How the Best Retail Brands Produce Their Packaging

First impressions are lasting impressions- and shipping can be a major expense. Do you know how the best retail brands source their packaging?

You need to source high quality, on-brand packaging to deliver on your customer promise. What’s more, you have to understand the best packaging options for your brand, the right shipping costs, returns operations and more.

How can you convince consumers your brand lives up to its story with lackluster packaging or poor customer service? These details provide shoppers with all-important cues about the credibility, authenticity and desirability of your brand.

The best retail brands take packaging seriously with good reason. Use our tips to make your first experience with packaging a success..

Your Packaging Checklist

Here’s what to know and how to prepare before contacting a design studio or packaging production company.

  • Become Familiar with Packaging Companies: Some companies only focus on the design aspect of packaging, others specialize in production. Still other businesses offer a full suite of services, like the boutique firm Creative Retail Packaging (CRP).
  • Know Your Minimums: Minimums are important. Every company isn’t accessible to every brand. Pro tip: the higher the order, the cheaper the price per unit.
  • Choose Your Elements:
    • invoices/packing slips
    • thank you cards
    • marketing collateral
    • ribbons
    • tissue paper
  • What Defines Great Packaging:
    • On-brand
    • Gets the message across
    • Tailored to the right price point
    • Available at the right cost

How to Work on Packaging Design with an Agency

The decisions you make before speaking with your design team will either get you exactly what you want or cost you lots of extra money. Arrive prepared, ask questions and make sure your requests are aligned with your needs..

Choose Your Packaging

Do you want boxes, thin paper mailers, plastic mailers or something else? Have an idea of how you want to deliver your goods so you may best direct your design team and then go directly to the printer. Offering abstract descriptions and leaving out key specs results in costly production.

It’s often a great idea to work with the same creative studio that worked on your brand identity (typography, logo…). Compare it to fashion production and design. If the design team knows what you’re planning, it can design based on your specs. If the design team doesn’t know, they’ll create solely based on your brand and creativity. Do give specific ideas of the dimensions and product packaging you want. If not, the ideas will likely be more customized and expensive to print (i.e. highly saturated in color, multiple colorways, printed on foil…).

Have it built into your contract or work with your team to explain you’d like a custom, very unique version as well as a basic version in a specified set of dimensions, featuring two colorways. You’ll be able to cost out the differences when you go to the production company, such as choosing more basic options for particular elements of the design. Remember, the most creative options aren’t always the most efficient.

Allocate Time for Production Sampling

Packaging production isn’t an overnight task. Create a timeline at a minimum of 4-6 weeks for the entire process or a maximum of 12 weeks’ time. Approach packaging like producing a garment. Get samples, choose your top three, finalize your selection, then move onto the production process.

Popular Packaging Styles & Strategies

Companies like Glossier are using branded boxes for shipping that serve as both the delivery box and the package. It’s a great way to reduce waste and keep things streamlined. Brands are placing items such as ribbons, tissue paper, thank you cards, invoices/packing slips and marketing collateral inside (stickers, postcards…). Sometimes these items are placed loose in the box, sometimes they’re placed in envelopes or they’re secured with branded tape or stickers.

Other retail brands place their products in branded polybag mailers with thank you notes and invoices inside (with or without tissue paper).

Savvy companies like MATCHESFASHION.COM offer shoppers two packaging options: eco and luxury. New customers may order the premium option the first few times to get a feel for your brand. They may then switch to the plain packaging option once they’ve decided they’ve ordered enough boxes. Still, it’s impossible to guess which packaging consumers will prefer. Maybe most of your shoppers will want the eco option, most will want the luxury option, or it will be a closer split down the middle. It could go in any direction.

Choose a production company that offers easy reorders- have consistent packaging ready for customers at all times. Finally, make sure you can afford every package style you offer. Luxury packaging comes with luxury prices- especially for companies with smaller minimums.

Please Note: Eco-friendly packaging is a must if sustainability is the pillar of your brand.

Packaging Production Companies We Love

  1. Lumi (for startup and growth stage businesses)
  2. Box Up (for startup and growth stage businesses)
  3. Retail Pak (for larger companies and enterprise businesses)

Shipping Rates and Customer Service

How did you choose your delivery service? Did you look up standard e-commerce shipping rates online? If so, you’ve been leaving a lot of money on the table.

If you’re on Shopify, you probably ship with UPS. Shopify has a deal with the shipping company to offer their e-commerce customers discounted bulk shipping rates. It helps, but you can actually save even more money on shipping – if you’re willing to put in the work. FedEx recently unveiled great small business shipping rates. Companies like FedEx require a lot more legwork, but their competitive rates are on par with those of USPS (but you get package tracking and Saturday delivery).

Never assume a company’s published rates are their best. Get a field rep and reach out to DHL or FedEx for competitive pricing. It takes some time and effort to negotiate, but it’s the only way to get the best shipping deals possible.

Retail brands that aren’t prioritizing rates or aren’t aware they can negotiate, spend 10-35% more on shipping.

Customer Service for Returns

  • Make shipping and returns simple.
  • Include your customer service email address on every invoice.
  • Integrate your returns process with a company like Returnly or Happy Returns (for startup and growth stage businesses), or Narvar (for larger companies).
  • Take advantage of SMS communications with personalized text messaging services offered by companies like Narvar and others.

Next Steps: Fine-Tune Your Branding

Need a brand identity and/or packaging design? Get in touch. We work with startup retail brands, growth stage businesses and enterprise companies alike. Book your 30 minute consultation session online, call us at 310-957-5264 or email hello@scalingretail.com.

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