SalesTech Star

How Can E-Commerce Brands Take on Amazon’s D2C Initiatives with Packaging Science

As Amazon expands its D2C offering, how can e-commerce brands use their packaging science to challenge the industry giants

Amazon’s expansion into the direct-to-consumer (D2C) space speaks to a paradigm shift underway in the world of commerce. Whilst it’s never been easier to reach your customer, it’s never been harder to keep their attention.

With a Kitewheel report last year showcasing the increasing number of touchpoints in the customer journey, and McKinsey reporting on the woes of big brands who are failing to keep up with today’s multichannel, multi-touchpoint world, there’s a clear opportunity for D2C brands to challenge the might of incumbents. Startups like Dollar Shave Club, Soylent and The Honest Company are proving this to be true.

So how do they do this?

While it goes without saying that a seamless online experience – from the point of browsing to checkout – is essential (if the buying experience isn’t made easy, no customer will come back to your store), the only physical touchpoint that reaches the customer, minus the product, is the packaging it comes in.

E-commerce brands need to make sure they are using their packaging as a selling point and another way to connect with their customers. They need to think strategically about the impression they want to make, starting with the unboxing experience.

Unboxing Your Brand to Take on Amazon

With only one chance to make a first impression, and with product packaging being the first thing customers see, it’s important to design a memorable unboxing experience for customers that enhances your brand’s reputation.

It’s not just us who think so. In fact unboxing videos, in which YouTubers unbox newly purchased goods to the excitement of their followers, have experienced unprecedented popularity and now constitute one of the many strange genres on YouTube – perhaps due to their surprisingly therapeutic nature. Influencers are privy to the traffic that unboxing videos attract, and brands have caught onto the opportunity it brings as a valuable marketing channel to expand their reach and engagement with consumers.

This doesn’t mean your packaging needs to be over the top – indeed, the minimalist packaging of mattress brand Casper, or contact lens brand Waldo’s is a powerful marker of their respective brand identities. And when listing examples of flawless packaging experience, we need to look no further than the kings of minimalist packaging branding – Apple.

Adding a Personal Touch

It’s not just the external packaging that influences customer engagement. How your product is presented – from placement to material and design to any added accessories – is equally important.

Brands are well aware of the importance of going the extra mile in product design and user experience, however often fall short when it comes to packaging design. Whether it’s adding a premium element such as gold embossing to packaging or writing strategically placed copy that aligns with the brand’s messaging, the extra touches show that you care and have thought about the customer on the receiving end.

Dollar Shave Club knows this well, that’s why they include an ‘official member card’ with every box of razors they provide. This drives customer loyalty by making the consumer part of a community.

Offering free samples or including thank you notes are also good ways to do this. For example, Birchbox keeps their customers delighted by including a surprise treat in every monthly box they ship. Fashion tech accessory brand HEX saw great success when they supplied a personalized, handwritten thank you note to 13,000 customers, as a result attracting international media attention and encouraging huge levels of organic social engagement from their delighted customers.

Taking Advantage of the Technology Against Amazon’s D2C Offering

When you think of packaging, technology may be the last thing that springs to mind, but brands can take advantage of what they have at hand – notably, the QR codes placed on packages. QR codes have up until now been treated as purely functional barcodes required to register and track orders, when in fact they can also be used to communicate a brand’s story and values.

Let’s say you’re proud to be a sustainable brand and for every box created, a tree is planted somewhere around the globe.  You can link the QR code to a landing page that tells the customer more about your brand’s sustainability efforts and the impact it’s had so far. Suddenly a simple barcode has become a useful tool for communicating your company’s corporate social responsibility program.

And it doesn’t stop at two-dimensional content – brands can also link QR codes to augmented reality content. As our attention spans continue to wane, it’s become more important for brands to engage customers through fully immersive experiences – whether through interactive instructions for using the product or a fun game (depending on what’s most relevant for the brand). AR also allows brands to update their content, messaging, design and promotional offers to ensure its always relevant.

While Amazon is making waves in the D2C space and potentially stealing a lot of market share from smaller brands, it’s never been more important to factor in the valuable role that packaging plays. Packaging – when done right – should both reflect a company’s values and make the customer feel special. The brands who do this best, regardless of their size or brand awareness, will win points with customers and in turn be able to grow a loyal fan-base.