E-commerce is booming. Earlier this year, e-commerce analyst Emarketer estimated that global retail e-commerce sales rise 23.2% to $2.29 trillion in 2017. By the end of the year e-commerce sales are expected to account for one-tenth of total retail sales worldwide.
With more and more consumers having their online purchases delivered at their doorsteps everyday, the role of packaging is changing. Packaging is no longer merely a protection for its contents. It is an opportunity to communicate directly with your customers. This makes packaging a content marketing tool in its own right. How can packaging positively influence brand experience?
The thrill of unboxing
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The arrival of their purchases is an exciting time for online customers. It is with good reason that unboxing is a huge trend on Instagram and YouTube. For brands the moment of unboxing often is the first physical interaction with their customers. Brands should therefore not underestimate the power of packaging.
Experience is the driving force behind the purchasing patterns of millennials. An estimated 70% of millennials have FoMO (Fear of Missing Out). They are driven by the social anxiety that others might be having rewarding experiences whereas they are not. Moreover, these consumers expect that the experience of opening and using their purchases matches their personal values and lifestyle. Today’s consumers want to feel an emotional connection with the products they buy.
Packaging is an indispensable tool to generate brand value and establish and sustain brand loyalty. It is an excellent instrument for brands to communicate the benefits and origins of their products directly to their customers. Brands that do not use packaging to enhance their brand experience are missing out on a wide range of opportunities to engage with customers.
Tips and trends
Here are three tips to engage with customers through packaging.
1. Elevate the everyday by integrating a suggested activity into the packaging. By adding a written statement or utensil, packaging can be used to align products with a particular activity or mood, tapping into the trend of mindfulness. Engaging with the customer can be as simple as adding a tea bag quote.
2. Stimulate all senses in a creative, journey-focused approach without overdoing it of course. The ultimate unboxing experience is almost like a striptease act. A layered unveiling of the product together with the right sound, scent, shape, texture and tactility can create a memorable experience distinctive of the brand.
3. Make it fun! Smart packaging opens up several possibilities to gamify marketing. QR-codes enable customers to find more information and make a hunt for all kinds of deals and extras on the internet. By connecting to the internet of things (IoT) brands can engage their younger customers. Likewise book sellers have discovered the subscription box model to increase sales of children’s books. It allows kids to have an enhanced reading experience with a box full of goodies arriving at their doorstep every month or quarter. Part of the fun are codes that allow readers to access exclusive digital content.
These trends show how brands can create an unforgettable, rich and rewarding unboxing experience. By thinking outside the box brands can deliver powerful messages to consumers and build strong emotional ties.
The growth of e-commerce and the unboxing trend also has a downside: more waste. According to APP’s 2017 Paper & Packaging Consumer Trends Report, only 18 percent of American consumers believe that shopping online is better for the environment than shopping in stores.
Recently, Amazon has been criticised on social media for using up to 45ft of paper packaging to protect a wall calendar. How can brands prevent that the short thrill of unboxing turns into a bad customer experience as soon as environmentally conscious consumers realise that their purchase has come with a pile of waste?
The answer is clear. Quality packaging is essential for the customer journey in e-commerce, but brands should not overdo it. Zara’s ‘Boxes with a Past’ show that quality packaging does not have to be at the expense of sustainable packaging. Moreover, brands can optimise the amount of packaging material and reduce their footprint with sustainable solutions such as on demand and right-size packaging.
With e-commerce retail sales increasing every year, packaging is becoming increasingly important as a marketing tool for brands. Brands should seize this opportunity without neglecting the development of more sustainable packaging solutions.
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Tags: unboxing experience, customer journey, customer loyalty, consumer trends, packaging trends