Packaging Options for Your E-Commerce Startup

Who doesn't love opening a gift?  You should be creating the same feel with your e-commerce shipping boxes.

Who doesn't love opening a gift?  You should be creating the same feel with your e-commerce shipping boxes.

Do you believe that packaging is an important part of the success of your e-commerce business?  I hope so.  With the absence of consumers touching and feeling products in stores, your e-commerce packaging is the first -- and often only -- physical touch point with the customer.  

For this post, we are going to focus on the corrugated shipping box itself, and the different options you have to choose from. 

Substrates

Substrate is a fancy word for base material.  The substrate of a shipping container would be the material it is is made out of.  99 times out of 100, the substrate is cardboard (also known as corrugate).  Because it is most common, let's focus on that for this post.

Types 

Corrugated boxes come in different shapes and sizes.  The most common -- and the one you are all most familiar with -- opens at the top.  There are also variations that open on the side or have a flap opening mechanism at the top.  

Outside Branding

Branding the outside of your shipping container can be a good look, and gives a feeling of a well established company.  The best part is: the cost isn't that  much more than your regular corrugated box -- and is a drop in the bucket compared to the value of building your brand.  Most e-commerce companies have the extra margin to spend, and I strongly suggest branding your box if this is the case.

A word of caution: Any time you are custom branding anything, you are subject to minimums from the box manufacturer.  So if you are just getting started, it might be best to start with an unbranded box, then as demand rises and you can make bigger buys, you can add branding.  Heck, your packaging supplier might even absorb the cost of custom branding if you start placing big orders (wink, wink).

Here are some examples of companies who brand the outside of their shipping boxes:

 


Contempo Pro-Tip: If you want custom branding on the outside of your shipping box, but you don't have big enough quantities to customize yet, use a large sticker.  Stickers are cheap, beautiful, and can be easily customized or swapped depending on the season or promotion.


Inside the Box 

Most companies get the outside of the box right.  It has your logo printed on it and it doesn't burst open when the UPS guy throws it.  But what about the experience of opening the box, and unraveling the contents?

Us packaging people tend to throw around the word experience a lot and for good reason.  You don't want your customer to feel like they are opening up a box -- you want them to feel like they are unwrapping a gift.  You want them to eagerly anticipate what is inside (and I'm not talking about the product).  You want them to love the packaging enough to tweet about it, and think of it every time they use your product.  And you want your goods to arrive safely.  These 3 topics all are critical to the "inside of the box" discussion.

Security

If the product arrives disheveled or -- worse -- broken, you have a major issue on your hands.  First off, you have a disappointed customer, and you've turned a potential promoter of your product into someone apathetic, at best. Second off, if you are smart, you are going to have to open up your checkbook to right your wrong.  

So, how can you avoid the hassle and inconvenience of damaged goods in shipping?   

 

When you open a package from One Kings Lane, you first need to cut through a "THANK YOU" from its founders.  Nicely done, guys.

When you open a package from One Kings Lane, you first need to cut through a "THANK YOU" from its founders.  Nicely done, guys.

You can also use tissue paper to create the sensation of opening a gift, as done brilliantly by Bergamot.

You can also use tissue paper to create the sensation of opening a gift, as done brilliantly by Bergamot.

Open the Gift

Is there anyone on the face of the Earth who doesn't like opening gifts? There is something about tearing open the taught wrapping paper that is satisfying; you can sense the time and care that went into wrapping that gift for you. 

Why don't more companies take the same approach to their product packaging? For an e-commerce company, this is a must. You must search for ways to create connections that you care, because there are fewer touch points and more options for your customers than ever before. 

Try to include at least 1 concept into your packaging where the consumer is unwrapping.  Think small, then get fancier and fancier once you get the hang of what I'm talking about. 

 

Fun, branded book from One Kings Lane reminds us of everything we love about summer. You smile, you think of loving memories, and look at the One Kings Lane logo, creating positive associations.

Fun, branded book from One Kings Lane reminds us of everything we love about summer. You smile, you think of loving memories, and look at the One Kings Lane logo, creating positive associations.

Include Marketing Your Customer Want

People are sick of their mailers being littered with product catalogs and "special offers". Why not take the same strategy smart marketers apply online -- namely, create content your customers want to consume -- to the offline world? Also, consider types of content that are better consumed in print than digitally.  For instance, if your company sells barbecue utensils, a mini-book on how to grill the perfect burger (with your brand on it, of course) would be very wise move.

 

Differentiate Your Brand with a 1-to-1 Match 

Want to give your customers something extra memorable?  Something that makes you stand out from the great majority of packages they receive in the mail?  The 1-to-1 match is easy, memorable and leaves your customers with a feeling of professionalism.

So, what's a 1-to-1 match?  Make the size of your product packaging equal to the size of the shipping box.  This is much easier to achieve for companies selling 1 packaging month after month, and is much harder if you have multiple SKUs. 

 

Great example of a 1-to-1 match by the marketing geniuses at Birch Box!

 

Conclusion 

There are many options for your packaging, and this just scrapes the surfaces. My point is that you need to take this very serious, and see this box as an asset to building brand loyalty and not strictly an expense.

So, what brands have you seen that do an exceptional job with packaging? 


Our newest ideas, inventions, and research for packaging!

A steady stream on inspiration, delivered to you.



Posted on September 6, 2013 .