PROBAR

Taking eCommerce, email marketing, and packaging design in-house

Skills used

  • Graphic Design
  • HTML email
  • CRO
  • Style Guide
  • Packaging Design

Overview

Problem

PROBAR has enjoyed over a decade of double-digit growth, year-over-year. As a local manufacturer of vegan, organic meal replacement bars, its products had the quality to drive sales with barely any marketing. As the company set scope on expanding to new regional distributors and diversifying its product lineup, it faced a dire need for a dedicated marketing team and complete control over eCommerce sales.

Audience

PROBAR’s main eCommerce customers are athletes, hikers, climbers, and all-around nature and health enthusiasts. Over the prior decade, the company had gradually built a list of 10,000 email subscribers from this audience.

Constraints

I started at PROBAR as the second member of the new marketing team. Because PROBAR previously relied heavily on word-of-mouth of inside sales to drive growth, the marketing team was given a very small budget to test the waters. Any eCommerce products and data services needed to demonstrate a strong ROI to the leadership.

Process

Design

My design process at PROBAR took advantage of my traditional graphic design and fine arts background, but also acted as the catalyst for my deep interest in UX design and web development.

Core design projects centered around sales deliverables and packaging design, but quickly expanded to encompass the new in-house eCommerce website experience and email marketing campaigns.

Using my trusty Wacom tablet, I illustrated the hero artwork for two new flavors of PROBAR’s protein bar line, BASE. Fair warning: drawing photorealistic chocolate swirls all day will make you hungry. I also designed all of the Target-exclusive packaging for PROBAR’s newest product line, bite, which are stocked on shelves nationwide.

Packaging design examples for PROBAR products
Target packaging for bite (left), and hero artwork illustrations for BASE flavors (right)

Other highlight projects inlcude refreshing the company’s main style guide, as well as designing a photo style guide to improve the quality of imagery generated by PROBAR’s growing brand ambassador team.

Development

Most of my development work at PROBAR revolved around email marketing and increasing the subscriber base with CRO strategies, A/B testing, and improved user flow from marketing site to eCommerce experience.

PROBAR’s existing email newsletter was text-heavy, not responsive, and was treated as more of a narrative update about the company instead of driving users to stock up on product. Diving into the table-based layouts of yesteryear, I took advantage of Litmus Builder and Litmus compatibility testing to develop mobile-first HTML emails with responsive images and a conversion-minded content strategy. Using MailChimp as the email marketing system of choice, I implemented subscriber segmentation, A/B testing, and incentivized subscription forms to drive further engagement.

Mockups of repsonsive HTML emails
Mobile-first HTML emails with responsive images drove record eCommerce sales

Results

My email marketing campaigns averaged a 30% open rate, 10% click-through rate, and generated record eCommerce sales for the company. During my time with the company, we nearly doubled our subscribers from 10,000 to 18,000—all without seeing a reduction in conversion.

The launches of new flavors and product lines were a success for PROBAR, and I still come across artwork and packaging I created on store shelves, sending me into flashbacks of meticulously illustrating reflections in individual bubbles of coffee.

Retrospective

My work with PROBAR validated my persona-driven approach to content strategy and CRO, and also pushed me fully into web design and development. I’m grateful to have focused my early development career on HTML email, as it grounded me in the importance of performance optimization, mobile-first development, compatibility testing, and the joys of modern HTML5 and CSS3.

It’s rare to find newer developers who have a full appreciation for our modern frameworks and tools. But, anyone who's developed emails will have deeper respect for seasoned developers who endured the table-cell chaos of the earlier web.

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