There’s nothing quite like coming home to a package you‘ve been eagerly awaiting. If you’re anything like me, you take your time to unbox your item, and savor the experience. That’s why your ecommerce packaging needs to be clever, carefully, designed, and inventive. Capitalizing on your customers’ emotions during this moment is the key to leaving a lasting impact and creating an unforgettable buyer experience.
In a perfect world, your ecommerce packaging is so engaging that your visitors don’t only anticipate the item they ordered, but the package itself. In this article, we’ll give you a crash course in ecommerce packaging to help equip you with the tools necessary to stand out from the crowd.
Table of Contents
- What is ecommerce packaging?
- Why does packaging influence buying behavior?
- What do consumers want?
- What to Consider When Picking Packaging for Your ecommerce Business
- 7 ecommerce Packaging Examples
What is ecommerce packaging?
Ecommerce packaging protects your product in transit, showcases your brand, and ensures that your product arrives to the consumer in one piece.
In the US, ecommerce sales exceeded $1 trillion in 2022, and online spending hit a record $211.7 billion just during the holiday season. In 2023, retail ecommerce sales in the U.S. have crossed $277.6 billion for the second quarter, increasing 2.1% from the first quarter.
Maybe you think we’ve already experienced the evolution from brick-and-mortar shopping to ecommerce. While that’s true to a degree, the shift to ecommerce is constantly gaining momentum, according to Insider Intelligence data. It doesn’t show any signs of slowing.
These are staggering numbers, which is why ecommerce packaging is now an integral part of the buyer’s journey. Your business can’t afford to skip this key touch point.
When you get a delivery from an online store, the packaging is the first thing you see: Think of it as the store's signature. Delighting your customer with aesthetically pleasing and easy-to-open packaging can leave a lasting impression. Additionally, the rising trend of unboxing videos on social media sites can intrigue potential new customers and convert them into buyers.
Why does packaging influence buying behavior?
95% of our purchase decision-making takes place subconsciously. Many people aren’t cognizant of the degree to which their emotions drive purchases. However, most ecommerce businesses are well aware of this and hence apply neuromarketing tactics when constructing their packaging, products, and advertising campaigns.
Product packaging designers leverage emotions and subconscious stimuli to guide their efforts and influence our buying behavior. The main goal of packaging is to generate emotions and associate them with the brand.
With the rise of unboxing videos as a trend, people expect more from their online order’s packaging, hoping for an unboxing experience that's both ASMR-like and genuinely delightful.
When expectations run high, it can be quite frustrating to receive a parcel that’s over-taped, improperly packed, flowing with bubble wrap or plastic, or just flat-out disappointing. Dealing with such packaging is not only inconvenient for the consumer, but it also tarnishes the brand's reputation and impacts your bottom line.
On the other hand, attractive and resilient packaging generates positive word-of-mouth (free advertising, yay!), and people can even repurpose it for storage.
What do consumers want?
Recently, I ordered bedsheets from an ecommerce shop. After days of waiting for them to arrive, I received a worn-out package that reflected poorly upon the brand. For me, that careless packaging highlighted a lack of care and effort. It was the first — and last — time I ordered from the company.
Consumers have certain expectations for packaging. Identify and match with them to increase customer loyalty and word-of-mouth. Here are a few things consumers want from ecommerce packaging:
- Packaging should prominently showcase the product and brand as it helps loyal customers find it easily. Vital product details, like clothing size or food ingredients, should be visibly and clearly communicated.
- Packaging should be easily disposable and protect products from the elements. If packaging can double as a storage or carrying case, it should be durable, compact, and easy to use. With the rise in awareness of sustainable living, consumers are now seeking recyclable or reusable “green” packaging that is also minimalist in its use of materials.
- In a crowded market, a fresh idea makes a product stand out. Unique and attractive packaging is better than sticking to the usual.
It’s also important to note that your ecommerce packaging isn’t the only thing that has to delight. Delivery speed also plays a huge role in delighting or disappointing customers. 41% of shoppers hope to receive their order within 24 hours, while 62% expect it in 3 days and 90% within 5 days.
What to Consider When Selecting Packaging for Your ecommerce Business
My best word of advice when deciding on your ecommerce packaging? Keep it simple, but infuse your branding in intuitive pops. While plain old corrugated boxes may still be a good option for delivery, the competition is getting tough, making it hard to stand out. Your customers no longer wish to receive just the product; they desire an experience, something that captivates them and offers a connection to your brand.
Picture unwrapping gifts during your birthday or Christmas. With lovely wrapping paper, a bow on top, and a personalized card bearing your name, it truly makes you feel special, doesn't it? It’s because the way someone wraps your gift speaks of how much thought they put into it.
Ecommerce packaging works the same way. You can forge a meaningful bond with your customers by using personalized and customized packaging.
Follow the tips below to choose effective packaging that’s easy-on-the-eyes.
1. Determine a goal for your packaging
Do you want it to capture attention, enhance the unboxing experience, or reinforce brand identity? Develop packaging your primary goal in mind.
2. Use durable materials
Design packaging in a way that safeguards your product during transit and handling to prevent any damage.
For soft and flexible items like clothes and sheets, opt for poly mailers or plastic bags. However, for fragile and non-flexible items, choose standard boxes, rigid boxes, folding cartons, or thermoformed packaging.
Use materials that are sturdy, protective, and reasonably priced. Enhance safety by adding foam inserts, corner protectors, cardboard dividers, and anti-static materials in your packaging. This shows your customers your commitment to quality and helps them to build trust with your brand.
Look at this protective corrugated box specifically designed for the shipment of gin bottles. It has separate compartments for each item, keeps the glass bottle protected, and looks pleasing. You can tell a lot of thought went into this ecommerce packaging — which again, shows the consumer how much you care.
3. Plan costs efficiently
Balance quality packaging with affordability for profitability and customer satisfaction. Keep your designs minimalistic and make bulk purchases of materials. Standardize packaging sizes and designs to lower manufacturing and printing costs. Test your prototypes to ensure their structural integrity before you order in bulk.
For example, these simple yet elegant designs from Accurate Box can help you save money while keeping your packaging appealing.
4. Choose sustainable materials
Consumers now seek to minimize waste and thus order from businesses that aim to do the same. Use repurposable or biodegradable materials. Include information on how to properly recycle or dispose of the packaging to show your customers how much you care about the environment. You can also encourage responsible disposal to further demonstrate your commitment.
Choose cardboard, paper, and plant-based plastics that come from biodegradable, recycled, or recyclable materials, bioplastic, or are compostable.
For example, Lush uses packaging that is biodegradable with eco-friendly chips that are compostable. Their packaging peanuts are actually edible. How amazing is that?
5. Make a great first impression.
Envision how customers will interact with the packaging when they receive it. To create a memorable and delightful unboxing experience, experiment with unique packaging shapes, colors, fonts, and graphics. You can also explore unconventional materials, textures, and finishes that stand out — but remember that packaging that’s functional and protective is your primary goal.
This simple yet creative design for doggie bowties is not only cute but makes the opening experience feel elegant and enjoyable.
It’s wise to gather feedback from customers about their shipping and unboxing experience so you can better understand what consumers are thinking when their package arrives. Even if the results aren’t as favorable as you hoped, you can identify areas where you lack and make improvements accordingly.
6. Consider transportation.
Your product will go through several stages of transit before it reaches its buyer. So, it’s smart to keep in mind the logistics involved in shipping. While some designs may be aesthetically pleasing, they may be more suited for brick-and-mortar stores and not delivery scenarios.
Design packaging that fits your products snugly, reduces empty space, and minimizes the risk of damage. Choose durable and protective packaging materials that withstand the rigors of transportation.
Additionally, take time to label packages clearly with barcodes, addresses, and shipping information to ensure smooth delivery. It also helps to provide customers with tracking information so they’re informed about the order's status.
7. Be creative.
There are lots of things you can do that don’t cost much but can enhance the buying experience and strengthen customer relationships. Add little details in your packaging elements, like customized wrappers, tissue paper, custom tape, unique colors, and smells to boost the likelihood your packaging will go viral on social media.
You can also add tear trips, pull tabs, easy grip areas, and slide-out designs for convenient unboxing.
Check out some of these awesome ideas below to help your brand shine.
Custom tape is a reasonably priced way to infuse personality to your packaging.
Quotes on Packaging
You can add an inspiring or cheeky quote to your packaging. This gives your brand more personality.
Colorful mailers are a great way to make sure your packaging doesn’t fall flat. Plus, in a sea of beige boxes, consumers will easily be able to pick your package out of a crowd.
Tear Strips for Easier Opening
If you’ve ever experienced the frustration that comes with a difficult-to-open package, you’ll love this idea.
Another way to ensure your consumers don’t struggle with your packaging is by providing pull tabs.
Regardless of how you decide to get creative, you should ensure clear product usage instructions and customer support details inside. Also, provide visible return policy details in the packaging.
As important as it is to get things right, it is just as important to avoid getting them wrong. Here are some things you should steer clear of that damage your brand and wreck the unboxing experience.
Things to avoid while packaging:
- Excessive packaging or too much tape: This makes it difficult to open and spoils the experience.
- Worn-out packaging: It’s unappealing and gives a sloppy first impression.
- Too pricey: Going overboard with your packaging will cost too much and hurt your profits, especially when most packaging is tossed later.
- Typographical errors: Spelling and grammar mistakes don’t go unnoticed!
- Wrong size packaging: It may fail to protect your product from damage and looks awkward. Oversized packaging may mislead customers, damaging brand trust and credibility.
- Wrong materials: This can result in damaged products. So, opt for suitable boxes like double corrugated boxes and protective packaging materials for fragile products.
7 Ecommerce Packaging Examples
Many brands are acing the ecommerce packaging game with innovative, smart, and clever packaging designs. Let's look at some examples of brands that do ecommerce packaging incredibly well.
