Seize the Day! Five Ideas on E-tail and Retail Packaging

Posted on Jul 25, 2019 by


Author Note: This is a follow up to my recent post, “The E-tail vs. Retail Packaging Challenge.”

When opportunity knocks, there is wisdom in rising to the occasion and seizing it. We are working in a period of time where there are huge opportunities and creative challenges for packaging. With the rapid growth of e-commerce, packaging has to increasingly evolve in structure, design and environmental compatibility to successfully meet the dichotomous needs of retail and e-tail environments.

The packaging duality facing creative and design teams is at the heart of the packaging challenge – over 90% of consumers still prefer to shop for grocery, personal care, and over-the-counter products in brick and mortar stores; at the same time, there has also been a 15% increase in online non-grocery shopping*. Products and packaging uniquely created for D2C or online sales are expanding sales channels to challenge the demands from physical storefronts. So clearly, when it comes to packaging – this is not an either-or environment, it is more and more a “both” situation – and the truth is that packaging has become more important than ever. Consider the following:

1. The Brand: The brand is the thing – unequivocally. Packaging for retail and e-tail is the physical representation of your brand and it cannot be stated strongly enough – consistency and continuity of your brand must be central to the creation of any flexible, versatile, and effective packaging system and marketing application.

2. Excitement: Products that exist primarily on shelf can suffer from brand fatigue when compared to new product entries into D2C and online channels that seized the opportunity to uncover and clearly understand the how’s, why’s, and ways products are used and marketed – for example, launching new or updated flavor profiles and packaging structure in more intuitive ranges. Brands in the retail environment need to challenge their status quo and upgrade existing packaging to reignite excitement and renew and enhance their relevance.

3. Convenience: Consumers want products that make life easier, as witnessed by the increase of “on the go”, “ready to eat” and single-serve packaging. With 24/7 access to products via many e-commerce channels, consumers no longer have to settle for limited options found in local stores. E-commerce makes anything accessible, expanding the competitive field for consumer awareness. Convenience of use must also address how easily your product sustains interest and differentiation as well as ensure products are shipped directly to your door with no physical damage or impairment, wherever your door exists.

4. Specialization: Ironically, in spite of the drive for convenience, companies are working hard to present premium, limited edition or subscription product packaging that is highly adapted to specific consumer tastes and trends. In other words, targeted packaging that validates consumer perception that they are more fashionable, sophisticated or affluent, or that confirms manufacturers are listening to and acting upon consumer needs and wants. This specialized packaging provides the opportunity to communicate a more robust brand story verbally, visually, and tactilely – and because of lower print and production runs, can utilize more elaborate or complementary structures and sophisticated printing techniques to reinforce brand perception. 

5. Sustainability/Transparency: More than ever consumers want reassurance that product content is made with minimal processing and additives, sourced from companies with clean and humane handling practices, and environmentally compatible. They are equally keen to embrace brands with minimal but appropriate packaging that is sustainably sourced, recyclable and/or reusable as a part of the brand story on packaging communication. This can seem contradictory with the trend of customization or with the increased spend resulting from packaging necessary to accommodate all channels of product distribution.

In the end, what remains critical is that the creative process for package design retains a comprehensive view of brand and visual design as opposed to creating a single application of a design that does not anticipate translation to the mediums it may or will be represented on. If viewed as a comprehensive whole, it can help identify potential issues that may impact branding and/or the visual design before they occur. Packaging teams can no longer avoid dealing with the conflicting demands of rapidly evolving retail and e-commerce environments as consumer packaging becomes divided into conjoined but differing working segments – each requiring its own specifications.

Whether you are just entering or already active in the packaging design arena, take your blinders off and seize the opportunity to rethink and adjust your packaging to provide optimal impact in all ways the product has (or could have) contact with the consumer.

If you need help with your product packaging to ensure it is effective in both e-tail and retail, contact us at 920-886-7727 or  Throughout our 60 plus years of supporting customers with consumer brands large and small, we apply our experience and expertise to the entire process to create efficient and effective solutions. 

*Sources:; Field Agent, Vol. III, Groceries 2.0; Internet Retailer