Your product’s packaging can make or break a sale. If your packaging is engaging, polished, and attractive, it’s an easy way to differentiate yourself from others on the shelf and earn that treasured space in their shopping carts.
But if the packaging isn’t engaging, there’s a good chance that shoppers will never give it a second look, causing your well-intentioned design to fall into the sea of background noise and advertising static that we block out as we shop.
Engaging customers with packaging isn’t as difficult of a goal as it sounds—provided you approach your packaging design with a plan.
1. Keep Things Consistent
Consistency in design is important, of course. You know this already, so we won’t belabor the point. Make sure the design elements you include are consistent with your established brand.
- Keep packaging language similar to the tone and style you use on your website and other marketing materials.
- Play into recognizable brand colors, logos, images, or other visual elements that customers associate with your brand.
- Reinforce the company goals that define your brand; for example, if your company is committed to sustainability, make a note on the package that the product is made of recycled or post-consumer materials.
Consider consistency the minimum standard for your packaging design. While not every consumer will spot brand inconsistencies, many of them will—and if they do, you’ll lose some of the valuable brand equity that you worked so hard to build in your other channels.
2. Incorporate Engaging Sensory Elements
Let’s face it—shopping can be boring. You know it, we know it, and the customers know it.
But as a packaging designer, it’s your job to make shoppers forget what they know. Your goal is to energize the shopping experience and get them excited about the idea of purchasing your product.
An easy way to do this is to engage their senses. Visual elements are a given, but does your product have any other unique features? What’s it made of? Does it feature a nice aroma or other sensory information that you can leverage?
Look for these opportunities in your products and design your packaging to support them.
As a packaging designer, it’s your goal to give customers as much information as possible about the product. Visual elements are a given, but you can really push your design to the next level by incorporating elements that active a shopper’s senses.
Include cut-out windows that let them feel the product’s material. If there are any interactive features that the user could try, leave those exposed and let them experiment. If scents are a product feature (think candles or room fresheners) make sure it’s easy for shoppers to smell without compromising the integrity of the package.
The better your customers understand your product, the more likely it is that you’ll bust through that pesky last-minute purchasing resistance.
3. Create a Design Narrative Across Packaging Elements
Like the other aspects of your marketing, your packaging design should take shoppers on a journey. You’ll want to place your primary value propositions front and center on the packaging face, of course, but you’ll also want to support those key selling points with additional details throughout your packaging layout.
For example, consider something as simple as a box of granola bars. The box will feature the brand name, logo, and image prominently on the box’s face, along with other key selling points, like 100% natural or gluten-free.
But what about the other sides? What information should be included?
To get a feel for this, you need to consider how users examine packaging. Most pick up a box and look at the front first. From there, they’ll look at the sides, top, and even the bottom to see what other details may be pertinent to the buying decision. Incorporate more details across each side in order of relevance to the consumer. In the case of our granola bars:
- Front: Product image, logo, brand name
- Side A: Nutrition label and ingredient list
- Side B: Brand story, history, or testimonials
- Top/Bottom: Ancillary details, brand information, or other suggestions, such as recipes
The idea is to increase their time spent interacting with the product while sharing vital brand details.
And here’s the thing—if customers are picking up your product and examining it, you’re halfway there. Consumers don’t examine packages and products that they have no interest in. If you’ve made it to the point where they’re holding the package, feeling the texture, and reading the copy, you’re well on your way to a purchase.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different
Above all, we suggest taking a page out of Apple’s playbook: Think different.
This famous slogan—grammatically-incorrect though it may be—represents the single biggest reason why Apple was so successful. They weren’t afraid to do things differently, and they weren’t afraid to explore new territory with their products—or the packaging that housed them.
In fact, Steve Jobs was famous for his strict regulation of each Apple product’s packaging. As a champion of the customer experience, Jobs believed that packaging design played a crucial role in a customer’s perception of the product within. There are even stories of a secret room at Apple devoted entirely to improving the customer’s unboxing experience. (Now that’s dedication to design!)
Apple wouldn’t have taken off the way it did if Jobs hadn’t walked the road less traveled, and the same can be said about your own brand.
Don’t be afraid to shake things up and go against conventional logic if you want to attract a customer’s interest. Experiment with eye-catching layouts. Ditch cheap consumer plastics and use softer textiles that stand out on the shelf. Look at what your competitors are doing and see how you can design your product to fill the niches they aren’t addressing.
Look at it another way: Common packaging design advice tells brands how to fit in, but your goal should be to stand out.
Engaging Customers With Packaging Design
In truth, the last thing shoppers want to do is stand in the aisle debating the merits of fabric softener A versus fabric softener B. Nevertheless, these product comparisons are more a matter of necessity for shoppers, and as such, it’s beneficial for everyone to make the process as engaging and interesting as possible. Keep these tips in mind and don’t be afraid to experiment.