Specialist Column

Delivery is just the Beginning

VICKI STRULL

VICKI STRULL

Vicki Strull is a packaging designer, strategist, and speaker who advises top-tier and emerging
brands on how to leverage the power of print and packaging within opti-channel marketing strategies. She consults with print service providers and OEMs to create new revenue streams and shares her strategies at design, packaging, and print events around the world. Sign up to join fellow trendsetters at vickistrull.com or follow Vicki on Linked In @vickistrull.

Your brand’s package has arrived at your customer’s doorstep. What a relief. The e-commerce transaction is over, right? Wrong. Delivery is just the beginning of your package’s potential.

The primary purpose of a shipping container is durability. It must protect the product inside. But durability isn’t memorable—except when a flimsy package arrives with a damaged product inside. Then it’s memorable for all the wrong reasons. When a customer receives your product and it’s in good shape, it’s not a reason to celebrate. It’s expected to arrive in perfect condition.

It’s no longer enough for your packaging to be durable. It must also be memorable.

But what makes something memorable? According to scientists, to make a long-term memory, you must evoke an emotion.

From Psychology Today:

‘A normal function of emotion is to enhance memory in order to improve recall of experiences that have importance or relevance for our survival. Emotion acts like a highlighter that emphasizes certain aspects of experiences to make them more memorable.’

(link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201510/why-do-we-remember-certain-things-forget-others)

Brands can immediately spark a positive emotion (and highlight the experience in the customer’s memory) by delivering an e-commerce package that delights the customer.

How the Unboxing Experience Becomes the Customer Experience

Imagine for a moment that two packages arrive in the mail with similar products inside. One is beautifully and thoughtfully packaged and is enjoyable to unbox. The other product is haphazardly packaged with no attention to detail. It isn’t an unpleasant experience, but it also isn’t memorable.

Before you use the products that have been shipped to you, which one do you think you would assign more value to? The package boxed with care, or the shoddily boxed product?

It’s no contest. The meticulously packaged product wins every time. Why? Brand experience is intrinsic in the packaging.

When shopping in-store, consumers can pick up products and assess them through their packaging. But when shopping online, the descriptions, photographs, videos, and reviews are all we have. This means that the packaging must immediately meet our expectations when it arrives in our mailbox or by our front door.

  1. Does the packaging match marketing promises?
  2. Does it match the product inside? Meaning, if the product is luxurious, simple, etc., is the packaging a preview of what’s to come once unboxed?
  3. Does the packaging quality make you feel confident about the product quality?
  4. How does the packaging reflect on the company?


If you want your customer to have an ideal experience, you must remember that every piece of packaging is an extension of the brand. Even the shipping container is a part of the e-commerce experience.

Designers are responsible for ensuring that all components of the packaging–materials, colors, logo, typography, images, etc.–support the product inside and match the brand’s story and positioning.

A unified brand is a brand whose packaging matches the product as well as the online experience. If I visit a website and the overall look inspires enough confidence in me that I purchase a product, and then when the item arrives, it has identical branding as the website; then I feel that the brand is unified. I instantly have more confidence in my purchase. When designed and aligned this way, packaging can significantly influence our experience, repeat orders, reviews, and return rates.

Unboxing Brand Loyalty

Packaging can help to build brand loyalty, create superfans, or it can do just the opposite. So how do you go from ‘meh’ to ‘yeah!’? By creating a social media-worthy unboxing!

Unfortunately, designers don’t have control over how a box gets delivered and boxes can get pretty beat up on their journey. But designers have a wonderfully creative solution to this. They focus their design on the interior of the box. So, while a box may look ho-hum, dirty, or damaged on the outside, the interior is a whole different (Instagram-worthy) story.

the design on the interior of the box

Adding flair to the inside of the box also sends a message to the consumer that all the extra design elements are for them alone. The message is that you are special, and you deserve a unique experience. And, if you choose to share that experience with thousands of people online, then that’s a bonus for the brand.

Sustainability: Consumer Loyalty, Environmental Responsibility, and Revenue

But social media can also work against a brand. I recently posted a photo on social media of a friend who had ordered an eyebrow pencil online. One pencil arrived in a box that could have held thousands of pencils. My comments section went wild! People were appalled at the waste. These things matter now.

Sustainability is more important to consumers than ever. According to an Accenture survey, more than 50% of consumers say they would pay more for brands that design sustainable, reusable, and recyclable products. That desire also extends to a brand’s e-commerce packaging.

Brands are beginning to realize that they can gain–or lose–consumer loyalty based on their sustainability policies. In the past, the only brands that instituted sustainable practices were those that were concerned with the environment. Now, consumers demand environmental responsibility of brands. This is important enough that it bears repeating: If your brand is not actively participating in protecting the environment, consumers will go elsewhere, and your sales revenue will suffer.

When shopping, consumers are no longer just looking at price. When it comes to sustainability, they are actively checking to be sure that:

  1. Packaging is recyclable or reusable
  2. The product and/or packaging is renewable and responsibly sourced.
  3. The size of the package is consistent with the size of what’s inside.


So how can brands retain customers while being environmentally responsible and make money? The answer might surprise you: personalization.

Make It Personal

Perhaps the ultimate ‘flair’ is a personalized package. Once the realm of the ultra-chic, package personalization is now a practical option because of the flexibility of digital printing. Not many brands are taking advantage of web-to-print yet, so early adopters have an opportunity to get out in front and surprise their customers.

For example, if I subscribe to NatureBox or FabFitFun or even Amazon’s recurring purchases, the brand that services my subscription knows they’re sending me a package regularly. Why wouldn’t that brand create a box specifically for me, perhaps with an image related to previous purchases or an interest I’ve expressed in some declared data? Or, to make it truly simple, why not send a personalized package with my name on it?

the personalized package

If I receive a beautifully designed package with my name on it, chances are I’m going to grab my phone, snap a picture, and post it on all my social media channels. I’ll definitely tell my friends, and I might even write a glowing review. Personalizing my e-commerce packaging means I become even more of a fan of the brand, and I do free marketing for the product by telling all my friends about it both on and offline. In that context, the added effort and unit cost is well worth the investment.

According to an Infogroup survey, 44% of consumers said they would switch to a brand that better personalizes its marketing message. A personal touch, super-targeted messaging, or an exclusive experience is memorable. And fond memories build consumer loyalty.

As it turns out, personalization is also profitable. 88% percent of marketers say they have seen an increase in business from customization.

In addition to personalizing the outside of the packaging, why not also personalize the inside? Insert samples from other brand products or partners based on my interests; include complementary products from sister companies to drive cross-brand awareness; add a personalized note from a brand influencer or company founder. Research shows that not only do consumers enjoy these personal touches, but they have also come to expect them.

If you’re eager to grab a share of the millennial market, then personalize your product and packaging. No demographic craves customization more than millennials, who expect brands to understand them and cater to their preferences.



The shift from in-store purchasing to online shopping is likely to become part of our ‘new normal,’ even after the pandemic. People have become accustomed to the ease of online shopping. People are busy, and if a few clicks mean saving hours of errands, people will choose to take their shopping online; what an incredible opportunity to create happy and loyal customers.

It’s time for brands and their packaging partners to elevate the e-commerce package and deliver an exceptional receiving experience.

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