the total retail sales worldwide share will double to 12.7%, due to continued mcommerce growth, especially in Asia-Pacific.

This further establishes the importance of digital marketing synergizing with eCommerce strategy to enhance the overall brand experience.

What is the most important data that brands need to have to connect with consumers, and what sources are they using to get that?

Anything that helps track the shopper’s decision process helps us design better for every interaction. I believe that the ‘last 10 yards’ is still the most critical for a shopper to select a brand — whether on eCommerce or in the local minimart.

Shopper studies that give us insights into shopper behavior are a key part of our strategic briefs. Knowing that a shopper is undecided, or comparing ingredients at the point-of-purchase directly impacts the way we design the packaging or the benefit we call out when someone rolls over the image.

READ: Anthem Reimagines Danone’s Aqua from Leader into Hero

When the Anthem Singapore team was tasked to redesign Aqua’s visual identity system, one of the most important insights we had was that younger Indonesians associated the brand with their parent’s generation.

So when designing the visual world of Aqua, the team approached it as a dynamic, vibrant brand for a digitally-native audience. The modern batik pattern is flexible and animated, so it shifts and adapts to different media.


All the brand elements were simplified for consistency, making the blue and the characterful Aqua logo the heroes on every expression. This helped enhance Aqua’s iconic image for a new generation of savvy Indonesians.

By expressing the brand essence in a cohesive, yet flexible way, brands can leverage their visual communication design as a way to forge new connections and enhance the customer journey.

About Spencer Ball: Spencer has been creating and designing brand experiences for close to 30 years, most of which have been spent living and working in Asia. Since leaving his native London where he trained as a communication designer, his love of print, typography and materials has led to diverse range of design projects over the years. Spanning everything from events, packaging, street vendors and airplanes, his belief in a simple, clearly communicated message is the common thread in all his work.

His client list includes many of the world’s biggest brands (Coca-Cola, Post-It, Timberland) but also some of Asia’s homegrown heroes (Aqua, Malee, Martha Tilaar). In his role at Anthem Worldwide, he leads projects across Asia-Pacific, creating design strategies that connect brands with consumers through packaging and retail experiences.

Spencer was recently on the judging panel for Topawards Asia, a monthly design award exclusive for packaging sold in Asia markets.