Packaging is a very important part of the shipping and fulfillment process. It protects your products from bumps and bruises and is the first thing your customer see when it shows up at their door. It’s your brand’s first impression in-person and it’s a big deal.
In this chapter, you’ll learn all about how to package your products, the different types of packaging available, and a plethora of resources to get you started.
Utility Packaging Vs. Branded Packaging
Now that you understand your options for charging your customers, it’s time to look at your packaging options. It’s important to note that your packaging options, depending on cost can also affect the strategy you use to charge your customers as packaging can be a significant contributing factor in your overall shipping costs.
There are two extremes of of packaging options with a whole lot of grey area inbetween the two. Let’s take a look at those two extremes:
- Utility-Focused Packaging - Nothing fancy. A plain envelope or brown cardboard box and any necessary filler to protect your product.
- Branded, Experience Focused Packaging - The sky’s the limit on how fancy and memorable you want your customer’s experience to be. Though the use of packaging, you can create a unique experience that also acts as a marketing channel. We will discuss this more below.
As mentioned previously, the two options listed above are extremes. For most businesses, your packaging will likely fall somewhere in between utility and some custom branded experience.
Standard Packaging Options
Before you can ship your products, you’ll need to package them for safe transport. There are a few common options for utility focused packaging including boxes or envelopes (padded or unpadded).
Unless you’re shipping a very small or ultra durable product, most businesses and products will require some type and size of box to protect the order for safe transport, as well as some form of stuffing or product cushioning.
Uline is a popular choice to purchase packaging materials including over 1,300 sizes ofboxes,bubble mailers, andpackage cushioning, however we have provided many more resources for boxes and cushioning later in the resource section of this chapter. Some providers like The Packaging Group have also developedvaluable resources that get into the details of each solution, helping entrepreneurs understand the best choice for their business.
The Importance of Package Size
Because most shipping couriers and shipping options are charged based on size and weight, you want to do your best to keep your packaging as small as possible. This will help you save not only on shipping costs incurred by you and your customer but to also keep packaging costs from eating away at your profit margin.
Depending on your business and your product line, you may want to consider carrying a few strategically selected sizes of packaging materials, like small, medium and large size boxes.
What this boils down to is that you always want to use the smallest packaging available, while still providing your products with enough protection to get them to your customer safely.
A Branded Packaging and Unboxing Experience
For ecommerce businesses, the shipped package represents the most direct touch point and connection with the customer. It also happens to be one of the most under-utilized marketing opportunities for merchants.
Packaging in ecommerce came out of necessity for protecting the most important thing, the product that the customer ordered. However, as ecommerce evolves and as consumer habits shift, delivering a complete brand experience extends beyond the product itself and transcends into the whole experience.
What Exactly Is a Branded Packaging Experience?
Simply put, a branded packaging experience is a thoughtful selection of packaging and shipping materials as well as the deliberate presentation of your products. Its purpose is to provide additional value for your customer as well as your business through the ability to create a memorable and sharable experience.
Unlike physical retail, ecommerce merchants have less touchpoints to impress and wow customers with so it’s important to utilize each one to create a branded experience that sets you apart from competitors and creates a memorable experience.
TrunkClub is one such company that has taken the customer unboxing experience seriously. To start, instead of choosing a standard box sealed with clear packaging tape, they opted for a custom printed box with a handle that resembles a trunk, closely matching and accentuating their brand.
From the moment a trunk from TrunkClub arrives at your doorstep, you know you're in for a great experience and one you can't wait to open.
Inside the trunk, the contents are thoughtfully laid out to create a presentation and experience. To further build a custom branded experience for their customers, all orders include a handwritten card from a personal stylist explaining the selection of products. It truly makes you feel part of something special and exclusive.
The Importance of a Branded Packaging Experience
A big part of building a long-term, sustainable brand is bringing customer back time and time again. It’s almost always less expensive to get a current customer to purchase again than it is to always find new customers.
Consider this, with every package shipped, your customer's experience with your brand will either:
- Fall below expectations
- Meet expectations
- Exceed expectations
There are many ways, some even out of your control, that your customer's experience with your brand can fall below expectations. If everything goes well and the shipping courier isn't late, you may meet your customer's expectations. It's the little extra things though, like great packaging, marketing inserts, and surprises that will help you stand out, exceed expectations and get your customer telling friends and family about your business.
