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Printed ecommerce boxes: Branding ideas for packaging

Jay Daggar: Last Updated 17th February 2022
Posted In: Guides & Advice | Increase Sales xx 31631

The Importance of Branding

How can branded ecommerce packaging impact your business?

Packaging is now so much more than just a box. It has become an important branding tool. And ecommerce boxes are no exception.

In fact, the explosion in unboxing videos mean that if your parcels arrive looking tatty, tired or even just failing to excite, then you could be missing out on a huge amount of free publicity or, worse still, find negative reviews are posted about you online.

As such, it is widely recognised that for a wide range of sectors, products and markets, using printed ecommerce boxes is now almost the default.

Saying that, it is branding opportunity that still requires a large amount of attention to detail. Many brands invest significant sums in making sure the experience their customer receives lives up to – and even exceeds – expectations.

Quick Reference / Contents

01: First Impressions Count

Importance of first impressions

As you are likely to have heard again and again, first impressions count.

A range of studies have indicated that people will make their minds up about individuals anywhere between 3 and 10 seconds. And once this opinion has been formed, it is nigh on impossible change, even with refutable evidence.

The same can be said for your brand, product and packaging.

This means it is critical that your packaging not only allows safe transit of your ecommerce orders, but also surprises and delights your customers.

But your packaging can go so much further than this.

Ecommerce loyalty
Your packaging is one of the key tactics you can use to drive ongoing loyalty amongst your customer base

It can help position your brand as the premium (or indeed budget) choice in your market. It can help with brand awareness. It can act as free advertising on its journey through various sorting and distribution networks. It can be used as gift packaging. It can be used for aiding returns.

In essence, your packaging is, now more than ever, a reflection of your brand and business.

A simple example of printed ecommerce packaging

A common example given of how packaging can help to position a brand is with handbags.

Well-known names such as Gucci, Chloe, Valentino and others have a hard earned reputation for quality and luxury. This is reflected in their desirability – and price tags.

But imagine if you were to order one of these items (or indeed any high value item – it could be any fashion, footwear, high end appliance, device etc.) and it was delivered in plain poly mailer bag.

To say you would feel disappointed would be an understatement.

To say it would cheapen the brand, and affect your perception of it, as well as your likelihood of purchasing from them again, would also be true.

Even being supplied in plain brown cardboard box would be unlikely to get the pulses racing.

The reason that these high end brands can charge a premium for the products is that their audience and customers are excited by the prospect of purchasing a new product. The whole experience from buying online to the unboxing of the product must be seamless and, ultimately, make them feel good.

The packaging you choose to use plays a crucial role in this.

02: Print Options

Main print and branding options

This could be seen as an extreme example, but if you are serious about establishing a brand, or growing a business, market positioning is hugely important.

It may be that you are budget offering. It may be that you are pushing yourself as the eco-friendly option. The retro choice. The tried and trusted brand. Even the futuristic cutting edge option.

Regardless of how you see your brand and products – and more importantly how you want the public and target customers to see it – your packaging plays an important role.

As such, there are a number of different options for printed ecommerce boxes, all of which can help reach, influence and delight the consumers you are targeting.

As a summary, these are as follows:

  • Bold colours
  • Full colour
  • White inks
  • White out
  • Spot laminating
  • Internal print
  • Use of kraft cardboard
  • Single colour logos
  • Tessellating patterns
  • Labels
  • Combinations

Please continue reading for further information and examples of how these could be suitable for your business.

03: Bold Colours

Capture attention and aid brand recall

It may sound obvious – and it probably is – but the use of bold colours can really make for a striking, impactful appearance when your customers receive their order.

Perhaps even more importantly however is to make sure that the colours chosen reflect your brand.

Whilst they may not have to strictly follow the exact colours you use elsewhere (as your logo can still be used to tie it all together), if it is completely different from what your customers have seen before, it will inhibit recall and potentially seem a bit jarring.

Bold coloured ecommerce packs
Bold coloured ecommerce packaging can really make a lasting impression on your customers, whilst also giving the wow factor

Large blocks of colours with contrasting text and logos can work particularly well, and shouldn’t be difficult or too costly to achieve either.

The key points to remember are that as well as creating aesthetic appeal, any print of this nature should be on brand.

04: Full Colour

Detailed graphics and imagery

Whilst usually reserved for retail packaging applications – where appearance of your product packaging can make or break its success in crowded retail spaces – some high end brands are beginning to use full colour graphics and designs on their printed ecommerce boxes.

Full colour print can, as with bold blocks of colour, create an impactful appearance – crucial when aiming to foster engagement and loyalty with your customers.

However, it can also be used for more than this, being useful for conveying instructions, example uses, returns info and even upselling accessories or other products in the range.

Full colour printed packaging
Whilst more frequently used in retail applications, full colour printed packaging can be ideal for high end or premium products sold online

The drawback of full colour print however is the cost, although 4 colour flexographic techniques can produce good results (although still some way short of lithographic or high end digital print).

Care must also be taken that the print is not damaged during transit – as certain designs can actually lead to minor damage appearing more prominent.

05: White Inks

Popular, contemporary trend

A popular trend is the use of white inks.

