Product packaging is a huge part of the customer experience. It’s more than just a way to keep your products safe for the eventual buyer. Product packaging is a physical representation of your brand. It’s a way to connect with customers on an emotional level and motivate them to share their feelings with a wider audience. And it’s a way to differentiate your brand from the competition.
Your packaging is really part of your product. It’s the first thing your customers encounter when their receive your product, and as they say: you only get one chance to make a first impression. It needs to be remarkable.
But it doesn’t need to be complicated. Even simple tweaks like using your company’s signature color or logo on your packaging can help boost brand recognition and create a positive experience for customers. That not only helps encourage repeat purchases and reinforce brand loyalty, it shows that you’ve put thought into every step of the customer journey.
That’s where companies like Packlane have found their niche. By offering customer packaging solutions to eCommerce brands, they’re preaching the power of product packaging and helping companies understand the real value it can provide.
Product packaging is the first physical interaction with your brand
“For most brands, packaging design is the first physical impression a customer has about your brand. It completely sets the tone and expectations about the product or experience inside,” says Lindsey Wilson, content manager at Packlane.
Up until the point when they open a shipping box and pull out your product, still in its packaging, the only experience customers have likely had with you is online. When they receive a package in the mail, it extends the experience into the physical, and this will be the first touchpoint in a new stage of the relationship. Product packaging sets the tone for every subsequent interaction.
Customers make judgements about companies and brands at every touchpoint. The first time they receive an order in the main is no exception. This is a new experience, and the customer is making a new set of judgments about your brand. So your packaging needs to be saying what you want the customer to hear.
Consider Blue Bottle Coffee. They’ve grown from a coffee shop to a hugely successful eCommerce business while maintaining a consistency of brand that cultivates a clear perception of the quality of their coffee.
Blue Bottle’s clean and modern packaging nudges customers toward making a judgment that the brand caters to an upmarket clientele. It mirrors the design of other high-end goods like Apple or Tiffany & Co., which have a similarly clean and minimal aesthetic. They carry this look throughout their eCommerce website, their physical locations, and their packaging. Wherever a customer interacts with Blue Bottle, they’ll find a consistent message of quality and simplicity.
Look at how it differs from a similar subscription box service from Stumptown Coffee Roasters:
Where Blue Bottle favors clean design and luxury with their white bags and pale blue tissue paper, Stumptown goes for a more folksy feeling with brown bags and a rustic-looking box.
These differences in packaging show how each brand appeals to a different type of customer. Blue Bottle’s chic and minimal packaging won’t necessarily appeal to the hipster clientele of Stumptown, but both brands put considerable care into how their packaging is perceived. When the customer receives their coffee subscription, regardless of who they purchased it from, both companies are immediately recognizable by their packaging alone, and their design decisions are helping customers form those snap judgments at each touchpoint in the way the company wants them to.
When customers purchase a product that they’ve only interacted with online, the packaging plays a significant role in their experience. If the packaging fails to extend the experience in a way the customer expects, it can detract from the brand.
Better brand recognition boosts repeat purchases
A recognizable brand is a powerful sales tool. When a customer can distinguish a brand on sight, it fuels their loyalty and translates into future purchases. In today’s crowded eCommerce market, companies that differentiate themselves help create a path of least resistance for the next sale. They stand out against the competition, and customers can easily connect the value of the brand with the quality of the product.
“Packaging creates an experience and if your packaging is great, your customer will want to repeat that experience again and again,” says Wilson. When a customer values the brand, they’ll make repeat purchases.
Packaging says a lot about how companies perceive their own brand as well. It can be used to make customers feel a certain way by changing how they interact with the product. Take online grocery store Brandless: their product packaging plays on customers’ existing feelings towards private label brands. By stripping away elements they deem unnecessary, Brandless is able to focus on their brand’s value proposition and nothing else.
