We have seen consumer shifts over the last year to digital. COVID has accelerated the growth of e-commerce and forced events to go virtual. It is in times of challenge that some of the best innovations emerge.
We have seen big consumer shifts over the last year to digital. COVID has accelerated the growth of e-commerce and forced events to go virtual. For many businesses, this has them rethinking how to create new and positive customer experiences in a digital world.
This is especially challenging for companies that specialize in events — whether it’s trade shows, festivals, concerts, paint nights, wine tasting, or company outings. Attending a zoom event just isn’t the same. The experience is vastly different at these in-person gatherings. But different doesn’t have to be bad. With a little creativity and design thinking, some companies are offering unique events that combine both physical and virtual worlds to create memorable customer experiences.
My husband loves craft beer. If we go anywhere new, he’s always checking out the local breweries and sampling craft beers. So it wasn’t surprising that he has become a fan of the Uptappd App.
Untappd allows users to log their beer, rate them, and share location and more with other enthusiastic beer drinkers. Their motto is ‘Drink new beers, unlock badges.’ It’s a gaming methodology where the user collects various badges for the number of pubs visited to the number of beers consumed or types of beers. This crowdsourcing behavior encourages users to travel to new locations and try a different beer. Their The 2019 Untappd Beer Festival held in Charlotte, NC had over 12,000 attendees and 170 brewers. This was Untappd’s inaugural live festival that people traveled far and wide to attend.
For this multi-million dollar company, COVID forced them to regroup and rethink their business. How can you promote beer tastings and craft beers when restaurants are shut down, or they can’t host live events or have crowds?
You guessed it, they went virtual. But with a twist. They began by testing the waters with a Virtual Happy hour and Sessional Saturdays that provided free media content and sparked the idea for the first ticketed Untappd Virtual Festival. For less than ninety bucks, the user can select 11 beers, gain access to brewmasters virtual sessions, gift cards, and more. My husband enthusiastically signed up and what arrived was a combination of design, print, beer, and digital for truly memorable customer experience.
Unboxing a Virtual Event
The package arrived and looked like any other large brown corrugated box.
You unbox it, there is a pulp-like material on top. When you lift it up, you see 11 beers perfectly and safely settled, like eggs in a carton.
This package is fascinating. The material is clearly recycled pulp, rough, but thick and well-formed. It has an organic look. The shape allows both bottles and cans to be placed safely in the box. There isn’t any plastic in the packaging, making it more sustainable.
A heavyweight card with several QR codes listed. Each QR code is designed with the name of the beer, type of beer, and brewing company. Using my phone, the QR code takes me straight to the app, so I can snap a picture, log my beer, add my location, and collect a badge. I can do that six times for side-one of the card. Turn over the card, and I have five more. Each a new badge, a new flavor to try, and a new experience to document.
It is a brilliant gamifying and crowdsourcing unboxing experience. The consumer is documenting and sharing their experience from the moment they unbox the package.
Additionally, the packaging includes a full-color page of their partner, Half Time Beverage, promoting online beer shipments. The printed material shows images of people drinking, clinking glasses, and various beer labels.
Lastly, there is a heavyweight card to remind you to download the app.
So what makes this great?
The experience is its simplicity and hyper-focus on one thing. Gloss calendered paper costs more, and most commonly uses virgin pulp. I appreciate the brown and am impressed with the pulp packaging. Shipping cans and bottles are not easy; cans can get dented, shaken, or explode.
Corrugated and recycled pulp is environmentally friendlier compared to any other choice.
Some companies print branded messages on the outside of the corrugated box. That works great for Amazon that can promote multiple services (such as Amazon Prime and Original content), but for craft beer, you likely don’t want everyone knowing the type/identity of the purchase. Sometimes keeping the box simply makes it more of a curiosity when it arrives.
The heavyweight full-color card has substance to it in the user’s hand. The design is simple, and each beer has its unique design. The QR code makes it easy to access the Website without having to type in a long address or landing page URL. Just point the phone’s camera and the app opens to the beer you are drinking. This streamlines the process so the consumer can share and get their next badge.
Just because it is great, does not mean it can’t be improved.
Even the best products and experiences can be improved. While Untappd designed and delivered a great unboxing experience that tied directly to a digital event, I did have a few recommendations.
Let’s start with the letter-size sheet. This was the one item that is thin and flimsy. It feels last minute, with no clear intent or purpose. I recognize it comes from their partner, but a total experience needs to tie together. You don’t go out to dinner dressed up while your date is in sweatpants. If you are going to include a partner or supporting offers in the packaging, make sure they support the design and overall experience you are trying to create.
The second card to download the app. Now, this is a nice weighted piece, but if you ordered the box you already have the app. This is where some fun and real improvements come to mind. Untappd knows what beers they shipped, who they shipped to, how many beers, cities, and everything else about their craft beer experience. That card should be personalized leveraging wonderfully rich data to better appeal to the customer.
The bright clear Untappd branding, with a headline saying Rob, welcome to your 1st Virtual Happy Hour. We appreciate the 1,500 beers you have shared over the past 3 years. Your virtual event will begin at 5:30 pm on Friday and list a web URL or whatever you want. The backside can show all the badges Rob has collected through the years.
My next addition would be a postcard. I love postcards and still mail them from all my travels to my family and friends. Why not create a nice postcard that incorporates new or popular craft beer labels. On the back, it could say, “Loved my Untappd event, you should join me next time.” The postcard could also offer a discount code. Encourage the consumer to fill it in and yes, snail mail it. Pass the physical experience forward and use word of mouth to build your customer base.
Merging Physical and Digital to create one experience.
Based on the success of the first virtual session (5,000+ registered users and their Untappd brew channel had 100,000 viewers), I know my husband will be signing up for more.
It is in time of challenge that some of the best innovations emerge. Savvy companies that are able to apply creative design thinking to their businesses will survive and thrive. By rethinking how to merge both the physical and digital worlds, brands, like UnTappd, can create unique customer experiences.
October 24nd will be Untappd’s 10th anniversary and I am keen to get in on their next unboxing experience.