woman opening e-commerce package
Customer Experience

Don’t Let the Wrong Packaging Leave the Wrong Impression

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Every package sent to a customer’s home is a communication from the retailer. Sometimes the message is bold and aggressive. Sometimes it’s quiet and passive. But no matter the style, that message will affect all future transactions with that customer – if there are any.

Online consumers are savvy. They know when they are getting short shifted and they know when they are being valued. It’s all there right inside the box. 

E-commerce packaging research conducted by Sealed Air revealed:

  • 1 in 5 e-commerce consumers are willing to pay a premium for personalized packaging
  • Packaging was credited by 76% of the respondents as affecting the perception they had of the retailer
  • Consumers believe the product itself should occupy at least 75% of the package and express concern when goods shift during transit
  • When things are bad, 70% of consumers consider shopping elsewhere while 8% cut the cord completely

With this kind of customer attrition on the line, it’s clear that packaging is the Last Moment of Truth for retailers. It’s a make-or-break moment that turns shoppers into blissful repeat buyers or disgruntled former ones. But what exactly does it take to offer a “good enough” customer experience once the package has been delivered?  

To answer that, it’s important to understand how the table stakes have changed. Years ago, online shoppers had much lower expectations. The ideal outcome was for a product to be delivered on time and undamaged. Now, an online shopping experience must include free shipping, on-time arrival, products in perfect condition, a right-size box or mailer, and environmentally friendly or waste-free e-commerce packaging materials. This may seem like a lot but it’s not. This is, in fact, the least a retailer can do.

The package that lands on a shopper’s doorstep is the last interaction and impression a shopper will have with the company that sold the product. The feelings emitted when an online shopper opens the package and connects with the contents inside are one of the most important parts of the e-commerce customer experience. And the outcome of that interaction will likely affect future purchases.

The goal of the unboxing experience is for shoppers to encounter similar stimuli to what they would find inside the physical store. Personalized messages and tactile, decorated packaging materials that represent the brand can expand the reach and impact of the brand on the consumer.  

But many retailers are not up to the task. Not all companies have the ability to customize the contents of the box or invest in brand boosting features. But they should still meet the basic e-commerce packaging requirements, if nothing else.

Yet being basic isn’t as easy as it sounds.  

As e-commerce increases, fulfillment operations are becoming more complex and lots of companies are stretching just to build orders and push packages out the door on time. This is where trouble ensues and tiny items get sent out in big boxes with a bunch of inflatable air pillows or wads of paper taking up the extra space. This type of waste irritates package recipients and shines a light on the retailer’s distribution flaws. 

Additional issues arise with retailers that supplement dedicated e-commerce fulfillment operations with ship-from-store set-ups. Store employees who pack and fulfill orders usually receive little or no training on using packaging materials effectively and efficiently, which leads to overpacking and underprotecting mistakes as well as wrong-size box choices.  

It’s these retailers that need to go from bad to basic and focus on the end of the customer journey. Little changes can go a long way to meeting online shoppers’ expectations. For retailers that can’t provide great unboxing experiences, it’s imperative to at least provide good ones.