When a customer receives their purchase from Brandless, it comes in a simply brown box adorned with the Brandless logo—itself a rather plain text mark. This is another subtle play on the idea of “generic” brands and reinforces the fact that Brandless has cut out the middleman. The company’s simple packaging tells customers they’re keeping costs low.
Brandless customers immediately recognize the logo and are also hit with their website, social media handle, and hashtag. This is a subtle nudge towards social sharing and a way to reinforce the value of their recent purchases. Customers who understand the real value of their purchases are more likely to come back again and again.
Upon opening the box, customers are met with even more branding in the form of a pared-down version of Brandless’s Statement of Quality.
This not-so-subtle reminder of the quality of their ingredients is a smart way to remind customers why they purchased from Brandless in the first place.
These relationships have a direct effect on customer loyalty. When customers understand the real value of the products they’ve purchased, it gives them a reason to purchase again.
As an eCommerce company, Brandless is up against supermarket juggernauts like Acme and Giant. Giving their customers a quick reminder of how they differentiate themselves from these competitors is a great use of their packaging. It reminds the customer how Brandless products are unique from the other store brands they primarily compete with and strengthens their relationship.
Customer delight is a powerful motivator for social sharing
Companies can use their product packaging to reinforce the personality of their brand, as well. A strong personality can turn an ordinary experience into a delightful one. This increases the potential for social sharing and can turn regular customers into brand ambassadors and evangelists.
“Let’s take an online purchase,” says Wilson. “The packaging for the first purchase starts as a surprise. The shipping box arrives brightly colored or with your logo prominently displayed on the box. It ignites a moment of excitement and sets a positive tone for how they receive the actual product.”
Practicality isn’t always a customer’s primary concern. They often go for brands that make them feel good over those that just check the required boxes. Product packaging is one of the best ways to surprise a customer and make them feel something positive about your brand. That’s especially true for any company operating in a crowded market or selling commodity goods.
Organic chickpea snack HIPPEAS does a great job of this. Their packaging literally smiles at the customer.
When a customer is happy about their purchase, they’re more likely to purchase again, and they’ll even share it with their friends. This kind of word-of-mouth recommendation is one of the most powerful ways to connect with a larger audience. People will almost always trust a recommendation from their friends. In fact, 83 percent of consumers say they trust recommendations from friends, which makes word-of-mouth the most credible form of advertising available to companies.
When you take a look at the #hippeas hashtag on social media, it’s filled with posts about how much their customers love the packaging.
Bold and colorful designs are a distinct departure from the brown cardboard box feeling of traditional eCommerce packaging. These are the kinds of emotional connections that help customers connect with the company ethos and make them share their stories online.
This social sharing not only promotes the personality of the brand, it also puts the company in front of a brand-new audience of potential customers.
Product packaging is more important than it might seem. It’s your way to connect with the customer on an emotional level, show them how much you care about their purchase, and extend the customer relationship from online to the real world.
► Packaging is a part of the product
You need to think about packaging as an extension of the product instead of just a way to ship it safely. Product packaging is the first physical impression your customer has with the brand, and it’s an important step in the customer journey.
► Great packaging is a competitive advantage
When you’re able to show the value or personality of your brand before the customer even opens the box, that sets your brand apart. Simply using a brand color or adding your logo will differentiate your company from the rest of the market and show the customer how much care you put into your products.
► Brand recognition boosts loyalty
Customers who love brands come back to purchase again and again. You need to be putting your brand in front of customers every chance there is to help reinforce your message. When you regularly show a uniform brand, it helps people connect with the product and recognize its value.
► Personality is important
A brand is more than colors and design. When you’re able to show the personality of your company in product packaging, it creates a better customer experience. People like to engage with brands that are easily identifiable and stand out in a crowd.
► Delighted customers share more
When customers are happy, they’ll talk about it. Great product packaging can lead to social shares, unboxing videos, and word-of-mouth recommendations. This makes your brand known to a wider audience of potential customers.