Bringing Design Thinking to B...
Over the years, she expanded her practice, Chase Design Group, to encompass all kinds of package design categories for brands like Gain laundry detergent, Nestle Coffee Mate, Mr. Clean, and Kind bars. Chase understands what works on the shelf at brick and mortar stores, and what’s working in the online shopping environment, and what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for the other. In fact, designers need to rethink the packaging experience for both environments in order for their clients to succeed.
Here Chase talks about how the game is changing in packaging for online and in-store, and how designers need to adapt and evolve, or be left out all together.
Whoever said, “The only constant is change” must have been a designer. I’ve been designing packaging and adapting to change for almost 30 years. My first packages were 12-inch album covers, which quickly became 5-inch CD covers, and finally, with the advent of the internet, music became downloadable and packaging was reduced to a digital icon. Few industries have been changed as radically by the web as the music business, but today every business is feeling the impact of the growth of online retail.
Living through the changes in the music business made me wary of complacency and aware of how quickly nimble start-ups can take advantage of new technologies to win market share. Apple Music (iTunes) and similar digital music platforms put many traditional music labels out of business by developing online technologies to showcase new artists and albums in ways that utilized the possibilities offered in the digital sphere and maximized impact and engagement with consumers in ways that were unique to online experience.
Online and in-store shopping are very different shopping environments. In-store packaging is designed to stop, hold and close in order to convert shoppers to buyers. Each package must fight for attention on a shelf of similar products and must communicate brand and benefits quickly. After decades of experience, package designers have become experts at using structure, form, materials, images and colors to break through the visual clutter and build brands in store. P&G CEO, A.G. Lafley coined the term “first moment of truth,” to describe the moment a shopper stops to examine a product. He trained his marketers to understand consumer trends and shopping behavior, and utilized techniques such as eye tracking and facial expression to optimize each package and take advantage of every opportunity to catch the attention of shoppers and get them to make the purchase. Some of these traditional skills translate into the online world, but many don’t.
Google coined the term “zero moment” to describe the moment before the in-store experience because, for years, online was seen as simply another way to advertise products and drive consumers to the store. Today, from Amazon to Instacart, online retail is changing rapidly. Many brands that used to sell primarily in stores, are seeing huge increases in online sales, and many are struggling to adapt to the demands of selling in multiple environments.Unlike music, brands that sell physical products have to find ways to take advantage of the power of online retail without walking away from their traditional retail channels—which are still years away from extinction. Many are still trying to apply brick-and-mortar thinking and are slow adapt to digital capabilities and embrace new approaches to product packaging.
Most brands still use small, low-res digital images of their in-store packaging to sell their products online. These images don’t work well in online store environments like Amazon, because they don’t capitalize on the digital and virtual potential of 3D animation, zoom, motion or sound. These brands need to take a hint from the music business and create “virtual packages” that work in the new virtual environment: packaging that takes advantage of the potential of that world while still connecting consumers to their familiar shapes, colors, and brand attributes.
The few strongest elements of a brand’s package are all that’s necessary to create recognition in the online world. The details of product and benefits no longer need to be built into a package as bursts or claims, they can be seamlessly integrated in text, animation, and even user-generated testimonials.
New brands like Warby Parker, Blue Apron and Stitch Fix are providing fresh creative models for building online brands. Because they don’t sell in traditional retail environments, they have focused their packaging on the second moment of truth, the moment when the product arrives in the consumer’s hands. They have mixed traditional package design skills with the customization and flexibility online sales provide to create truly personal “unboxing” experiences that connect emotionally with consumers. Examples like these have helped many of our clients understand the potential of building packaging that delivers something special at the second moment. For some of our clients, we are exploring ways to use simple generic packages that can be customized inexpensively to create personalized experiences for consumers.
Just as the role of packaging online differs greatly from that designed to succeed in-store, the moment when the product arrives at home has it’s own unique issues. Each environment requires its own solution to ensure the consistency of the brand story and the maximization of the shopping experience for the consumer. For many brands, the ideal solution would be three different packages, one designed for the traditional retail shopping environment, another digital package optimized for online viewing and a third designed for the moment when the product arrives in the consumer’s hands. Unfortunately, few businesses can support more than one package for any product so it will be up to designers to develop creative ways to design packaging that expresses the brand, takes advantage of each moment of interaction and makes a strong emotional connection with consumers.
After 30 years of experience, I know that change is constant and new technologies will continue to affect the way we live and shop. Online shopping is certain to grow and the need for physical packaging won’t disappear any time soon. The need to create an essential connection between brand and consumer has always been important and for many brands, packaging will continue to be one of the most important ways to make that connection.
If designers begin to regard packaging as an experience rather than a container, the lines between in-store and online begin to blur, and the possibilities for what a package can be becomes limitless. Whether the experience is physical or digital, communicating the brand and creating memorable experiences for consumers will keep package designers busy for years to come.