The retail realm looks completely different from just two decades ago. It’s hard to imagine a world without ecommerce giants like Amazon, subscription delivery services, and other conveniences we take for granted now.
Stepping back, we find some interesting trends and changes in the product packaging design space that might otherwise go ignored.
How has the industry evolved from standard mailers and cartons into more custom packaging solutions with unique designs and features? What trends are on the horizon, and what can brands do to ensure their place in a competitive market right now?
Let’s begin our full run-down on retail packaging now and map the way forward for brands in search of an edge in service, experience, and success.
What Is the Retail Packaging Landscape?
A lot has changed in retail packaging recently, with critical trends reflected in survey data and market reports.
The minimum packaging strategy is insufficient as retailers compete for attention and sales. Brands must now use packaging to differentiate themselves from competitors and stand out in crowded consumer goods industries.
With the retail packaging market expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 7.2%, there’s no shortage of innovation and growth. Brands must consider packaging an integral part of product development and distribution rather than a secondary part of their logistics plan.
The good news is that retail packaging services are widespread, accessible, and affordable for brands of all sizes, from small businesses to established leaders.
Brands must consider packaging formats for individual product units in retail environments, online stores, wholesale services, big-box stores, and other distribution channels.
In other words, your packaging plan is no longer an afterthought — it goes hand-in-hand with your brand perception, reputation, and success overall.
What Are the Leading Types of Retail Packaging?
Advances in retail packaging have introduced a range of new formats, materials, and services that give products a visual advantage and improved customer experience.
Here are the most popular types of retail packaging available to brands today:
- Semi-rigid plastic and paperboard containers
- Die-cut display boxes (for in-store retail settings)
- Shrink-wrapped trays
- Branded inserts, stickers, and high-qualitybrown kraft paper to enhance the unboxing experience (particularly in ecommerce packaging)
- Folding cartons
- Flexible pouches and bags
- Glass and hard plastic containers
- Rigid and corrugated boxes
- Rigid cylinders and tins
- Eco-friendly and reusable alternatives
Each packaging format has unique features, barrier properties, child-resistant mechanisms, and different strengths and weaknesses.
When determining a packaging plan, brands must account for cost, shipping requirements, storage environments, shelf appeal, customization, and end-user experience.
With so many new formats and customization options, brands now treat packaging like any other research and development aspect.
These choices can make or break the success of a product when it reaches the market, and ongoing assessment is necessary to stay ahead of trends and consumer demands.
What Should You Look for in Retail Packaging?
Since every brand and product is unique, the packaging is never a one-fits-all decision. Let’s review the five primary considerations leading your brand to the best packaging strategy for your budget, goals, and customer satisfaction.
1. Fit, Feel, and Functionality
The three F’s are a good starting point for brands searching for optimal retail packaging for a new product. Whether a gift box, gift bag, or standard product purchased in a retail store, the fit is primary.
This means that packaging must be sized correctly in terms of dimensions and accessibility for shoppers. If custom retail packaging is too large or small, products may be warped, damaged, or fall victim to other shipping, storage, and daily use hazards.
With that said, it’s better to be safe than sorry with sizing, so a slightly larger package with more room for the product is often preferred to an unnecessarily tight fit.
When it comes to feeling, a package must be relatively easy to wield and control from the start of the supply chain journey to the place in a user’s everyday environment.
Packaging may benefit from a manageable shape and texture and should be stackable and accessible in retail and home settings.
Functionality accounts for the remainder of the hands-on properties in the retail space and the user experience. Packages should be durable enough to keep the supply chain intact yet still relatively easy to open and access for users of all ages and strength levels.
This also includes features like child-resistant mechanisms, which are required for products like cannabis, cosmetics, and chemicals.
2. Materials Matter
Brands should learn the pros and cons of standard packaging materials, including costs, weight, durability, and barrier properties such as oxidation and moisture protection.
Some materials are better suited for preserving freshness, while others must have stronger barriers to prevent damage or hazards.
