Packaging Best Practices and Trends: More Than Just What's Inside the Box
One of the small joys in life, at least for me, is receiving a package in the mail. Generally, most consumers rip open the box to get at what's inside — whether it be a new sweater, a pair of shoes, books, etc. But not all view packaging as an afterthought. In fact, most of the stories circulating on the internet today about packaging are negative. And bad packaging leads to angry consumers.
To help shed some light on the packaging industry and how it affects the consumer experience, JoAnn Hines, Packaging Diva, a consultant and expert on packaging, and Mark Mitchell, president of Tailford Mitchell, a branding and packaging design consulting firm, led a session on the topic at last month's National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment in Orlando, Fla.
Trends in Packaging
Hines began her presentation by noting trends she's seeing take shape in the packaging industry:
* Green is no longer on the fringe. Consumers want more eco-friendly packaging, and they hold the ultimate vote — their spending. Hines cited Puma's recent move to discontinue traditional shoeboxes as a prime example. The sportswear shoe and apparel retailer has replaced shipping shoeboxes in favor of a more environmentally-friendly bag made from recycled material.
* Packaging design via social media. Brands are increasingly turning to their social media platforms to find out what consumers do and don't want from their product packaging. Vitaminwater, for example, used its Facebook page to poll fans on what packaging it liked best.
* Customer loyalty through engagement with packaging. Brands have the ability to create engagement through their packaging, Hines said. She pointed to Amazon.com as an example. The online retailer was being criticized for its wasteful packaging. It used a great big box with a tiny product inside, Hines said. So it created a packaging feedback program to improve the consumer experience with its packaging. The program has resulted in the online retail giant offering “frustration-free packaging,” aimed at reducing jagged tears and lacerations that can occur as a result of wrestling with clamshell and other hard-to-open packaging.
Another example of engaging consumers with packaging comes from Moosejaw Mountaineering, a cross-channel retailer of outdoor gear and apparel. Known for its wacky sense of humor/marketing approach, Moosejaw places various stickers on the outside of its packaging to identify the box as a Moosejaw shipment. The stickers have little, if anything, to do with the product inside the box, but work as a branding technique. And the boxes are sustainable: If you take them to any Moosejaw retail store, the company will reuse them.
Hines wrapped up her presentation by advising companies to view packaging as “part of branding and the product itself,” and to follow these three tips:
- be creative with your packaging;
- engage with your packaging; and
- motivate with your packaging.
Retail Packaging Best Practices
Tailford Mitchell's President Mark Mitchell followed with a look at product packaging's role in retail settings. Mitchell highlighted some clients his firm has worked with, and how a change in their packaging — without an increase in costs — has resulted in an increase in sales.
- Shape your boxes. Your products don't always have to be shipped in standard rectangular boxes, Mitchell said. Gift food retailer Hickory Farms offers a gift box in the shape of Mickey Mouse's head, for example.
- Dual purpose for packaging. Incorporate selling and gifting within your packaging, Mitchell said. Spice retailer Penzey's Spices includes a free sample of one of its proprietary spices in its gift boxes. Or it could be any environmental initiatives that a company is engaged in. Heritage Dairy Stores, a convenience store chain in California, offers a chocolate milk box that can turn into a bird feeder.
- Up your messaging. Play up the messaging on your package like a headline, Mitchell advised. Techniques include adding a free value-added offer, calling out natural tie-ins to the product being offered and driving further engagement with social media tools.
Mitchell rattled off some takeaway tips to close his presentation:
- think of every word, color and design element on your packaging;
- consider materials that pop;
- strive for sustainability;
- give consumers an experience and/or an unexpected surprise — something to talk about with your packaging; and
- challenge suppliers by looking beyond your competition.