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11 branding ideas for printed eCommerce boxes and packaging

Jay Daggar: Last Updated 16th February 2024
Posted In: Guides and Advice | Increase Sales xx 31631

The importance of branding

How can branded eCommerce packaging impact your business?

For any business selling online, your packaging (and printed eCommerce boxes in particular) is now so much more than just a box. As well as ensuring safe transit of customer orders your business’ packaging is an important branding tool.

Using printed eCommerce boxes has a significant impact on your online shop’s success. Packaging can even form the crucial “first impression” of your brand. As a result, eCommerce businesses increasingly use several innovative design trends on their packs. These trends include white inks, printing only box internals, spot laminating, and step and repeat patterns.

The explosion in unboxing videos also means that if your parcels arrive looking worn, tired or even just failing to excite, you could miss out on a considerable amount of free publicity or, worse still, find negative reviews posted about you online.

In fact, printed eCommerce boxes are now the default for a wide range of sectors, products and markets.

However, it is a branding opportunity that requires significant attention to detail. Many brands invest substantial sums in ensuring the experience their customer receives lives up to – and even exceeds – expectations.

Quick reference / contents

First impressions count

The importance of first impressions

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

A range of studies has indicated that people make up their minds about individuals in between 3 and 10 seconds. And once this opinion forms, it is almost impossible to change (even with refutable evidence).

The same is true for your brand, product and packaging.

This behaviour means it is critical that your packaging not only allows safe transit of your eCommerce orders but surprises and delights your customers too.

But your packaging can go so much further than this.

A female online shopper with laptop and credit card
Your packaging is one of the key tactics you can use to drive ongoing loyalty among your customer base

It can help position your brand as your market’s premium (or budget) choice. It can help with brand awareness. It can act as free advertising on its journey through various sorting and distribution networks. It can act as gift packaging. It can help with 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 typical 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. Their desirability – and price tags – reflect this.

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

To say you would feel disappointed would be an understatement.

It would also be true to say it would cheapen the brand and affect your perception of it and your likelihood of purchasing from them again.

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

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

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

eCommerce packaging print options

The main print and branding methods available

The handbag example is perhaps 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 several different options for printed eCommerce boxes, all of which can help reach, influence and delight the consumers you are targeting.

In 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 suit your business.

Bold colours

Capture attention and aid brand recall

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

Perhaps even more importantly, however, is to ensure that the chosen colours reflect your brand.

Your chosen colours may not strictly follow the exact colours you use elsewhere, as you can use your logo to tie the design together. If it is entirely different from what your customers have seen previously, though, it can inhibit recall and potentially seem a bit jarring.

A bright orange eCommerce box with white logos
Bold coloured eCommerce packaging can make a lasting impression on your customers whilst also giving the wow factor

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

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

Full colour

Detailed graphics and imagery

Full-colour printing is commonplace in retail packaging applications – where the appearance of your product packaging can make or break its success in crowded retail spaces. However, 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, helping convey instructions, showing example uses, returns info, and even upselling accessories or other products in the range.

A black eCommerce box with full colour icons and branding
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 is the cost. And although four colour flexographic techniques can produce surprisingly good results, these are still short of lithographic or high-end digital print.

Brands must also ensure that the print is not damaged during transit – as specific colours or designs can lead to minor damage appearing more prominent.

White inks

A popular, contemporary trend

A popular trend is the use of white inks.

Whilst many packaging companies cannot print in white, for those that can, it creates a unique and unusual appearance that can help your brand stand out.

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


A brown cardboard box with simple white branding
White ink - particularly on brown cardboard - is a growing trend in a wide number of eCommerce markets


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 method allows the white – or in some cases brown – corrugated material to show, creating a pleasing visual appearance. This technique also works with a block colour underlay (allowing the brighter colour underneath to show through).

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

A white box using black ink to create white logos and graphics
White-out print - whereby white logos and text stand out against a dark background - can create a striking visual appearance

Spot laminating

A subtle way to add a touch of class

Another way to create a striking (and relatively 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 is possible on corrugated packaging.

Spot laminating 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.

A brown kraft cardboard box with a spot varnish added to create branding and graphics
Spot laminating packaging can be used for adding extra punch and impact to traditional print or for creating a range of unique effects

Internal print

Surprise customers upon opening

Whilst many companies will consider printing a logo on the outside surfaces of their printed eCommerce packaging, doing just this can be missing a trick.

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

Internally printed eCommerce boxes are the fastest growing trend in this space.

The inside of an eCommerce box that has green and black printing
Internal print for your eCommerce packaging is arguably the most impactful, creating a powerful un-boxing experience

Internal print 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 the techniques listed previously (e.g. bold colours, white inks and so on) can be used successfully on the inside of the box too.

Use of Kraft cardboard

Organic, natural appearance

Whilst 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, using kraft material 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 rarely used in several markets and sectors.

A brown cardboard box with multi coloured printing
Printing onto kraft cardboard is the favoured method for conveying a brand's environmental credentials

Single colour logos

Simple, easy-to-recall branding

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

Adding even a simple logo effectively provides free advertising throughout your packaging’s journey to your customer (along which four or more people may handle it).

A plain cardboard box with black logos and text
A single-colour print is a low-cost yet effective way to enhance your brand awareness and visual appearance

The eCommerce packaging you send may be kept for other uses in your customer’s home or workplace too, where other people may also see it.

Choosing a single colour print also means the option of including any safety and handling information that can help get your parcel delivered in one piece.

Tessellating patterns

Step and repeat designs

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

Covering the inside, outside, or both surfaces of your box creates interest and hammers home your branding!

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

A black box with multiple logos
Also commonly referred to as "step and repeat", tessellating logos or patterns can create a unique, interesting appearance


Low cost and flexible option

If printing isn’t an option due to price, 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, your business can still achieve a premium feel. It can also allow you to use the same packaging for different products, brands or customers.

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


Combining different print options

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

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

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

The inside of an eCommerce box featuring a striking green and white print
Don't be afraid to experiment with combinations of techniques highlighted - or speak with 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 you give your customers is that you take pride in your brand and products and value their custom.

Doing this with printed eCommerce boxes can help to drive repeat business, customer loyalty, and ultimately a profitable long-term relationship 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 ten years. [Read full bio]

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