If You’re Online, Be Online


One of the major differences between shopping online and in physical stores is the equality of space. While promotional home page headers and featured listings on Just Added or Special Offer sections do exist, once the browser begins their exploration, ultimately, each product has the same opportunity to wow a consumer – an icon-sized block, a thumbnail.

In-store, consumers may find themselves drawn to a product because it takes up a large number of skus, it may be in the process of being restocked, or perhaps it reflects its popularity with a scarce supply left on shelf.

How can a product communicate its popularity with a thumbnail? Is popularity the message that is most effectively communicated, or is there another, better way to differentiate one product from another?

mini shopping cart on computer keyboard

From one point of view, the thumbnail, being the “early touchpoint” for a consumer and the brand “must capture the eye and give a quick brand recognition.” Anthony Biles of London graphic designer Biles Hendry, believes that brand presence is integral to sales and in this instance, bright and colourful brands like Actimel would be the goal.

On the other hand, Mark Lloyd of Anthem, claims that the “minimal single minded, ‘less is more’ executional graphic look and feel … works well in these scenarios”. In this case, it may be necessary to redesign the packaging specifically for the square of space you are given. Supermarket own label products tend to take this format over branded items that usually resize an image of the product.

In either case, make the name of your brand clear, whatever the product is, and ensure it captures the attention of your target consumer. Knowing your audience is key; elaborate or colourful may help your chilled food brand stand out from the array of NPD available, whereas minimal may be best for your fine wine competitor. 

Another aspect to bear in mind for e-commerce shopping is how your product advertises its packaging. In our experience at HRA, we find consumers choose the online experience predominantly for its convenience. Innovative packaging like milk bottles moulded to the shape of a fridge door, and indicators of how much juice is left in the carton are designs first bought in store, not online, with repeat purchases made on any platform.

Nowadays, online retailers are increasing opportunities for brands, both big and small. The option for brands to share more about their brand and products on their websites is now available. Tesco offers the chance to upload more than one product image. A quick browse indicates these extra images are used for a close-up of the back of pack with the nutritionals and ingredients of the product, while others show how the product looks when cooked or prepared as a meal. Amazon takes this one step further by giving brands a chance to include a video of the product in action but also an area called ‘From the Manufacturer’. This has been used by big brands such as Coca Cola, Uncle Bens, Budweiser and PG Tips to share their latest campaign, recipe inspiration, brand story and their unique philosophy to engage and entice consumers.

This is a lot more than physical stores can offer, especially due to the time-restricted eight weeks of promotion time products are allowed. Online, sharing more about your brand can reach out to those who may not think to look onto brand’s own websites, or those who are only there to shop for groceries. Consumers can learn more about a product and the brand’s values – and we know that all types of consumers in store often undergo a drastic change when shopping online, from the bargain hunter to the eco-warrior, from the convenience purchaser to the healthy lifestyler. The internet gives consumers the time and platform to change their shopping identity.

It sounds simple, but there is so much space online to appeal to your consumer. Just think, if people are buying food online, then it is highly likely they belong to one of more social media platforms.

Here are some wise words from Andy Wyatt of Marks Group, “The design has to create impact wherever you are in the customer journey – online, offline and social media.”

Once upon a time, it was the retail magazines that were shoved through letterboxes that activated consumers. Nowadays, as we pick up those leaflets on our way out of the door, we are already scrolling through Twitter or Messenger, and won’t even notice what is featuring on the front page. Now I’m not saying all customers are like this, but it’s another factor, amongst many others, for brands and products to consider.

Are you looking to activate your brand? Contact [email protected] to explore the food marketing and commercial services for you.

Further Reading

The evolving face of packaging by Packaging Europe.

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