Packaging 101: How to Create Killer Packaging for Your Products Affordably
Do you want LOTS of 5-star reviews on Amazon?
Do you want LESS returns?
Do you want your customers to buy MORE products?
If you want any of these things, then better packaging could be your answer. Whether you're manufacturing your own products or private labeling, you NEED great packaging. Ecommerce sellers tend to be incredibly oblivious to the impact and importance of having great packaging. But packaging is the first impression people are going to have of your product. And as the old saying goes, you only have one chance to make a good impression.
In this article I'll discuss how to create killer packaging and wow your customers.
Why is Packaging Important Even in Ecommerce?
So many people in ecommerce ignore the power of great packaging. The implicit assumption is that because the packaging is not directly affecting sales, like it does in brick and mortar sales, that packaging is not important.
While packaging is not directly affecting your sales, it is directly affecting one of the biggest influences on sales: reviews. Your product's packaging is the first experience a customer will have with your product. When their product comes superbly packaged, subconsciously an assumption will be made that the package inside is just as superb. The same thing happens when a product comes with sub-par packaging: customers feel that the product will be sub-par. Great packaging makes customers overlook product flaws, and poor packaging brings attention to product flaws.
The Anatomy of Great Packaging
There's four elements to great packaging that you should include on any product you're importing from China. These are:
- A logo and brand
- Artwork on the package
- Documentation included in the box
- Bar coding and country of origin markings
Your Logo & Brand
A brand name is how people will differentiate your product from your competition. Every single product you import should have a brand name. This brand name should be used on all of your packaging but it will also be used when you start selling your product for product titles, emails, and other marketing materials.
Think about the importance of branding for company names. Can you imagine how dull consumerism would be if every restaurant you ate at was called “Burgers”, “Ice Cream”, or “Mexcian Food”? Instead, marketers have come up with great names like Burger King, Taco Bell, and Dairy Queen which help differentiate their products from others. You should do the same.
Think of a name for your product that you will use on all of your product titles, emails, and other marketing materials. For somebody importing Horse Saddles, she could give all of her products the brand name “Horsing Around”. The consumer will ultimately feel like they’re buying a real, reputable branded product and not just some commodity. Over time, you will discover that consumers are searching by name for your brand name products (typing the first few letters in Google and having the predictive search bring up your brand name is rewarding!). Moreover, if consumers find your product on a third party channel like Amazon, they will want to search for your product on Google to see if they can get it somewhere else cheaper. A brand name allows them to find your products easily and some of those Amazon buyers may instead buy from your website and save you Amazon commissions.
Artwork/Logo on the Package
Once you've developed your brand and brand name, get a logo developed for it. You can design your own or use Fiverr but I highly encourage you to spend a $200-300 and get a very professional logo designed through one of the crowdsourcing websites like 99 Designs or Design Crowd. Spending a bit of money is going to get you invested into your brand and you're going to actually start believing that you do in fact have a brand. If you don't believe it, your customers won't.
There's no better way to piss off your customers than to include no documentation with it. Complex products, especially those requiring assembly, need documentation but even the most basic products should have documentation as well.
Chinese suppliers will often not include documentation or include very poor quality documentation. If this is the case, you will have to supply these instructions yourself. A simple one page PDF document printed on a 8.5″x11″ plain paper is generally sufficient.
The easiest way to create instructions is to ‘borrow' ideas from your competitors. Find a similar product from a big brand on Amazon and then go to that brand's website. The chances are good that the brand has a PDF copy of their instructions available. Don't rip these instructions off, of course, but you can use them for inspiration for what to include in your documentation. Your documentation is again a great opportunity in which to include your branding and logo.
Bar Code/Country of Origin
OK, bar codes and country of origin markings don't really make your packaging great but they are important components to your package.
Make sure to include a bar code (especially if shipping the item to FBA) and the country of origin, i.e. “Made in China”. You can print FBA bar codes off yourself and apply them to your package on your own but there's no point going through the trouble when you can have your supplier do it for you. Also make sure to include the country of origin on your package. All items must have the country of origin marked on the package and if you don't, your items can be rejected for import into your country (I can confirm this from experience).
Putting the Pieces Together and Designing Your Packaging
Now that you know the elements of great packaging, it's time to actually go about having that packaging produced.
Getting packaging produced can be very expensive but it can also be done very inexpensively, and often, in fact, at no additional cost.
First Question: How Does Your Item Come Packaged?
The first step to designing great packaging is to determine how exactly your item is coming packaged.
There’s four common types of packaging you’re likely to run into: a box, blister pack, poly bag, and no packaging whatsoever.
The most important thing to do is to ask your supplier “How does this product come packaged?” and ask them for a picture of the product. Again, ask your supplier how the product comes packaged and ask for a photo of it. You want to avoid, at all costs, your supplier packing your 100 widgets into one large box. Trust me–it happens. As long as you ask beforehand, this should never be an issue though.
Generally a supplier will package your product in a plain brown cardboard box or a poly bag with NO ARTWORK. If you're extremely lucky they will have a generic full color box with nice artwork and a blank space to put your company's name/logo.
The Secret to Cheap & Incredible Packaging for Boxes
Your supplier might be able to give you a colored box with their artwork even for a small order but they will not normally do a full colored box with YOUR artwork unless your order quantity is high (hundreds of units). If you are not ordering a large quantity, try requesting a full color sticker that your supplier will place on the box (stickers can be made for pennies with very small suppliers). Most will do this for free or for a very small fee ($0.50 or less) The next time you walk around a Walmart or Costco notice how many products are actually plain brown or white cardboard boxes with stickers attached. It looks a million times better than a plain box.
The Secret to Cheap & Incredible Packaging for Blister Packs and Poly Bags
Blister packs and Poly bags are great for brick and mortar retail stores but can be a pain to ship. Amazon FBA will take them at no extra charge but you won’t be able to ship them on your own via UPS/FedEx/etc. without a box (and boxes are expensive). Unless you are shipping your items exclusively with Amazon FBA, ask your supplier to ship your products in a box instead of a poly bag or blister pack.
With Blister Packs your supplier can simply print off your artwork and insert it into the blister pack. The same goes for poly bags. Simply ask your supplier for the dimensions of the blister pack or poly bag. This artwork can be designed quickly in Microsoft Word or Google Docs.
Great packaging is one of the easiest ways to differentiate your product and also improve the product reviews for it. Even for ecommerce sellers, packaging is not something you can overlook. Along with this article, I also highly recommend you read 5 Steps for Packing Your Items (an entirely different topic from packaging your items) to make sure your products arrive in pristine condition.
What has your experience been packaging your items? Do you find great packaging results in better product reviews? Have you had any packaging horror stories when ordering items from China? Please comment below.
Great article Dave…little things make a huge difference!
Glad to see the blog has such an esteemed reader ;)