Subscription Packaging: How to Wow Box after Box in the E-commerce World

This is a guest post by Pate Gustafson. Gustafson serves as the Executive Vice President at JohnsByrne. JohnsByrne Company, a custom packaging and print solutions provider, has been a leader in the print and packaging industry since 1959 and partners with major brands in health & beauty, food and beverage, and consumer products. 

The subscription business has been growing exponentially since its inception. According to research from Hitwise, the subscription business has grown nine-fold from 2014 to 2018. Today, consumers can subscribe to a variety of subscription services including beauty, household goods, pet products, baby products, and more.

Many of these brands exist only online as e-commerce businesses. They have no physical store where consumers can experience their products. Packaging for these brands is more than just a mere way to deliver their products. It’s the vehicle to express the brand DNA and inspire customer loyalty.

How do subscription box companies create and maintain a loyal consumer base through packaging? If you’ve been following some of the latest packaging trends, there are 4 ways to really engage the consumer, box after box in the subscription model.

1.Vary the Design of Your Packaging

One of the most important things to keep in mind when creating a subscription box is to vary the design of the package from box to box. With a subscription service, the customer is going to be receiving a box on a regular basis. Sending the exact same box can become mundane after a while.

While the business needs to make sure that the most important parts of the design, such as branding, is consistent, vary the design of the package slightly to build some anticipation on behalf of the consumer. This might include changing the font slightly, altering small aspects of the color palette, or adding seasonal elements.

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Consider altering the structural design of the product, for example, straying from the traditional rectangle “shoe-box” structure and utilizing a structure such as octagonal, spherical, or cylindrical. Create a more memorable experience through the utilization of exotic substrates, unique coatings, and more to create certain textures and feelings. Finish it off with embossing, hot or cold foiling, unique die-cutting, or anything your brand desires. It’s all about making your packaging multi-dimensional and experiential.

You can also create additional excitement by creating themed packaging relevant to holidays or seasonal trends. By varying the design of the package, the consumer will become excited with anticipation when the box arrives.

  1. Make the Boxes Environmentally Friendly

Many consumers investing in subscription boxes and packaging are members of the younger generation. This generation is environmentally aware and will reward brands with their loyalty if the brand is environmentally friendly. With 73% of millennials stating they’ll pay more for sustainable goods, taking advantage of this point when designing subscription boxes is a must.

Construct your box out of environmentally friendly, sustainably sourced materials and make sure that this is evident on the package. An added benefit to your brand to using these materials is that they are often lighter than their alternatives, leading to lower shipping costs.

You can also go the extra mile by providing thorough instructions on how to recycle your packaging properly so that the box finds its way into the correct recycling stream. Studies show that nearly 50% of consumers simply throw away items if they are unsure of their recyclability. By making recycling instructions clear on your packaging, you can remove any questions that arise for the consumer. Communicate what recycling stream your packaging should be directed to – for example, Styrofoam cannot go into regular single stream recycling (curb recycling) and need to be recycled separately.

In addition to that, keep the recycling stream in mind within the design process and make sure your packaging is not only recyclable but easy to recycle. Make sure every component of your packaging is recyclable and opt for easy-to-recycle materials such as cardboard. By doing this, your actions will genuinely impact the health of the environment.

  1. Use Nostalgia to Trigger an Emotional Response

The idea behind anticipation and subscription boxes is to create an emotional response in the consumer. If a subscription box properly incorporates emotion and creates anticipation, a consumer can feel tied to the brand, helping to win their loyalty. One of the popular ways to trigger an emotional response is to create a feeling of nostalgia. Other companies, particularly those in the food and beverage industry, have gone with a retro look and shifted their designs to reflect product looks from the 1980s and 1990s.

This can be done with subscription boxes as well. Designing a package with elements from the targeted consumer’s past in mind can be a great way to generate familiarity with the consumer, generating a feeling of trust. Furthermore, this is more likely to land the box a spot on the consumer’s social media account which can help with marketing.

  1. Think About the Reveal of the Product

Another way to build anticipation is to design the box in a way the leads up to a big reveal. The box needs to be designed around the consumer and the unboxing process. If the box contains multiple items, try to unveil the product in stages. When the consumer opens the box, it should reveal the items one at a time. This unboxing process will lengthen the feeling of excitement on behalf of the consumer, bringing a sense of joy.

In order to assess your box’s unboxing capabilities, it’s best to test the process firsthand so you thoroughly understand the emotions your customer will be feeling. We recommend filming yourself going about the unboxing process so you can truly immerse yourself in the experience. By doing this you’ll be able to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and screen for any possible negative factors within the process.

An enticing unboxing process will make it more likely that the consumer will continue to receive subscription boxes in the future. Furthermore, an exciting reveal process is also suitable for social media accounts. In 2014 alone, there were over 20 million searches for “unboxing” and that number is only growing. In addition to this, it’s reported that 13% of consumers have taken a selfie with a product, making it even more important for your packaging to be selfie-ready.

By putting effort into your unboxing design, you’ll create more exposure for the brand, potentially earning subscriptions from the consumer’s friends and followers. Design the box to wow during the reveal and it could end up in a social media video.

Winning Consumer Loyalty with Solid Packaging

Shopping is no longer something to check off the list but has become an immersive experience for consumers. Designing a box with the consumer in mind is a fantastic way to win the loyalty of the consumer and maintain an edge over the competition. For subscription services and e-commerce retailers, packaging is everything. Ensuring that packaging is well thought of and consistent with consumer expectations will lead to great brand equity and long-term customers.

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