Why Sendle has created a social design system

Shipping company's chief marketing and customer officer shares the new customers joining its ecosystem and how it's working to build practicality, functionality, speed and optimisation into its social and community play

Social is the ecosystem of choice for small businesses, from marketing to gathering inspiration and selling to prospective customers. So creating a social design system that could enable Sendle to live and adapt in this environment was a no brainer for its chief marketing and customer officer, Eva Ross.

Customer acquisition is the name of the game for the Australian logistics player as it launches a fresh social marketing approach this week. The new ‘social design system’ includes a fresh visual brand identity designed to systematise how the brand conveys messaging and customer stories on social platforms both in Australia as well as North America.

Designed in partnership with 72andSunny, the work incorporates a new brand logo, look and feel, colour palette, typeface and an overarching focus on highlighting customer stories. Off the back of this, Sendle has created more than 80 pieces of content to be executed across YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Some testing is also occurring across Pinterest given its strength in the maker’s category.

Creative includes motion graphics and customer testimonial films which Sendle’s growing in-house team can adapt as they test and learn across platforms. The company has also been using Shakr’s creative automation tools to help with creative optimisation and execution from a geotargeting perspective.

There’s no doubt the market for a shipping services company like Sendle has grown exponentially over the last two years of the pandemic. Ross told CMO a customer survey showed 43 per cent of new customers are ‘side hustlers’ – both very new to shipping as well as running online operations.

“Often, they are very keen to be marketing and creating product, but then they realise shipping is a big part of the P&L, operations and time spent. There’s a big education piece to be done particularly when you have folks newly coming into online shopping and shipping,” Ross said.  

“Social was critical as a key channel. Many small businesses start on social channels such as Instagram, they learn from other businesses like them… their information and inspiration is coming from social. And that’s how they’re selling themselves, too. It’s its own small business ecosystem. So the language needs to follow through and feel very at home in that environment.”  

Functional agility

It was Ross’ belief the market more widely has shifted from a focus on brand perception and love, to more practical aspects of what a brand can deliver. Other insights are indicating that outside of Sendle’s research, she noted.

“While price is important, we know the functional benefits such as ease of integration, simplicity and time saving are also very important. We wanted to crystallise those messages in a way that was more fun, but also practical,” she said. “So offering practical tips on what your company will do for me, to make things simpler and get my business started and growing is one of the bigger insights we’re tapping into.”

Sendle is picking up customers in all manner of categories and sectors, with shifts directly reflecting lockdown trends, from school supplies to gym equipment and breadmaking.

“While we are showcasing inspirational products, there are other practical innovations out there too, such as sprinkler pieces and pool maintenance equipment. We’re inspired by people’s ability to pivot. Just look at hatmakers making PPE – people are very quick to react,” Ross commented.  

“So speed is very important – you want to run all these new messaging, test quickly if it’s resonating.”

Social is about 20 per cent of Sendle’s total marketing spend and Ross expected this would increase.

The latest social identity and campaign work complements a previous program of work, ‘love your quirks’, which celebrated the quirky nature of many small business and side hustle projects.

Another strategic question for Ross is to what extent sustainability and environmental responsibility is factoring into SMB decisions on partnerships and product purchasing. As a 100 per cent carbon neutral business, sustainability is a key differentiator for Sendle.

“We’re running and connecting the initial message rather through to bottom of the funnel and what the LTV [lifetime value] of these customers is, and if we can see a real difference off the back of this. The jury is out, but I think people are looking beyond price, they want quality and reliability,” she continued.

“We took the texture of labels, shapes of chevron, speed and had a lot of fun using those design elements through the creative. But it’s quite functional messaging on how we help your business, with real customers and testimonials we can update over time. Outside of this, we are running other sustainability creative to see how they all compare.”  

Ross pointed out shipping companies are increasingly becoming the first physical manifestation of an SMB’s brand.

“Quality and brand reputation does carry through to the shipper, and we are front and centre there, much more than ever,” she said. “This is what we are competing on now – shipping is the backbone of the small business economy now and you have to get it right.”

Sendle launched in the US in 2019 during the Black Friday sales and has since ridden the wave of the pandemic. With lots of different players in such a large market, Sendle has been positioning itself as a more simplified offering. Ross said it’s found early success, with word of mouth a particularly strong promotional mechanism on the ground.

“We will have a coffee roaster set up in Seattle, then we’ll see that vertical trend – you are getting these connected community groups that are spreading the word. That’s very interesting,” Ross said.

All this means Sendle will continue to have a consistently wider play around community locally and abroad, working to educate SMBs on shipping and getting started through its blog and SEO efforts, she added.

Building out an internal team able to create new executions has been another strategic focus for Ross in order to improve speed to market and drive efficiency of Sendle’s social marketing efforts.

“We needed something that could easily scale, that brought with it longevity, and the control to target, tweak and optimise,” Ross said. “The result is a creative and flexible design system that captures both the craft of small business, and the symbolism of modern delivery.”

72andSunny executive creative director, Luke Martin, said it was important for modern brands to think about their social media presence more systematically.

“What’s the commercial opportunity that social provides? What kind of assets do we need to seize this opportunity? How do we design a system for these assets that stands out in the feed and is flexible and useful?” he asked. “And how do we set up brands to then manage and deploy these assets themselves, testing and optimising in real time?”

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