In a market where there are many similar products, such as in consumer electronics, how important is the brand? I want to say it is VERY important. However, it is difficult for any brand to stand out in-store or online in this ever-evolving retail world. This blog explores how online shopping has changed how brands present themselves and the retailer’s role in downplaying the brand in-store and online.
eCommerce Brand Packaging vs. Brick-and-Mortar Brand Packaging
This article from The Atlantic titled “The Secrets That Product Packaging Reveals About Retail” by Joe Pinsker (December 6th, 2017) is a must-read for anyone selling product online or in-store. It is an interview with Lisa Pierce, editor of Packaging Digest.
Highlights of the Article
- On the internet, images of the product, not the packaging, are shown so the design of the package is less important.
- To counter the above, the design of the package may not be import to the sale online, but it is important for resale. The initial impression the package makes sets the stage for the brand.
- The complexity of the package should reflect the overall quality of the product. For example, a pair of $10 earbuds doesn’t need packaging as elaborate as for a $65 pair. This holds true whether the product is sold online or in-store.
- If a product is small and is sold in-store, it needs packaging for “billboarding” the brand.
- In-store there may be no salespeople, so the package has to act as a “silent salesperson” and provide information that persuades the customer.
- Packaging is one of the only things that differentiates brands on-shelf.
Are Brands Embracing Plain-Vanilla Packaging?
Having read the article cited above previous to shopping for a tablet, imagine my surprise when I picked up this package at Best Buy. If there wasn’t a display, I wouldn’t have been able to tell the products apart. The package seemed to be designed for a warehouse, not a store shelf. This Samsung Galaxy Tab A package is simple, but there is nothing elegant or memorable about it. In fact, it gave the impression of being generic.
I was buying this product as a gift, and as such, part of the value of the product is the packaging. Often a package will give a good overview of the product features, contents of the box and compatibilities. This package doesn’t give a memorable first impression. Additionally, the Samsung Tablet isn’t inexpensive, and the packaging certainly didn’t make it feel like a premium product. Where is the voice of the brand in this package?
Are Retailers Helping to Kill the Brand In-store and Online?
If a brand has enough money, they can showcase their products in a branded section. What if you are a less-recognized brand with less cash, but you have a great product that is competitively priced and feature rich? Such a brand wants to stand apart from the competition. Our agency was hired to design a package for just such a product. We went through our process of doing an audit of the category. We took pictures in-store and determined the colors and priority of messaging that would set this product apart. We made renderings of the package and showed how it would be viewed on-shelf. The retail buyer literally took everything we designed to make the product stand out and made it blend in with the competitors. (It was interesting to note that the retailer’s private label product stood out very well on-shelf.)
What about online? Every product, regardless of brand, is displayed in exactly the same way. There may be videos supplied by the brand, but they might be below the viewable content. There are branded areas on some retailers’ sites, but this costs money and doesn’t really provide a unique experience for the brand. It is up to the buyer to scroll through the product choices and select a product. It all comes down to looking at product reviews, competitive pricing and product features, then maybe brands are a consideration.
What Can Brands Do?
Below are some strategies brands can use to make sure they stand out in-store and online:
- Define your brand personality and make sure it is expressed in everything thing you design for the product.
- Hire and train brand advocates.
- Create a relationship with your customers outside of the retail experience on social media.
- Interact with customers but don’t intrude upon them.
- Understand your customer’s own path-to-purchase.