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Why You Need Custom Shipping Boxes and How to Get Started

By Read Time: 9 min.

Consumers love opening delivery boxes from their favorite companies. But a bland cardboard box is a disappointment, especially from a premium brand.

Many e-commerce retailers fail to take advantage of custom shipping boxes that delight customers and keep them coming back for more. These brands underestimate the thrill that comes with receiving something special. Your custom packaging should deliver a "wow" factor, even if it's delivered in an over box.

Apple is famous for its meticulous designs. Chewy sends bags of dog food in boxes customized with paw prints. Dollar Shave Club reinforces its sassy and sustainable brand image with recyclable packaging for razor blades. Should your digitally native vertical brand (DNVB) or established fashion brand consider custom packaging? Why not put the power of custom packing to work for your brand?

In this post, we'll look at how custom packaging boxes help brands build better relationships and how you can get started.

Are custom packaging boxes really that important?

More than 90,000 people search for "unboxing" videos on YouTube every month. Check out the #unboxing hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. People love to watch other people take items out of boxes. If the packaging sparks joy, it becomes part of the story. With a custom box, you can turn every delivery into Christmas morning.

Consumers notice packaging. 39% of consumers surveyed recently said they often buy a product due to new or different packaging. Brand owners feel the same way, with 80% agreeing that packaging attributes influence their brand's value. Custom packaging helps engage with the most desirable customers. Premium shoppers, those who spend $200 or more per month, value custom packaging design.

For DNVBs and e-commerce channels of traditional brands, product packaging is one of the few available touchpoints. In those first few seconds, create a moment of truth with the customer. Branded packaging is a way to keep the consumers' attention. The product must be delivered in a package; why not make the package work for you? It's exclusive real estate that's relatively inexpensive to occupy.

While it's important to provide an unboxing experience worthy of Instagram, the box must still do its job. The product must arrive safely and fit for its intended use. Consumers are keen to be informed about sustainability issues with custom packaging; e.g., is the packaging recyclable, is the information card embedded with wildflower seeds that can be planted? The packaging must also flow with your fulfillment system, minimizing extra handling, costs and potential damage.

Memorable custom packaging transforms mere customers into brand influencers. They will promote your brand on social media and in real life, drawing new customers and creating deeper relationships with existing users.

Custom Packaging Success Stories

The delivery experience is one of the few touchpoints available to digital-only merchants. The brand story should begin with the online presence threaded throughout ordering, checkout and shipping reminders. Companies that curate and connect the entire process have seen the most return from their efforts.

Packaging that builds relationships can overcome customer churn — one of the critical challenges for online retailers. Building customer loyalty is a marathon, not a sprint.

Here's a look at some companies that have set consumer expectations for custom shipping boxes.

Allbirds

One of the leaders in customized delivery experience, Allbirds delivers eco-friendly shoes in environmentally sound packaging. Allbirds has curated every step of the process, from inks to shipping labels to shoe inserts to the holes in the box for carrying it home. It's a deeply engaging experience that customers won't soon forget. With every pair of shoes delivered, Allbirds reminds customers why they care about the environment.

Birchbox

Birchbox was one of the first subscription boxes to go mainstream in 2010, and the colorful, regularly changing packaging was part of the reason. The boxes are so sturdy that customers keep them long after the beauty product samples are long gone. Of course, customers love the products and service. But Birchbox built its business on making a memorable first impression.

Bombas

A few pairs of socks arrive in an intricately branded resealable flexible bag from Bombas. Larger quantities come in a similarly branded box. The eye-catching design creates a visual pop, even though it's only one-color printing. Packaging makes getting socks in the mail an experience that customers look forward to.

Haus

Haus ships handcrafted aperitifs in branded corrugated boxes. The logo also adorns the glass bottles. A simple newsprint insert tells the company's story and gives tips on enjoying the product. Opening the box and sharing the drinks with friends is all part of the experience.

TrunkClub

An offshoot of retailer Nordstrom, TrunkClub takes branding seriously, designing custom printed boxes that resemble a trunk with a handle. Apparel items are delivered to customers to try on at home. It's a unique but related experience with the Nordstrom brand. It elevates the relationship beyond a generic corrugated box or clothes stuffed into plastic bags.

Rhoback

A simple sealable bag is elevated into a brand icon for Rhoback performance apparel. The bags are emblazoned with the logo of a Rhodesian Ridgeback, an African dog breed that inspired the brand's "Crave Activity" tag line. The bags protect clothing in transit and support the brand's emphasis on clothing crafted for an active lifestyle.

Melin

Hat company Melin uses branded boxes and bags to protect the premium headware. The understated, elegant design reflects the company's devotion to craftsmanship. Melin sees a hat as a billboard, and the packaging strategy reflects that ethos.

If your brand is working with a fulfillment partner, you'll want to consult with them to develop your custom packaging strategy for maximum impact in a cost-efficient operation.

Considerations for Custom Packaging

Custom packaging doesn't stop with a logo on the box. You can also add your brand influence through custom packaging boxes with logos, sizes and configurations, branding, inserts and interior materials.

