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Don’t underestimate the influence of anticipation on customer experience. In fact, a customer’s relationship with your product first begins in the mind before traveling from the senses to the intellect. Once the experience cycle is done, there’s no way to reset that make-or-break first impression that has been imprinted in the customer’s brain. This is the power of product presentation.

How do brands wield this to their advantage? You’re really balancing the function of your packaging with the need to create an emotional connection with your customers. Your brand doesn’t need to make “sentimental” products to draw out emotional responses from customers. Even products that are highly practical still elicit emotional responses as customers draw conclusions about whether or not they’ve invested their dollars wisely. Take a look at three tips to pack power into your product presentation for both retail and direct shipping!

1. Show Care for the Item

This first tip is big as far as sending a subliminal message of quality and care to customers. Packaging should come across as firm, protective and resilient. When customers receive packages that are dented or torn, there is an underlying worry that the product has somehow been compromised even if it appears fully intact. It’s hard not to envision the product being tossed, thrown or neglected during transport when packaging appears damaged. This really eats away at customer confidence.

Focusing on preservation and protection is important even if a product isn’t necessarily delicate because presentation accounts for so much of perception. When products are actually delicate, the need becomes even greater. It’s very damaging to a brand when a customer’s anticipation of a recent purchase is met with a damaged, broken or unusable product. If you’re designing packaging for retail, be conscious of the fact that unsuitable packaging could make your product vulnerable to product loss. Stores may discount or remove items that have damaged packaging because they are unable to sell them for full price. This can have a negative impact on your sales while also creating product waste.

When designing packaging for protection and preservation, it’s also important to be practical. Sturdy packaging doesn’t necessarily mean impenetrable packaging. You have to scale the level of protection built into a package’s design to the amount of protection needed based on the frailty of the product. You can actually go too extreme in the other direction by fortifying packaging to be unnecessarily bulky. This will add to production and shipping costs that make each product more expensive to distribute when the goal of creating secure product housing was already met several levels back.

2. Use Specific Materials for Messaging

Packaging isn’t just about shape. Yes, the initial focus is often on choosing shapes and dimensions that make it easy to pack, ship and stock products. However, this process must merge with considerations for packaging materials to create a truly meaningful customer experience. Packaging materials are increasingly intertwining with brand values and philosophies. The driving force behind this is the emphasis on reducing packaging waste that has become a priority in recent years.

The average consumer’s relationship with product waste is complicated. While many consumers partake in product waste, they actually have a strong aversion to it that can taint brand perception when product waste is associated with a particular brand. In many cases, consumers are left to throw away items simply because they are the “end point” in a wasteful cycle. Knowing that this isn’t the best option, they feel resentment toward the brand that created the waste. Here’s a look at some eye-opening findings from a study on consumer product attitudes from 2019 that brand managers need to pay attention to:

  • Consumers experience a paradox between wasting products and aversion to waste.
  • Wasting products lowers brand attitudes.
  • Wasting strongly lowers brand attitudes when the brand is visible at the waste occasion.
  • Wasting creates feelings of discomfort in customers when compared to other methods of disposal.

What these findings tell us is that one of the strongest ways to sully the customer-brand relationship is to put a customer in a position to throw away packaging that is marked with your brand’s label! For brands, giving customers the ability to feel good about how packaging is disposed of creates an opportunity to build a positive brand association. Here are some ways to boost brand attitudes through packaging:

  • Focus on only using sustainable product packaging.
  • If packaging is recyclable, make sure it is labeled with proper recycling instructions. This is a direct antidote to the aversion/shame feelings that customers experience when they feel forced to participate in wasteful behaviors.
  • Use packaging materials that signal sustainability. Options like eco-friendly kraft paper boxes, wrapping and sleeves provide the opposite visual impact of overproduced, wasteful plastics.
  • Use end-to-end sustainability by choosing packaging that is both recyclable and made from recycled materials.
  • Avoid any packaging details that are not essential. Don’t add superfluous packaging details solely for the sake of aesthetics.

Brands have a lot to gain by committing to waste-free or low-waste product packaging. First, you’re creating sustainable, eco-conscious presentation from the moment a customer comes into contact with your product. From the start, a customer can feel good about the purchase they are making because this single purchase makes them part of a much bigger global picture to make smarter, eco-friendly choices. In many cases, eco-friendly and sustainable packaging choices are more cost-effective than bulkier items that cannot be recycled. There is also usually cost savings related to shipping and transporting costs once packaging is streamlined and reduced to be slimmer and lighter.

Make Product Presentation A Priority - 1

3. Make the Packaging a Bonus Product

Everybody loves freebies! For brands, there is an opportunity to add value to a product by housing it in reusable packaging. There are two ways to approach this. The first is to provide packaging that has a usage that’s independent of the product. An example would be a grilling tool that comes shipped in an attractive, reusable wood crate that can be used for decorative storage in the house once the tool is removed. The second is to package a product in a container that can be used as a “product garage.” This means providing a place for a product to be kept when it’s not in use. An example might be an ultra-durable, extra-rigid shoe box where shoes can actually be stored when they’re not being worn. You might also want to consider a branded tote bag featuring your brand’s logo and website!

When designing reusable packaging, it’s perfectly acceptable to display your logo predominantly. While this might not add value if you were simply selling the packaging as a product, the fact that you are “giving it away” as a built-in bonus removes the “faux pas” of self-promotion entirely. In the case of something like a reusable tote bag that serves as product packaging, you’re actually deploying what amount to “walking advertisements” each time you sell your product. People who hold eco-friendly values are likely to feel perfectly comfortable “promoting” your brand by actually using the reusable bags because these bags symbolize their own commitment to sustainability. What’s more, people often use tote bags when shopping. This means that you’re actually getting your name seen in retail spaces where other shoppers have their brains primed for making purchasing decisions.

While slightly more expensive than single-use packaging in most cases, reusable packaging brings an incredible value to a product. It’s also a powerful source of brand reinforcement due to the fact that a customer will theoretically be seeing your logo in their home every day if your packaging contains a logo. From an environmental standpoint, reusable packaging is believed to offer a more sustainable alternative to single-use packaging.

Final Thoughts on Creating Meaningful Product Presentation

For customers who have deliberated about trying a product for the first time, that initial presentation really solidifies the relationship they are going to have with a brand. In today’s retail climate, it’s actually impossible to say that just one aspect of presentation will be enough. The strong preference that consumers have for eco-friendly, sustainable packaging makes it nearly essential for brands to work in some eco-friendly elements and messaging when designing product packaging. The strong aversion that customers have to waste means that even a strong first impression could be reversed if the beautiful packaging ultimately leaves the customer with a “mess to clean up.” In fact, studies show that customers often have resentment over being forced to participate in wasteful practices based on the packaging provided by brands.

Intersecting all three tips shared above, the goal is ultimately to design sturdy and protective packaging that is also eco-friendly. Whenever possible, try to integrate reusable packaging to create the biggest boost in value perception. Nothing tops a great first impression that keeps going and going every time a customer interacts with their eco-friendly “freebie” gift.