Are you underutilizing your product packaging? Many e-commerce brands are missing some big red flags that are reducing packaging performance, dashing customer expectations and diminishing overall brand value. The biggest reason why brands fail at packaging is that they focus on perfecting one feature while ignoring peripheral value-adding elements. Don’t miss out on delivering value through smart, functional e-commerce packaging that succeeds on multiple levels. If you’re in audit mode, take a look at the big opportunities you may be skipping with your current e-commerce packaging.
1. Missed Opportunity: Memorable Package Branding
For e-commerce brands, one of the biggest missed opportunities boils down to shipping out plain, unbranded packaging when there’s a better option. Slapping a logo on packaging can go a long way in terms of relationship formation with customers. This is especially true for brands that sell through popular platforms like Amazon. From the branding angle, it’s important to untwine your brand from the platform your products are sold on. The risk behind being “absorbed” into a larger platform by sending out unmarked packaging is that the customer may remember where they ordered from without remembering who they purchased from. This opens the doors for customers to reorder from your competitors on the same platform. Here are some simple tips for redirecting attention back to your brand using packaging:
- If you sell on a large platform, feature your brand’s direct URL on packaging to encourage direct sales. This will get customers into your exclusive marketing/sales funnel to help you build more control over your brand.
- Choose packaging with a color that is unique to your brand.
- For a low-budget solution, simply apply a sticker or label with your logo over unbranded, generic packaging.
- Include a personal note thanking the customer for the purchase within the package. Add a coupon for the next purchase!
- Consider reusable packaging that allows customers to “keep a piece of your brand” with them!
The sky is really the limit when it comes to how grandiose brands want to get with custom packaging. For brands that are trying to “sell a lifestyle” to their customers, it’s really worth every penny to use painstaking detail and design to fold brand aesthetic into packaging. However, brands with budget constraints shouldn’t assume that no options exist for economical branded packaging!
2. Missed Opportunity: Smooth, Hassle-Free Return Information
Return-friendly packaging instills confidence in consumers even if they have no intention of returning items. Demonstrating that your brand “plans for all scenarios” by providing easy, return-friendly packaging puts you in league with the best of the best. In addition to showing customers that you care about their satisfaction, you’re also communicating the even more important message that you care about their time. You aren’t placing the burden on them to find, fund and prepare an entirely new box or bag!
It’s also important to insert clear directions for how to use the return packaging. For some brands, this will mean including an actual return slip in the original packaging. Other brands may prefer a more eco-friendly approach that provides a URL or QR code enabling customers to print their own return labels. While preparing for returns for every single order may seem like it would be a time-consuming or costly practice, this can actually save your business time and money. First, providing a streamlined, built-in process for returns drastically reduces the amount of online and over-the-phone customer service your company conducts daily. Secondly, you’re doing some heavy reputation shielding by providing customers with what they need before they become frustrated enough to “sound off” on social media with negative reviews. You’re also creating loyal customers when you offer no-hassle returns!
3. Missed Opportunity: Creating a Sustainable Philosophy That Resonates With Customers
Your customers may not be returning because they’re holding a grudge you don’t know about. When brands use wasteful packaging, customers feel resentful. This scenario leaves customers feeling like they are the ones “holding the bag” when it comes to disposing of wasteful, excessive packaging. As they double over layer after layer to churn your packing into the trash, they feel resentment that you’ve created so much product waste. What’s more, they now feel ashamed to be participating in such a wasteful cycle. Is this any way to win over customers?
Don’t damage your brand by damaging the environment! Too many brands are missing out on the opportunity to use eco-friendly packaging to make a statement. Among global consumers, 72 percent are actively buying more environmentally friendly products than they did five years ago. What’s more, 81 percent expect to buy even more over the next five years.
Fortunately, brands have plenty of cost-effective, attractive and durable options to choose from when sourcing sustainable packaging. Options like kraft paper and reusable totes allow brands to easily incorporate a philosophy of sustainability using stylish, value-added designs. While these options don’t siphon the resources that offenders like plastics do, they offer comparable opportunities for customization and design. Brands are increasingly “creating an aesthetic” based on minimalism that includes kraft boxes and crinkle paper with a very raw, unfinished look.
4. Missed Opportunity: A Pleasant Unboxing Experience
Are you giving your customers wrap rage? Yes, wrap rage is such a ubiquitous problem that there’s actually an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to the phenomenon. Wrap rage refers to the heightened levels of anger and frustration that consumers experience when attempting to access products imprisoned in hard-to-open packaging. More than just an inconvenience, hard-to-open packaging can actually be dangerous for customers. According some data, people actually suffer twice the injuries from packaging than injuries than from skateboards or swimming pools. Here’s a rundown of the packaging that customers find the hardest to open:
- Heat-sealed blister packs.
- Clamshell packaging.
- Zip-tied packaging.
- Skin packaging that is “vacuum sealed” over a product.
A brand really needs to make a judgment call regarding how secure packaging needs to be. While you want to make a product secure, it’s not always necessary to fortify packaging to a point where it takes special tools and utensils to free a product from its housing. While e-commerce sellers have to think of security and anti-theft concerns, their pain points aren’t necessarily the same as brands that deal with brick-and-mortar retail. However, many brands that sell online simply package their goods the same as in-store retailers.
The rise of rage-inducing packaging is linked to a desire on the part of retail brands to reduce theft and product loss. In a store setting, thieves are likely to try to slip products out of their original packaging to evade security sensors and cameras. It’s far easier to try to walk out of a store without bulky packaging. To deter theft, manufacturers try to make it as difficult as possible to swiftly remove products from packaging. When customers shop in person, they understand that this is simply part of the retail relationship. However, they are less understanding when a product that arrives at their doorstep with their name on it is still “locked down.”
While theft concerns are still very real for e-commerce sellers, the risks are different. “Package thieves” tend to grab packages quickly and indiscriminately. They don’t necessarily go from porch to porch with box cutters with the intention of cracking boxes open before deciding what they want to take. For this reason, it’s almost impossible to actually discourage this type of theft. Creating tight packaging around the product doesn’t create deterrence because thieves don’t actually open stolen packages until they are away from the crime scene. As a result, there’s not much benefit to actually putting tight seals over products. Of course, there are exceptions for products that are considered dangerous or inappropriate for children because there needs to be some added deterrence for children who might try to open packages without adult supervision.
Map out the customer unboxing experience. The goal is to create a pleasant unboxing experience where the customer is able to relish in discovering the product that was carefully and artfully packed for them. It’s important to audit the unboxing experience to look for unnecessary obstacles that delay consumer gratification. Of course, this must be balanced with a need to securely and appropriately pack an object to prevent movement and jostling during delivery.
Final Thoughts on Missed Packaging Opportunities
If you’re an e-commerce brand, packaging is simply a part of your business model. Why not optimize packaging to be more than just a means to an end? Brilliant, functional packaging that’s tweaked to fit your customer base provides massive brand value while also potentially reducing costs related to shipping, returns and reputation damage. While you don’t want to diminish the functional aspect of your packaging when you make an upgrade, you do want to marry branding with function to create a gratifying experience for customers in a world where they have so many options for online shopping!