May 2, 2018

Can Your Packaging Design Survive the World of Amazon Distribution?

I love Amazon. Most of the time.

The last time I ordered from them, I was buying a lovely glass beer stein with a metal inlay—the perfect gift for a friend of mine. When the UPS driver pulled up, he hopped off the truck and jogged up the stairs. He was in a rush and not-so-gently dropped the box at my doorstep. I winced as I heard the box thump against the concrete.   

When I opened it, the stein was cracked down the side. Naturally, I first blamed UPS and the driver, but there was a nagging feeling in the back of my mind.

Who was really at fault, here? UPS? Amazon? Or was it the brand itself?

You’re Responsible for Transit

Let me clarify: In this case, the fault almost certainly rested with the UPS driver who launched my package like Pete Weber on a hot streak. (Bowling joke. Sorry.)

Yet I couldn’t help but wonder if a different brand would have gotten me the package in one piece. Maybe a competitor’s packaging would have been designed to better absorb shock and keep the fragile glass safer.

In short, the in-transit damage made me question the brand promise of the retailer. And as it turns out, this mindset is pretty common. Consider the results of a survey by Harris Poll and Sealed Air:

– 66 percent of consumers believe a product’s packaging reflects the feelings of the brand.

– 59 percent agree that both retailer and distributor are responsible for damages to products ordered online.

Smarter Packaging Is the Answer

The problem comes down to the customer experience. Packaging design plays a different role in e-commerce than it does on the retail shelf; while the goal of retail packaging is to stand out and show off your product’s best features, e-commerce or Amazon packaging design is all about the customer’s experience, from website to doorstep.

Even though it appears to be a customer-centric problem, it’s your brand that’s on the hook. The above survey found that when customers receive damaged products, 58 percent wouldn’t buy from that retailer again—or at the very least, would consider other retailers first.

So, how do brands survive in a world of third-party distribution?

The answer, of course, is smarter packaging! Consider the following and ask yourself if your company has each of these issues lined out:

– Are your products typically ordered solo or in conjunction with other items in your store?

– Does your company understand the technical, shipping constraints of the product design? In other words, does it play well with others? Or is it in such a bizarre shape that stockers need excessive cushions to support the product on top of its native packaging?

– How many different supply chain transition points does each product go through? The more handoffs, the more likely breakage will occur.

These can be tough questions to address, but they form the foundation of a solid Amazon packaging design strategy that can survive any type of shipping environment. Do yourself (and your customers!) a favor by working through these issues. If you don’t, you’ll just have to trust that your package will be safe. And it will be.

Most of the time.


by Kevin Smith
SmashBrand helps brands create, optimize, and launch successful products, services, and customer experiences. Our data-driven process is the key to accelerating sales and minimizing risks.

We use a strategic combination of market research, design, and consumer testing to solve complex brand problems more effectively, create differentiation, and forge more meaningful connections with customers.

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