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Strategy

Why Customers Don’t View Package Design the Same Way Anymore

Product design has always mattered, but now more than ever: A closer look into the 3 key ways e-Comm has affected product design and packaging

Matt Duczeminski
April 10 2019

In third grade, my class went on a field trip to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Oddly enough, the one thing that stands out in my memory from that day was the “astronaut ice cream” – a free-dried, room temperature treat. Every time I see this product in a gift shop or novelty store, I’m brought back to that moment from my childhood. It wasn’t even that the ice-cream was so good!

What made the experience unique for me was opening the futuristic looking package, reading the label that explained how the product was made and why astronauts can’t eat “real” ice cream while in space, and finally, that the product itself was made so that little science nerds like me could get a feel for what it’s like to be a real-life astronaut.

(Source)

Product design has always mattered, but now, we’re seeing a shift in how and when product and packaging design influences the customer experience.

As Vice President of Market Development of PMMI, Jorge Izquierdo, explains: “Traditionally, packaging has been designed for those three seconds that you’re looking at the shelf and you’re making a decision.” Packaging and design have typically been used to catch the customer’s attention and choose one company’s product over a competing brand’s.

But the advent of e-Commerce has changed all that. Izquierdo continues: “Now, the first time you look at a product, (you’ve) already bought it.”

Product design and packaging now affect the customer’s post-purchase experience. Izquierdo again explains: “It’s about experience with the product, and about repeating the purchase.”

With that in mind, let’s dig a bit deeper into this shift and three key ways e-Commerce has affected product design and packaging:

  • Aesthetics
  • Function
  • Ergonomics

Product and Packaging Aesthetic Design

If you were to order a wine subscription box to your home, which would you rather find on your doorstep?

This:

(Source)

Or this?

(Source)

While it might not sound like a huge deal, first impressions matter. Not only does package branding indicate the box’s contents, it also shows that the company cares about providing a positive experience for its customers. In addition to achieving brand recognition, customizing your packaging also increases the chances that your customers will share images of your product with their network and social media audience. According to the 2016 Dotcom Distribution Packaging Report, 39% of respondents share such images in some way.

The Packaging Report also found that this shared content usually has a positive impact on other consumers’ propensity to purchase the product.

(Source)

If you’re not using your product’s packaging to attract your customers, you could be missing out on business opportunities.

Product and Packaging Functional Design

Aesthetics are merely a surface-level aspect of product and packaging design. Today, brands differentiate themselves by including unique additions to their packages that allow the customer to get additional value out of the product.

Bright Cellars (a wine subscription box company) typically includes an infographic, tasting guide, or some other additional note in each box. These little extras can actually impact the quality of the original product as well. Though the wine is excellent as is, it tastes better when paired with the right cheese or poured into the right glass.

The message to the customer here is clear:

Bright Cellars doesn’t just want you to drink their wine and buy more. The team wants you to enjoy their wine and get as much value as you possibly can out of the experience – drawing attention to differentiators aside from the actual product itself.

Product and Packaging Ergonomic Design

The final aspect of design relates to ergonomics; the idea that modern products (and their packaging) are typically designed in such a way to make both delivery and usage as efficient as possible. While this applies to new products hitting market, it also applies to those which have been in production for years.

Exhibit A:

Tide pods.

(Source / Note: Do not pair these with your next bottle of wine.)

Last December, The Spruce tackled perhaps the most burning question in human history: Should I use pods, detergent, or powder when doing a load of laundry?

If we’re talking ergonomics, pods are the clear winner — for a number of reasons.

They’re simple and easy to use. There’s no measuring involved, and you’d have to squeeze them like a lemon in order to make a mess.

Ergonomics comes into play on the company’s side, as well. A single container of pods is much smaller and more lightweight than a single liquid container. For the company, this means less resource consumption, less storage space consumed, and a more efficient delivery process. And, since pods are easier and cleaner to use, Tide can also rationalize charging more for them. The company is spending less and making more — while also providing even more value to its customers.

While improving ergonomic design simplifies production on your end, don’t sacrifice functionality for increased profits – your customers will likely catch on sooner or later.

By focusing on improving all aspects of your product’s design — from functionality and efficiency to aesthetics and “extras” — you’ll not only enhance the customer experience, but improve the sustainability of your business overall.

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Matt Duczeminski

Matt is a professional writer specializing in helping entrepreneurs improve relationships with their customers. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Sarah, and he'd probably get a lot more work done if his cat would stop bothering him.

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