The Ultimate Guide to Product Packaging
There are so many different factors that influence how customers perceive your brand, and the product packaging you choose and design is definitely one of them.
Product packaging all comes down to how the product is presented, and it is closely tied in with customer perception. It can tell a story and set the stage for how you want to represent your entire organization. Choosing a look that’s clean and modern for the packaging will leave a different impression than one that uses a beachy design, or one focused on a rustic, natural look.
Product packaging says a lot about your brand in a fraction of a second, with customers sometimes judging the value or quality of a product just at a glance. The right packaging can also help you to sell more by standing out, which is another big asset.
Packaging may seem like a minor detail, and too many merchants overlook it until the last possible moment. However, packaging is an important component of your marketing and service strategy, and it isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. In this post, we’ll walk you through the process of selecting a strong packaging design that will represent you well and help you maximize sales.
- Before you start: What you need to know before you design
- Types of product packing you may need
- 6 Things you need to place on your packaging
- The step-by-step process of designing ecommerce packaging
- 3 fantastic examples of ecommerce packaging design
- Want To Learn More?
Before you start: What you need to know before you design
There’s a lot that goes into product packaging design: colors, visuals, size, shape, boxes vs. bags vs. wrapping, materials, and more. Before you start making any of those decisions, it’s crucial to do some research first.
You’ll want to understand four key things, which will impact your design significantly. These include:
- Who your audience is. You need to understand who your audience is and what they want from a product in your industry to design packaging that will appeal specifically to them. Many men, for example, aren’t naturally going to reach for something in a flowery pink bottle.
- Connotations you want to evoke. What do you want people to think of when they see your brand? Think about the audience here. Natural, rustic packaging works great for organic skin care products when the brand is stressing natural ingredients, but wouldn’t necessarily work well if you’re trying to represent your products as clinically-crafted instead.
- The visual branding you already have established. Do you already have a website, brand name, and/or logo? It’s important to choose packaging that will work well with what you’re already working with, supporting your brand instead of working against it.
- What else is happening in the market. You want to look at what your competitors are doing. It’s good to understand what’s standard, so you can look for a design that will stand out. That being said, sometimes it’s good to stick with the status quo; if consumers expect shampoo to be sold in bottles instead of laminated envelopes, you may want to think twice about going against that.
Types of product packing you may need
There are three main types of product packaging that you may need, depending on what sort of products you sell and how they’re getting them to the consumer. Let’s take a look at each one.
You need to package up the product itself. This will immediately protect whatever you’re selling. Think the bottle for the shampoo, or the wrapper for the candy bar, or the box for the jewelry that you’re selling. The product packaging also includes the labels and/or hanging tags that will go on those products, if applicable.
The immediate product packaging is likely going to be the central focus, so this is where you should start. If customers are seeing it on a shelf, what will make them want to grab it? Functionality and aesthetics are both important here.
Outer Product Packaging
If you’re shipping products to clients, how are you doing that? Envelopes, boxes, or something else? Or maybe you’re distributing shelving boxes to sell those candy bars to boutiques or small local merchants, too; what do those boxes look like?
Outer product packaging is the box or packaging that your products will be delivered in, which is particularly important for shipping purposes. They often includes branded mailing boxes, envelopes, and stickers. This gives you the chance to leave a stronger impression the second the customer sees the package in the mail.
Inner Product Packaging
If you need outer product packaging, you may need inner product packaging, too. This includes everything that goes inside that outer box or envelope that isn’t the product itself. It may include shredded paper or packing peanuts, mailer inserts to keep everything in place, instructional booklets or pamphlets, and more.
The big thing to focus on here is practicality. How can you ship that glass bottle of lotion and ensure that it isn’t breaking? Wrapping the item in a cloth bag or paper and then sticking in shredded paper, for example, can help protect it.
All of this can be branded, giving your packaging a more uniform appearance, which makes your brand look established and professional. It also gives you control over the full customer experience when it comes to how they’re receiving your product.
6 Things you need to place on your packaging
When you’re designing your product packaging, there are going to be six things you need to keep in mind every single time. These include:
- Product titles. What is the name of the product? It needs to appear on the packaging.
- Copy explaining what the product is. This may be a simple tagline, or it could be a small section somewhere on the label detailing exactly what it does.
- Instructions for how to use it and care for it. Clothing may be handwash only, for example, or you may be selling camping gear that’s only suitable for certain weather conditions. Detail this on the product directly.
- Imagery. This includes brand logos and anything specific to the product itself that your designer has come up with.
- Required information like safety labels, nutrition labels, or bar codes. Some industries and locations have requirements for information like this, depending on what you’re selling. Double check and see what you need to be placing on your packaging.
- As-needed information like batch numbers. Even if the numbers are obviously changing, you’ll need to make sure that there’s a space somewhere on the packaging for this to be placed.
The step-by-step process of designing ecommerce packaging
There are six key steps involved in the packaging design process. Let’s take a look at each one.
1. Do your research
Do your research up front. We covered this earlier in the post. You need to know who your audience is, what’s currently happening in the marketplace, and what you want your packaging to say about the product you’re selling. Competitor and market research is going to be big here, and developing audience personas for each individual product if you haven’t yet will also be useful.
Branding and packaging go hand in hand. Keep this in mind.
