“Surprise and Delight”. These are customer-experience buzzwords, and they most often revolve around customer support… but they are equally applicable and perhaps most impactful during your customer’s unboxing experience!
Intentionally designing this aspect of the customer experience is an integral part of establishing a memorable and sustainable brand. While shipping materials are often an afterthought for most companies, putting an emphasis on branded shipping materials can help your company capitalize on retaining current customers and optimizing their customer lifecycle.
For online retailers, premium packaging can be an important way to differentiate your brand, encouraging customer loyalty and resulting in repeat purchases. It can also be the difference that makes a customer want to snap a photo of their new delivery and share it on social media.
What criteria did you use when choosing packing material to ship your products? Most likely, your preliminary criteria included the basic necessities: materials that protect the product while conserve cost. However, by the end of this article, you may change your tune!
A branded experience shouldn’t end when a customer clicks “Submit Order”. Ensuring your shipping materials and packing process are on-brand will help your company deliver an exceptionally well-designed experience to every customer, every time.
When your customer receives a shipped package from your company, their very first impression of your proudct is going to be the box. From there, what is the first thing they see upon opening that box? What is the second thing they will notice? And the next? From start to finish, there are many opportunities for your company to deliver a memorable experience that solidifies your brand identity in the mind of your customer.
Components of a Branded Shipping Experience
Shipped products should be packaged in a way that enhances the customer’s experience of your brand. The order in which items are presented can add massive value and streamline a customer’s shopping experience. As a result, creating an exceptional experience can inspire customers to share the special occasion with friends via social media and word of mouth.
Outer Packaging of a Fulfillment Container
The first thing your customer sees upon delivery is the outer packaging of your fulfillment container. Generally speaking, this container will be a box. But all boxes are not created equal. An important question to ask when choosing outer packaging is this: Should my company’s shipping packaging be branded or not? For companies shipping products that require discretion – such as adult products or high-end products – a plain and unbranded outer package is likely preferred, in order to prevent theft in transit or prying eyes from neighbors. For other products – especially perishable food items – it can be important to mark or brand the outside of the box to alert recipients of the package contents immediately upon receiving a delivery.
If your product doesn’t fit into either of those categories, consider what is best for your customer and your company. Will custom printed boxes and packaging material enhance your customer’s experience? If so, that can result in an increase to your company’s bottom line. For example, Trunk Club ships their monthly subscription boxes in custom printed packaging that features a handle to resemble a trunk or suitcase. This serves to highlight their brand and reaffirm the experience they are emulating, while adding pleasure and function to their customer’s shopping experience. This smart branding move does not go unappreciated by customers.
The major factor that can deter new startups and small businesses from utilizing custom branded packaging is, undoubtedly, the price. While investing in custom printed boxes or packaging will incur higher costs, this extra step elevates your brand in the eyes of your customers, which can lead to social shares, repeat purchases, and increased sales. Of course, it’s not necessary for every element of your shipping to be customized and branded. Focus on the elements that enhance the customer’s overall experience, as those will be most meaningful to your customer and brand.
If custom printed boxes aren’t right for your brand (or if it’s currently outside of your company’s bootstrapped budget), another option to consider is pre-designed non-branded colored boxes. These can be enhanced with a simple creative solution such as using a stamp to add branding or a sticker used as a seal on the outside of the parcel.
Custom-printed packing tape is another great way to add branding elements to your shipping process. An additional perk of custom packing tape is that it serves to dissuade tampering during transit of a product.
Inner Packaging of a Fulfillment Container
Choosing the inner packaging of your fulfillment container is another great opportunity to highlight your branding and your company’s values. While many items are shipped with packing peanuts, crinkle paper, foam inserts, bubble wrap, and air pillows, you may differentiate your shipping experience by using materials that are more aligned with the ethos of your brand.
For companies looking to promote their eco-friendly ethics, opting for biodegradable packaging or recycled materials shows your customers that you care about minimizing environmental waste. This gives customers the satisfaction of investing in a brand that promotes ethical, sustainable practices, which makes them feel even better about purchasing from your company. It can also be a great conversation point with your customers, and can be incorporated into your content and marketing strategy.
Do you have a particular thematic color scheme associated with your brand? Crinkle paper comes in most colors. Tissue, perhaps a more elegant option, can be printed with your company’s watermark!
Once the box is opened, will you take this moment to present your customer with something in addition to what was ordered? This stage in the fulfillment process is often overlooked, but it can greatly enhance the customer’s experience of unboxing their order. Here are some different options and ideas for box inserts:
- A handwritten note will always surprise and delight the customer by adding a personalized feeling to a shipped package. A simple “thank you” note can be enough to make a palpable difference, leaving your customer with a feeling that they are more than just a sale or receipt number.
- When a handwritten note isn’t feasible, a printed note card is more than adequate to evoke a similar welcoming feeling. Consider taking this opportunity to thank your customer or formally welcome them to your brand.
- Even packing slips can be personalized with a signature or stamp that says, “Packed for you by ____.” This reminds customers that your business is run by real humans who care about the customer experience. In an increasingly automated world, these simple human touches can make your brand stand out.
- Feature a call to action, such as an invitation to join a social media contest.
- Ask customers to document their experience by snapping a photo of their new products and sharing it with a branded hashtag.
- Share your company’s origin story or brand values.
- Include an on-brand quote or introduction.
- Companies that offer high-touch support can invite customers to contact customer service with questions or feedback.
- Promotional material such as a discount code for future orders will encourage repeat sales and maximize a customer’s lifetime value.
- Surprise and delight customers with an unexpected free item such as stickers, freebies, or other bonuses. The gift should complement or enhance the overall experience of the product and brand.
- If your products can be distributed in sample sizes, this is a great cross-sell technique to introduce your customer to a new or complementary product. For the proper effect, the product sample must be of interest to the specific customer segment, based on the product ordered. Random or non-complementary gifts can have an adverse effect, and may appear to be a tool for liquidating stale inventory.
- Consider how the customer’s receipt is presented inside the package. Presenting a receipt upon opening the box may not be on-brand for your company, in which case you may tuck it into the side or place it under the main items. Furthermore, will the receipt be folded in half or tri-fold? Will it be folded with text on the inside, or will the text displayed on the outside of the fold? For high-end products, your company may opt to store the receipt inside a small branded folder or envelope for an added touch of elegance.
Simple is Cool
While there are many opportunities to include extra items in your shipped package, be mindful not to over-package or clutter a parcel. Find ways to maximize your brand message while minimizing your carbon footprint and reducing shipping waste.