Designing a Better Consumer Opening Experience
For the past few years, the growing trend of unboxing videos on YouTube has become a powerful force in consumer marketing. From children’s toys to luxury goods to food unboxing and tastings, this movement is stomping out the idea that e-commerce would bring about the end of innovative package design. Instead, the digital economy and the power of consumer reviews are shining a new light on the importance of packaging—specifically the opening experience.
To help brands leverage the latest materials and methods to design a more engaging opening experience, we spoke with Mark Beamesderfer, packaging services director, Metsä Board Americas Corporation. At PACK EXPO International (Oct. 14-17; McCormick Place, Chicago), Beamesderfer presented an Innovation Stage session titled “Reconsidering material, design and process for sustainable packaging” on Sunday, Oct. 14 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the North Hall Innovation Stage (Booth N-4585). The presentation covered the latest technologies from Metsä Board, including its e-commerce luxury box. It also examined ways that brands can maintain their image and provide a positive opening experience for the customer while keeping products safe in transport.
What are the key ingredients for a positive opening experience?
There are many ingredients for a positive opening experience. Firstly, the package must be both functional and engaging to the consumer. It starts with a package that is structurally secure enough to protect its contents throughout the supply chain, while also being safe and easy for the consumer to open. Upon opening, consumers also appreciate positive reinforcement for their purchases. Adding a message to inside flaps that praises the consumer’s support for a brand that utilizes sustainable choices is one example.
As more and more shopping is performed online, brands must rethink traditional packaging. For some products, packaging designed to capture consumer attention at the point of sale is giving way to designs optimized for an e-commerce supply chain. Rather than providing a retail package tossed inside an oversized carton wrapped in bubble wrap, some imagination is necessary to foster excitement. Adding a feature that creatively displays a product produces a much more positive opening experience.
In other cases, adding delays in the opening experience—for retail and e-commerce packaging—creates excitement, suspense and even the element of surprise. This could be a simple wrapping with tissue paper secured with an elegant label. The incorporation of unique materials and textures also contribute to a memorable and sharable unboxing experience.
Many brands aim to optimize cost savings and sustainability without jeopardizing product safety. How can they do this while still supporting a positive opening experience?
One solution that cuts material and costs—and doesn’t have to sacrifice product safety—is avoiding excessive packaging. Packaging can be protective, engaging and streamlined without extra bulk. No consumer is delighted when they open a package, look inside, and half of the content is dunnage or complete air due to the inclusion of a spacer. This is deceptive and leaves the consumer feeling cheated.
Other safeguarding measures include tamper-evident designs that communicate clearly to the consumer if a package has been compromised, but again, striking a balance between structural integrity of the package and openability is paramount.
What packaging technologies make striking a balance possible for brands?
Lightweight folding boxboard technology is one solution. Some paperboard, like material from Metsä Board, is up to 30 percent lighter than competitive grades while providing the same—if not better—stiffness and structural integrity for the package. This translates to either significant packaging weight and fiber reduction. It also provides an opportunity for brands to design additional functionality into the package for the same weight as the existing package—all while using the packaging world’s only 100 percent renewable resource.
Fiber technology and injected fiber molding capabilities are also advancing rapidly, allowing for even creativity in creating unique forms that are completely recyclable, compostable and renewable solution. Also, advancements in plant-based plastics are beginning to bring these environmentally friendly alternatives to price points that are more economically feasible for use in consumer packaging.
From a different perspective, design software and structural simulation software just keep getting better and better. These technologies enable designers and researchers to develop and test structural designs well before samples are ever cut on a table. There is simulation software on the market today that can test the performance of a package in a variety of environmental conditions. Some software can also measure and map the stresses occurring during the usability of the package. This all aids in designing consumer-friendly packaging and, by extension, better opening experiences.
PACK EXPO International, co-located with Healthcare Packaging EXPO, is North America’s largest packaging event in 2018, bringing together 50,000 attendees and 2,500 exhibitors. To learn more about the event visit packexpointernational.com.