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5 Tips to Optimize Your E-Commerce Packaging

By implementing right-size packaging, greater sustainability, connected packaging, memorable unboxing experiences, and including effective marketing collateral, your e-commerce business can thrive.

    9 minute read

For e-commerce brands, one could argue the case that packaging is the most important marketing tool after your web properties. It’s likely the second-most common way consumers interact with you.

In their eyes, your packaging is intimately bound up with who you are as a brand.

To get an edge on the competition, here are five tips for optimizing your e-commerce packaging.

1. Utilize Right-Size Packaging

Shape and size should be one of your first considerations when looking to optimize e-commerce packaging. Referred to as right-size packaging, this approach means using just enough materials to secure and protect your products throughout storage and shipment, until they're in the hands of consumers.

Using excessive materials is costly, not only from a production side but shipping, as well. All those unnecessary air pockets in boxes means you end up paying more for shipping empty space.

Additionally, eco-conscious consumers note when companies are reckless with the amount of packaging materials they employ—each superfluous layer of plastic or paper further undermining your brand’s integrity.

For instance, reducing the width of your folding cartons by ⅛ of an inch could add up to more than a large-sized print run of material. Account for the more products you’ll fit onto shipping trucks, and you’ll also cut emissions in addition to saving on costs.

2. Embrace Greater Sustainability

Going green is about more than just using right-size packaging, though. Environmentally focused consumers also pay attention to the types of materials used, whether you’re domestic, and if you responsibly source your paperboard.

Sustainable Packaging Materials

The best materials for sustainable packaging are usually paperboard, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a case to be made for plastics and cardboard. And don’t forget about other sustainable alternatives, such as hemp, sugarcane board, casein protein, and cotton-based substrates. You can also integrate soy- and vegetable-based inks into your visual designs, as well.

Think Domestically

A key part of amplifying sustainability efforts centers around reducing your carbon footprint. By collaborating with local partners and being a domestically oriented business, you shorten supply chains, which minimizes the amount of your carbon emissions. Eco-friendly consumers want to buy from locally minded brands.

Responsibly Sourced Paperboard

How do you know whether your paperboard is sourced from sustainably managed forests?

While paper is generally very green due to its renewable nature, you want to utilize paperboard sourced from forests that have been certified by the nonprofits Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI), and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). Not all paper-based products are sustainable.

An addition to embracing these sustainability practices, containing messaging on your packaging about these initiatives helps inform consumers what you’re doing as a brand to reduce your environmental impact.

3. Implement Connected Packaging

It makes sense that companies relying on e-commerce should turn to connected packaging to elevate their brand. By integrating QR codes, barcodes, and hashtags into your packaging, you can extend the consumer experience into the digital realm.

It can be as simple as including a QR code linked directly to your website, such as these folding cartons produced by all-natural skincare company LilyAna Naturals. This is especially great for e-commerce brands that sell exclusively online.

Alternatively, you may consider visual elements that direct consumers to a digital platform where they can interact with other fans of your brand or popular influencers. Connecting consumers to exclusive content is a fantastic way to boost engagement with your brand.

4. Create Memorable Unboxing Experiences

Commonplace brown boxes don’t really cut it anymore. Consumers consider the unboxing experience to be a part of what differentiates your brand from the rest. You want to evoke an emotional reaction of delight or enthusiasm as they unpackage your product.

Eye-grabbing visual effects such as specialty coatings and laminations, foil stamping, debossing, and embossing open up promising possibilities. These design elements can leave a lasting impression.

Clever folding carton shapes or designs are another way to stand out in a crowded industry. You might integrate windows to give consumers a pleasant tease for what they’re about to open. This is used with electronics and health and beauty products, to striking effect.

You may also be surprised by how much consumers enjoy the sound and feel of tear strips for opening ease. That pleasant experience tends to sit with people a bit longer than having to cut through frustrating tape or plastic.

5. Include Other Marketing Collateral

Designed to increase brand awareness, marketing collateral has many benefits for e-commerce packaging.

This can be in the form of stickers, flyers, posters, postcards, catalogs, or brochures, something that’s going to sit around in their kitchen, dining room, or bedroom, reminding them of who you are and what your brand stands for. If they become passionate fans, they’re more than likely to display this marketing collateral on their laptops or hang it on their walls, a signal to others that their values are well reflected by your brand.

You may even consider including special promotional marketing collateral for holidays, giveaways, or other unique campaigns you run throughout the year. Keeping in the spirit of sustainability, you don’t want to be excessive here. Choose wisely the amount of marketing collateral you use.

In the age of e-commerce, you have an opportunity to reach an unrivaled number of consumers and markets, but that’s going to take smart packaging decisions.

By utilizing right-size packaging, embracing greater sustainability, implementing connected packaging, creating memorable unboxing experiences, and including effective marketing collateral, you can help your e-commerce business thrive.

Oliver is a printing and packaging company with more than 250 years of combined experience and multiple facilities across the United States. Contact us today to learn more about how you can optimize your e-commerce packaging.

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