Guest article by Rodney Laws, Editor at Ecommerce Platforms
It’s typical of a short-sighted seller to view the point of conversation as the culmination of the retail process. Everything leads up to money changing hands, and once that’s done with, it’s time to move on to the next sale. What happens to the customers post-purchase? Well, that doesn’t really matter, surely. It’s too late now, after all: they can’t back out now.
Anyone with any understanding of eCommerce can tell you how egregiously misguided this perspective is. Getting one sale isn’t what really matters for most retailers: it’s getting multiple sales from the same customers that furthers your profits. Not only is the pool of prospective customers inherently limited, making it harder and harder to find new prospects over time, but it’s also firmly established that long-serving customers spend more and drive more referrals.
And when you’re trying to convince customers to keep coming back, you need to impress them not only throughout the sales funnel but also beyond that, all the way to post-purchase support and subsequent marketing efforts. This includes the shipping process, of course, and that’s what we’re going to look at in this post: specifically, the practice of using creative packaging to impress customers and inspire loyalty. Here are six tips for doing just that:
Take inspiration from competitors
The first step of any creative project should be get inspired by looking at existing work, and that certainly goes for creative packaging. Plenty of brands already make interesting choices with their packaging, so take a look at what they’re doing (particularly companies within your niche) to see what you make of them. What do you like and dislike about their efforts? How successful do they seem to be proving with their target audiences?
The point of this isn’t to reach strict conclusions about what you should do with your creative packaging. Instead, it’s about adding to your pool of ideas, giving you more material to work with when you subsequently start working on designs. Working entirely from scratch isn’t simply time-consuming — it’s also a bad way to produce work that stands out from the pack.
You may be tempted to go for whichever materials are the cheapest, or to run with those you consider suitably luxurious, but neither approach is advisable at this point in time. Instead, you should focus on sustainability as your top priority (just as it’s now vital in delivery): can the materials used to make your packaging be reused? Can they be ethically sourced?
It’s becoming quite common: Arka Packaging, a popular eCommerce packaging service (with a 5* app for Shopify) already commits to using eco-friendly materials, and you should do the same. Shoppers are increasingly requesting (or even requiring) that sellers do so, but it’s also vital because you want your business model to be stable, and a sudden interruption in your packaging process stemming from material shortages simply wouldn’t be good for business.
Reflect your brand identity
While you can just throw in whatever elements happen to look great, you need to view your packaging in the broader context of your business. Does it reflect everything else you do? Factor in everything from the visual aesthetic of your homepage to the copy you use to market your products, and bring everything back to your core brand guidelines.
If you don’t have any such guidelines, then you should certainly get some made, because people expect consistency from brands — and only by sticking to certain elements can you make your brand memorable. If you use shades of blue on your website and social media profiles but send out yellow packages, it’ll confuse people.
Offer practical value
When you’re sending out plain packaging, the idea should be for it to be easily recyclable: simple to unpack, fold up, and subsequently process. That packaging isn’t meant to be kept, after all. But what about creative packaging? It would seem like a waste to put the time into making it more interesting than standard packaging if the idea is that it will just get thrown away.
The smart thing, then, is to make it practically valuable. Plan for your packaging to be kept and used as a product container. Make it possible to open and close it without needing tape or other flimsy fastenings. As well as being better for the environment, this also makes it more likely that recipients will have the packaging around for quite some time, giving it ample opportunity to remind them of your brand.
Personalise where useful
If your business fulfils relatively-few orders with heavy elements of customisation, you should match that approach with personalised packaging (services like Packhelp are dedicated to this). In addition to adding your brand elements, you could throw in nods to specific recipients: thank-you notes featuring their names added to the contents, for example.
And if you actually know some customers personally (which is quite common in the B2B world due to long-lasting business relationships), then you can draw from that knowledge to really impress them with your packaging. Send a package in the recipient’s brand colours and they’ll be much more inclined to view you positively.
Always aim for simplicity
It’s possible to do very complex things with packaging. Convoluted designs, ornate shapes, even transforming constructions that can dazzle and delight when done well — but they mostly aren’t done well. Most of the time, efforts to do fancy things with packaging end up producing weak results and diluting the intended effects (the recipients don’t know what to make of them).
You don’t need to bother with this sort of thing. Instead, keep your designs simple. Use packaging that’s relatively inexpensive to design and produce. Aim for strength and stability instead of nuanced angles that aren’t suited to transit. And when you add your branding, keep things tasteful and minimal: really in-your-face branding is counterproductive.
Drawing from these tips should help you with your creative packaging efforts. Remember to pay close attention to how your customers react, because you can have some great ideas in principle that don’t deliver in reality for whatever reason. Focus on iterative improvement and you should get the results you’re looking for.