With global e-commerce sales continuing their impressive growth – eMarketer predicts they’ll reach $2.489 trillion, or 8.8% of sales, by 2018 – there’s never been more competition in the online space. It’s increasingly important to utilize every opportunity to stand out from the competition and develop brand loyalty among shoppers. One of the clearest and most tangible ways to do this is through packaging, a deceptively simple area that has the power to make or break a customer’s experience. Yet many brands fail to consider adequately the critical factors behind highly effective package design and execution, falling back on standard options that may not suit their products and missing out on the chance for powerful in-home marketing.
These days, customers don’t just want a package to arrive quickly; they also want it to look beautiful and impressive when it arrives. So if your goal is to deliver a truly exceptional experience and to win loyal repeat customers, it’s essential to think “outside the box” when it comes to how you ship your product. Take the following into account when designing or rethinking your packaging strategy to maximize the impact and deliver superior results:
1) Type of Packaging
While the majority of product ships in corrugated boxes, that’s not the only option. More and more brands are packing items in polybags as well as protective padded envelopes and other customized designs. Used appropriately, these alternatives have the ability to create a visual sense of distinction – a sleek branded polybag stands out in a sea of cardboard boxes, for example. Selecting just the right type of packaging for your specific product shows you’ve taken the time to give the customer a thoughtful brand experience from the moment the parcel arrives at their doorstep and sets the tone for their interaction.
2) Product Fit
A savvy packaging strategy pairs specific product types and sizes with packages of similar sizes and shapes. Not only does a good fit keep shipping costs down and products safer (the more space for an item to slosh around inside a box, the greater the chance it may become damaged, wrinkled, unappealing, etc.), but it sends a clear message that your brand values efficiency and avoids needless waste. A good fit also feels more expensive and special: think about the difference between, say, opening a large square box to find wads and wads of filler around a folded shirt, and opening a trim pizza-box style package where the same folded shirt fits perfectly with just a layer of tissue paper around it for protection.
Steer clear of a one-size-fits-all approach; instead, think through how each item in your inventory will inhabit its intended package, and choose accordingly. Though it may cost more, the results in the long run are often well worth it when you factor in the advantages gained from an exceptional customer experience.
3) Package Quality
A successful logistics strategy combines aesthetics with functionality, and this is especially true when it comes to quality of packaging. Higher quality packaging elevates the value of its contents – a beautiful shoebox can make the humblest pair of sandals feel like a million bucks. At the same time, quality packaging does the all-important job of protecting the product in a way that cheaper, flimsier alternatives can’t.
It may be tempting to view the delivery package as a throwaway vehicle and, therefore, opt for the cheapest solution. But it’s wise to take a long view here, weighing the cost of better packaging against the expense of damaged goods, and factoring in the benefits of making a strong first impression on shoppers.
Packaging can be an important marketing tool to convey your brand identity from the first moment a customer sees the parcel on their doorstep. A branded package can also catch the eyes of others on its journey, expanding name recognition and brand awareness. Here it’s important to consider potential for theft and to brand or leave your package blank depending on the contents – in other words, high value goods, or a brand name associate with luxury items, may do better in an unmarked package.
Keep in mind that when it comes to boxes, a branded logo doesn’t necessarily need to be on the outside. A more discreet internal logo can be an elevated yet subtle way to personalize a package.
What’s inside the package – along with the product – has the ability to articulate a brand’s voice and powerfully engage shoppers. From branded tissue paper, or paper in a hue that matches the company logo, to branded stickers/seals to personalized packing slips to handwritten thank you cards, carefully chosen inserts can be a fantastic way to shape the customer’s experience and communicate brand values. They can also be a vehicle for conveying important information about the brand’s online and social media presence, such as Twitter handle or relevant Instagram hashtags – increasingly vital info in the digital age.
Work with your logistics partner to select impactful inserts and avoid overwhelming the product and customer with unnecessary materials.
Don’t assume that even a sturdy package will make it to the customer looking the way it does when it leaves the warehouse. Many things can happen on the parcel’s journey – so it’s essential to test thoroughly to ensure that every delivery arrives at the customer’s doorstep safely and in good shape. If your packaging fails the test too many times, re-evaluate the packages themselves while working directly with your shipping carriers to minimize risks. And don’t test just once; do it on a regular basis, every six months or so.
Even in the best-case scenarios, damage may occur on occasion. Negotiate SLAs for these damaged packages to ensure that there is a process in place, and think through how best to interact with the customer in each incident to safeguard their brand experience.
View every package as a golden opportunity to tell your brand’s story in a way that effectively reaches the consumer, and leave a lasting positive impression. By making well-considered packaging a differentiating force, your brand will be ahead of the competition and a winner in the customer’s eyes (and maybe even on their Instagram account).