6 Guidelines for Packaging Solutions in the eCommerce Industry

Tags: Packaging Design
By Gavin Write
Function of Beauty Packaging Design with Product Bottles and Blue Background

Since the birth of eCommerce in 1991, packaging has slowly evolved to accommodate the new way people shop. The way customers buy online is different from the traditional retail experience.

The in-store environment is all about the product on display, the shelving, staging, and the customer’s sensory experience with the product(s) being sold. 

In contrast, product selections online live in a 2D (and sometimes augmented 3D) world. Customers can't touch, feel or try the product before making the buying decision. Packaging plays a minimal role in online product selection, although there are still unique ways to break through and make your packaging have a statement.

Read more about how packaging influences consumer behavior in retail and learn more about the impact of design on the shelves.

However, eCommerce-specific merchandise packaging must endure the rugged journey from manufacturer to consumer. And, with the industry return rate hovering around 30%, it must also survive a round trip while still protecting its contents.

The right eCommerce packaging solutions must solve multiple issues. They include:

  • Lowering the return rates by preventing shipping damages

  • Reducing shipping costs by getting lighter and smaller

  • Increasing brand identification

  • Improving customer satisfaction

To find the solutions retailers must look at the two primary types of packaging for eCommerce.

Utility and Branded Packaging

Packaging Example Being Delivered Through DoorImage Credit: Mitch Payne and Aleksandra Kingo

Utility packaging, as the name implies, is the plain envelope or brown box that protects the inner contents during shipping.

Branded packaging surrounds the item and has colorful graphics, logos, labels, and text.

Re-examining both types of packaging will uncover potential savings in manufacturing and shipping costs.

To help solve these issues, here are some solutions for consumer goods packaging design.

6 Effective Packaging Solutions for eCommerce

Packaging best practices are about doing more with less. Here are six of the most efficient ways for eCommerce retailers to handle their packaging needs.

1. Use Packaging That Fits The Product
Women Opening Blue Makeup Packaging BoxBirchbox

Both the internal brand packaging and the utility packaging should be as tight as possible, reducing weight without compromising the product’s integrity. For example, online packages do not need a hanging tab like retail store packaging; it would just take more space and provide no additional value. Reducing the size also saves on materials and dimensional shipping charges.

2. Replace Rigid Packaging With Flexible
Packaging Sleeve With Red Shirt Being Held

Sometimes a box or rigid plastic containers are not the best choices. Pack liquids in pouches rather than heavy plastic bottles. The bottles add unnecessary weight, and the cap adds height, creating the need for a taller box with more negative space.

When possible, fit smaller items inside of a mailer or courier bag rather than a cardboard box. Consumers want companies to use less packaging, so they don’t have to deal with as much waste.

For example,

32% of Americans want sustainable packaging options. With one in every four consumers interested in responsible purchasing, companies are incentivized to invest in environmentally friendly materials and waste reduction.

National Fulfillment Services

Switching to flexible packaging reduces size, weight, waste, and keeps shipping costs as low as possible.

3. Use Environmentally-Friendly Void Filler

Dell Computer Packaging Void Filler PhotoComputerdealernews.com

Styrofoam peanuts, while useful, present an ecological problem when disposing of them. Consumers prefer environmentally safe alternatives.

Once the package has served its purpose, it enters the waste stream. To reduce the environmental footprint, companies like Dell and Amazon are turning to fast-growing materials like bamboo, wheat straw, and mushroom roots (Gree) as a void filler.

Dell reports that by using these materials, it has eliminated 20 million pounds of packaging and reduced production costs by $18 million.

“Green” packaging is good for every company’s image and the environment.

4. Tape That Serves Triple Duty

Amazon Brown Box with Tape Packaging ExampleEditorial Credit: dennizn / Shutterstock.com

The tape should do more than hold the package together, it’s valuable advertising real estate. By adding the company’s colors and logo, it performs the triple task of, sealing, strengthening, and branding. Consider using branded strapping tape to replace external strapping.

5. Packaging Branding That Stands Out

Best Farms Recycled Packaging Box With Graphics Over Yellow BackgroundImage Credit: Kyle Miller Creative

No rule says utility packaging must be dull, brown, and boring. Along with branded tape mentioned above, imprint the box with the company colors, or add branded stickers. Either way, everyone should be able to recognize the brand from a distance.

Although the branded packaging should be more compact than in-store packaging, it should have the same visual design. When the customer opens the box, there should be instant recognition.

6. Create a Memorable Unboxing Experience

Unboxing Fab Fit Fun Box with Make Up and CosmeticsImage Credit: LaurenConrad.com | fabfitfun

Whenever a customer opens a box, the moment should have the same excitement as opening a special gift. Unboxing is an opportunity to build loyalty by exceeding expectations. Some ways to do this are:

  • Inserting colorful tissue paper

  • Adding a personalized thank you note

  • Adding coupons, discounts, or upsell offers

  • Add a “bonus” gift or sample

Other ways to improve the customer experience are to ensure the package fits a standard mailbox and that it’s easy to open. The entire experience should make your customer feel special and want to buy more and part of a comprehensive marketing strategy.

Understanding how consumers experience packaging is no longer optional; it is indispensable.

P&G chairman A.G. Lafley

Best Packaging Solutions and Design

The best packaging protects the item until the customer opens it. It must deliver a memorable customer experience at the lowest cost of material and shipping.

According to Target Marketing Magazine, “unboxing videos routinely take a few of the top 10 spots on most-viewed YouTube watchlists.” This is an incredible opportunity to promote your brand.

When it comes to designing CPG packaging and utility packaging, find a marketing agency that has packaging design experts to guide you toward the right solutions. From planning to branding and production, a professional team that helped hundreds of brands will help you make the right choice!

Image Credit: Function of Beauty

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