During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we all witnessed an explosion of online shopping, especially in channels such as grocery – which, prior to 2020, was still considered somewhat niche. Even with vaccines being more readily available, and people’s comfort level in public settings increasing, consumers continue to use a mix of in-store and online channels to do their shopping. As brand strategists and designers, it’s our job to optimize your brand’s communication and make meaningful connections with consumers in both physical and digital environments. So, how do we adapt for e-commerce channels?
When it comes to design adaptation for a new retail environment, we evolve our strategic tools and creative executions to adapt in synch with our consumers’ behaviors. We offer a three-pronged strategic process to understand the shopping experience in order to design for it. First, our team performs an e-commerce audit, observing the competitive landscape and relevant adjacent categories to uncover insights that inform how we can break through and communicate simply online.
Second, we map shoppers’ path-to-purchase in order to understand how the differences in the digital shopping experience impact our traditional approach. By understanding their journey, we’ll know how to talk their talk. Our typical “10ft-5ft-2ft” communication analysis of the shelf space takes a different form here depending on the e-commerce platform.
The last step is to develop the communication hierarchy for the product in e-commerce. If the path-to-purchase is unique for digital, the communication priorities will be unique as well. Using our 10-5-2 learnings, we identify targeted communication hierarchies that can be applied to digital packaging design or other online platform messaging.
Our Insights: the three S’s
So you’ve got your approach down, but what characteristics define the unique e-commerce landscape? Our brand strategy experts have identified three key themes that inform our approach. Known as the three S’s, they are: Simplicity, Safety, and Solutions.
Simplicity: When it comes to digital package design, less truly is more. Sometimes the digital world can just be overwhelming — we get that. The online experience varies by screen size and is populated by tiny product thumbnails, making smart editing choices more important than ever.
Safety: After a year of great uncertainty, people are feeling the need for security in all aspects of their lives. A greater sense of security can come from knowing more about what’s in their food, where it comes from, and the intent of its makers. Brands need to do everything possible to build confidence in consumers’ minds, and e-content is the perfect opportunity to do so. In addition to the package’s principal display panel, there is the opportunity to communicate additional product benefits and brand messaging in the thumbnails found on the product descriptor page.
Solutions: For many people, the home will continue to be a place for working, learning, and spending time with loved ones. The shift to families enjoying more meals together in the home will not suddenly become a thing of the past, and they’ll look for inspiration to make those eating occasions as fresh and fun as possible. The perfect place to create and share this information is in e-content. In addition to thumbnails, many online retailers’ product description pages include real estate to share editorial-style content, which can include recipes, inspiration, and brand messaging while cross-selling other products.
It’s understandable that some brands are still seeing the majority of sales happening in-store and want to prioritize the shopability of the physical shelf set over digital. But these two goals don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Amy Kosnick, Director of Design Strategy, builds on this: “Staying in front of the e-commerce retail landscape is a priority for us. Knowing the various platforms and the brand opportunities they present — as well as having an understanding of how brands can communicate both verbally and visually to capitalize on those opportunities — is a natural extension of our expertise in the brick-and-mortar environment.”