7 Things Your E-Commerce Packaging Needs to Make a Good Impression

Unboxing isn’t just a social media trend; it’s often the first, and sometimes only physical interaction e-commerce retailers have with customers. Thoughtful e-commerce packaging design positively influences excitement, satisfaction, loyalty, repeat purchases, and word-of mouth-promotion among consumers.

We’re in the midst of one of the biggest seasons for online shopping, and it’s expected to be followed by consistently historic volumes. As you plan your e-commerce strategy, consider the following factors that contribute to effective packaging design. 

Make It Sturdy

E-commerce packaging should be as practical as it is pretty. Carefully choosing void fill and other packing materials that protect contents in transit mitigates damages. Damages can, of course, lead to returns. In addition to the cost of a lost sale, processing a return can include a range of expenses including item replacement, warehouse labor and shipping, not to mention the more sustained cost of losing customers.

Right-Size It

The size and shape of product packaging is a factor that should always be considered in the design process, from both the retailer and consumer perspective. Ill-fitted packaging not only has the potential to create unnecessary costs for sellers in the way of warehouse storage, shipping, and damaged products, but consumers find it bothersome. In fact, 80 percent of online shoppers surveyed in my company’s 2019 consumer e-commerce study reported being somewhat or very bothered by oversized packaging.

Keep the Surprises Coming

Apropos of the holiday season, sellers who understand how influential the brand experience is on customers’ future transactions do their best to make the moment of unboxing an online order feel like being a kid on Christmas morning. Excitement can be injected into that moment with unexpected value-adds–for example, a gift sample that complements the purchase.

A custom retail packaging and fulfillment study my company implemented confirmed that, similar to receiving a gift or eating chocolate, the act of unboxing increases dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin levels in the brain. These chemicals are often associated with excitement and desire, making people want to come back for more to replicate these feelings. For e-commerce brands this translates to repeat purchases, and further, may compel satisfied customers to share their experience with others via unboxing videos, photos, reviews and recommendations.

Stay On-Brand

Your packaging is your brand’s first impression. The materials, color scheme, and overall feeling of the packaging your customers receive after making an online purchase should all be cohesive with the rest of your brand portfolio, creating a seamless customer experience across the omnichannel landscape.  

Appeal to Your Audience

The moment of unboxing is all about deliberately presenting items in a way that is designed to provide your customers–and, in turn, your business–with the added value of a memorable, sharable experience. Do you want them to feel pampered by luxurious tissue paper, ribbon, and other trimmings? Proud to support a company whose packaging prioritizes sustainability? Heartened by the time and care put into special custom touches? Establish the desired emotions you want your customer to have upon laying eyes on that box or bag and mold your design around it.

Get Personal

According to Accenture’s Personalization Pulse Check, 91 percent of consumers are more likely to shop with brands who provide relevant offers and recommendations; SmarterHQ’s Privacy & Personalization Report found 80 percent of self-proclaimed frequent shoppers only shop with brands who personalize their experience. These are just two of plentiful reports that demonstrate the important role personalization plays in attracting and retaining customers.

Showing patrons that you appreciate them and are invested in understanding who they are and what they want helps establish trust and loyalty. It also separates your brand from the pack. Even something as simple as inexpensive as personally addressing a thank-you note from a company leader can seal the deal.  

Encourage Further Engagement

Don’t let the unboxing be the end of the e-commerce order lifecycle. Keep your customers engaged, incentivized, and connected by including a call to action on or inside the packaging. Provide coupons, discount and referral codes, loyalty rewards, and custom hashtags as part of a strategy that motivates customers to share their experience, make future purchases, and encourage others to do the same. 

Designing the way your customers will unpack an online order is an opportunity to tell a story and establish an emotional connection, but it extends beyond the customer experience. Eliciting a positive response increases the likelihood customers will recommend your brand to others, creating a marketing ripple effect that can increase brand awareness, customer loyalty, and referrals.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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