In a national study in 2018, 72 percent of consumers said a product's packaging influences whether they buy. Packaging is the first interaction between a potential buyer and the product, even before the buyer interacts with the actual product itself. From my side of the aisle, in product design, it isn't unusual to see entrepreneurs who have been so consumed with all of the product details, they've barely considered their packaging--an element way too important to leave as an afterthought. Especially when we also know that every year, 95 percent of all new products fail because of poor packaging.  

Given that packaging is such an integral part of the entire product, from building good branding, to selling and protecting your product while it gets noticed "on the shelf," I wanted to go beyond the obvious (and even elementary) package-design advice. Apurva Batra, CEO and founder of FlexiblePouches and a seven-year packaging-design veteran, helps entrepreneurs explore their options when it comes to packaging, which is exactly what we're going to do right now. 

Communicate Your Brand's Value

When packaging malfunctions, fails, looks cheap, or isn't branded consistently, the result is fewer sales or, even worse, no sales. Seven out of ten consumer products fail, which means you've got a small window to get it right or you're off the shelf. Today's marketplace is way too competitive for you to rely on having the best product. As Batra points out, whether that's higher quality or more bang for the buck, that still isn't enough to stay ahead of the competition. You need a high-quality product at the right price point, teamed up with great packaging. 

Consider Your Competition

When an entrepreneur tells me, after the exploration phase of their product-design process, that they have no competition, it's a huge red flag. One, because this tells me they haven't clearly identified or researched their market; and two, because this tells me that they don't have a clear vision as to whom (big brands) and what (other innovative packaging and branding) they are up against. Big companies invest big money in innovative and creative packaging, earning increased sales and market share. 

Create Double-Duty Packaging

From a branding standpoint, think of your packaging working two independent but critical jobs: first, attracting the consumer to your product in a sea of many others using visual appeal; and second, clearly highlighting why your product is better. Think about a trip you've recently taken to the grocery store. Imagine an aisle you regularly frequent. If there was a brand-new item on the shelf--regardless of placement--would you notice it? What would it take for you to notice that new product?

Three Things to Keep in Mind When Designing Your Product Packaging

1. Ensure your product is protected during transport and storage. Packaging's primary function is to protect the product contained inside, especially during shipping and handling. 

  • If packaging fails on the consumer, by way of a leak or damage that's evident upon unboxing, he or she is almost surely never going to repeat the purchase. 
  • If you're selling to big-box retailers, very often the contracts incorporate penalties and buyback clauses relating to defective or damaged products and failed packaging, as well as perishable products that may have gone bad, something your budget might not be able to handle. 

2. Use visual appeal to differentiate from the competition. You can't stand at every store shelf and brag about the highlights of your product--so make your packaging do this for you. View your packaging as a spokesperson for your product or brand.

  • Customers often make highly impulsive decisions, particularly in retail. We know from consumer behavior studies that the initial attraction elements for consumers at the store shelves are trivial things like vivid colors, unique shapes, and, and creative packaging styles that are nonstandard. 
  • Research color trends through Pantone, the global standard for color designations in the printing and packaging industry. Be thorough about colors and matching, and keep in tune with your market and competitors.

3. Effectively but concisely communicate key details about what's inside, and how to use your product. 

  • Things like ingredients, nutrition facts, and a "best by" or expiration date must be easily found and readable. With the impulsivity of shoppers, something as miniscule as not being able to find a "best by" date may lose the sale.
  • Assume the customer knows nothing about how to use the product and include anything that might guide your customer on the "how to" aspect. 

Knowing what you're up against, and what you can't afford to overlook is a great place to begin digging into the world of package design. For Batra, as he continues to innovate, his goal is to show entrepreneurs that failure is avoidable, even when the boxes are stacked against you.

Published on: Aug 15, 2019
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