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09 November 2018

Packaging design for E-commerce: opening up a better consumer experience

Howard Wright, Senior Creative & Strategy Director of the UK & IE gives his take on the approach to effective pack design when it comes to e-commerce. 


As e-commerce transforms the way we shop, retailers should be upping their game on product packaging



The sensory experience we all once understood as ‘shopping’ is transforming right under our noses.


Thanks to e-commerce, we can order items and compare prices with ease via the web, but many of us still prefer to connect with a brand in-store, or to examine the quality of an item with our own eyes and fingertips. The result has people showrooming, ie having a look at an item in a shop before buying online, which more often than not has made the physical act of going shopping a hobby or leisurely pastime as much as the acquisition of goods.


This indicates that a void has been created by e-commerce, in that consumers 1) aren’t getting a clear enough impression of the quality or item online before buying and 2) are missing the immersive sensory experience and brand connection that stepping into a bricks and mortar shop creates.


So, what can companies do to improve how they present and package their products in order to fill the void?


How has shopping itself changed?


I admit I sometimes find myself grumbling at the now-familiar sight of vacant shopfronts dotting the high street, wondering whether future generations will even know what it’s like to walk through a department store. I can’t help but mourn the loss – not just at job loss for retail professionals but also the detrimental effect on a given community.


But I remind myself that in-store shopping hasn’t faced extinction – much in the way that e-books have not brought about the end of the printed book. It’s simply changing the way we shop and offering more variety as to how we do it.


These days big names in e-commerce are using their bricks and mortar shops to form lasting impressions and build rapport with shoppers. Take some of the big clothing and lifestyle brands, both perennial and up-and-comers, such as Topshop, & Other Stories and Oliver Bonas, which make their shopfronts and displays an enticing and colourful array of carefully curated product, with the occasional pop-up or guest label to add excitement.


The stores are strategically located and artfully designed to convey the brand’s identity, a message that is supported and reinforced online.


Can a package shipped through the post still make a connection with consumers?


Think of the best package from a company you have ever received, then think of the worst.

The worst will be a bland, soggy cardboard box, with an invoice thrown thoughtlessly atop your sloppily bubble-wrapped item. If we’re concerned with the customer experience, retail companies need to be upping the game and slapdash just won’t do.


If we could engage the senses – not unlike an bricks and mortar shop – with a strong sense of the brand itself, could we replace or build on the in-store experience?


From an enticing smell that emerges when the parcel is opened to the sound of rustling tissue paper; a ribbon lined with velvet; parcel insides that are environmentally responsible or can be repurposed – the list of possibilities goes as far as your own creativity.


So how to begin? It starts with having a very clear picture of your brand and what you want consumers to feel when coming face-to-face with the product they have ordered. Are they likely to have already had an in-store experience? Is this their first time ordering a product from you? Start shaping your concept with the consumer in mind, and work with a designer to craft packaging that has a distinctive style. If the design can be personalised or is very Instagrammable, all the better.


The key is to stay focused on delivering a true representation of your brand straight into the living room of your consumer, to ensure they are having an engaging, rewarding shopping experience. So whether it is a reinforcement of the in-store visit, or its own standalone moment, make sure opening the packaging means opening the door on a better consumer connection.