Many young companies are so focused on designing the perfect product that they completely forget about the packaging. This is a common business mistake, as firms learn when they have a great product but no way to get it on a retailer’s shelf and into customer’s homes.
Most entrepreneurs think product packaging only needs to look good, but there are actually a lot of functional applications to consider. Storage, transport, environmental impact, and the needs of retail buyers should all be part of your calculus when ordering packaging supplies. Therefore, you should expect to spend time and money making sure that your product packaging sets your product up for success.
The Ideal Shape
For example, packaging that is too bulky, oddly shaped, or otherwise takes up too much shelf real estate will have a hard time interesting retail buyers no matter how good the underlying product is. Neil Westwood, the founder of Magic Whiteboard who secured a £100,000 investment from the Dragon’s Den in 2008, notes that his original package included a handle to use horizontally. He was constantly asked why it was not instead designed to be held vertically, allowing it to take up much less shelf space without any loss in functionality.
The best way to imagine what your product might look like on store shelves is to actually put it there. According to Westwood, he once asked the manager of his local Sainsbury’s if he could place his product on the store’s shelves to see what it would look like. The manager agreed, allowing Westwood to get a realistic sense of what it might look like. All managers may not be as accommodating, but there is nothing wrong with asking.
Generally speaking, your product packaging should be light and compact for easy transport and storage while maximizing its visual appeal to entice consumers. Professional designers can help you meet these needs for a fee, but their services may not fit into every startup’s budget.
Miranda Ballard, co-founder of http://rtagencies.ca/, notes that her company’s entire advertising budget is spent on packaging supplies. When they were just starting out, she approached a design company and told them that she was light on cash. The company agreed to help her out regardless, giving her access to professional printers and designers whose expertise has been “vital” to her company’s growth.
The stuff your packaging is comprised of is frequently just as important as the product inside of it. Cost, functionality, durability, and environmental impact are all worthy of consideration when shopping for packaging supplies.
For example, the food industry has strict regulations on packaging for both shelf life and sterility. Ballard found that vacuum-sealing her company’s burgers was the best way to meet these requirements, but they lacked visual appeal. She now individually seals burgers and then places a pair into a cardboard box with her company’s logo and other information. The result is a package system that both stores her product safely while boosting its consumer appeal.
Rhys Humm encountered a similar problem when he founded Holywell Malvern Spring Water a few years ago. He wanted to position his product as a high-end brand, meaning that he needed premium packaging to reinforce the product’s quality. He thus opted for glass bottles instead of the plastic ones favored by his competitors.
Glass offers a visual appeal that plastic simply cannot, helping Humm’s product stand out on a crowded shelf. Glass is also superior from a purity perspective, as elements of plastic can contaminate the water it is storing over time. This gives Humm’s water a shelf life of two years versus six months in a plastic container. Finally, glass is more recyclable than plastic, allowing Humm to position himself as a “green” brand.
The downside to the advantages above is that glass is considerably more expensive to use. A standard 750ml glass bottle costs 16 cents to produce while an equivalent plastic bottle is only 4 cents. Glass is fragile and therefore more expensive to transport as well, a problem that has become more acute with Humm’s exports to China.
Some Packaging Pointers
The best packaging reflects the product inside, such as Humm’s premium glass containers to hold premium water. The design business calls this being “brand-centric,” as consumers are left with no doubt about your product’s values.
It’s also important to design your packaging with your targeted customer in mind. It is tempting to try to appeal to everyone, but the approach ultimately appeals to no one at all. Instead, ensure that your product packaging “talks” to your customer from the retail shelf to ultimate use. Interior packaging can also help secure repeat customers, so don’t neglect it!
Standard sizes and shapes can help you reduce production costs as well. For example, round bottles have more space between them than square cartons, while fragile packages cannot be safely stacked.
Finally, spend some time thinking about how your product will travel. Protective packaging may seem like a useless expense now, but it is usually more cost-effective to protect existing goods than replace damaged ones. Therefore, it needs to be factored into your workflow from the start.