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Branding in the Age of Delivery

Corey Austin Mallorie Rodak

We want it now. No, not five minutes from now – now. We want our groceries at our doorstep in less than two hours, we want to see how far away our UberEATS lunch delivery is from our stomachs, and we expect the instantaneous delivery of our products to be free and frictionless.

The Growing Culture of Impatience

Today’s consumers expect instant gratification. Modern devices and information exchanges have fueled this craving for instantaneous fulfillment. The Internet opens the door to information, entertainment, and connectedness, and our phones make it so we can access it all immediately and from anywhere. We expect things so quickly that we’ll wait a mere two seconds for a video to load before we abandon it at an exponential rate. And our expectations for how fast “instant” should be are only getting faster. This attitude is shifting to the goods and services that brands offer. In 2017, brands will become instant to satisfy this new expectation.

The Old Way

Before delivery, buying something meant getting in your car, driving to the store, and finding what you want. While the process was not instant, the gratification of taking what you bought home was. Enter the online shopping revolution. Suddenly, we were able to access all types of products from all over the world, but we had to wait days, weeks, even months to get the products we purchased online. This made us impatient. And the pleasure principle in psychology tells us that when we don’t get immediate fulfillment, our psychological response is anxiety and tension.

Since people have been purchasing goods online, brands have been doing everything in their power to eliminate this impatience between when we purchase a product and when we receive it. In lieu of truly instant goods and services, they provided instant information – updates and information on how long it would take to arrive. It is as if our goods became just another part of the Internet, buffering and loading as we waited.

As consumers want more instant gratification, brands have developed. An example is the online pizza delivery tracker.
Your pizza is loading.

This type of instant information will continue to be important. But it is still just a substitute for what people really want: instant, on-demand goods and services. In 2017, we are set to achieve instant in an unprecedented way. Delivery times have gone from weeks to days to mere hours. This will change the way we treat brands and product experiences for good.

To make its world-class instant services possible, Amazon runs robotic warehouses, has bought an airline, and is testing delivery drones. But not every brand needs to take such drastic steps to make impatient consumers happy. A variety of growing and emerging technologies has made it easy for nearly any brand to become instant.

What Your Brand Can Do to Be Instant in 2017

Invest in Becoming More Instant

Not every brand needs to provide an on-demand good or service, but consumers still have instant expectations. Becoming more instant can take significant time and investment, but starting can be simple. The easiest way to begin is to audit your brand’s instant capabilities at each touchpoint. Consider each step in your user journey to understand where you can provide more instantaneous interaction. From our marketing messages to our products and services themselves, there are many ways to optimize how and when we talk to our consumers to fuel all of our insatiable appetites for the “now.” Consider the different things consumers want from you. Is there a way that you can provide them without the need for a trip, a queue, or an appointment? This sort of transformation takes time. But there are other ways to supplement the capability your brand has to be instant.

Partner and White-Label Instant Services

Even if you sell through other retailers, you can still drive direct-delivery sales and get your goods to people in record time, without adding an errand to their list (Google Express partners with most major retailers to provide next-day delivery). There’s a whole landscape of companies trying to solve on-demand goods, and many of them make great partners. Walmart, for instance, is piloting partnerships with Uber and Lyft to provide same-day grocery delivery at $7-$10.

Additionally, there are many emerging apps creating on-demand delivery services for specific products and goods. Localized delivery partners (such as Swapbox or Postmates) help enable brands to deliver faster in urban areas. Services such as UberEATS and a host of other food delivery services (DoorDash, GrubHub, etc.) connect restaurants to consumers by making it easy to get your favorite meals delivered. There are even food delivery services such as Caviar that are redefining what “delivery food” means by bringing upscale, fine-dining meals to consumers at home.

The “instant services” market has proliferated enough to support single-purpose services such as Minibar that focus on key occasions and contexts in the lives of consumers (like delivering specific types of goods such as alcohol and mixers when a person is short on time).

For many small to medium-sized businesses, being instant sometimes isn’t feasible given company size. In 2017, we’ll see more brands that will use the power of crowdsourcing to deliver products and goods to consumers instantly. Apps such as Friendshippr, UberRUSH, PiggyBee, Roadie, and Zipments provide crowdshipping services to help brands of all sizes provide instant goods to their customers.

Rethink the Store Experience

Brands such as Tesla, Warby Parker, and Tuft & Needle represent a massive trend toward disintermediation in industries where in-person sales are the norm. All three have seen success taking goods traditionally sold on the lot and have freed consumers to have these goods delivered directly to their homes.

With all this delivering, it may seem that stores are going the way of the dodo. But this is not necessarily true. People still enjoy browsing and trying out products, and they continue to seek out the help of associates and concierges. But the store must evolve beyond its role as a storehouse.

