Industry

Meal Delivery

Client

Timeline

Apr 2020 - Jun 2021

INTRODUCTION

Meal prepping takes up a huge amount of time - from preparing a variety of recipes, shopping and selecting ingredients, to cooking and storing food. Moreover, as people become increasingly health conscious, they start caring more about nutrition and the quality of food they eat.

That’s what Marco Biscarini, the CEO of Vibrant Meals, observed in his city, Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“As an entrepreneur, I was deeply involved in Chattanooga’s startup scene, and I saw the city attracting all kinds of engineers, climbers, and cyclists, as well as major athletic events such as Ironman,” Marco says.

He saw a huge business opportunity to provide convenient, nutritious food to Chattanooga’s increasingly healthy and outdoorsy population. So Marco and his wife and business partner, Romana set up Vibrant Meals to provide healthy, homemade, portion-controlled meals for delivery or pickup. They’ve been selling online since 2016.

BEHIND THE MEAL PREP

Subscribing to a meal prep service eliminates the decision-making, time and effort involved with planning and preparing a meal, while still offering plenty of creative yet accessible options.

Romana is the brains behind the delicious and healthy meals. “Romana started experimenting with food in high school to improve her athletic performance,” Marco shared.

After college, she worked as a personal chef, planning and preparing meals for UFC athletes. While those meals were focused on performance and keeping weight down, she knew everyday people could benefit from her perfectly portioned, tasty meals made from nutritious ingredients.

Marco and Romana started selling most of their meals online using an e-commerce platform called Shopify.

Unlike most meal prep businesses that only do home delivery, Vibrant Meals also offer customers the option of self pick up, or shipping by FedEx if they live outside Chattanooga. To make operations efficient, Vibrant Meals could only deliver to certain neighborhoods on specific days.

And to keep the food fresh, all meals are cooked on the morning of the delivery. But complicating matters further is that Marco and Romana do all their own deliveries. “We don’t outsource it to a third-party logistics company even though it might be cheaper for us to do so,” Marco shared. “That’s because we want to keep our delivery standards high and make sure our meals get to our customers on time.”

“What this means is that it’s not a simple click to buy and wait for next-day delivery. When we were small, we could always call or email or customers to tell them when their food would arrive but that was obviously not scalable, so we approached Afi Labs,” Marco explained.

CREATING A BESPOKE SHOPIFY PLUG-IN FOR A MEAL PREP BUSINESS

So far, Marco’s instincts have been right: Vibrant Meals has grown from three employees in January 2017 to its current 15 to meet strong demand. They are now growing by about 20 percent month on month, and have turned their attention to delivering a better customer experience and scaling their logistics operations.

As Vibrant Meals grew, the team started finding that Shopify’s checkout flow was inflexible for the business’ needs. A typical checkout flow would go like this:

  • The customer selects one or more products and adds to cart.

  • The customer clicks the checkout button and enter the delivery address and checkout details (credit card information and phone number etc)

  • At the last step, the customer receives a purchase confirmation and delivery timeslot.

“The problem with this is we deliver to different neighborhoods on different days. The delivery date changes depending on the address,” Marco explained.

For instance, a customer purchasing on Friday might find out that Vibrant Meals would only deliver the meal the next Tuesday based on their delivery address, only after they’ve made payment.

Vibrant Meals wanted customers to know exactly when they will get their meals before they make the purchase. “This is important as it gives them the confidence to go ahead and plan their workouts and training around the meals they’ve ordered,” Marco said.

Moreover, Shopify does not have the option to let customers specify that they are picking up their purchase, which is what about a quarter of Vibrant Meals’ customers prefer.

“We’ve tried using third party plug-ins such as Zapiet, but the checkout flow still wasn’t ideal. For instance, to allow the customer to pick up his meals, he would need to specify the delivery address as the pickup address, which could be a gym or kitchen address,” Marco shared. hat I decided that we had to build our own software in order to take ownership of the user experience for our customers.”

DEVELOPING THE PLUG-IN FOR VIBRANT MEALS

To build a seamless customer experience. Vibrant Meals worked with Afi Labs to build a local pickup and delivery plug-in for Shopify. The new checkout flow looks like this:

Vibrant Meals
Vibrant Meals
  • Once the customer adds meals to his cart, he’s presented with the option to either pick up his meals, or have them delivered to his home.

  • If he chooses local pickup, he can enter his zip code and select the location most convenient to him on a map.

  • If he chooses delivery, he’s shown the next available delivery date (based on his zip code) and given the option to change it if he wants.

"This was an absolute gamechanger for us. Before having this plug-in, we had to manually figure out if we could deliver meals on a specific day. There were many outbound and inbound calls to keep customers updated on their order delivery dates,” Marco said.

“Now, they know exactly when their food will arrive, which gives them the confidence to make the order. There’s less mistakes and confusion over when a meal would arrive, allowing them to fully focus on their training and health.”

With the implementation of the plug-in, Vibrant Meals saw their conversion rate improve by 25%. “We believe this is because people are confident that they know exactly when their healthy meals will arrive,” Marco shared.

Vibrant Meals
Vibrant Meals

HELPING MORE MEAL PREP BUSINESSES

Marco is only based in Chattanooga, Tennessee for now, but believe a lot of other meal prep companies will want a plug in like Vibrant Meals’.

“We plan to make this plug-in multi-tenant, and sell it on the Shopify app store!” He said. “We already have lots of interest from other meal prep companies to do this.”

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