August 9, 2021

Ecommerce Packaging: Why it Matters and How You can Leverage it for Your Brand

By Cassandra Shaffer / Creative Strategy, Logistics & Fulfillment

Ecommerce packaging is what helps your product get from your hands to your customer’s hands in good condition, but functionality isn’t the only thing it can offer. Your packaging can tell your brand’s story, foster real connections with your customers, and make a massive splash for a first time buyer. All it takes is a little thinking outside of the box—and inside of it, too.

What counts as ecommerce packaging?

When we talk about ecommerce packaging, we’re referring to the packaging used to ship your products directly to your online customers and everything adjacent to it, like its design, filler material, and content. Anything that is wrapped around your product to move it from point A to point B.

Ecommerce packaging, from a logistical standpoint, is the difference between your product being scattered in pieces across the UPS truck or safely in the hands of your customer, but in 2021, it’s so much more than that.

Why does ecommerce packaging matter?

Aside from protecting your product, ecommerce packaging can be its own advertisement or the ticket that sells a new customer on your brand so they come back for more. It’s no longer just a means to an end: it’s a visceral, brand-crafted experience as well as a critical first impression.

Ecommerce brands have the unique challenge of only being able to provide consumers with a sticky, physical experience after they’ve made their purchase online. That can sometimes make it hard for a consumer to feel seen by and connected to your brand. This is something that comes more easily to brick and mortar stores, as a customer can physically hold a product before buying.

Because they’re able to utilize physical space, brick and mortar stores have a much wider range of opportunity to provide an engaging experience for their customers than ecommerce businesses. They can create elaborate product displays in their storefronts and windows, for example, or eye-catching in-store signage and shelving. Brick and mortar stores also have the advantage of providing customers with the chance to physically interact with and observe a product before they purchase. Ecommerce stores aren’t able to offer the same luxury, which is what makes ecommerce packaging so pivotal.

Ecommerce packaging gives your brand an additional physical touchpoint to engage and delight shoppers. When done right, it enriches the buying experience, lowers return rates, makes your customer feel like they and their product are cared for, and helps your brand stand out from the competition. Your packaging might be the last touchpoint in a customer’s journey or the tipping point for lifelong customer loyalty. (Seriously.)

As silly as it sounds, your packaging can be a walking advertisement. Whether you choose to dropship, work with FBA, or take a more traditional approach, by using branded imagery on the shipping box or specialty brand-emblazoned shipping tape you are putting your name in front of every person who touches the box–from the warehouse to the front door.

What are the different types of ecommerce packaging?

Ecommerce packaging comes in an assortment of shapes and sizes, but there are some fairly standard packaging types that most brands use: utility packaging and branded packaging.

Corrugated boxes:

corrugated boxes are the most common type of packaging because of their light weight—which doesn’t add to the shipping cost—their sturdiness, and their recyclability. This is essentially your standard cardboard box, just with a little extra layering to keep everything inside extra protected from shocks, moisture, and temperature changes.

Padded mailers:

padded mailers are envelopes with extra protection built inside of them so that they can safely and snugly carry small and delicate products, like books, jewelry, or handcrafted goods. Padded mailers are often reinforced with extra bubble wrap and paper, but keep in mind that this can add to the cost as well as be less eco-friendly.

Bags and envelopes:

bags and envelopes, specifically reinforced bags and envelopes like Tyvek envelopes, poly mailers, or plastic mailer bags, are best used for shipping items that are small and lightweight, but not so delicate they need padding for protection. Most standard shipping bags are strong, versatile, cost-effective, waterproof, and they’re easy to store. Bags and envelopes work great for products like clothing items.

Custom product packaging:

custom packaging refers to boxes and protective material that are custom fit for your product, optimizing your shipping, cutting down on much of the cost of fulfillment, and eliminating waste. Almost every industry can benefit from custom packaging. Food and beverage, health, and beauty products are just a few. When we say “custom” product packaging, we’re also referring to stylized packaging, like a box, bag, tape, or filler with your brand’s logo on it or inside of it.

How do you choose which packaging to use?

The ecommerce packaging you use depends entirely upon the needs of your business as well as the needs of your product, but there are several factors that are especially important to consider.

Of particular importance is weight and appearance. Ecommerce packaging that’s too heavy or too big will cost you an arm and a leg to ship, whereas ecommerce packaging that’s too light might not offer enough protection. Appearance and weight directly impact how your product ships, which is why many brands opt for custom packaging.

It’s also important to keep in mind what kind of product you’re shipping. If it’s a perishable good, you may need a specialty box to make sure your product keeps. If it’s a fragile good, protection is king.

For luxury or high-end brands, the appearance of ecommerce packaging can be as important as the product. A plain padded mailer might do the job for another business, but it may feel cheap and also diminish consumer trust if it’s coming from a brand that’s shipping something like expensive jewelry. The care that goes into ecommerce packaging (or the lack thereof) is a direct reflection of your brand, and that’s important to keep in mind. Think about Apple—their packaging is as sleek and minimal as their products.

Another thing to consider is sustainability. Customers prefer eco-friendly packaging, and if you’re a brand whose core identity centers on sustainability, it’s critical that your ecommerce packaging follows suit. Packages like corrugated boxes are easily recyclable, which makes them a great option. On the flipside, a padded envelope or corrugated box with loads of bubble wrap or styrofoam packing peanuts inside is not so eco-friendly and will reflect poorly on your brand.

As with other facets of your business, you’ll want to determine your budget for ecommerce packaging based on how much value said packaging will add for your business.

How can you take advantage of ecommerce packaging?

Ecommerce packaging can be the cherry on top of your customer experience, and there are lots of creative ways that you can leverage it.

Branding

Many businesses use their packaging as extra real estate for their branding. Rather than shipping their product in a plain cardboard box, a brand may ship a container with their logo on the outside or on the tape, making it instantly more memorable to shoppers.

Unboxing Experiences

Another way brands leverage their ecommerce packaging is by making the actual act of unboxing an experience that consumers can get hyped about. All you need to do to learn the value of unboxing is run a quick YouTube search.

Unboxing or “haul” videos consistently rank high in popularity on YouTube, and they drive large amounts of traffic through other influencer platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Consumers crave unboxing experiences, and they’re no longer a differentiator, but a must for your brand.

A good unboxing experience incorporates personalized touches like notes, colorful tissue paper, stickers, coupons, or bonus goodies that add an element of surprise. Thoughtful touches like these tell your brand story, and they also increase the delight your customer feels when they receive their package. Unboxing is a great way to drive brand loyalty and leave a great first impression.

Online Imagery

Your packaging doesn’t only add to the value of your product when it’s in the customer’s hands. You can also leverage it for web imagery to increase customer excitement and give them an idea of what they can expect to receive when they order.

Does it matter if you get custom packaging?

You don’t necessarily need custom packaging—it’s certainly not the entry price to have a product shipped—but custom packaging is an increasingly appealing option for brands because of how it optimizes and personalizes the shipping experience. Custom packaging takes a forgettable delivery experience and makes it a standout.

How do you create product packaging?

When it comes to creating a beautiful package that your customers will love, Pattern’s got you covered. Our team of creatives and designers work from the ground up to create powerful customer experiences with your brand, providing you with the tools and perspective you need to make a thoughtful, memorable shipping experience for your customers. We’re confident we can help design your ecommerce packaging for success. In fact, we’ve even won awards for it. Ready to up your customer experience?

Talk to us about your packaging needs.

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