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Have you ever wondered about the different ways to package your company’s products for e-commerce vs retail channels? If so, you are among a large group of merchants struggling to strike just the right balance between two very different kinds of packaging strategies.

Why are there such varied approaches to online selling and traditional retail methods? There are numerous reasons, but one of the key concepts behind the differences is that e-commerce products go straight to buyers, with no intermediary except for the shipping service (private or USPS. On the other hand, retail merchandise moves through several stages of processing before it ever lands in the consumer’s possession.

The distinction between online and brick-and-mortal selling is an important one for business owners to understand. Both strategies are major outlets for sales of all kinds of products. Plus, e-commerce revenues are growing every year. By 2025, it’s expected that in the U.S. alone, online retail revenue totals will reach the $563 million level.

What’s the best way to acquire a solid understanding of how to package products for both channels? The lists below include key facts unique to e-commerce and retail packaging. Simply reviewing the essential points of difference is an excellent way to begin learning the nuances of packaging approaches for these two vital selling channels.

Do These Things To Maximize Retail Packaging Effectiveness

Want to get retail packaging right? Begin with a resource list of facts about how packaging works for companies who sell anything through brick-and-mortar outlets.

  • Use Attractive Designs: You won’t have the luxury of using online photos to grab the consumer’s attention in a retail store. That’s why it’s vital to spend time designing an eye-catching product that stands out from competing goods on what could be a very large store shelf.
  • Consider Stack-Friendly Goods: Items that can be stacked tend to store better, sit well on shelves, and satisfy inherent human needs for visually “organized” things. Shape, size, and “neatness” of your package are keys to selling.
  • Think Small To Maximize Shelf Space: If you have the choice, try to keep your packages small. Larger items in retail stores can’t appear as easily on eye-level shelves, which is the prime “real estate” in brick-and-mortar stores. Unless your goods are large or require lots of protective packaging, keep them as small as possible.
  • Know Your Retailers’ Placement Policies: Get to know the policies of the retail outlets that carry your products. Do they have “high shelf” requirements, shelves that can hold heavy items, or special display cases for certain categories of merchandise? Spend time learning how to gain the very best, most visible placement of your goods based on packaging requirements that might be applicable.
  • Use Shatter-Resistant Glass: Nail polish bottles are an excellent example of this helpful principle. If you sell something in a glass bottle, assume that it might be on a high, open shelf and is thus susceptible to falling. Use shatter-resistant glass or thick plastic bottles if necessary.

Techniques That Boost E-Commerce Sales

Even if you’ve just begun your e-commerce efforts, take the time to review major packaging concepts that pertain to this growing, direct-to-consumer way of selling to the public.

  • Design Packages for Fast Delivery: Avoid bulkiness, odd shapes, and unnecessary weight when shipping e-commerce goods. Strive to minimize deliver time and your customers will appreciate it.
  • Include Printed Inserts: One of the advantages of online selling is that every buyer gets a “boxed” product. Retail buyers often pull a product off the shelf, throw it in their cart, and scan it at the checkout counter. Things like nail polish, small tools, and edible fruit don’t come with their own boxes.

    So, when you sell an e-commerce good, take advantage of the box space by adding written inserts that offer value in terms of information, free coupon codes, or special phone numbers for obtaining no-cost add-ons.

  • Use Sturdy Package Designs: E-commerce goods travel a much bumpier road to the buyer’s destination that retail ones. Private and public shippers aren’t known for their gentle touch, so be sure to pack delicate or breakable items securely.
  • Use “Unboxing Videos” To Sell Product:
    One of the interesting trends in social media is the “unboxing video,” especially the ones that go viral. Who would have thought that simply watching a buyers open a package and comment about the experience would become major entertainment? But, these so-called “unboxing clips,” which typically last about three minutes, have had a huge impact on sales for particular products.

    You can take charge of the trend by enlisting satisfied customers to make their own videos, or by creating in-house clips that show what it’s like to receive and unbox your company’s products. And remember, the focus is on the package, it’s user-friendliness, attractiveness, protective utility, useful written content inside and out, “bonus” inserts like coupons, and “fun” design.

Common Consumer Complaints About Packaging

If you want a first-hand education about what today’s consumers don’t like, spend an hour or two viewing unboxing videos for products in your company’s niche. For instance, if you sell lipstick, check out a dozen or so “cosmetic products” unboxing video clips. Pay close attention to the negative comments, and you’ll learn a lot.

Likewise, do some in-person research by traveling to your favorite local grocery store. Walk through all the aisles and examine various items on the shelf. Be sure to note which ones feature user-friendly packaging that is both attractive and protective. Make notes about which packages capture attention and stimulate your imagination. Spend extra time if there is a display of products in your company’s niche.

With those tasks behind you, review the following list of the most frequent consumer complaints that specifically relate to packaging.


“The product I received doesn’t look like the online photo.”

Whether you like it or not, and whether it’s a “logical” complaint or not, today’s e-commerce consumers want their delivered product to match the photos they saw in your online store. This problem is simple to prevent. Simply take real-life photos of what you sell, making certain to match the mailed item with the photos you use in your online store.


“The package was hard to open.”

When people buy something, they want to be able to open it without struggling. This concept is actually more relevant to consumer satisfaction than many sellers realize. The best way to prevent the complaint is to work with a packaging professional who knows how to calibrate materials and designs so items are easy to open but not so weak as to fall apart in the buyer’s hands (see the next point).


“The package fell apart when I started to open it.”

Weak packages make buyers think you don’t care about them or their experience. Additionally, packaging that falls apart can reveal problems with overall design, retailer mishandling, items for sale long after their expire dates, or low-quality paper. Prevent this consumer complaint by doing plenty of testing before giving your approval to a particular type of package design or material.


“Why does this company waste so much paper with excessive packaging?”

This is more of a question based on lack of knowledge than it is a valid complaint. Regardless, even though consumers don’t know that you struggle to keep paper use to a minimum, it’s good to avoid the appearance of “filler” like excess wrapping, cushioning paper or paper-board, boxes that are far larger than they need to be, and random cardboard inserts that serve no purpose.

Packaging, Online and Off

It’s smart to pay attention to the different requirements of online vs retail packaging. At Mid-Atlantic Packaging, we’ve been helping businesses of all kinds for so long, we remember the days before “online” anything existed, nearly 40 years ago. But, our long-term experience has equipped out team to assist sellers who use retail, e-commerce, or both.

We’re always happy to answer packaging questions you have. Give us a call at (800) 284-1332, and speak with one of our professional team members. Initial consultations come with no cost to you. That way, you can get an idea of costs, timing, and the products we offer before deciding to move forward. For more details, visit our website and learn more about how Mid-Atlantic Packaging can help your bottom line.