In a recent survey,Dotcom Distribution found that 52 percent of consumers are likely to make repeat purchases from an online merchant that delivers premium packaging. In that same study, Dotcom also found that nearly 4 in 10 consumers would share an image of a delivery via social media if it came in a unique package.
The value of premium packaging extends far beyond the customer experience into residual marketing effects. The experience goes beyond the online order to when the customer actually opens the beautifully wrapped package and shares that experience across social networks. That act of online and social recommendations drives loyalty from your customers and promotes brand awareness.
- Maria Haggerty, CEO of Dotcom Distribution
Fundamentally, people like sharing great experiences. Going back to our TrunkClub example, if you do a search for "TrunkClub Unboxing” on Google, you’ll find thousands of blog posts, images and videos. Many of those pieces of content were created by customers, further helping TrunkClub get their name out there to more people, along withvaluable backlinks to help improve their search engine rankings and visibility.
Still not convinced how important an unboxing experience is for customers?According to Google, in 2014 alone, YouTube hosted 1.3 million unboxing videos with 10.3 billion collective views. More importantly, 62 percent of users viewing unboxing videos are actually doing product research with the intent to purchase.
The Elements of a Custom Branded Unboxing Experience
There can be many elements of a well-designed, branded packaging and unboxing experience. You don’t have to include every single one, however, looking at each element can help you decide which ones deliver the best experience and the most value for your customers. Strategically choosing just a few of these items below can go a long way in creating a better and more memorable experience for your customers.
Let’s take a look at some elements you may want to consider in your branded, unboxing experience:
- Box - The biggest element to consider is the main shipping box. Traditionally, white or brown corrugated packaging options ruled the world as they are cheap, sturdy and get the job done. The shipping box represents the biggest opportunity to begin creating that wow experience, but can also come at a high price. There are a variety of options, including colored boxes, custom printed boxes or custom size/shaped boxes.
- Tissue Paper - Wrapping your products in tissue paper adds an extra level of mystery and excitement for the unboxing experience. Some options to consider here are using custom printed tissue paper or colored tissue paper.
- Protective Cushioning (Filler) - Traditional protective cushioning includes styrofoam packing peanuts, foam inserts, air pillows or bubble wrap. Other forms of packing filler to consider includecrinkle paper (colored), orexcelsior.
- Stickers - Stickers are a versatile and fairly inexpensive way to brand your packaging and can be used in several ways. If you use tissue paper, a branded sticker can be used to seal the tissue paper together or it can also be used instead of custom (expensive) printing on your box as an option to brand it.
- Receipt - It’s pretty standard to include a receipt in your package, but there's a lot of room for improvement on how the receipt is presented to the customer. Consider how and where to present the receipt to your customers. Some higher end brands will use a custom envelope to present the receipt in an elegant way.
- Tape - The standard is clear packaging tape but these days you have some options of differentcolored tape that can complement your custom packing and brand colors.
Costs of Branded Packaging
The costs associated with a custom branded and beautiful unboxing experience can be high and can quickly spiral out of control if you aren’t being careful. The benefits of creating an experience for your customers needs to be carefully weighed with the costs associated with it. These costs come in the form of both time and price. You’ll need to decide based on your average order size and profit margins what you can and cannot afford along with which options present the greatest value to your business and most importantly, your customers.
Custom boxes tend to be the most expensive costs associated with creating a custom branded unboxing experience. To have your own custom printed boxes you can be looking at a minimum order of 500+ and can cost $5-$25 per box.
Being creative can easily help you save costs and achieve similar results. Consider pre-designed colored boxes from places likeUline. These boxes come with much lower minimum orders and prices, at little as 50 boxes at $2.50 per box.
Another option is to search AliExpress wherevery similar colored boxes can be purchased with a minimum order of 50 units for as little as .39 cents per unit (depending on size) and free shipping to most countries.
If you wanted to further customize the experience you can consider adding printed stickers with your logo from a service likeSticker Giant or a similar service.
Use the chart below to help plan out what elements you want to include for your customer branded packaging and unboxing experience as well as the costs associated with it: