Packaging: it gets a bad press for its environmental impact and is often written off by retailers as just a necessary but unexciting expense. But many innovative companies are using packaging as a billboard for their brand message, incorporating it into their customer journey or merging it with their product to save on costs and waste. We take a look at some of the most creative packaging out there, and what we can learn from it as retailers.
Packing a brand message with your product
Packaging can be another chance to communicate your brand message. This goes beyond just stamping an envelope with your logo – many brands are using the nature of their packaging itself to carry on their brand story.
Wool and the Gang are a fashion retailer with an innovative approach. As well as selling knitted garments, they also sell kits – needles, wool and patterns – to crafters who want to make pieces from their range. Their ethos is a DIY approach to fashion where ranges are made by hand not machine, and they have eco-credentials to match, using natural wool and recycled fibre waste in their yarns. Their packaging cleverly reflects this brand message, at the same time as offering the company a cost-effective packaging solution. Knitting kits are shipped in the kind of lo-fi recycled paper bags that you might buy fresh fruit at a farmer’s market in, something their target customer is likely to recognise and appreciate.
Packaging as customer experience
In the age of internet retail, our latest big purchases often arrive through the post. Retailers are realising that unwrapping a new purchase has become a key part of the customer journey. ‘Unboxing’ videos, in which people film themselves opening their new technology or fashion items, are hugely popular on YouTube, and with this in mind, many retailers are designing their packaging to be an experience in itself.
Beats by Dr. Dre is a high-end consumer headphones brand that uses packaging as part of its premium experience. Designed to visually stand out on a physical store shelf, the packaging also takes the customer through a guided process to get at the product, with marked tabs, magnets and doors revealing the product dramatically and attractively. The luxury packaging backs up the product price point and brand image and becomes a talking point in itself.
Packaging as in-store experience
Using packaging as part of the customer journey isn’t just limited to delivered items, it can be used to heighten retail theatre in store too. The packing process can become part of a pleasurable customer experience, highlighting the product and giving an opportunity for staff interaction.
Handmade cosmetics chain Lush displays much of their range of soaps and bath products without packaging, stacked like a market stall display in cakes on tables in store, highlighting the natural ingredients. When a customer makes a purchase, a staff member wraps products at the cash till, either using paper or a premium option of a vintage headscarf wrap for gifts. Even pre-packed liquid products use clever packaging ideas, like stickers on pots with a picture and name of the staff member who made the item.
The popularity of internet retail has seen a massive increase in the delivery of packaged products to our door. Package deliveries broke the 2 million mark in the UK in 2014. But some products are inherently difficult to package and post via the cheapest methods, so innovative packaging solutions are being sought to cut costs, improve delivery times and eliminate missed deliveries.
Bloom and Wild are an online fresh cut flower company who deliver to your door – but you don’t need to be in to receive a hige bouquet. Their flowers can be delivered by normal Royal Mail post rather than a courier, using a specially designed flat-pack box that protect the flowers but will fit through a standard letterbox.
Eco packaging: Samsung
Eco credentials are becoming increasingly important to brands and retailers, and packaging is one area where waste is substantial and the possibilities of reducing it are dramatic.
Mobile phone manufacturers Samsung promote their latest phones as green models, using high efficiency power options and low energy chargers. Their phone packaging echoes this vision of environmental sustainability, using 100% recycled paper printed with soy ink.
Part of the product
Clever packaging can add value to the product it’s protecting. Brands are increasingly looking for ways to save money on packaging by making it a part of the product itself.
Graze, a healthy snack subscription service, uses boxes that can be posted through a letterbox, but that aren’t discarded once the package is opened. They also double as usable containers for the snacks themselves. Graze’s marketing material routinely shows the product still in the delivery box, often in the context of being consumed from the box at a desk. Packaging and product are one and the same.
Cutting packaging costs can make a big difference to a business’s bottom line, and many retailers are searching for creative ways to make packaging more cost-effective. The obvious answer is to reduce the amount of packaging for a product, although for retailers taking online orders, this has to be balanced with protecting the product in transit.
Pact Coffee have reduced their packaging to an absolute minimum, to the point where the material holding their product together is also what sees it safely through the post. Coffee beans are packed in a specially designed envelope that’s robust paper on the outside and sealed foil on the inside, a shell that contains and protects the product, rather than delivery packaging being separated from product packaging.
The drive to encourage customers to provide their own packaging has been given a huge boost by this year’s compulsory plastic bag charge in supermarkets in the UK. Tesco reported an 80% reduction in plastic bag use at their stores, and a real culture shift seems to be taking place with our attitudes to disposable and reusable packaging.
Some innovative retailers have been fighting for this approach for years though – the Unpackaged grocery company, who have a shop in London and concessions in Planet Organic stores, provide no packaging at all. Customers bring their own containers and buy goods by weight.