2. Choose your product container type
Before you make any further decisions, it’s important to decide what type of product container you may need. Different options for product packaging include:
- Glass jars
- Laminated envelopes
- Cardboard tubes
Remember to choose something that meets all the following criteria:
- It looks great
- It aligns with what users would expect if there’s an industry standard
- It’s functional
- It will ship well
3. Decide what you need
Once you’ve chosen the exact types of product containers you want to go with, it’s time to look at everything else that you may need.
Think about how your product will get from your store to the customer on a practical and aesthetic level. You’ll need a shipping container, like a mailer envelope or box. But what else will you need to ensure that everything arrives looking great and with the product protected so that the customer has the best experience possible?
In addition to that branded shipping box, you may also want to purchase branded packing tape. And maybe you have standard product kits that could easily benefit from a custom mailer insert, or you realize that you need packing peanuts or shredded paper to make sure that your products reach the customer safely.
Consider all of this, and make a list of everything that you need. It will be important moving forward.
4. Design the packaging
This may be a one-time cost, where you hire someone to design the packaging that you need, including the outer and inner packaging, too.
During this stage, make it clear what color scheme, imagery, and overall aesthetic that you’re going for. It’s important to make sure that it’s clear what exactly your product is, so that if someone were to ever see it on a shelf they wouldn’t be left scratching their heads. Remember to include everything on the packaging that’s needed, including the batch numbers and/or safety information. If you forget it the first time around, you’ll have to start from scratch (and pay for a do-over).
Many printing companies offer packaging design services, streamlining the process for you. You just need to tell them what you want, and they can handle the more technical logistics for you.
5. Get feedback
Once the design is complete, it will be shot back to you for approval. Review it carefully. Double check all the copy and make sure that it’s exactly how you want, and ensure that it looks how you envisioned (or better!).
Once you get the final designs, get feedback. Ask peers who are experienced in the ecommerce or retail industry who want you to succeed, or friends whose taste in design that you trust. If possible, you can even ask members of your target audience, whose opinions will matter greatly when it comes time for the product to actually be purchased.
This can be a big decision, so you want to get it right before you start ordering.
6. Start the printing process
Once you’re ready to have your packaging created, all that’s left to do is find a printer and get things moving. The following options are all good choices, depending on what you need:
- Sticker mule for product packaging labels to go on external packaging like boxes or jars
- UPrinting and Packlane for custom designs that include product boxes, mailer boxes, and shipping boxes
- PrintingForLess for everything from custom candy wrappers, gift card holders, belly bands, hang tags, folding cartons, and inserts
- Lumi for tape, tissue paper, mailer bags, laminated pouches, cotton bags, and envelope sleeves.
Many printers allow you to have a prototype made before ordering a full batch. Take advantage of this to make sure everything is perfect.
3 fantastic examples of ecommerce packaging design
Looking for a few packaging design ideas to give you some inspiration? Take a look at these incredible ecommerce packaging examples, all of which are versatile and could easily be adapted for your brand and at a low cost.
1. Skinfood by AB
Skinfood by AB is a shop on Etsy that sells organic, handmade, natural beauty products. Their beautiful packaging is exceptional, which is partially what helped them get a deal with a big-name company like Whole Foods.
This small brand has gorgeous packaging that gives the shop an established feel. Clean white labels are still distinct with the branded name and the name of the product underneath.
This shop also uses branded tape around the outside of their shipping boxes and brown shredded paper to keep everything safe and protected, while still using “natural” ingredients that best aligns with the brand (as opposed to styrofoam or plastic).
2. Rockin’ Green
Laundry detergent comes in a bottle, right? Not necessarily.
Rockin’ Green’s detergent is powder form instead of liquid, so it only makes sense that their packaging would look different than expected, too. They’re using plastic bags with a small scoop inside.
In addition to doing something a little different (which can also be neater than messy detergent bottles), their product packaging is also clean and tells customers exactly what it each item is. They’ve got “Active Wear” listed in big bold letters, and feature “90 loads” in bright green text in the top right corner. They also explain right there why the product is great, and how it contains “none of the bad stuff.” This is strong retail packaging, whether you’re selling it online or in stores.
3. Who Gives a Crap
If you want an example of creative packaging for your products, look no further than Who Gives a Crap. The brand sells recycled paper products, including toilet paper, paper towels, and tissue paper. Their copy is on point and highly entertaining (as you may be able to guess from the brand name), and this is reflected in their packaging.
Each product is wrapped in bright tissue paper with bold, fun prints, but it’s their innovative packaging for their shipping containers that’s so noteworthy. They add that same fun copy that possibly got customers to purchase in the first place all across the box, all the way down to their description of what the batch number on the box is and why you need it. It’s entertaining, and it makes the “unboxing” an active part of the sales and customer engagement process.
The product packaging design process is obviously an involved one, and it’s not something that should be taken lightly. It can help make or break your brand, so it’s important to make the decision strategically. The best packaging will strike a balance between cost-effective and visually stunning, and will stay true to your brand and what your audience wants to see.
Want To Learn More?
There’s a lot that goes into product packaging and design, as you can see here. Want to learn more about what we’ve talked about here? Take a look at these posts that go more into detail about different things to consider when working on product packaging: