Should You Use the Same Packaging for In-Store and Online Sales?

By: phase1
April 1, 2019

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Online shopping has almost been around for a quarter-century, and it now commands 12.6% of retail sales. Consequently, ecommerce packaging now plays a crucial role in the way products are sold around the world — a trend that has spurred an online vs. in-store packaging debate.

Judging by customer response, packaging choices can make or break a company on the ecommerce marketplace. Nearly 20% of online shoppers have mentioned product packaging in customer reviews. Of these, 15% have been negative about the packaging. As such, the online vs. offline packaging debate is nothing for merchants to take lightly.

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What Type of Packaging Typically Attracts In-store Customers?

To understand how packaging attracts customers, you must view the package as a means to draw attention and communicate the value of a given product. The following five characteristics describe the type of packaging that in-store customers will notice and appreciate.

1. Distinctive

For a product to attract customers, it needs to stand out from the competition. With several products lined up side-by-side along the aisle of a supermarket, why should a customer choose your brand over the competitors? To gain and hold the attention of new and repeat customers, you need to have your product sold in a distinctive package.

2. Obvious

To capture the eyes of customers who are looking for the type of product you sell, you need to use packaging that makes the purpose of the product immediately apparent to the naked eye. At supermarkets, shoppers prefer to find the specific items as quickly as possible without having to scan aisles up and down, left and right. If they know the aisle and section where a particular group of products is located, they’ll go straight there and gravitate to the most obvious examples.

3. Recognizable

To draw repeat customers, you need to use packaging that people will remember. To that end, you need to consider the brand logo, colors and design pattern of the product in question. The package does not need to be gimmicky unless, of course, a gimmick would suit the theme of the product within. As long as the packaging is distinct yet stylistically appropriate for the product and its intended customer, you should gain an edge on recognition with the aisle-browsing public.

4. Secure

Once a product captures the attention of customers, the packaging needs to keep the contents safe. To the discerning customer, an attractive package might please the eyes, but it won’t convert to a purchase if the packaging does not appear strong enough to protect its contents. For example, a container of caplets or tablets should be in a sealed carton. Likewise, a block of cheese should be sold in a transparent yet air-tight package.

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5. Superior

Packaging needs to communicate the value of a product before the customer even has a chance to put it to use. A brand of mustard, for example, will not attract a loyal stream of customers for merely being mustard. It will attract customers by making its superiority to other mustards self-evident in its packaging. Depending on the product at hand, packaging can convey supremacy in one of several ways:

  • Product Description: If the product is a unique twist on an everyday item, the packaging should contain info about why this product beats the competition. For a condiment like salad dressing or jelly, a word or phrase to describe its zest, tanginess or sweetness — in addition to a list of the ingredients — will help set it apart from its neighbors on the shelves.
  • Transparency: If the product is predictable in its taste or use, its quality would be visually self-evident. Therefore, a transparent package that indicates freshness — whether it’s a package of mushrooms, a block of cheese or a jar of peanuts — is the most suitable option.
  • Product Photo: If your product needs to be cooked or assembled, a photo of the finished product and how tasty or useful it would be could help convey the message, whether the product is a cake mix or a spice shelf.

When it comes to packaging design, online and offline sales are driven by similar factors.

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What Type of Packaging Attracts Online Buyers?

Does your packaging design matter for online shopping? Indeed, it does. As more people shop online, ecommerce packaging works best with the following qualities:

  • Obvious: To attract buyers online, a product needs to make its use readily apparent at first sight. Unlike stores, where buyers can get a feel for a product in several ways before making a purchase, an online product cannot be handled, examined or tested beforehand. Therefore, the packaging of an online product must be clear about the value and use of the contents.
  • Explanatory: Online product packaging should succinctly list or describe the taste or advantages of the product inside. A brand of coffee grounds, for example, should list the flavor in readily clear type along with the total number of grams/ounces and location of its cultivation. A toaster oven, meanwhile, should list its capacity so customers immediately know the size and number of bread slices the appliance can handle.
  • Informative: If the product needs to be assembled, the package should list the number of parts and the dimensions of the package, the measurements of the pieces and the size of the product in its fully assembled state. Moreover, the packaging should inform potential customers of the estimated assembly time, as well as the levels of skill and strength required.
  • Noticeable: As with products on the shelves, products sold online should have distinctive packaging. To that end, the packaging should feature a logo, color scheme or pattern that people are likely to notice and remember. At the same time, the packaging should be suited to the type of product and its intended customer. In most cases, this would mean a none-too gimmicky design. After all, hot pink might be eye-catching, but would that be an appropriate packaging color for peanut butter or grass juice?
  • Compact: Consumable items should be sold in relatively compact packaging, which should never be too large or disproportionate for the product in question. Likewise, the packaging should not add excess weight to the shipment for the sake of design or brand distinction. Moreover, the packaging should not bump the shipping total into a different price category.

In some cases, the package might require secondary outer-packaging. If so, the original packaging should be compact enough to accommodate the additional weight and dimensions without ballooning the shipping costs.

What Type of Colors Stand Out in a Store

At stores across America, 90% of shoppers make instant judgments about products based on packaging colors, which tend to win customers with the following qualities:

  • Revelatory: The color of a product’s packaging should be indicative of the contents. In the case of a food product, this would be a color similar to the materials itself. For some consumable goods, transparent packaging is the best option if the color of the food communicates the product’s taste and freshness.
  • Thematic: With non-edible products, the color should convey the mood of the contents. For example, a dark or soft hue might express the spirit of a fragrance. In some cases, color can be used in combination with a photo, logo and descriptor to impart a story in the minds of potential buyers.
  • Comforting: Color often draws attention for its soothing qualities, which can be highly appealing to customers skimming the aisles at stores. If a color conveys a sense of warmth and coziness, it can help sell the product, especially if these moods are suited to the product in question.
  • Noticeable: The most essential quality of a packaging color is its ability to draw attention. In most cases, this means the ability to draw attention away from competing products. For example, if most colognes are sold in white packages with black lettering, the opposite scheme could make yours stand apart from the competition. With more distinct or one-of-a-kind products, a color that stands out from most other items in the store might be appropriate.
  • Familiar: With some of the most enduring and recognized products, the color of the packaging is synonymous with the brand. As such, all you need to see is the shape and colors of the logo, and you’ll instantly know the product in question. In effect, packaging color facilitates product familiarity, which leads to brand recognition. When associated with quality, familiarity helps a product earn loyal, long-lasting customers.
  • Highlight: A packaging color should highlight a product. In doing solo, the color can help the product gain notice apart from its competition. Either the background or text color could serve the highlighting function. The purpose is to make the product stand out but without overpowering the product itself. After all, you ultimately want to sell the product, not the packaging.

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What Placements Work in Stores?

For in-store products, each package needs to be well-placed to compete for customer attention. Your product placements should be:

  • Accessible: Store products in areas that provide maximum accessibility to foot traffic. If people have to reach hard or dodge obstructions to access a product, some are liable to pass. In grocery stores, the most popular products are always placed along the aisles, in the freezers and across the produce display tables. If space is limited, products in low demand are often placed on the little-noticed shelves below produce stands or on the high shelves of aisles. Usually, a customer who wants these items will have to ask a clerk for their whereabouts.
  • Grouped: Products should be arranged within subcategories of broader categories. For example, each brand of noodles is best noticed within a noodle category adjacent to various brands of spaghetti sauce, parmesan cheese and other basics of Italian cuisine.
  • Level: The most noticed products in a given store are typically at eye-level. Products at chest- and waist-level are also generally noticed, but the same cannot be said for products on high shelves — people are more likely to look down than up in a grocery store. How many times have you traced the floor in front of you as you walked through a shop? On the other hand, how many times have you stared up at the high ceiling and noticed the rafters in a supermarket? Even as you push a cart around, your eyes are liable to roam between the shelves and tiles to stay attuned to two factors — product placement and foot traffic. While you are not as likely to look at products that you would have to kneel down to reach, products shelved between the eyes and the belt are likely to stare right back at you.

What Type of Colors Make a Person Click on a Product Online

Online product packaging works best when it captures attention and fascinates people who shop on the Internet. Any color used should be:

  • Thematic: For a color to help sell an online product, it needs to serve as an indicator of the contents. With food products, the color should reflect the flavor. While it might seem cliché, red is generally the best color for edible and scented products of the strawberry and cherry varieties. While it might seem novel to sell strawberry candy in a green or purple container, it would likely mislead many customers who immediately associate those colors with other flavors.
  • Distinctive: Colors that are distinctive are liable to draw the eyes of web surfers. In an era where so many Internet users frequent the same handful of social media sites, a product package could easily stand out by simply not using the same color scheme as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. The key is to find a color that stands apart from common website themes and competing products but also reflects your product and suits its intended target market.

What Type of Packaging Works Best for Shipping?

The debate over online vs. in-store package is controversial because shipments require their own packing materials with the following qualities:

  • Compact: Products should be packaged as tightly and lightly as possible without sacrificing product security during the shipping process. For example, electronic products are often double-packaged in UPS boxes with bubble wrap or popcorn foam to prevent movement. Once the customer opens the duck tape, the product and its brand package — as seen in stores — is found inside the box. Small articles of clothing, on the other hand, are often shipped in manila folders. Either way, hardly any additional weight is added to the shipment.
  • Durable: A shipping package needs to be durable enough to withstand the bumps and jitters that inevitably occur during the handling and transportation stages of the shipping process. When it comes to soft, lightweight, non-perishable products, a simple shipping package will generally provide sufficient durability. For heavier products with delicates mechanisms, reinforcements are typically needed to achieve adequate strength for shipping.
  • Distinctive: If products ship in customized packaging, the package should reflect the brand and its colors. Even if the product is packaged in a carton for over-the-counter sales and a cardboard box for shipments, the shipping package could still bear stickers or stamps of the logo and design scheme. However, you should ship specific products with discreet, anonymous packaging. Intimate products, for example, are one type of purchase that most people wish to keep private.

Packaging From Phase 1 Prototypes

For distinctive packaging that bears your colors, trademark image and brand logo, Phase 1 Prototypes is the place to turn for fast supplies of prototype packaging. With approved finals, we can get packages for your products in a matter of days. Contact us today for a free quote or call Kristin Benna at (972)362-4115.



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