If you‘re a fashion-forward parent, you’ve likely heard of Joolz. They brand themselves as a choice of real parents who want to create a better world for their kids. Joolz prioritizes sustainability yet uniquely allows customers to repurpose their packaging into something functional.
What we love: Joolz takes packaging to a whole new level. All of Joolz’s packaging can be unpacked and transformed into interactive toys. You can create animals, doll houses, puppet theaters, and even real birdhouses with a little bit of origami magic. So, instead of wasting the packaging straight away, you and your kids get to enjoy and do creative projects.
The Spice House is an online store that features exquisite spices, herbs, and seasonings. They provide a wide selection, including essential and unique spice types as well as special rubs and blends. The company designed its packaging for branding and convenience with many unique touches — let’s delve into them.
They have a custom tape that offers protection while the tear strip (remarkably unique) and slide-out tray allow for easy opening. Plus, their custom sticker label and personalized card emphasize their branding. They even have a recycling symbol inside that encourages us to recycle.
Best for: It’s ideal for glass spice bottles offering protective and separating casing with minimum waste and no excess plastic. The box is so pretty that it can be recycled and used for storage.
Watch their amazing unboxing video here:
Girlfriend Collective is a sustainable activewear brand that blends style, ethics, and comfort seamlessly.
Their minimalistic packaging design pulls focus. The box is simple yet attractive. Inside the box, you’ll find a lovely coffee pink hue to their eco-friendly bag, which is made from 100% recycled cloth (the pouch can easily be reused for storage.)
The easy-to-open and thoughtfully designed packaging strongly conveys the brand’s core values, which are quality, natural beauty, and transparency.
What we love: Every piece is made from 100% recycled materials — from the hangtags to the shipping materials themselves.
Ordering ice cream online can be a challenge, but not with Jeni's. They’re a community-focused company that crafts exceptional ice creams to bring people closer together.
What we love: The corrugated boxes feature compartments that securely hold the ice cream cups in place, preventing them from shifting. They use dry ice in their packaging to keep the contents perfectly frozen well into the evening of the delivery date. It gets colder inside that box than it does in your freezer: -109.3°F.
Fascinating, isn’t it! Unbox while your mouth waters and enjoy the delightful view.
Lush is a beauty brand that creates fresh, ethically sourced, vegetarian, low-waste products. They have a diverse range of handmade cosmetics, skincare, and fragrances.
Lush takes their commitment to reducing waste seriously. All their packaging material is biodegradable, even the tags and inserts. This allows you to toss packing peanuts from Lush packaging into your compost.
Their boxes are made from 100% recycled paper, and the bottles and pots are made from 100% post-consumer plastic. Each product is protected and separated using recycled cardboard dividers and eco-friendly chips that are biodegraded in water and soil. Even the ‘What’s in my parcel’ leaflet is printed on double-sided 100% recycled paper.
You can even return your used pots to them for free face masks and participate in their recycling loop.
Need some tips to pack like Lush? Check out this packing video from the brand.
6. Warby Parker
Fragile stuff isn’t easy to ship. Warby Parker impresses us with its creative and efficient design. It’s a pioneering eyewear company reshaping the way people approach shopping for eyeglasses. They provide high-quality, affordable, and stylish eyewear. They’re the first company to let you try on 5 frames without having to leave your home.
As you open the box, you see instructions written on the inside part of the cover. The package includes a leaflet providing extra guidance for the home try-on kit, a thoughtful thank-you note, and a return slip.
There’s a pop of bright blue color hidden inside the box with a printed swimming figure, which we think is pretty cute. Each pair of glasses rests in a durable plastic tray with separate compartments. The box and the tray can both be reused for small items such as watches and jewelry.
What we love: The sleek gray-black box boldly showcases their branding with clear labels, website info, and a clever message on the front. Smartly placed flaps feature phrases like, “Good things await you” and “This is gonna be great,” showing their meticulous attention to detail, sparking curiosity, and leaving a great impression.
Billie is a modern shaving and body care brand. They empower folks and offer quick, cheap, and hassle-free grooming experiences. Their products are crafted with individuality in mind and resonate with a distinct purpose.
The box is easy to open and would make for a great unboxing video. The innovative design and a separate product pouch inside the box give a premium feel to the brand. They’ve added details like greeting messages printed inside the box and also given clear contact details in case customers have questions about the product.
What we love: When this box arrives at your doorstep among other brown boxes, it‘s definitely going to stand out. For convenience, they’ve put shipping labels on the back so it doesn’t interfere with the pleasant design.
Ready for your next viral unboxing video?
While we may be told not to judge a book by its cover, we can make no such claims when it comes to ecommerce packaging. You will be judged on your looks, as for most ecommerce businesses, this is the first physical interaction with their customer. So be prepared to delight and plan accordingly.
Follow the precedents set by these creative companies (and avoid the pitfalls) to create ecommerce packaging that will blow your customers’ minds and may even inspire a viral unboxing video.