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The rise of e-commerce over the past year has created new and important online sales channels for fine food businesses. Local cheesemongers have seen online sales grow from all over the country, while farm shops and food halls have worked to satisfy a taste for their products from local communities and further afield, too.
For producers, this presents an opportunity to reach a wider audience. “So you have built a brand that is small batch, high quality, well loved by locals and probably sold in shops and cafés in the area. The next step is to sell online,” says Abi Fawcus, the visual experience designer behind By Abi.
Ensuring your brand stands out online is key – and what looks great on a shelf might not translate to a website. Abi says the differences with online-focused branding can be subtle – for instance, you may need to expand your brand story and look beyond your local audience.
“A brand isn’t just your logo; it is the 360° ‘feel’ a customer gets when they come in contact with your company or product. Whether it entices them to notice, buy or re-buy, and how they feel about the price, taste, provenance and customer service,” Abi says. “In a farmer’s market there is an opportunity to meet you, the producer, and ask you questions. In a local shop there is the commitment of the shop that by selling this product they vouch for it. The shopper may have time to browse and get a positive feeling using all their senses: touch, taste, smell, not to mention great customer service.
“All of that is removed online. Your ‘brand’ has to do all the talking passively and silently. This is why a stronger visual identity is needed online.”
For Adam Faulkner of CreativeAF, this means businesses must find an image and voice that works for them. “We all take inspiration from others, but piecing everything together to create unique and original branding online is a great place to start. From there, a brand can develop their identity and become more and more recognisable to customers.”
Getting your brand story across is an important element of this. “Online, we need to recreate that in-person experience, which is why good food producer websites use photos, video and written words to tell their story,” Abi says. “Social media also has a hand in that as it has become a platform where you show ‘work in progress’, the real workings of the farm or the sheer hard work and reward that go into the everyday routine behind the delicious product you deliver.”
Consider all aspects of your brand and packaging design to make a product that stands out. “It could be the label, the colours or the shape of a bottle that catches the eye,” Adam says. “When it comes to online, if anything the competition for people’s attention is even greater. Attention spans are short nowadays so having branding and content that catches people’s eye is really important.”
According to Abi, handcrafted-style packaging which works well in a shop may not translate online, as it could give the impression of a product of a lesser quality. “A professionally designed visual identity – logo, packaging and website – carried out from a deep dive into what you stand for, can still promote a handcrafted or artisan style and will reflect everything you have worked so hard to do offline, but in a way that will engage your customers online.”
For premium products, it is important to spell out the quality, provenance and credentials rather than ask a prospective customer to “take a leap of faith,” Abi says. There are practical considerations to take into account as well, such as the size of your logo. “Logos created offline have the luxury of being bigger,” Abi adds. “You will notice logos online are simpler and bolder, and variants depicted with colour or pattern.”
Logos and imagery are essential tools to show customers what your brand is about, Adam says. “A logo that represents a brand well can instantly draw in the right customers. In terms of imagery, again it’s so important that it personifies the brand. It’s no good having imagery that doesn’t fit with the product or customer base.”
Every brand is different when it comes to their visual identity, but considering what will make your brand look its best online, and reflecting this through visually engaging packaging, will make your product stand out whether on the shelf or on your local fine food shop’s website.