Today consumers purchase many goods on their computers or tablets; in fact, online sales in the U.S. are expected to reach $414 billion—or 11% of total retail sales—by 2018. So it is no surprise that the traditional requirements for retail packaging, such as a large billboard space for maximum shelf impact or features that protect a product from theft, are becoming less relevant as online sales grow. Even so, e-commerce packaging must still protect a product during shipping as well as foster a positive brand experience upon arriving at the consumer’s doorstep. Fortunately, paperboard leads the way on both fronts.
Since brand owners cannot prevent rough shipping and handling that may damage a product, they look to converters to design packaging that provides outstanding product protection and is economical to ship. Sturdy yet lightweight paperboard is a perfect choice, especially since glass is heavy and fragile while plastic cannot adequately protect most items during shipping.
When designing paperboard packaging for e-retailing, try to minimize empty space in the carton; products are more likely to become damaged during shipping if there is excess air in the package. Another tactic for adding protection is to use mini-fluted board. This way you can market your cartons as a more aesthetic alternative to corrugate—especially when a brand owner demands packaging that can double as a shipping container. Finally, make sure that consumers can easily reseal your carton if they decide to return their purchase.
With e-retailing, packaging becomes a consumer’s first physical contact with a product so it must be designed to foster a memorable brand experience. Considering the popularity of “unboxing” videos in which consumers document their experience of opening a package, it’s clear that packaging represents a valuable opportunity for building brand equity and promoting repeat purchasing behavior.
To do this, tune into consumers’ desires. Today’s green consumer abhors wasteful or excessive packaging, so choose sustainable substrates like paperboard and make sure your designs are as lean as possible. Another way to make a positive impression is to add a personal touch—for example, you could print a “thank you” message in cursive script on the inner wall of the carton. Also, don’t forget that many online purchases are gifts that ship directly to the recipient. Would you be delighted to see your package as a gift on your doorstep?
A final consideration: since consumers might view your package online when making purchasing decisions, be sure to avoid glossy coatings or other high-glare finishes that may create glare when taking a digital photo of the package. You may also want to review your customers’ websites and other online platforms in order to get a solid grasp of their brand identities so you can design accordingly.
With the rapid growth of e-commerce, the future of retailing may arrive sooner than expected. By designing cartons to meet the requirements of e-retailing, folding carton converters will find themselves ahead of the curve.