FRESHPET // CASE STUDY
Since becoming the first brand to successfully enter and disrupt the ultra-premium pet food category with their fresh products and in-aisle fridges over 15 years ago, Freshpet has held its position as the leader in fresh pet food for pet parents everywhere. Led by their ambition to once again drive innovation and reach a broader community of pet parents digitally, Freshpet joined forces with Digital Surgeons to craft a mobile-first digital experience that could deliver a new way for customers to experience the power of “fresh” and set a new standard of best-in-class for the category.
Amidst maintaining strong in-store distribution and sales, Freshpet recognized two quickly-approaching challenges. While the natural category was booming, the “fresh” whitespace was rapidly shrinking. Further compounding that, the majority of Freshpet’s site traffic was increasingly being met with a high level of friction. Fragmented domains. Slow load times. A confusing information architecture with a lack of easily accessible product information when it mattered most. The Freshpet team realized that continuing to lead the category called for a focusing of efforts digitally and that started with their digital experience in order to tell their story and attract pet parents in a a more meaningful way. It meant building something that could genuinely communicate the brand’s promise and build trust through engaging storytelling, product information, and a mobile-first UX that could quickly and easily help them shop for their pets’ specific needs with ease.
Taking a co-creation-led approach from kickoff right through launch, our joint Digital Surgeons and Freshpet team transformed the core brand website into an intuitive, mobile-first digital experience that put a stake in the ground for building a fully connected, digital brand experience that would be equal parts full-funnel conversion tool and educational resource for pet parents everywhere, bridging the gap between brand awareness and in-store purchases.
Knowing that Freshpet was supported by a pet-passionate, powerhouse internal team determined to innovate, we rallied together our own cross-functional team of pet parents to look across the landscape and see how we might convert the Freshpet.com experience from a standard website into an SEO-rich keystone that could support a fully-integrated marketing strategy. Kicking off a project of this magnitude started by getting everyone in the same room together. With all key stakeholders joining forces for two highly-interactive co-sessions, we were able to employ design thinking exercises to uncover more truths about the brand, dig into customer data, and learn exactly what the Freshpet team was looking to accomplish from a business goals perspective. Getting on the same page early on was integral to successfully carrying out every subsequent phase of the project, as well as informing our strategists, designers, and developers of the right direction to go in.
Coming out of our sessions with the Freshpet leadership team, we simultaneously developed a cohesive information architecture and intuitive user experience that could speak to dog and cat owners wherever they were in their journeys. Exploring the psychology of our audience was telling, as we discovered we needed to build an IA that wasn’t based around the product portfolio, but by the pets and their dietary needs. Bringing all of this to life was only possible by starting with a concerted wireframing effort up front. The team was able to get in the same room together and conceptualize what the pages and their specific designs and functions would look like, and how they would help provide consumers with a delightful experience and journey on the Freshpet website.
Landing on a visual language that was extensive enough for the full product portfolio and true to the brand’s core message was a priority. Every design element of the site – from shapes and colors to font types, to the treatment of the ingredients, to capturing the emotional payoff – helped us differentiate the brand from its growing list of competitors. Specifically, that meant leveraging Freshpet’s transparent, earthy, natural, and ultra-premium brand identity from their packaging to inform the digital experience – especially as we look to make sure that, irrespective of being online or offline, it’s still Freshpet. As we began to establish user journeys that would drive users from the core brand down into distinct product lines within a specific pet and breed type, we implemented a design system that would effectively scale with individual pets, breeds, and products to make each page experience unique and identifiable, but true to the parent branding.
Once we had a finalized visual language, we began designing the necessary UI components to set the foundation for building a fully responsive experience. Due to Freshpet’s diverse user-base, which includes user personas with various degrees of technical proficiency and overall awareness of the brand, we focused on making each aspect of the digital experience as simple and intuitive as possible with the help of interactive elements and animations. Designing mobile first was mission-critical for Freshpet’s digital experience because an overwhelming majority of customers were relying on specific product details in their purchasing decisions, so we wanted to make sure they had the most important information at their fingertips when in store. And knowing that Freshpet is only going to continue to grow and add more product innovations over time, we established a component-based solution to enable their team to scale their business and digital experience simultaneously, without latency to implement or slowing down the site’s performance.
One of the glaring issues with Freshpet’s old website was the lack of differentiation between products and their individual pages. With an abundance of food types under the Freshpet brand, it’s important that users can easily navigate the product pages to learn about their options and find what’s best for their dog or cat. A lot of the time, however, Freshpet consumers weren’t always sure what they were looking at. To alleviate this confusion, we designed product pages with specific visual and style elements – including reviews, feeding guidelines, and relevant photography – so that users know exactly what product page they’re on and can easily decipher if a food type is appropriate for their pet.
Making sure our friends on the Freshpet side of the team would be well-equipped to maximize their content entry and editing speed, we took a component-driven approach to both design and development of the new build. Using the powerful (and often-underestimated) WordPress platform, we built a kit of reusable and interchangeable components, making for a more visually-consistent and technically-maintainable system, while allowing the rapid creation of unique on-brand content as the site grows post-launch. Additionally, with awareness, discovery, and overall education around Freshpet being a crucial part of our strategy and broader consumer journey for pet parents, making sure we were designing an experience that could organically reach as many users as possible through SEO was key. Whether they were looking for advice regarding care, nutrition, or the well-being of their pets, we wanted to ensure Freshpet would be visible to them through search. This meant looking at ways to create filterable, product-rich landing pages that could directly answer conversational queries and other highly-searched topics and dietary keywords.
Creating a digital experience that properly reflected Freshpet’s reputation in refrigerated pet food was one thing, but driving additional value back to users was equally as important to us. In addition to building an entire user experience around personalizing product choices for specific pet types and dietary needs, we included in-depth educational guides, useful vet-approved content, and emotionally-charged product reviews throughout the site to really enhance our users’ experiences in a real, authentic way. It’s that level of transparency and trust-building that keep audiences coming back for more, and ensuring Freshpet stays top of mind as they go through their journey as pet parents and continue to look for the best advice on their pets’ health and nutrition – from expert advice on pet feeding and learning what food is best for their dog or cat, to ultimately finding a place to purchase Freshpet via the store locator.
– Steven Elwell, Director of Digital Marketing at Freshpet
“The end result Digital Surgeons delivered is light years beyond what our site experience used to be. From the exhaustive audit and competitive landscape analysis upfront, to the thoughtful strategic framework, U/X, development and deployment, DS was like an extension of my own team at every step. We could never have translated our brand spirit into such a great and powerful new online experience without a team that believed in our mission the way DS does.”
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