Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

In an era of accelerated ecommerce, packaging is THE customer experience

By Ewart Wade O’Connor – Principal Creative – Checkland Kindleysides 2021

With online shopping accelerated by 5-10 years, Checkland Kindleysides shares how packaging can be your brand’s biggest competitive advantage

The way people shop has fundamentally changed and our expectations as consumers are shifting continually. With a long-term upsurge in ecommerce and acceleration of digitally native brands, the entire consumer experience is now more reliant on packaging than ever. In fact, retail’s ‘last mile’ is now one of the biggest areas of opportunity for creative, with packaging evolving into one of the most creative touchpoints in today’s customer experience.

Combine this with growing call-out culture and awareness of the environmental footprint of online delivery – over packaging is now a big no-no. So how do you create impressions whilst at the same reducing your impact? As the studio that ignites consumer desire whenever and wherever people fall in love with brands, Checkland Kindleysides believes that packaging can be an important brand ‘moment’. Ewart O’ Connor, Principal Creative shares how the agency is re-inventing and re-imagining packaging for a new era.

Packaging with added media-value

80% of Gen Z state social media as the primary source of inspiration for shopping. Brands are now wanting to capitalise on the new social currency of packaging. That’s why it’s important to come up with ideas that amplify the anticipation and memorability of unveiling products. That excite and entice consumers to share their experience and increase your share of voice online.

There’s now even a thriving resale market for empty designer packaging, with ROLEX watch boxes having a resale value of $288. Limited edition packaging is creating added desirability, collectability and lucrative resale value. But this also provides an opportunity and value, beyond monetary, for brands to test and experiment new design strategies. This was something we did with Beats as part of Selfridges No Noise campaign. We created a Limited-Edition packaging concept with silent branding and tactile materials. As part of a limited-edition product run of only 500, each box was also hand-marked with the product number for added exclusivity. 

Eco-packaging – start as you mean to go on

What we have seen over the last few years is a people-led revolution in packaging, with consumers boycotting plastic and demanding change. As this has evolved, sustainability is increasingly becoming more of an expectation than a differentiator. The reality is purchase decisions aren’t being made on the packaging but on the product and the customer experience. But the packaging itself is an extension of the brand and as such should reflect your values and customer experience strategy.

Newcomers and challenger brands have an opportunity to build sustainability into their approach from the outset. Transparency about the challenges faced towards having 100% sustainable credentials and that continuous improvements are required will be appreciated by consumers who have sharpened their senses to greenwashing.

Working on the launch of new eyewear brand Morrow, whose 3D printed glasses fold in a unique way, provided us with an opportunity to devise a bespoke, internal engineered structures to protect the product. Using as few materials as possible, we designed a box made from recyclable card and contains a protective foam. As the brands grows there is a plan to substitute the foam with high pressure formed pulp, which is being communicated to consumers.

Packaging as an experience

Packaging has elevated up the ladder to become an integral brand touchpoint. Post-purchase experiences and lifestyle brand strategies is now crucial for continuous engagement and brand advocacy. This is why we now design packaging as an experience in itself. One that compliments the wider omni-channel customer experience and contributes to a desired lifestyle.

Last year we collaborated with Finnish design brand Iittala as they embarked on the roll-out of their new Nordic lifestyle brand proposition. We created a new customer experience strategy in which we identified key moments in their customer journey where the brand could not only advocate the lifestyle, but actively set the lifestyle in motion for its consumers. Re-imagining the role of packaging as a storytelling device and an enabler played a key role in this. From adding complimentary single-stem flowers to a vase purchase or a Nordic recipe card to an online tableware order, to using Nordic incenses for a sensory unboxing experience and poetry cards that could even be framed as home décor.

Packaging has the potential to become one the most important brand moments for you to connect and create new fans. Currently the most throwaway component of the customer experience, brands need to ask themselves, ‘how can we make our packaging less disposable and more desirable?’