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The Good & Bad of Shipment Packaging: How 3 Big Brands Do It

The Good & Bad of Shipment Packaging: How 3 Big Brands Do It - 3PL Shipment packaging tips for direct-to-consumer brands.

Packaging is just as likely to be iconic as something you never think about again. When a product arrives, we like to tear into it and get what we’re after, often ignoring the elements inside the box or the box itself.

However, as a business owner, what’s inside that box can be a significant part of your success. It eats up budget, has the potential to make an impact (good or bad), and can improve the relationship you have with your customers. It’s time to think about those pieces and the big picture of how your business runs and what your packaging says.

Some major companies, like Apple, have packaging designed into their DNA. They’re managing the entire experience to feel like a luxury, making you happy about an expensive purchase. It’s a well-known design focus and is smart if you have the revenue to put behind it. Not everyone does, so we’re going to look at three other instances where companies highlight different ways to think about and apply packaging principles.

There’s good and bad in each. What likely made the decisions for these brands is their ability to control a specific aspect of their operation, customer engagement, or customer service.

Control the cost

When you think about managing costs for shipping and getting things out the door on time, Amazon always comes to mind. It’s not just that the company sends things in boxes that feel too large or oddly shaped, or don’t have filler material surrounding products.

It’s confusing until you look at their ultimate goal with shipping and fulfillment: Get everything out the door as efficiently as possible to meet two-day demands while controlling costs as much as possible.

Amazon does this with smart, complex computer systems and testing. You’ll get an especially large box sometimes because it helps Amazon fill trucks more easily. Others, it is used to protect your package as things are stacked and moved based on when your goods are picked. Depending on the facility where your goods are located before purchase, box selection can be limited to best work with automation technology, or simply to avoid falling through gaps in equipment.

According to news interviews in 2016, Amazon is using programs designed to prevent the boxes from being as oversized. The effort is part of overall work to reduce waste, though the company has repeatedly noted that it uses larger boxes to avoid a product being “too flush” against the box, and risking damage during delivery.

So, Amazon works to control costs by limiting the flair of the packages and focusing on shipment itself. Standardizing its materials keeps operations running smoothly and allows Amazon to adapt as needed. At the same time, it’s effort into protecting goods with larger boxes enables it to control the cost of returns and replacements.

This can fall into the “bad” category if you’re shipping solely based on ease and it ends up costing you more than you expected. The “good” comes from testing products and safety, while also understanding how carriers price things. You just might be able to get a little more cushion or slice costs if you adapt based on your partners.

At the heart of this is the understanding of dimensional (DIM) weight shipping. Both the size and weight of a product can impact its cost to ship with major carriers. So, you might run the numbers with a DIM weight calculator to see if you can package goods in larger boxes for more cushion and security because the weight is great enough that additional size doesn’t cost you more. 

Control the branding and experience

The packaging doesn’t have to be as bare-bones as it can feel for something like Fulfillment by Amazon. The way you treat individual elements and products can be just as powerful as the overall box and experience. You can continually build and emphasize your brand and company values when packaging reflects that.

Branding elements tend to work best when someone will be looking at your product continually. Some companies use this to become the go-to brand for whatever category. Crayola, for instance, dominates the crayon space. Some of that has to do with both the iconic nature of its packaging and useful elements, like the big box with the built-in crayon sharpener.

Medicom Pharma in Germany makes food supplements, vitamins, and herbal medicines. It is a side of the pharmaceutical industry that needs to reach customers repeatedly, so it benefits when you keep thinking about its products. Packaging can play a role in that, especially for products like its Nobilin pills.

Noblin packaging

Nobilin is a plant-based supplement designed to help with digestion and is largely purchased at point-of-sale locations. The ad above highlights the messaging of the pill and using the same container inside of the box reaffirms the branding. 

It’s simple, powerful, and shows that we should consider the packaging that stays with our products long after fulfillment is done.

That’s the “good.” The bad occurs when companies spend significantly on these elements with minimal returns. If 33% of the cost of your packaging comes from branding elements and these types of ads or designs, but the customer throws that away immediately after opening your box, it can be a wasted cost. 

This is especially true for e-commerce-only businesses, where complex product packaging isn’t needed to catch the eyes of customers. If you can display products online and aren’t having things sitting on store shelves, restrict advanced visuals and elements to instances where your audience will see them repeatedly.

Control the risk

The bad part of the risk is that not paying attention to it will lead to many busted, broken products. These are returned or replaced at your expense and usually something of a refund to customers. Poor packaging is a terrific way to destroy your bottom line.

Our final good to consider is simple: do your homework. That’s how your favorite brands get it right, and we’re not just talking about the look and feel mentioned above. Research your products, how they ship, and what packaging experiences as it ships. 

You’ll get a good idea of how to protect what’s uniquely yours — and you might just bust through conventional wisdom.

The team at Fracture, which prints photos on glass and has mailed them to 100,000s of customers, told us that research is a big reason you won’t find something common in their package: fillers. Studying their specific products led them to discover that additional materials (like bubble wrap or packing peanuts) actually added no protection and transferred impacts more easily to the glass. So instead, they customized the shape and design of the box to protect the glass.

Fracture prints packaging

Fracture actually found that leaving an empty layer of air in the box helps to dissipate impacts better than filler materials. So, they strap in prints to the cardboard box to ensure the layer of air is always there. 

As an added bonus, this allows Fracture to use recycled materials for its boxes and make a commitment to being eco-conscious, without having to worry about the carbon or environmental impact of those extra materials.

Research is your best way to test and learn how to control the risk to your products and bottom line. It’s also a good place to go when you want to ensure that you’re controlling costs, branding, message, and customer experience too. Happy packing.

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