In place of dealerships and outlets, Tesla, Warby Parker, and Tuft & Needle have provided smaller, experience-focused brick-and-mortar showrooms that give consumers the ability to see and try products without hassle. If your brand has a brick-and-mortar experience, consider how it can become more of an exciting, personal experience – and how points of friction such as lines and obtrusive salespeople can be replaced with more enjoyable alternatives.

Brick-and-mortar showrooms for online businesses Tesla, Tuft & Needle, and Warby Parker.

Consider Your Instant Product Experience

Even in our instant world, people no longer just want goods; they want experiences. More and more often, that will mean creative, well-branded uses of delivery. Services such as Birchbox, Blue Apron, and Loot Crate provide curated products through subscription retail. These goods-driven experiences span many different verticals and offer experiences people look forward to having over and over again.

But how does the strength of a brand, so often conveyed through giant signs, shelving, displays, and people, come to where a person is – especially in a box on their doorstep?

The experience of learning about and ordering a product should be just as simple, instant, and frictionless as getting it. Packaging itself may be an increasingly important touchpoint. Whether on Christmas morning or Tuesday afternoon, people love unboxing (one in five consumers report that they’ve watched an unboxing video on YouTube, according to Google Consumer Surveys). For instance, Trunk Club delivers its curated clothing selections in premium packaging that resembles an actual trunk with a personalized note from a stylist.

In fact, over half of consumers in a recent survey indicated that they would make repeat purchases from an online merchant that delivers premium packaging. Four in 10 consumers would share an image of a delivery on social media if it came in a unique package.

It is also important to consider who is delivering your product or coming to provide your service. The fact that a person may be “on the go” doesn’t mean they can’t act as an ambassador of the brand. Much like providing training, collateral, and recognition for your brand’s associates or salespeople, it is helpful to give on-demand partners and couriers tools to help them represent your brand to its fullest.

Focus on the Gap

Even with goods and services that are nearly instant, there is a chasm of expectations that opens up between when a person orders an experience and when they receive it. As marketers, we can either let that chasm be filled with anxiety or supply our own experience. It is important to give people information about their order’s status and – even better –  reasons to be excited for its arrival.

Messaging is a great way to bridge this gap between desire and fulfillment. For example, last year, Everlane began providing status updates for orders via Facebook Messenger. Now Facebook Messenger notifications are available for any brand that uses Shopify. Providing access to this type of information via a messenger helps a brand feel reachable and responsive before issues and questions even arise.

Everlane provides status updates for online orders via Facebook Messenger.

Consider Using “Instant” as a Marketing Tool

Instant tech, including delivery, is a new medium through which nearly anything can be advertised. Here are just a few examples:

  • Demonstrate product capabilities. Thermos shipped coffee overnight to 25 top social fans to prove that it would still be hot when it arrived.
  • Enable custom products and experiences. Instead of waiting for people to go buy another Coke (#ShareACoke) or pack of Oreos (#OreoMiniDelivery), both brands provided limited-time-only custom packages for customers to buy directly on their sites. Traditional retail channels are not ready to offer personalization on this level.
  • Replace a tweet with a small gift. Instant is a great tool for reaching fans, brand advocates, and influencers. Gifts are one of the oldest forms of communications, and they have a long history of use in advertising. But only recently have marketers begun using mailed gifts as a tool for building their brands on social media. For example, Taco Bell sent rings to its most loyal influential fans and saw a massive social impact. The gifts were not costly, but the creative gesture was meaningful enough to get people talking.
  • Make trial easy. DRY Sparkling Water recently promoted trial of its new beverage by including a bottle with every UberEATS order for a day.

These examples take a hands-on, often trial-driven, show-don’t-tell approach to bringing people compelling brand experiences. The creative possibilities for using emerging, instant tech to share your brand are endless.

Conclusion: Branding in the On-Demand Landscape

Overall, brands have a unique opportunity to provide exciting, new instant experiences through smart uses of delivery and other instant tech.

And at the heart of this all: As your goods start to become more of an on-demand or subscription experience for people, as shopping trips become less frequent, and as the role of your stores changes, you must be able to trust and rely upon the strength of your brand. This strength must come through at every touchpoint, especially at your customer’s doorstep.

  • Corey AustinCorey Austin

    Digital Strategy
    A digital strategist who’s at home in the real, solid, nonvirtual world, Corey loves envisioning where emerging technology can fit in everyday life. He helps turn bits and bytes into campaigns for clients such as 7UP, Dr Pepper, Canada Dry, Schweppes, Jeep, Ram Trucks, and FIAT.


  • Mallorie RodakMallorie Rodak

    Brand Planning
    Her talent as a voiceover artist for TV, radio, anime, and video games is surpassed only by her skills as a brand planner at The Richards Group. For Mallorie, seeing things – especially brands – from a variety of angles is all in a day’s work. At The Richards Group, Mallorie guides the work for several restaurant, food, and beverage brands, including Firehouse Subs, Dr Pepper, and Ruth’s Chris, among others.

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  24. PiggyBee.
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