Duncan Collins Recruitment Consultant, Digital Team, Profiles Creative
This year is when digital comes of age. A year in which organisations will not only review their digital strategy, but one in which the rule book of digital will be rewritten
‘Credit crunch’, ‘economic downturn’, ‘profit warnings’, ‘cost-cutting’, ‘imminent recession’ – these are all phrases which have heralded in 2008.
On the face of it, it seems the prevailing climate for this year is a tough economic forecast, but, as is always the case in financially challenging times, there are a number of creative disciplines that buck the trend and in 2008 it is going to be digital design.
Time to consolidate
There can be no doubt that companies are going to be under huge pressure to consolidate spending on all aspects of marketing. However, they are not going to just sit down and do nothing. They will start to spend on projects that give the most value for their cash – arise digital.
For example, with the exponential rise in the number of broadband connections across the country and across every socioeconomic group in the UK, and with the tour de force that on-line retail proved to be over the Christmas holiday season, digital is the fastest and most cost-effective way for retailers to engage their potential audience in 2008.
Over the past year, we have noticed a rise in the demand for talented digital creatives, especially in the retail sector. Most of our retail clients have large, high-traffic transactional sites and are trying hard to get their hands on experienced creatives who can also think like marketers. Suitable candidates need to focus not just on look and feel, but also on navigation, usability and delivery. It’s all about mastering the basics and making the on-line shopping experience as easy as the off-line one.
On the client side, long gone are the days when a highly creative digital portfolio alone landed you a plum job; our clients now actively seek and prize digital creatives who can think commercially and come up with design that works alongside pay-per-click, search engine optimisation, on-line advertising and social media marketing.
On the consultancy side, our clients seek digital creatives who have retail client-side experience or who have worked alongside marketers with exposure to cross-channel marketing. Strong creative concepts are still important, but only if they collaborate with and enhance intelligent, savvy commercial marketing strategy.
Sophisticated retailers in 2008 and beyond will be rethinking silo marketing plans that keep off-line and on-line sales separate. Instead, the future will be about off-line driving on-line. If you can’t find your size in-store, the retailer’s response might be ‘here’s a coupon for free delivery to purchase it at our on-line shop’.
In October, one of my colleagues placed a print designer, who found her role pushed more and more into on-line leading up to Christmas. Now it’s the new year and the client isn’t replacing the print designer but instead hiring a second digital designer. This time they want a digital designer who will work closely with internal departments and marketing teams to better reflect and mirror the needs of their customers, who now look to the Internet almost before the store.
Across all divisions, our teams have seen their clients increase headcount for candidates with strong on-line experience. In the fourth quarter of 2007 alone, we saw a 9 per cent increase of recruitment briefs for on-line candidates within our creative, marketing, PR and fashion retail teams.
Going into 2008, our clients have budgeted for substantial growth on-line. We are already seeing, from both our consultancy and in-house clients, a high number of freelance, contract and permanent briefs for digital designers.
It is not too optimistic to say 2008 will be boom time for both digital and on-line retail. We all know the most successful designers, past and present, are those with the ability to think conceptually. However, now more than ever, digital creatives must also think strategically. Those who can think like marketers, and deliver more targeted, directed and measurable digital solutions, will be singled out and most sought after in 2008.