Ecommerce packaging: your essential checklist
If you’re starting a new ecommerce business, packaging should be seen as an extension of the product you’re selling. We have essentially now moved towards ‘buying experiences’. The end goal of simply delivering the product to someone is not really enough anymore; in an age of one-upmanship, businesses are striving to find new ways of standing out. Packaging has now become an integral part of the whole purchasing experience, and getting it right can be harder than it sounds.
Are you meeting your customers’ packaging expectations?
With ecommerce, there is no physical ‘shop’ in which customers can browse and pick their goods. In fact, the first physical interaction they will have with your company is when they receive the products. The packaging is the first thing your customers will see and touch.
Your aim is to give your customers an enjoyable and memorable ‘unboxing experience’. This cannot be done by shipping goods in plain containers and drab boxes. It is crucial to put some thought into how you send out your goods – even just a little colour can go a long way.
One online retailer whose packaging demonstrates considerable thought is Trunk Club, a menswear subscription service. Trunk Club send the customer a sturdy, but handsome, cardboard box whose design resembles a trunk (complete with handle), inside of which are the neatly folded and arranged clothes. Items such as shirts and sweaters are kept together with ribbon and a contents list is enclosed. The result for the customer is a satisfying unboxing experience that perfectly partners what they are buying.
When buying premium goods online, without seeing them first (which is a big ask from the consumer’s perspective) you would expect the entire service to be premium, not just the packaging. It just goes that a little bit further in showing you value your customers which is so important for customer retention.
Are you choosing the right kind of packaging for your products?
While presentation is essential, consider the basic functions of packaging too – you want your goods to reach your customers in the best condition.
Choose the right type of packaging for the items you are sending to your customers. Wrappable packaging, for example, has various applications. Bubble wrap is ideal for fragile items, such as glass, whereas shrink wrap can be used on CDs and DVDs (it can also be used as secondary packaging, on pallets for instance). Wrappable packaging is also used when vacuum-packing goods. This is essential for perishable foods and medical materials which must be sealed in order to prevent contamination.
Depending on the size, weight and shape of the goods you are shipping, you can also use postal boxes and tubes of different sizes. Don’t forget to protect goods with foam chips or air cushions, as appropriate. You may also need to put shrink-wrapped goods such as DVDs in padded envelopes for additional protection during transit.
There is a multitude of options to choose from, but choosing packaging that is not only appropriate stylistically but also functionally and economically, really hits the sweet spot.
What if a customer needs to return items?
Returnable packaging uses tear strips and adhesive strips to enable customers to return unwanted items. When the goods are received by the customer, the box is opened using the tear strip. If the customer wishes to return the goods, the adhesive strip (underneath the tear strip) can be used for repackaging. This is quite standard now, but when starting up a new business it certainly is something worth remembering; making things easy for the customer should be a priority.
RePack, a Finnish company, has developed a system especially for online retailers. When a customer places an order with a retailer and chooses RePack packaging, a refundable deposit is paid. When they have opened their parcel and taken out the goods, they then flatten the RePack and put it back in the post (postage is prepaid). The deposit is then refunded, and the RePack is used again — efficient and economical.
What if you’re selling gift items?
You can remove the need for your customers to order separate gift boxes or wrapping paper by using reversible packaging. The item ordered is dispatched to the customer in a package that is plain on the outside, but which has a printed design on the inside. The customer can open the packaging, reverse it to reveal the printed design and then reseal it with adhesive strips (like those used in returnable packaging) before sending it to the recipient.
Of course, reversible packaging also allows a gift recipient to return an unwanted gift to your company in its original plain packaging.
Are you maximising your sales through your packaging?
Have you thought about investing in product-specific packaging? External companies can design bespoke and branded packaging that feature foam inserts, dividers and layer pads. This will help maximise the impact your packaging has and save you the laborious task of assembling all the separate elements of your packaging when you dispatch an item.
Another benefit of product-specific packaging is waste reduction: you are using no more packaging than is necessary. This benefits the environment, and, because customers value sustainability, using such packaging could help to increase your sales. If you prefer to use non-specific packaging, make sure what you do use is recyclable or biodegradable.
Pay attention to your packaging and you could find that your customers will market your goods for you. Some of Trunk Club’s customers film their unboxing experiences and share them on social media, for example. A survey by ecommerce logistics company Dotcom Distribution found that, if goods were delivered in unique packaging, almost 40% of customers would share a picture of their online order on social media. You could go even further and pop in a personalised thank you note as well. It’s all about making the customer feel special.
Why not generate more business for your ecommerce business through your packaging? For more ideas, visit our Retail and Ecommerce Centre.