Whilst many packaging companies are not able to print in white, for those that can it creates a unique and interesting appearance which can help your brand stand out.

It can convey a sense of luxury and help with positioning as a premium brand, yet can also be used on brown corrugated material (kraft) to create an eco-friendly appearance.

It can of course be used with other colours to create some interesting and unique effects.

White ink printed ecommerce packaging
White ink - particularly on brown cardboard - is a growing trend in a wide number of ecommerce markets

06: White Out

High contrast and impact

Kind of like a mixture of using bold colours and white inks, “white-out” refers to the process of printing a large block of colour but excluding the logo.

This allows the white – or in some cases brown – corrugated material to show, creating a pleasing visual appearance.

It works particularly well with black inks and bold colours, and is also a good way of incorporating both a brand hue and contrasting logo whilst only using one colour.

White out print method
White out print - whereby white logos and text are set on a dark background - can create a striking visual appearance

07: Spot Laminating

Subtle way to add a touch of class

Another way to create a striking (and fairly unique) appearance is to use spot lamination.

Often used on glossy brochures and book sleeves to add areas of high gloss to otherwise matt surfaces, a similar technique can be used on corrugated packaging too.

This can involve picking out specific colours – effectively used in conjunction with other printing techniques – or can even be used in isolation to create a very subtle, high end effect.

Spot laminating packaging
Spot laminating packaging can be used for adding extra punch and impact to traditional print, or for creating a range of unique effects

08: Internal Print

Surprise customers upon opening

Whilst many companies will look at printing a logo on the outside of their printed ecommerce packaging, doing just this can be missing a trick.

Many of the most striking unboxing packaging experiences look fairly innocuous on first appearance – a plain brown box. But upon opening, the customer is greeted with bright colours, logos and information about their purchase.

Internal print
Internal print for your ecommerce packaging is arguably the most impactful, creating a very strong un-boxing experience

This is also a very suitable technique for shipping high cost items – where putting a logo on the outside could alert potential thieves to the value of the contents.

All of the various techniques listed previously bold colours, white inks and so on, can be used successfully on the inside of the box too.

09: Use of Kraft Cardboard

Organic, natural appearance

Whilst mentioned above when discussing white inks, and not strictly a printing technique in its own right, unusual and even spectacular results can be achieved using brown kraft corrugated material for the print substrate.

Providing a natural, organic looking appearance, it accentuates the recyclability of the packaging and helps position your brand as one which is environmentally responsible.

It can also provide a point of difference from your competition, with this technique still being used quite rarely in certain markets / sectors.

Printing onto kraft cardboard
Printing onto craft cardboard is the favoured method for conveying a brands environmental credentials

10: Single Colour Logos

Simple, easy to recall branding

Even if you cannot afford to do something more advanced – or your target market / brand positioning do not warrant it – it is nearly always a good idea to print a simple company logo somewhere on the box.

This effectively provides free advertising throughout its journey to your customer, where it may be handled by 4 or more people.

Single colour print
Single colour print is a low cost yet effective way to enhance your brand awareness and visual appearance

It may also be kept for other uses in your customers or workplace, where it may again be seen by other people.

Choosing a single colour print also means that you can safety and handling information that can help in getting your parcel delivered in one piece.

11: Tessellating Patterns

Step and repeat designs

Taking this a step further, if you are looking to create a unique look but are limited in terms of costs, a tessellating or repeating pattern can often create a surprisingly striking appearance.

Covering either the inside or outside of the box (or both), it not only creates interest but also hammers home your branding!

Make sure however the logos aren’t too small or positioned too close together however, as this can make the box look fussy and affect brand recall too.

Tesselating patterns
Also commonly referred to as "step and repeat", tessellating logos or patterns can create a unique, interesting appearance

12: Labels

Low cost and flexible option

If printing isn’t an option due to cost, then getting some custom labels produced and affixing them to your packaging can be a good, low cost substitute.

Whilst not as striking as directly printing the box, a premium feel can still be achieved, and it can also allow you to use the same box for different products / brands / customers as appropriate.

Labels can also double up as a security measure and sealing device too.

13: Combinations

Combining different print options

Finally, don’t be afraid to consider combinations of the above options.

Some of the most beautiful packaging designs combine various colours, techniques and ideas to create truly breath-taking appearance that your customers are certain to remember.

Just remember to stay on brand and don’t overdo it – or you run the risk of ruining the aesthetics. Sometimes, less really is more.

Combinations for printed ecommerce boxes
Don't be afraid to experiment with combinations of the techniques highlighted in this guide - or speak with a member of the team at GWP for advice and guidance

In Summary

The benefits of printed ecommerce packaging

It is worth saying again – first impressions count.

Make sure that the first impression your give your customers is that you take pride in your brand and products, and that you value their custom.

Doing this with printed ecommerce boxes can help to drive repeat business, customer loyalty, and ultimately a profitable long term relationships for your business.

Further Reading...

About the Author

Jay Daggar, GWP Packaging Sales Manager

Jay Daggar

Sales Manager | GWP Packaging

Jay joined GWP Packaging in mid-2008 before becoming Sales Manager in 2011, meaning he has worked for GWP for over 10 years. [Read full bio…]

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