Sales & Marketing

Doorstep design: Move on from the shelf, these five brands make an impact upon delivery

9 min read

27 July 2016

More and more shopping will arrive on the doorstep than be selected off shelves and this has significant implications for brand design – one which no brand team can afford to ignore.

Indeed, we are living through a revolution in the way consumers experience brands – the UK online grocery market set to reach £17.2bn by 2020, according to a 2015 report from IDG.

The rise of online

This is not tomorrow’s issue. Already, three out of ten British people buy their groceries online every month, with one in nine buying most of their groceries in this way. It is not only grocery that is experiencing this shift to online ordering and home delivery.

Across a wide range of sectors from entertainment to personal care to electronics to home furnishings to casual dining, brands are recognising the opportunity here.

Consumers have become more comfortable shopping online, while delivery innovations, from fully-automated 24-hour pick-up points to delivery services from the likes of Instacart and Uber, are all combining to accelerate the shift across many sectors towards a model of online ordering and home delivery.

And whilst online retailers like ASOS post double digit growth figures, high street stores like BHS slip into administration.

Lost in the Amazon

So, why is it that for most people the first thing they think of when they imagine a delivery arriving through the letterbox is a plain brown cardboard package?

The box might be smiling but is the consumer? Amazon’s smile was a lovely thought, and was the first glimmer of charismatic, brand first design in this market. It stopped there. Ever since then, Amazon has done little to make its customer smile. Indeed, its over-packaging has its own Twitter hashtag where dismayed customers share images of the worst examples.

This matters. If the first physical touch of the product is the package that falls through the letterbox, isn’t that the most important touch-point of all?

So, what can be done? Here are five examples of brands that are successfully innovating in this space. They are creating charismatic brands that get noticed and chosen, not just once for that first purchase, but again and again. They are creating new categories, new rules and new profits for themselves.

(1) Make an asset of the brown cardboard

Graze is the subscription healthy snacking brand for the mindless munching generation. It took the humble brown cardboard box and made a virtue of it. Essentially the delivery mechanism – the box with little “punnets” cut out of it – became the disruptive brand design asset.

This was so effective that when the brand came offline into WH Smiths and Boots it stayed in its distinctive and disruptive format. This helped it command a significant price premium against any other snacking brand, and take a sizeable chunk of the shelf to boot.

Continue reading on the next page for details on how packaging can become a media channel – even when you’re sleeping.

(2) Turn packaging into media channel

The humble pizza box is the temporary TV dinner plate for a generation of students. Yet could it be more? The delivery pizza has long been a byword for sharing food – it came as no surprise that 96 per cent of pizza is ordered in pairs – and the well-known Domino’s logo has long been a two-part domino.

So, we designed the box to engage and interrupt as it comes across the threshold. In a sea of sameness Domino’s looks like the only choice there is. It even makes the box look cool, so that you don’t order a pizza, you order a Domino’s. No wonder other high street quick service restaurants can’t match their growth. 

From here, Domino’s can roll the concept out across its brand world. Packaging becomes not merely an element of the delivery cost, but a media channel to ignite consumer engagement.

Personalising a brand: Trusting the customer to take control

(3) Create a badge of honour

Eve mattresses are shaking up their sector with an online ordering and home delivery model that cuts out retail costs and so allows them to sell high quality mattresses at competitive prices.

But without in-store presence or sizeable marketing budgets how do you build brand recognition and word-of-mouth sales?

The answer from Eve is to make the mattress so distinctive that the yellow branding will show through your bedsheets. 

Guests will ask about the comfortable yellow mattress, and on their way home maybe find their way to the Eve website, keen to offer their guests the same levels of comfort they have just enjoyed. A generic product that is meant to be discreet becomes a badge of honour.

(4) Own label, not no label

In 2010 Ocado launched its own range of own-label products. It was a precious opportunity for a supermarket brand that will never need to sell its own brand from a shelf to liberate its packaging design from the rules of the game.

It was an opportunity that Ocado seized. Freed from the need to look good in-store, it focused instead on looking good on the counter top and in the cupboard. The entire range looks distinctive and desirable.

Most importantly it elevated an own label brand from your guilty secret to table worthy. By 2013 own-label represented nearly £100m and delivered ten per cent of Ocado’s revenue – not bad in just three years.

(5) Make them feel it

Successful packaging should be more than good-looking; it should make you want to hold it. Think back to the last Apple product you unwrapped. It felt solid, carefully put together, every layer a mark of quality and attention to detail. Ricoh cameras are another good example of how tactile engagement can excite consumers and build brand loyalty.

With this new shift in how we experience brands there is an opportunity for those brands to play on our senses, breaking free from conventions, and putting a smile on the face of consumers.

It is worth noting that this need not to be expensive. We have already seen how consumers rail against excessive packaging. Less is more, and furthermore there is much that can be done with innovative material sourcing. The ASOS polythene bag is not expensive, yet it feels high quality.

Untapped opportunity

Those are just some of the ways that brands are innovating in this area. Many more will emerge in the months and years ahead, as organisations recognise that riding the online retail wave is about more than website optimisation.

For years, brands have invested energy and money into enticing and attracting shoppers with a charismatic on-shelf presence. And so many of those brands are allowing that charisma to dissipate in a morass of functional, lowest-cost brown card.

For those brands that get it, this is a major opportunity. What is more, it is mostly untapped. Returning to that IDG report, four in ten British grocery shoppers say they have never shopped online for their food and groceries, whilst 33 per cent of the British public claim to be lapsed online grocery shoppers.

That is millions upon millions of consumers. That is opportunity on a grand scale.

Lee Rolston is strategy director at jkr