What’s on Your Box? – Reflections on what makes retail special.

Businesses have long been concerned with how to stand out from the competition. Branding agencies in Orange County do everything possible to deliver a brand that makes that happen. Still, one of the most crucial fronts for your brand is the box, and packaging design services are more important than ever, especially in a post-eCommerce selling environment.

It seems like each holiday shopping season, everyone becomes obsessed with the migration of consumers away from the physical shop and toward eCommerce. Some estimates say that 30% or more of all purchases may be online by the next decade, leaving businesses to grapple with the quite different strategies that go with selling online and selling in-store. One area differences arise is when you look at what buyers are doing in each situation, and how the internet is changing that.

The internet has enabled everyone to be an informed buyer. Where once a consumer would go and talk to a sales rep on the floor to learn the ABCs and 123s of the product they were thinking of buying, now we turn to the comfort of Google to learn and compare before buying. It’s more and more common for buyers to walk into the store pretty well informed about the product they’re looking for. Where does this leave the retail store?

I like to think that retail stores aren’t going through an extinction, but rather a repurposing. If your product is such that it’s out on sales floors, in packaging, standing right next to your competitor, your product is in a curious position. As eCommerce takes the place of the well-informed sales rep, physical stores are now becoming the place not of learning with intellect, but the place of seeing and feeling, with your senses, and your intuition. Often, it’s up to the consumer’s gut to make the final decision.

The Box Talks

Clothes, when purchased in person, offer a range of sensory details—textures, colors, stitching details. If your product is in a box, it’s a whole other game. One way companies use the box is to try and represent what’s inside as truthfully (and fully) as possible, with lots of photos, and tons of details. And if customers are coming in blind, that might be important. Another strategy chooses instead to fill in the blanks of what your customer knows about your company, with story instead of detail: make that box sing.

Imagine the best box opening experience you can remember. My mind immediately goes to a Macbook. This example is a little different because they aren’t really designed to sit on a shelf next to their competitors; but the principle is the same. Top to bottom, inside and out, the Macbook box IS the brand. It doesn’t hit you with all the features, and pictures, and “whys” of the product—no, it is designed to say everything about the Apple brand, and to whisper, “Hey, be one of us.” The power of the box is to be the product, more succinctly and completely than the product itself can possibly be.

Retail stores are coming to terms with this new paradigm. For the best retailers, the Experience is the Product, and successful small businesses differentiate themselves from the basic eCommerce experience by making their shop tell their story. For those that don’t have their own shop, it’s essential to remember that the product box is tasked with the totality of the retail experience. You may not be able to control every aspect of the shopping experience; your product may sit on the crusty old shelves of some Walmart in the Midwest. But you can—you must—control your packaging. And in the post- eCommerce world, it’s more important to do so than ever before.

The truth is that for so many purchases made in stores, the product isn’t necessarily what’s being purchased—it’s the box! Companies that put their products out on store shelves are confronted with a choice: of treating their box real estate just like an eCommerce product description, with exhaustive product text on the box, or actually reaching out to your customer, and expressing your brand, in a succinct, intuitive, gut level.

This is the task that branding agencies in Orange County face. For the business, make a conscious choice to treat packaging design services not as an afterthought, but as an essential expression of who your company is.


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