Understanding Key Differences In Retail & E-Commerce Packaging

Product packaging is complex. From the design elements of a candy bar wrapper to the shipping box delivered right to your doorstep, so much consideration must be placed into the design, materials and how best to serve the intended functions. Generally, these functions vary based on the type of packaging, such as retail or e-commerce. Companies of all sizes need to understand the key differences in these two types and how they can potentially impact the bottom line.

To help, we’ll go over what these two classifications entail and a few of the best practices of each that every brand should be implementing.

Let’s start with retail packaging. Expected to be visually appealing yet still protective of the product, this type refers to packaging design and materials for products you find on store shelves. Examples include the aforementioned candy bar wrapper or a box of cereal with colorful cartoon characters. It can also incorporate display packaging for the product, such as the hooks for hanging displays or a tray to optimize shelf placement for smaller items.

The elements used in the design are intentional and meant to catch the attention of shoppers. Typical features include product images, brand colors, important differentiators between competitors and other aspects of strategic labeling. The power of such elements should not be underestimated. According to a recent survey, 72% of American consumers say their purchasing decisions are directly influenced by product packaging design.

A lot of thought must go into this level of packaging since it’s also the first line of product defense. Sturdy materials are needed to ensure the product can withstand being handled, transported along conveyor belts and otherwise moved from the warehouse to the store shelf. In other words, not only should retail packaging “sell” the product, but it has to keep it intact as well.

Now that you have a good understanding of retail packaging, let’s go over how e-commerce differs. Essentially, this type refers to the design and materials used for packaging that protect the product during the shipping process. Examples include corrugated cardboard boxes and lightweight plastic mailing bags, also known as poly mailers. E-commerce packaging must be made with sturdy materials because it travels along conveyor belts to transport trucks and all the way to the customer’s door, rain or shine.

Although visual appeal is not the priority, it must still be considered carefully. Certain branding elements and marketing techniques are capable of enhancing the customer’s “unboxing experience” and furthering other brand initiatives. More and more companies are realizing just how impactful a memorable unboxing experience can be in reinforcing the brand and enticing repeat business.

Hopefully, this brief overview has helped you understand just how these two often confused packaging terms differ. If you want to continue exploring the differences in e-commerce and retail packaging, please see the accompanying resource from QC Conveyors.

Guide created by QC Conveyors, a leading provider in automation conveyors

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