Lost In The (Virtual) Supermarket

As the pace of life continues to accelerate, people are looking for simpler ways to tackle their to-do lists. Online shopping caters directly to this growing consumer desire for convenience and speed, in some cases completely eliminating the need for in-store shopping. This change from a physical to a virtual shopping experience is strikingly similar to the evolution from the iconic vinyl albums of yesteryear, to today’s music download and streaming.

But unlike today’s music, which can be delivered digitally, most consumer products available for online sales are still physical. This may explain why brands and online retailers like Amazon are not adapting quickly to an enhanced digital presentation of their products, nor are they capitalizing on potential approaches to product packaging to create stronger online engagement.

Here are four untapped opportunities for brands and retailers to boost their impact online and create new consumer experiences around their packaging: 



1. I Can See Clearly Now

Since the typical online shopping trip generally takes the form of a keyword search that yields a page full of possible choices, it’s important to drive the conversation using simple, clear product imagery. Think iconic, clean up your package, removing unnecessary claims and legal copy from your product hero shots. This information can live in secondary images or even in the page text itself. Focus on the core drivers – brand, product type, flavor/variant. Make the first click simple.

2. Don’t Stop ’Til They Get Enough

Every product feature has the ability to house multiple images, but many products fill that space with more photos of the same product. Some smart players choose to populate this space with information graphics about their products, videos to bring the experience to life, or even cross-sell marketing that reinforces options within their own brand portfolio. In addition, the best players are ensuring that the key benefits and brand tone of voice are reflected clearly in each product description; Skipping the romance copy is walking away from a chance to seal the deal.

3. New Kid In Town

Online shopping can create challenges for new brands entering the marketplace. One way to break through and be heard is to let others tell the story. Focusing energy and dollars on giving consumers easy access to brand champions through reviews and ratings can influence the consumer’s comfort level with a new or existing product. This tactic creates the ongoing need for brands to honestly and transparently engage with bloggers, as well as the responsibility to reach out to dissatisfied consumers to address any questions or issues.

4. Just The Two Of Us

Once the product is in the consumer’s hands, there is a tremendous opportunity to tell the brand story in a compelling way. How can the package and the experience of interacting with it create a lasting connection? Include marketing or promotional materials, make careful choices on secondary packaging and don’t forget to tell the brand story on the package and everything that surrounds it. Are you a premium product? Then deliver a premium moment when the consumer receives the product. Eco-friendly brand? Reinforce your credibility by minimizing weight and materials. Don’t cheat yourself by just throwing it in an Amazon box and calling it a day.

Whether you’re a brand manager, package designer or an entrepreneur who wears many hats, it is imperative to think about how your brand should express itself throughout the online shopping experience. Sure, you may have little control over how your entire brand appears on an online retailer’s site, but you do have control over product imagery, tone of voice and the use of reviews and ratings.

In addition, considering how consumers engage with your products once they are home opens up constant opportunities to drive relevance and affinity. Taking some cues from the ever evolving music industry can help you create a brand story online that maximizes the medium rather than maligning the change of venue.

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