There have been a lot of changes to how we shop in recent years. The retail ecosystem has expanded far beyond the physical store and at-home catalogue to include online and mobile commerce, and more. New channels are springing up every year, such as chatbots and connected cars. And as the ways we can shop increase, so we have to think about how this changes the requirements for packaging.
With more and more people shopping online and ordering products to their door, there’s a real need for packaging to evolve beyond your standard box. It needs to do more to create a ‘moment’ on the brand’s behalf when it arrives in the customer’s home.
Does the packaging for a TV need to include all the technical specifications for example? When the item arrives at their home the customer doesn’t need convincing to buy it – they’ve already parted with their money. What they do need is a positive experience that helps cement the relationship with the brand.
Packaging that tells a story, has a dual-purpose, provides exclusive or extra content, offers tips on usage and more can help provide that. If you’ve ever watched an unboxing video online, you’ll know how important the packaging is to the excitement and interest of the viewers.
Designers should be asking themselves how the packaging will engage someone seeing it in real-life for the first time. This could even be as simple as it being functional, such as reusable closure strips on packaging for returning items. Online grocery shopping is another area where the relationship between packaging and retail is changing. It’s no longer just about how the packaging looks on the supermarket shelf when it comes to attracting buyers.
Packaging designers now also need to consider how to make an individual product’s packaging stand out as a tiny thumbnail image on a page full of competing items. The wrong packaging design can render even the most high-end brand unattractive or uninspiring on a mobile screen, or see the item lost in the sea of options. Likewise, it’s important that big name brands are still recognisable by their packaging design, even in a much smaller image format.
As physical stores increasingly focus on experience, so to have new trends developed, including showing unboxed products in stores. This raises a question about where packaging fits in to the story. If a customer chooses to buy a product having seen it unboxed, what can the packaging add to the experience? How does it complement the actual item? Should it be kept simple or should it tell the customer more?
On the flipside, fantastic packaging design can make the physical shopping experience. If it’s designed in the right way, then the rest of the store design can actually take a step back and let the packaging do the talking. An eye-catching design can draw a customer into the space and sell the brand to them at the same time.
As you can see, product packaging has to do a lot more than ever before. A single design needs to translate across all of the possible retail channels, or perhaps brands need to adopt different variations for different purposes. One thing is clear though; packaging designers need to be thinking about the wider retail world when it comes to designing effective future packaging.
By Cate Trotter, Head of Trends, Insider Trends, London.