Boxes

Start with the box. Print graphics and logos to connect the box with your online presence for a consistent branding image. If you use recycled boxes, inks or other materials, make sure the box tells the story.

With advanced printing techniques, you can effectively transform corrugated packaging to look like stone, wood, grass or other materials. Don't settle for boring.

Segment boxes by product type, location or other characteristics. A shipping box for cat food could be printed with graphics that turn it into a playhouse for the pet.

Another box consideration is size. You can design custom boxes to meet the parcel carriers' dimensional shipping rates, which could result in significant savings. Consult with a fulfillment specialist to understand the possible savings through deep knowledge of parcel pricing rules.

Packaging Materials

Void fill materials such as tissue paper, airbags or bubble wrap can be customized as well. Let recipients know what to do with the material, such as recycling or disposing of it in the trash.

Of course, the packing materials must protect the product inside the box. And they must withstand the rigors of the packing station.

Inserts

Use inserts to convey instructions, the brand story, return policies and other vital information. Also, promote related products, offer discounts and enrollment in loyalty programs. Again, tell your brand's unique story and let users know how to dispose of the material in an environmentally conscious way.

Tape

Don't overlook any point of contact between the consumer and the box. Something as simple as packing tape can reinforce the logo and branding.

Extras

Early subscription boxes were famous for adding extras to each shipment. That boosted the "wow" factor and helped retain clients who loved the thrill of getting a secret treat in each box. You can add samples of related products or throw in an inexpensive accessory. If the order is delayed or has some other problem, an extra item can help salvage the relationship. Offer shipping deals for repeat customers, such as a lower threshold for free shipping perhaps.

Personalization

A handwritten personal note is meaningful. Even a brief "Thank You" with a smiley face creates a connection with an individual representing your company. If there's been some previous contact, mention the support phone call or a chatbot interaction. Notice if they're a returning customer. Small personal gestures can cut through the marketing noise.

How to Get Started with Custom Packaging

There are two avenues to incorporate custom boxes and materials into your supply chain: in-house and outsourced.

In-House Fulfillment

If your company fulfills orders directly, you can start using custom packaging at any time. Consult with custom box companies to print logos and other messaging for the boxes and packing materials. The in-house staff must be prepared to manage the complexities of fulfillment, including any personalization of boxes, such as samples or inserts, and following the brand guidelines.

Outsourced Fulfillment

Partner with a third-party logistics provider or fulfillment provider to manage your fulfillment. Many DNVBs and traditional retailers expanding their e-commerce platforms rely on a provider to quickly scale to meet demand. Using a provider with multiple locations allows shippers to speed up delivery without incurring higher costs from the parcel carriers. Next-day delivery in a custom box creates an unforgettable brand experience.

Warehouse Anywhere is an experienced e-commerce fulfillment provider with a proven ability to work with brands that have custom packaging and branded shipping boxes. We adhere to brand instructions and standards so that each package will thrill the customer without exception. Our national network provides convenient locations to forward-position inventory closer to the customer in major metro areas like Atlanta, Chicago and Las Vegas instead of industrial parks in rural towns. Our plans are scalable in response to shippers' needs.

How much does custom packaging typically cost?

The price of custom packaging varies widely depending on your strategy. A printed plastic bag could cost as little as three cents each. A specialized premium box with custom die cuts, bespoke colors and coatings could run $30 or more, depending on volume. That's one of the secrets: there can be significant price breaks for volume orders. There's a high cost for setup, and each unit spreads the expense.

Depending on volumes and your strategy, you can order custom-printed boxes in standard sizes relatively inexpensively. For example, FedEx currently offers 500 9-inch by 6-inch by 2-inch boxes for $1.48, with prices as low as $1.10 for higher quantities.

To go to the next level, work with graphic designers and packaging consultants to create bespoke items to bring your brand to life.

While it's difficult to attribute a specific ROI to custom packing, the proof is evident in improved customer re-order and retention rates. It's well known that retaining a current customer is much more cost-effective than attracting new ones.

With custom shipping boxes, your brand can link the post-purchase experience with the excitement of the buying decision. Consumers await each online order with anticipation, and customized packaging adds to the thrill.

Of course, even the most stunning unboxing experience won't overcome problems with the shipment. Customers will be disappointed with an incorrect order, damaged items or late arrival without notice. The custom box is the bow on top of a seamless shopping experience.

Custom shipping boxes and packaging distinguishes your brand from undifferentiated online sellers. It's a smart way to connect with online shoppers and create a crowd of influencers for your brand.

Contact us today for advice on getting started with custom shipping boxes or for more information on our e-commerce fulfillment solutions.



Disclaimer: All product and company names are the registered trademarks of their original owners. The use of any trade name or trademark is for identification and reference purposes only and does not imply any association with the trademark holder of their product brand. Rhoback® is a registered trademark of Rhoback, LLC. and Melin® is a registered trademark of Melin, LLC. They are not affiliated, associated, authorized, sponsored, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with Warehouse Anywhere or this website.

About the Author

Steve Syverson | Warehouse Anywhere

Steve Syverson

Steve Syverson is a critical inventory logistics expert who works with omni-channel retailers to optimize e-commerce fulfillment strategies across multiple platforms and marketplaces.

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