The last 12 months saw a considerable increase in e-commerce, driven by the global pandemic with many retail commentators believing this is an irreversible behavioural shift.
If correct, this will further underline the importance of the packaging journey, since the likelihood of consumers primarily interacting with brands through deliveries increases, potentially becoming the standard purchasing process.
Robert Lockyer, CEO and founder of Delta Global, a sustainable packaging solutions provider for luxury fashion brands, considers the impact of the packaging journey amid these new retail dynamics.
How much impact could a single packaging box have when it comes to consumer engagement and marketing? This is a question that all retailers and brands should reconsider, given the tumultuous nature of the retail landscape.
If Deloitte’s recent report
into the Danish consumer’s permanent shift to online shopping can be viewed as a microcosm of imminent global trends, then businesses must adapt packaging to incorporate the entire journey.
Last year, the fashion and luxury markets were forecast to decline by an astounding $450 - $600 billion. A market previously thought too-big-to fail is taking a huge financial hit. The long-term effects of Covid-19 on retail as whole are unclear. But packaging has become too integral to the sales journey to ignore.
Packaging, therefore, can work as a core marketing tool, beyond the basics of the primary recipients’ experience. In this article, I’ll highlight how best to consider and exploit the entire packaging journey, ensuring that packaging realises its complete potential.
Manufacturing that avoids the use of sustainable materials is becoming impossible to justify, from both an economic and environmental perspective.
In fact, they are, practically speaking, one and the same. We know that a significant majority of consumers expect businesses to adopt a sustainable ethos – and are willing to pay more for it.
Therefore, the economic viability of sustainable packaging is fortified by consumer expectation. It is both a market and environmental inevitability.
Beginning a packaging journey should start with the selection of sustainable, recyclable, reusable materials. This is a stage in the packaging voyage that is easily achieved, with manufacturers increasingly switching to eco-friendly methods.
At Delta Global, sustainability is incorporated into every packaging product we produce. We’ve seen demands for sustainable services increase, but more can be done to mark this initial step as a marketing footprint rather than a footnote.
There are some great recent examples of how to do this right, from Burberry’s elegant reinvention of the ordinary cardboard box which will go even further to remove all plastic from its packaging by 2025, through to Gucci’s opulent Victorian wallpaper design packaging that is fully recyclable.
And so, step one - the initial consumer experience and expectation, is met through sustainable materials, and when done correctly, is easily exceeded.
Once the correct materials are selected, brands should start think about design beyond creating an attractive, secure container.
The goal here is to inspire the consumer to utilise the packaging in a way that positions them as a virtual brand ambassador.
Consider the rise of the unboxing video. YouTube reported a 57% increase in product unboxing videos in one year, with these videos having in excess of a billion yearly views.
Together with Instagram, where 58% of its estimated 1.074 billion users log-in to follow trends and styles, visually oriented content platforms provide an unmissable marketing opportunity.
It is important to underline that this type of viral marketing need not rely on paid celebrities. In fact, I am advocating for a completely organic approach where possible.
From a brand’s perspective, recipients of well-executed sustainable packaging must progress this initial positive experience by innovative and thoughtful design.
That way, authentically persuasive content will occur naturally. And it's this type of spontaneous, highly engaged micro-influencing that rewards brands that have fully considered the packaging journey.
To achieve this requires innovation. You might consider implementing technology and connected packaging, where apps and QR codes are integrated into the packing itself.
A favourite example of this is Loot Crates brilliantly innovative unboxing experience which connects, via an app, to new products and exclusive items.
While technological innovation provides a novelty that encourages unboxing videos, simpler approaches can equally inspire the consumer through personal touches like VIVE Wellness’ individually packaged and addressed turquoise vitamin tubes, or M.M Lafleur’s curated and detail-oriented ‘bento box’ styling solution.
These packaging creations work because they provide memorable experiences, centred on discovery, individuality and, ultimately, shareability.
Packaging after purchase
The third and most under-utilised part of the packaging journey is post-unboxing usage. Brands should ask themselves who the packaging is seen by – and does the packaging have the function to be seen and used by others?
At this point in the packaging journey, we are hoping to harvest as many positive impressions as possible. This can include, for example, delivery drivers, photographers and stylists.
The concept is not abstract. Reflect on the reaction felt by a fashion photographer the first time they received, from an enthused stylist, a Gucci item in its new opulent emerald green packaging. Or the response of a delivery driver when seeing, in amongst the more mundane boxes, MatchesFashion’s reimagining of the a cardboard parcel.
Is it likely that the impression made by those stand-out packaging designs will be talked about, purred over, recommended and revered? The answer is obviously a resounding yes. When this happens online, we call it influencer marketing.
And we should not dismiss this type of marketing when it happens offline. Word of mouth matters. In an increasingly online consumer market where the first – and perhaps only – physical interaction between brand/consumer is through the packaging experience, it will matter more.
To our imaginary trio of driver, photographer and stylist, let’s introduce the general consumer. How likely it is that any of those would throw such packaging away?
They are so wonderfully designed that reusability and repurposing are inevitable. When a packaging compels secondary usage - deployed around homes and offices as containers, storage or decoration – you are creating an item that symbolises what marketers spending entire budgets pursuing: brand as central to an aspirational lifestyle.
If the retail market is moving irrevocably online, the offline journey of packaging – from manufacturer, deliverer, consumer and user – can ease that transition and become a perpetual marketing tool. This way, brands and retailers can enjoy the journey and the destination.