Thin thermoplastics like low-density polyethylene (LDPE) are suitable for wrapped trays and the outer layers of cartons. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) provides a more rigid outer layer, making it ideal for clamshell packages and blister packs.
Paperboard and glass materials remain popular, even as more advanced formulations are made available.
Brands must research the possible pitfalls of their products in each stage of the supply chain, ensuring each unit will last the duration and ensure the safety of handlers from warehouse to retail environments and the end users.
With newer, versatile materials like Mylar and other flexible packaging solutions, brands can balance durability and extended shelf life with visual appeal, barrier properties, and an enjoyable user experience.
This is not to say that the era of cardboard boxes and plastic bags is over; however, as packaging supplies move more sustainably, alternatives will likely gain even more widespread use.
3. Spotlight on Brand Identity
The importance of brand identity has never been greater in an age of unprecedented consumer choice. And it’s not just social media marketing that can influence your branding — even the packaging boxes and merchandise bags can play a significant role.
With so many options in every vertical, shoppers seek differentiation in all aspects of branding, from visual appeal and written messages to unique packaging properties.
While ecommerce allows brands to project their identities with digital assets and online experiences, the retail environment is still primarily a packaging-first environment.
A product’s package offers a first impression and must continue to deliver value until it no longer serves its use.
This introduces a new era for brands to maximize brand impact with packaging from the inside out.
Packages must offer shelf appeal with colors, designs, and words and create a memorable experience that consumers will associate with that brand long after the point of purchase.
Be sure to dial in your brand identity and transfer the best features to the package itself, from the labels and designs to the feel and function of the product in daily use.
4. Brick & Mortar, Mail, and More
Today’s best-selling brands have mastered multichannel retail, focusing equally on retail settings, wholesale centers, ecommerce, and other distribution avenues.
Depending on these distinct environments, products may be available in different sizes and formats, where variables change based on consumer needs and expectations.
In wholesale clubs, products may require larger paperboard containers to hold many units simultaneously, while single-unit packages will likely be smaller, more protected, and secure.
For ecommerce, shipping and convenience are prime concerns, especially in verticals like apparel that utilize back-and-forth return policies or trial periods.
Consider every distribution channel when designing your packaging plan, and be sure that each package format is up to the task for maximum accessibility and user experience.
5. Regulations and Warnings
Packaging regulations have been on the rise since the introduction of the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970, with governing bodies such as the CPSC leading the way.
If your products contain any materials that could be considered hazardous to ingest or use, your shipping boxes must meet specific compliance metrics to avoid legal issues.
Regulations, such as a warning label or written disclaimer, may be simple and one-dimensional. In other cases, products may require child-resistant mechanisms like push-and-twist features to ensure the safety of children in retail settings and home environments.
Rather than risking a trial-and-error approach to these regulations, brands can partner with trusted packaging suppliers that know the legal landscape and provide protection in all facets.
Your Retail Packaging Plan Starts Now
Time to market is a crucial variable in every business venture. The sooner you can ship a quality product to your customers, the better — provided all packaging requirements are handled fully.
To get your packaging plan started, follow these three steps.
Know Your Product and Target Market
Research is the cornerstone of any winning product launch; packaging is part of your homework. Learn about the various formats and materials available, accounting for your product’s unique features and properties in each stage of its life cycle.
The more you know about your product and its pros and cons for shipping, storage, and end-user experience, the stronger your packaging solution will be.
Explore Customization and Branding Options
A custom package is necessary for today’s marketplace, so take complete control of packaging production if possible. Be specific with your package format, size, shape, branding elements, materials, and safety features to achieve an optimal finished product at checkout.
The best packaging partners will work with you each step of the way to learn about your product and develop a custom solution for every distribution channel.
Get Started With Dymapak
Dymapak is a proven leader in packaging, ensuring safe shipping, storage, user experience, and excellence in custom branding.
From specialty snacks and beauty supplies to cannabis, electronic components, and more, let Dymapak be your guide in the new frontier of retail packaging.