In 2021, we look forward to seeing better things coming up, and ecommerce packaging is no exception. When it comes to the outer package of our ordered items, it is pretty much the same design everywhere:
This is about to change as we look forward to packaging innovations that will help brands distinguish themselves from their competitors. In this article, I am going to cover some of the hot and happening trends in ecommerce packaging that will inspire you to make even your item package a USP. Small businesses can make the most out of these trends as the bigger ones might be already using them. Below infographics show the potential growth in the ecommerce markets in the upcoming days with no major player focusing solely on the packaging industry:
Dive in deeper to explore the rising trends in the ecommerce packaging industry that small businesses can encash:
#1 Minimalist Packaging Design
Minimalism has become one of the major trends in all spheres of design, ranging from websites to physical products, with the packaging being one of the latest additions to it. It also turns out to be a good idea from the financial point of view as minimalist printing designs are comparatively less complex, and it is cheaper. Below is an example from Dollar Shave Club, a brand renowned for its innovative marketing:
Here’s another innovative example from Amazon that has captured my attention as the online retail giant came up with Amazon StoryBoxes:
This gives the customers a strong reason to have a look at the otherwise boring brown cardboard boxes. It also gives Amazon an opportunity to get sellers onboard with the huge number of people ordering from its platform that includes business owners, marketers, and potential startup founders. I find this an incredible ecommerce packaging strategy as it helps reach out to prospects with zero additional costs. Having said that, I find that the customers will also find this packaging interesting as they find themselves contributing to such stories by simply choosing to buy from Amazon!
Minimal packaging is convenient as the customers don’t need to dig through multiple layers of packaging. Instead of making the packaging so beautiful that one admires it as much as the product is a smarter strategy inspired by none other than Apple:
The ecommerce packaging market is expected to grow at 14. 59% CAGR between 2020-25 and touch $61. 55 billion in 2025.
#2 Digital Printing-Based Packaging Design
CMYK printing is still doing a great job for the print media industry, but online retailers are feeling the need to make a transition to digital print. The quality of digital print and printing all colors in one pass make it one of the must-haves for brands seeking decent finish. Digital Print can help businesses display their products in a realistic manner and make use of every square inch on the package to communicate their brand values. Here’s an excellent example of using digital printing, again by Apple:
Online selling is hugely dependent on branding since the customer never walks-in your store. Digital printing will become one of the major trends in 2021 and the years ahead as it gives an opportunity to separate you from other sellers and add value to the aesthetics of the shipped item.
#3 Gradient Packaging Design
Gradients are one of the old contenders of the packaging design trends, and I am confident that many brands will resurrect them in the upcoming days. The modern printing tech and minimalist-inspired gradient designs look extremely good, and they help brands sprinkle some persona on their product’s packaging. Instagram flaunts the gradient and blurred color scheme on its logo and inside the app, making it popular among the new generation shoppers:
Humans are visual creatures, and a study even confirms that the human brain can differentiate between colors and shapes independently while identifying objects. Gradient packaging can provide a different aesthetic feel as distinguishing the two can be tricky at times.
Our mind processes images 60,000 times faster than text. 90% of the information on the human mind is images.
Here are some examples of using gradients for packaging designs:
This handbag design combines both white minimalist design with the gradients, and it looks fabulous on boxes as well:
#4 Customized Packaging Design
Many companies prefer experimenting with the packaging to make it functional or aid marketing in previously unseen ways. Customized packaging acts as the perfect solution for such businesses, and the waterproof Sony Walkman headphones that came in a bottle filled with water is the most iconic example of doing so:
You don’t always need to literally demonstrate the product’s functionalities. Sometimes, being creative with the overall presentation like in the case of these earphones from Panasonic.
Customized ecommerce packaging can become a booming trend, provided it targets the right customer base. Making functional packaging and making provisions for features like preventing pandemic transmissions will go a long way in establishing brand identity in the future. In other cases, making minor changes in design to accommodate marketing activity-related changes also does the job for online retailers.
