3 Ways to Incorporate Custom Packaging into your Customer Retention Strategy

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When we picture a successful business, we think of one with a large customer base. But the important question is, ‘which customers?’

Acquiring new customers is all well and good, but this isn’t the best use of your resources. The most valuable sales come from those who have been supporting your brand long-term. New customers can cost up to five times more to attract than your existing customers, and the latter are also 60-70% more likely to buy your product.

The takeaway here is clear: focusing on driving repeat purchases is a far more cost-effective strategy.

But this isn’t as simple as it might sound. Customer retention is one of the biggest challenges facing brands. Super-marketplaces like Amazon and Ali Express built their massive market share through the sheer breadth of their product selections and the ease of comparing alternatives. In this climate, the age of competing through your product offerings is long gone.

In 2019, gaining an edge in your market is all about offering something that the Amazons of the world can’t match. Providing a unique and memorable customer experience is now the key to customer retention. In this article, we’ll be discussing how custom packaging boosts the customer experience, and 3 ways you can incorporate it into your retention strategy.

Why the customer experience matters

Any retail business strives to deliver a positive customer experience. This might mean ensuring an order is fulfilled within the timeframe given, or that the returns process is straightforward. In short, ensuring you don't give your customer any reason to complain about bad service.

But here’s the thing; these efforts don't create an ‘exceptional’ customer experience. They are the minimum standards your business should be achieving, not a benchmark.

Let’s test this idea. Have you ever raved to your friends about a brand being exceptional, all because they delivered your purchase when they said they would? Most likely not.

Why? Because it’s an expectation, not a value-added extra. So, it’s not something you are likely to retain customers on.

What about delivering your products in bespoke packaging, reflecting the care and attention to detail you put into your customer interactions? This is far more likely to bear fruit.

We generally return to brands who do something out of the ordinary. Something that makes the customer experience memorable. When your brand offers an experience that’s hard to find elsewhere, it’s far more likely that customers will return to shop with you. So, it’s hardly a coincidence that the customer experience is set to be the biggest brand differentiator by 2020.

Businesses often struggle with this concept, because the customer experience is hard to put a price on. It's rarely influenced by the literal pricing of products, or by the quality of the goods being sold. In fact, it’s not really about the product at all; it's about making your customer feel special through how you present it to them. Custom packaging will allow you to achieve this in spades!

Custom packaging as a value proposition

For many businesses, packaging is only thought of in practical terms i.e. protecting products and enabling them to be shipped efficiently. And this is all it will offer, so long as your packaging doesn’t represent your brand.

But when you add custom branding into the mix, packaging becomes far more than just a container for your product. It becomes a value proposition to your customer that fosters repeat purchases.

Why? Because in eCommerce, custom packaging forges another all-important touchpoint with your customer. In the context of an online shopping journey, packaging serves a different purpose than in a physical store. Instead of enticing a customer to pick a product up from the shelf, it influences consumer perceptions by adding value to an existing purchase.

According to Bouvier Kelly, over 50% of consumers say they would make more purchases from a brand which uses branded packaging, and 68% say it makes a brand seem more high-end. The bottom line? Custom packaging massively affects brand perception, helping the brand experience itself become an incentive to purchase again.

How to incorporate custom packaging into your retention strategy

  1. Branded boxes or custom tissue paper for your online orders

eCommerce is one of the most neglected channels when it comes to the delivery experience. The so-called ‘Amazonization’ of online retail (i.e. generic, unremarkable deliveries) has driven down the standard as a whole for how brands fulfil their deliveries. In other words, brown cardboard boxes are now ubiquitous. This means that customers are unlikely to associate a delivery with the brand it actually came from. Why? Because plain packaging invites no cognitive prompts. So, it's a massive missed opportunity to make that final branding statement.

There is usually a lag of up to a week or more between buying and receiving in eCommerce. This makes the moment of delivery all the more important as an opportunity for post-purchase marketing. Branded packaging elements like boxes and custom tissue paper tie your brand to the excitement and anticipation of an online purchase, making it a powerful retention strategy. It’s a sales pitch to your customer when they are at their most receptive - when their gratification is finally being fulfilled. In short, custom packaging helps to reinforce that buying from your brand was a good decision.

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Above is a brilliantly-executed example from noissue customer Have a Nice Day. Their smiley face logo is prominent across their custom tissue and stickers, which reinforces the association between attention to detail and their brand identity. Adding in little extras in the form of their custom stickers and a thank-you note helps transform the customer experience into something worth celebrating.

2. Custom packaging as visual content for your online channels

Using branded packaging as online content is a massively under-utilized retention strategy. But the value proposition of custom packaging can be communicated just as well virtually as it can in-person!

Imagine that your customer is unpacking their delivery. But they're not alone; there's a thousands of people in attendance who are also engaging with the customer experience. This is the effect custom packaging has when used with your online marketing efforts!

We’ve all heard of the ‘unboxing’ phenomenon - the trend of people posting photos and videos of themselves unpacking consumer goods. Custom packaging plays a major role here. It reinforces the desirability of the brand in question as a form of social currency. By drawing attention to the ‘exclusive’ nature of the customer experience, it instantly becomes more desirable. You have created something which is interesting and engaging - and thus something worth sharing. According to Dotcom Distribution, 40% of consumers would post images of their purchases on social media if the brand used custom or premium packaging.

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A successful retention strategy should provide engaging reminders to your existing customers of why they should come back to your brand. This image of party goods supplier Play Yaya’s beautifully packaged goods presents a concise visual pitch to their existing customers of how memorable and unique their customer experience is. So, rather than a sales pitch of a specific product, they are pitching a state of emotional gratification. As any great marketer knows, this is far more effective than pitching the virtues of the product itself.

3. Pop-up events

eCommerce retailers have a massive advantage in not having the overheads of a physical store. But this also makes offering a full brand concept to customers challenging.

Pop-up events have grown in popularity as a way for eCommerce brands to leverage the benefits of a physical presence. They allow brands to introduce themselves and their aesthetic to new audiences. But they also help to attract existing customers through promotions and limited-edition products. So, it’s a fantastic opportunity to create a memorable brand experience for your customer that will see them return in the future.

You'll want to leverage maximum branding potential, and this is where custom packaging plays a key role. Your packaging needs at a pop-up event will also be different than for your eCommerce orders. You don’t need to think so much in terms of protective packaging. Your customers will only be transporting their purchases locally. It’s all about giving your products a visual point of interest that will attract customers to interact with them!

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This store display from stationery brand Life Admin is a great example of how customised tissue paper can be used to give your products a more high-end edge!

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Because this is physical retail, you want to make it as convenient as possible for your customer to transport their purchases. Custom carrier bags help you to spread the word about your brand far further than the boundaries of where your event is taking place. Here, lifestyle brand Sightsee customize their plain paper bags with a customized stamp of their donkey logo. Paired with their custom tissue, it makes for a fun and engaging retail experience for their customers.

Customer retention is only going to grow more challenging, as more and more brands crowd out the eCommerce space. Custom packaging is a fantastic way to give your brand a real point of difference, as the delivery experience becomes increasingly standardized. By making an impact on your customer at the moment they receive their goods, you ensure that their final impression of the buying journey is a positive one. This positivity is the key to building lasting relationships which bring your customers back again and again.

About the author

Beth Owens is the Copywriter and Content Strategist at noissue. Her main areas of expertise are eCommerce retail trends, sustainability for small businesses, and the art of excellent branding. Her articles have been featured by the likes of Vend, BigCommerce, ShipStation and RetailMinded.


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