Desk Plants, or DeskPlants.com, is an e-commerce company that offers a curated selection of low-maintenance plants to consumers, the majority of them having low-light spaces or being plant-killers.
How can desk plants separate themselves amongst the flood of botanical shopping destinations?
Plant shops and their online counterparts have been popping up left and right, and with plants becoming trendier, the plant industry is filling up with snake oil; online plant retailers are selling astronomically priced plants, unhealthy plants, succulent “arrangements” that are bound to die, and shipping a selection of plants that simply cannot survive in their final destinations.
Creating an Entire Brand
from Aloe to ZZ Plant.
Logo + Branding
Marketing + Social Media
Photography + Art Direction
Since establishing their brand and position, having a thorough overview of competition, understanding their customers and having a working website with product photography, Desk Plants has:
Increased online sales 200% month over month
Increased their returning customer rate 2X
Had companies like Facebook, Oracle, Outdoor Voices, wework and so many more host and request Desk Plants for company pop-ups
Established a loyal and growing customer presence
A functioning website (that is also in the process of being redesigned due to all the great new customer data!)
Separate Desk Plants from all local and online plant shops, and position them in the saturated botanical market
Design a brand around their positioning (hard-to-kill potted plants)
Rapidly design and develop their website, prototype plant packaging, produce marketing materials for trade shows and local Austin markets, direct photography shoots and produce social media content
Build out the customer experience strategy
Help out in any possible way to make this company grow (pun intended)
Time (1 month for ALL website design and development, and all trade show materials)
No existing photography, assets or creative
Extremely limited budget
Establishing consumer trust (this plant won’t die like the others)
Lots of competition
Qualitative + Quantitative Data
I conducted qualitative research by reading thousands of Instagram comments and by delving into the social media plant communities. I also spoke with tons of potential customers at plant shops.
I analyzed the costs of plants and pots to determine the demand for certain products, and to establish a product offering that would differentiate Desk Plants.
When talking with prospective customers, they expressed a few core concerns with buying plants, especially online:
Being “black-thumbers” and feeling like they “kill EVERYTHING,” so why bother buying a plant?
Not knowing how to take care of plants
Poor customer service with existing plant shops (and plants dead on arrival)
Messy and environmentally damaging shipping
To tackle the first concern, I discovered that Desk Plants could focus ONLY on low-maintenance plants, thereby increasing customer success and increasing return rate! I developed the slogan “Hard to Kill Potted Plants” since it clearly speaks to the popular problem plant parents (say that five times fast) have of killing all their plants (because they are purchasing the wrong ones).
The second problem was resolved with simplifying plant ownership into a small care card that was quick to skim (photo above), and introducing the concept of plant support. Desk Plants vowed to help plant owners during their plant journey to establish customer trust.
competitive analysis and opportunities
With e-commerce trending to be the largest form of revenue for Desk Plants, the stigma of competitors’ poor customer service (messy packaging and dying plants) presented the biggest opportunity to separate Desk Plants. Since packaging would be a first impression of the brand, I took this opportunity to review all the major competitor’s boxes, inserts, and presentations. I created a takeaway list for Desk Plants to implement, and after reviewing costs versus impact, Desk Plants’ packaging came out flawlessly.
Communication and Authenticity
Social media content related to plants often presents instagram-perfect plants, not acknowledging that they are living things and not always perfect! I decided to reply to comments requesting plant advice on these picturesque posts using the Desk Plants account, offering suggestions and swooping in on competition who had left their customers unanswered! I realized that rarely do the large competitors in the space voluntarily interact with existing customers! Authenticity, communication and fun were clearly missing with existing plant shops. To bridge this gap, in addition to reaching out to potential customers, I created fun original content that was interactive.
Consumers are motivated to buy from Desk Plants, because Desk Plants SIMPLIFIES plant ownership.
insights + personas ⟶ DESIGN
Conducting research, analyzing Desk Plants’ primary competition, and interacting with hundreds of consumers taught me a lot about consumers in the space. I categorized Desk Plants’ primary shoppers into four categories to help with sales strategy, to identify product selection, and to ultimately define the brand.
In general, I learned that for all four personas:
Plants are almost always attractive to consumers (the pot is especially key)
They enjoy the brand and the shopping experience
They like how plants add life to an environment and help clean the air
They don’t know where to go for help with plants
They value quality over price
They default to Home Depot and Lowes even though their plants are often unhealthy
They don’t know much about alternatives to big box stores or local plant shops
I took all of this information and ran with my “hard-to-kill” slogan. Every element of the brand was positioned around simplicity, but not minimalism.
The plant industry lacked a colorful IKEA in a world of minimalist Restoration Hardwares; I analyzed color schemes that would represent honesty and joy, and I evaluated typefaces, photography styles and illustration styles.
I landed on a bold and bright aesthetic, which made sense for the brand and the customer experience.
of my Responsibilities
Bringing authenticity and joy into the sales pitch
Trade Show Experience Design + Layout
Customer Support Tone + Copy
Using plant puns throughout greetings and text
Researching local artists, vendors and collaborations
(UX design, UI design, custom development and shopify plugin management)
Logo Design + Branding
Photography + Art Direction
Social Media Posts + Copy
Social Media Management
(insight analyses and customer relations)
Email Marketing + Reporting
Plant Care Cards
Instagram follower growth
Online store conversion over time
growth, testing the market,
Company Success and Customer Response
I cannot take full responsibility of Desk Plants’ success since their plants are absolutely beautiful (even though I did play a major role selecting the types of plants and their pots). What I can take responsibility for is the consumer feedback that mentions the ease of finding the right plant, the fun of the brand and design, and the refreshing experience of an honest and communicative company.
Currently, I am helping Desk Plants on version two of their website. Improvements include:
Accounting for customer segments via product collections (gifts for new moms)
Customizing their product views (tabs)
Showing product variation with swatches
Tailoring Desk Plant’s positioning for SEO
Growth in Numbers
As a result of the website, the established a brand, and Desk Plants hard-to-kill position in the market, Desk Plants has seen tremendous growth - here’s some examples:
50% month over month increase in the returning customer rate
~400% increase in their social customer engagement rate
Increase in sales month over month
New sales channels including collaborations and enterprise plant sales
People actually calling the plants in their workspaces “Desk Plants”
Local Soft Launch and SXSW
Desk Plants officially launched on December 1st 2018 with limited photography and marketing materials. The goal of the soft launch at Walmart’s Startup Holiday event was to test the response to the brand. The launch was a massive success, with Desk Plants gaining more excitement than even GT’s Kombucha!
The next measure of success was to launch their nationwide shipping at the SXSW Marketplace and Wellness Expo, events with attendances of over 30,000. Five staff in 100 square feet was not enough to keep up with plant sales and interacting with customers, and the launch was showed that DeskPlants.com would be a great success.
Next Steps + Challenges
There is a clear demand for Desk Plants, especially in Texas. The biggest struggle with Desk Plants is now SEO, shipping costs, and capital for marketing; Desk Plants needs to hire a social media manager and invest in content. To grow an e-commerce store and stand out amongst the competition, you have to invest in marketing and content, otherwise the well-funded plant companies and big box retailers like Home Depot will squash you (via SEO and Ad Words).