The Aquent London Retail team recently hosted the first in the ‘Dine & Discuss’ roundtable event series. Five inhouse design leaders from some of the biggest high street retailers came together for an evening of food and conversation, to discuss the current challenges faced by their creative teams.
Training and Upskilling
One of the most demanding aspects of working in an inhouse design team, especially in retail, is the pace and volume of work. This means that when hiring new employees it is essential for them to already be trained, up to speed and able to hit the ground running. This can make it incredibly difficult to hire at a junior level. All of our roundtable guests agreed that hiring in junior designers would be a great advantage for their teams, but some felt they would not have the three month timeframe needed to train them. Lack of skills can also be an issue within your current team, especially if your team is made up of singular roles. Many team members are experts in their own specific fields but have no transferable skills when it comes to working collaboratively or covering varied work within the team. There is a lack of internal resource for special skills training. Most retailers offer internal training for fashion and retail operations but nothing for creative upskilling. If your company doesn’t offer internal training then there are various online options which you can utilise. Training programmes, such as Lynda, can be tailored to your team's needs, or you can access free online creative and design courses through our Gymnasium platform.
The Importance of Localisation
Another challenging aspect of the industry is international brand perception for your campaigns. Depending how many territories your company works across, you can sometimes need to have several different versions of a campaign for various different countries. For example, many retail brands need to have specific shoots and messages designed for MENA and other more culturally sensitive areas. You need to constantly consider brand and tone, and how these elements will translate overseas. Most design teams will outsource their campaign translations, making it difficult to ensure that the tone of the campaign remains intact. One of our roundtable guests has had success using local brand ambassadors for each territory, who validate all translated copy. These ambassadors are not only fluent in their local language, but also understand the complexities of the brand tone and can ensure that all campaigns remain on message.
Despite the many advantages of working for an inhouse team over an agency, it does come with it’s own unique set of challenges. One of the downsides is that your client is always around, it is easy for them to constantly check up on how you’re doing and it can be hard to get some distance from a ‘back seat designer’. This can be dealt with by pre-empting enquiries, providing clear timelines and communicating at what stages your client will be involved. It is very common for projects to be delayed due to inconsistent and untimely input from the client and this can then lead to questions about your team’s performance and their ability to stick to deadlines. To avoid this, several of our roundtable guests have their teams complete timesheets so that they can closely follow where time is being spent. Meaning that if deadlines are not met due to client demands or amends, it is justifiable.
Ownership of Campaigns
It can also be disheartening when CEOs automatically assume that an agency need to be hired for large creative campaigns, while your team are left with the smaller, less glamorous tasks to do. A good way to manage smaller jobs is to use them as an opportunity to test your processes, or experiment with some new technology. You can also try to encourage the idea internally that sending the smaller tasks to an agency is often more cost-effective as the more creative work is the most expensive and time consuming, and thereby provides a cost-saving if done internally.
And even if you do manage to get ownership of that large creative campaign, how is your success measured? It is incredibly hard to measure KPIs for a creative team. Obviously your input influences the end result of a campaign, but if you have no real measurable aspects then the quality of the product you are promoting is key. It is important to ensure that measurable KPIs are put in place before the start of a campaign, and that these measurables go beyond profit made. Perhaps there is a way to measure engagement or brand awareness. Customer satisfaction surveys can be a good way to gain insight into a specific campaign or generally get an idea of how your brand message is resonating with the customer.
The final issue our retail leaders discussed was the challenge of managing millennials. In a tech heavy environment, utilising the skill set of the younger generation can be key to a company’s success. What rewards/incentives do you offer? What training will need to be offered? How do you adapt your team’s communication? And just how important is recognition? The subject of our next ‘Dine & Discuss’ event will be Managing Millennials - The Benefits and Challenges of Working with a Multigenerational Team, where we hope to gain insights on these questions and more.
If you are interested in attending our next ‘Dine & Discuss’ event, please contact Elisa Patrinostro.