#5 Sustainability Focused Material For Packaging Design
As fossil fuels enter their ‘end game’ sequence, businesses have started the migration towards alternatives, and it’s all about sustainability this time. This translates equally for the ecommerce packaging trends in 2021. Ecommerce giant Amazon had announced their commitment towards eco-friendly packaging in 2017. By 2021, ecommerce sales are expected to touch USD 4.5 billion globally. Cardboards are a popular choice, but concerns over deforestation make them less attractive in general. They continue to be available in large volumes and at competitive pricing, making them a prime choice in the foreseeable future.
Bioplastics made from plant-derived materials, biodegradable plastics, fiber-based materials are among the other alternatives that can gain larger traction. However, this isn’t limited to the packaging materials exclusively, as inks used on the packaging too comes under the sustainability drive. Soy-based inks, eco-solvent inks, and UV inks are probed as a replacement to the current inks, posing a hazard to the environment upon disposal as well as to the human beings coming in direct contact.
Lastly, the ecommerce stores are also looking forward to replacing glue being used currently with protein glues, dextrins, starch glues, and natural latex-based glues. All in all, the conventional technology life cycles and material life cycles are coming to an end, giving us an opportunity to make a transition to solutions that bring higher sustainability. This means that the next technology, product, and material life cycles will be considerably longer, they will give ROI for a longer timespan, and they will be easy on the planet.
#6 Packaging With Invisible Barcodes
Since the barcodes made their debut in 1974, it has become universal across global supply chains. However, they have caused challenges, especially for smaller products like the Wrigley’s chewing gum that used them for the first time. They squeezed the space available for marketing, and the black and white zebra fashioned stripes look weird in many packaging designs.
However, Digimarc Corporation came up with invisible barcodes that can be printed all over the packaging material. Thus, you can scan the product from any surface, easing the work for retailers. This works exceptionally well for the ecommerce industry as warehousing companies and shippers could work faster with added convenience. One of the setbacks for this innovation is the lack of acceptance in the overall supply chain since investing in new scanners isn’t feasible for all participants. Also, the chances of all participants vamping up support for such barcodes in their order management system and shipping management system is limited. Since many distributors and logistics companies carry out operations on large scales, they can upgrade to invisible barcodes.
As a customer, the first layer of interaction with a product is the packaging and with unboxing becoming a part of the user experience, packaging becomes as important as the product. Use every square inch available to curate an exclusive brand identity that defines your brand’s culture and outlook towards its products.
I have included some of the most iconic examples of ecommerce packaging in this blog, and I would like to bring one fact to your attention: Making small changes like the Amazon StoryBox can work extremely well for smaller businesses as they have more intimate relationships with their consumers. I hope you find this article insightful and that it helps you up to your packaging game in 2021.
- Resource 1: Invisible Barcode and Packaging — interpack Packaging Fair
- Resource 2: Materials and Coatings That Reduce Surface Transmission of Bacteria and Viruses | Architect Magazine
- Resource 3: E-Commerce trends and the packaging sector — interpack
- Resource 4: What Is Trending in eCommerce Packaging Design? (eventige.com)
- Resource 5: 10 Key Trends Impacting Your Ecommerce Packaging Strategy Now (tricorbraun.com)
- Article 1: All In One Guide To Barcodes: Benefits, Types And Use Cases Included (orderhive.com)
- Article 2: A Guide To Using Shipping Labels For Your Online Store
- Article 3: Improve your e-commerce packaging to get repeat customers
- Article 4: How Do Monthly Subscription Companies Do Packaging?
- Article 5: International Shipping 101: Guidelines, Best Practices and Tips
Neel is a creative who's always ready to lay his hands on anything that is innovative and captures masses. He is currently working with Orderhive. Apart from technology and business practices, he drools over psychology, history, and cinematography. You can find him on hiking trips, talking over anything from alien belief systems to 90's cartoon shows.
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