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Custom is king in a world where customers can click to buy from thousands of merchants. That’s precisely why so many e-commerce brands are leaving their marks with custom packaging. Packaging is an important feature of the purchasing cycle because it’s the very first physical interaction that customers have with your brand. While you may have invested heavily in creating a well-designed buying experience, a customer’s high expectations may go unfulfilled if the “arrival experience” is lackluster. What’s more, all of the effort that you put into branding to make the sale could be undone if your packaging doesn’t instantly spark recognition. That can put you at a disadvantage when it comes to product loyalty and return customers.

The Perks of Custom E-Commerce Packaging

Good e-commerce packaging is more than just a superficial detail. While the emphasis may be on the appearance of your packaging, the way a box looks really only scratches the surface. When done correctly, e-commerce packaging combines marketing, brand loyalty, cost savings and an eco-friendly philosophy bundled together. Here’s a look at the perks of acing custom e-commerce packaging:

  • Through colors and logos, you’re reinforcing branding for increased product and brand recognition.
  • You’re boosting the unboxing experience to create a positive connotation with your brand.
  • You’re guarding your products from damage during shipping and delivery.
  • You’re reducing waste by streamlining packaging materials to only use what’s needed.
  • You’re reducing shipping costs by making packaging lighter through the use of eco-friendly materials and reduced packing materials.

While achieving all of this may seem like a tall order, it’s actually quite doable when you explore the newer packaging options that exist today. In many cases, you’re going to create more attractive and desirable packaging while also switching to options that are lighter, cheaper and better for the environment. However, it’s impossible to get this done with a one-size-fits-all approach to e-commerce packaging. Choosing packaging that’s appropriate for both your product and customer market is essential.

Choosing the Right Custom Packaging for Your E-Commerce Sales

Whether you’re reinventing existing packaging or starting from scratch with a new brand, it’s important to know how to source packaging options that are compatible with your brand. While many brands assume that complicated packaging is impressive packaging, the opposite is often true. In fact, customers are increasingly responding positively to low-frills, sustainable packing options.

Packaging that appears “natural” and untouched allows customers to unwrap their treasures without a nagging feeling that they are participating in wasteful behaviors. In fact, leaving customers with excessive waste after they open your packaging can actually create very strong negative brand connotations. Most customers admit to feeling environmental guilt over the products they use. However, a big motivator for not recycling is that the brands that sell products don’t provide easy routes for participating in recycling. In fact, a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that only 25 percent of waste in the United States is actually being recycled. With this in mind, a great way for a brand to stand out is to mail packaging that’s hard not to recycle. This can mean including very easy, clear directions for how to recycle packaging right on the packaging! Another option is to ship using reusable packaging that can easily have a second life!

Nearly half of all customers in the United Kingdom would gladly pay more for products to avoid plastic packaging. Many studies on consumers in North America and Asia have echoed this finding. While you may know that it’s time to transition to sustainable custom packaging, you may be unclear on how to select the right eco-friendly packaging that also truly serves the needs of your product. Here’s a look at the checklist of considerations to have in mind as you vet potential packaging options:

  • How prioritized are durability and the ability to hold products totaling a certain weight?
  • What is the minimum size that packaging can be before an item may become compromised?
  • What is the maximum size that packaging can be before the item begins to move around during shipping?
  • Does this product require protective measures during shipping to prevent theft, tampering or unlawful/unethical access by minors?
  • How will any changes in the weight of your current packaging impact packaging costs?
  • What factors have to be taken into consideration about maintaining a neat, polished appearance while still scaling things back and going with “raw” materials when switching to eco-friendly packaging?
  • What impression are you trying to make on customers at the point of delivery?

While it may seem like the emphasis is only on eco-friendly, sustainable materials for consumers, the reality is that working sustainability into a larger picture is really the goal. While customers may not take on an “activist” mentality when it comes to something like the shape or color of a box the way they would with wastefulness of packaging, these are still factors that help customers to form impressions. While they may not consciously know why they aren’t “clicking” with your brand when a product arrives, the inferior elements that make up your packaging are creating negative brand connotations. This could be anything from a box that’s difficult to open to a color scheme that doesn’t match your product. For instance, a pair of high-end sunglass arriving in a very generic-looking, unstylish box could break the brand momentum that you’ve built through your online marketing efforts.

Putting Returns in the Mix

While it’s easy to get caught up in what the arrival experience is like, brands also need to consider returns when designing packaging. For e-commerce brands, there is the reality that return rates are simply higher for online purchases. Brands that don’t utilize their packaging and shipping techniques to create a streamlined return process can end up eating far too many costs. With a custom box design, you’re able to build in a very convenient return shipping label. For smaller products, providing “soft packaging” or corrugated mailers for returns within the original shipping box can create a cheap way to accept returns back. While providing return packaging and labels may seem like an expensive undertaking, e-commerce brands can’t really afford not to create positive return experiences.

According to one survey, 84 percent of customers said that positive return experiences encouraged them to shop with retailers again. Another 73 percent said that they would not shop with a brand again after dealing with a poor return experience. In addition to retaining customer loyalty, a smooth return process that is bolstered by custom packaging allows a company to circumvent complex customer-service issues. Brands that have confusing or incomplete return instructions tucked into their shipping packaging can lose hundreds of hours every week to responding to calls and emails from irate and confused customers seeking help with returns.

The Details That Make Custom Packaging Successful

With custom e-commerce packing, little details go a long way. There are some considerations to keep in mind that might fly under your radar if you’re not overly familiar with packaging engineering and design. However, these details can ultimately save your company time and money when integrated into your packaging.

First, vet any boxes that will be used based on how easy they are to assemble and unpack. This factor will help to determine processing and shipping times at your warehouse or distribution center. Next, consider how easy a package is to stock on shelves. The immediate reason to worry about this is that you may need to stack processed packages that are ready for shipping in anticipation of shipping them off. Having easily stacked packaging simply allows your team to do this in a more orderly, time-effective fashion.

The second reason actually has to do with the long-term plans for your brand. While you may be an e-commerce company today, there is always the possibility of being picked up by major brick-and-mortar retailers down the line if your brand takes off. Consider how difficult it would be to redesign highly recognized packaging just to make it more compatible with retail shelves. If the goal is to become a retail brand, design for that today!

Lastly, consider how much “real estate” you need for product branding on your packaging. The number of sides you’d like your packaging to have should ultimately be determined by how much information you need to print on the packaging. In some cases, this isn’t a factor. However, brands that need to supply lots of product information or instructions need to think about this detail because they could be stuck “stuffing” text over a very tight surface area. Also keep in mind that any safety warnings need to be visible for customers.

Final Thoughts on Custom Packaging for E-Commerce Brands

There’s no limit to how brands can use custom packaging for brand strength. While customers are emphasizing eco-friendly options, sustainability has to be balanced with the weight, safety and practical limitations of the specific product your shipping. It should all end with a package that rewards a customer for their decision to buy with you instead of your competitors.