When it comes to online shopping, many retailers are missing an important aspect in the branding process – and literally handing that oversight right to the consumer.
Picture this: You’ve finally decided to buy that rather pricey silk scarf that you’ve been eyeing in the store window all week. You go to the register and pay for the purchase, and the cashier plunks your scarf into a generic cardboard box, seals it shut with messy packing tape and hands it over. Are you still pleased with your purchase?
Today’s savvy consumers expect to leave a store with a purchase that has been carefully handled, gently wrapped and neatly packaged in an attractive bag. Yet for some reason, when they buy the same item online, it is delivered in that dull brown box with warehouse packing tape all over it. Such a miss leaves consumers feeling disappointed and unappreciated, and what should have been a memorable brand experience turns sour.
“If a product comes in something that is plain and generic looking, it reflects badly on the brand,” says Jonathan Asher, executive vice president at
Perception Research Services. “There are all kinds of ways to deteriorate the experience by not doing it well.” But by offering something extra, companies have an opportunity to reinforce the brand and quality and to “surprise and delight”, he adds.
The shipping box should be used to enhance the brand experience, according to Swedish-based Boxcom, which turns boxes into communication channels.
“First impressions last,” says Susanne Sifvert, co-owner of Boxcom. She says the shipping box should be used to enhance the brand experience and perceived quality of a product. “Today, when customers open the box with their online purchase, the first thing they see is the invoice,” she says. “Instead, retailers should make their customers love the box from the minute they pick it up, to associate the brand with a positive feeling.”
“There’s so much that companies can do on and in the box to make customers love them and buy again,”
Sifvert and her partner Helene Andersen started Swedish-based Boxcom in 2013 to help companies strengthen their brands by turning their shipping boxes into communication channels. “A nicely designed box can create the strong relationship with the client that e-commerce companies need to get loyalty and brand awareness,” Andersen points out.
The boxes, which are designed either by Boxcom or by the retailer’s own creative team, should not only be functional in terms of weight, durability and their ability to protect the contents, but also be well designed and aesthetically pleasing and, above all, deliver the right brand message.
Today’s digital printing enables high-quality printing at a reasonable cost with logos, sharp photos, graphics or multiple colours printed on the box. Structural elements and finishes can also help reinforce the positive experience.
This brand experience should continue once the consumer opens the box. “Some colourful tissue, foil, a thank-you note to your customers or some free samples or coupons will make customers come back and buy from you again,” Andersen says, adding that these are the extra touches that in turn prompt consumers to promote the brand in social media such as Facebook or YouTube and spread the positive experience to their friends.
“There’s so much that companies can do on and in the box to make customers love them and buy again,” Andersen says. “Right now, for example, we are experimenting with different Instagram campaigns on boxes to generate a buzz in social media.”
Despite the many opportunities, very few companies have grabbed the reins on this final step in their brand experience. “Many of the company executives that we’ve been in contact with look a bit shocked when we ask them what their delivery packages look like, because they don’t know,” Sifvert says, adding that this is usually followed by the realisation that something needs to be done about it.
“E-commerce is fairly new and still evolving, so a lot of people just haven’t thought about this yet,” Asher says.
“There’s a big opportunity for whoever is first, because not only are younger consumers in particular more likely to shop online, but they also tend to respond well to these types of efforts – to the little extra touch and extra care.”
Sifvert and Andersen believe it is simply a matter of time before the online shopping experience can match the in-store experience. “Packaging for online stores has great potential, but we have to work hard at it since online stores lack many of the attributes that actual stores have, such as fragrance, sound, lighting and meeting a salesperson,” says Sifvert. And because online stores lack these advantages, it becomes even more important to work with what they do have – namely the box.
“Receiving the box might be the first physical meeting the client has with the store, and it’s the situation where the actual joy in shopping occurs,” says Sifvert. “Make sure to take control over that situation.”
TEXT CARI SIMMONS PHOTO ANETTE NANTELL