“I’m not an expert,” Nelson rather humbly announces at the start of his presentation. “I’m just fortunate enough to work with people much smarter than I am.”

Kenyatte Nelson Festival of marketing

And he’s not lying about them being smart. Since 2002, Shop Direct has increased the proportion of its business that’s online from 10% to 90%, and the company went from an annual £60m loss to £70m profit in the same period.

The point is these guys know how to succeed in fashion ecommerce, and a big part of that success is down to social ads.

We found that if somebody engaged with a product on social media, 4/10 would go on to buy it.

In his talk, Nelson discussed what he sees as the key reasons behind Shop Direct’s social ad success.

Set clear, measurable KPIs

“There is so much going on in social media,” Nelson says. “It’s really important to set clear, consistent, measurable KPIs so you don’t get lost.”

But you should keep those KPIs simple, Nelson argues, if you want to achieve buy-in from the powers that be.

The more complicated the KPIs, the more likely people won’t believe them, and the tougher it’s going to be to get investment.

Finally, Nelson believes that social KPIs should not have a mind of their own, but rather make sense within the context of wider company goals.

Always align social KPIs with those of the business. What’s the business ambition and how can social media help us achieve that goal?

Regardless of platform, don’t skimp on the creative

“No matter what the platform is we should be treating our creative with the same rigour,” Nelson says. “I’ve seen teams working on creative with less rigour just because it’s Facebook or Instagram, and that tends not to go well.”

As for catching people’s attention with social ads, Nelson says it all comes down to eye-catching visuals.

The stuff people engage with is beautiful to look at.

But he also says the most success Shop Direct has had is with ads that are highly branded and have a strong product focus. But he reiterates the point that the imagery has to be beautifully shot.

Involve multiple departments

Nelson stresses that the team involved in Shop Direct’s social ad success are not just social media experts.

“This has been a multifunctional effort,” he says, involving people from all across the business in order to properly understand who Shop Direct’s customers are and what social ads they would respond positively to.

When it comes to channels, focus on fewer, bigger, better

Nelson argues that too many brands try to tackle multiple social channels at once, with the result being a lack of significant success in any of them.

He believes the best way to approach social ads is to focus on just one or two channels and work hard on getting them right.

You need to remain focused on who your customer is and where they are on social. Pick a place and then scale it up.

Shop Direct chose Facebook and Instagram as its channels of choice because it discovered that’s where its target customers were most active and engaged.

And the brand certainly knows a thing or two about scaling up.

Within the space of just seven months, Shop Direct’s Facebook ad spend grew from £200,000 to £8m.