Most packaging is designed to look attractive on store shelves but we all know that consumers aren't just going to brick-and-mortar retailers anymore for their shopping needs. An increasing number of customers are visiting online stores nowadays and the physical retail is declining significantly.
Will this tendency influence the look and feel of package designs? With the brand no longer having to stand out in a sea of competitive packages, will design stay a significant factor online as well?
Those who believe that online and retail packaging design should be identical, argue that it is more important to have up-to-date pictures on the website. Those people claim that this imagery helps drive the purchase, not different packaging design. It was further noted that using the same packaging leads to brand consistency and operational efficiency.
On the other hand, those who believe primary packaging will differ for online and retail sales in the future, are also convinced that a company moving from B2B to B2C might change its strategy, given the different type of recipient. This suggests that a shift in e-commerce volume might also cause a company to reconsider its practice of identical packaging.
Another reason for using different packaging is the reduced need of elaborated packaging in online sales, compared to a retail environment. Once the product has been shipped, the sale is accomplished; it is not necessary to further attract the buyer.
Anne Marie Mohan, senior editor at Packaging World, argues that the product packaging of the future will have to be designed to grab consumer attention in a different way. Currently, physical retailers compete for what she calls the "First Moment of Truth" – that initial several-second period in which package design can win over a customer.
Thanks to the Internet, however, that concept has now morphed into the "Zero Moment of Truth." According to Mohan, this is a term coined by Google to describe how consumers will research products online before deciding whether to buy them.
This means that online retail is driven by customer reviews more than we think. However, that doesn't mean that package design plays no role at all anymore. Instead, companies will use their labels to reinforce brand loyalty after that first purchase.
"You will never be able to get away from the graphics, because that's still what people are going to recognize," Madeline Haydon, founder and CEO of Nutpods (a company which produces dairy-free creamers made from almonds and coconuts), told Packaging World. "You want the product to look nice in their refrigerator or on the shelf, so that they remember and have an affinity for your brand."