The flipside of people buying more stuff online is that foot traffic in brick and mortar stores has plummeted. According to global real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, physical visits in shops has more than halved since 2009. For retailers sluggish to adjust, this means all kinds of trouble. Adding insult to injury, brands are losing an important channel through which they have communicated with consumers for decades.
”If you don’t have a storefront, or if you can’t stack your products neatly or meet the visitor in person, you can’t really tell the consumer who you are”, says Fredrik Rosén, Market Strategy Director at Innventia, a Stockholm-based research institute.
Fredrik, who recently directed a report on packaging – Packaging 2020 – isn’t alone. Consultancy firm PWC believes unique and brand-defining experiences will be vital to anybody aspiring to survive the onslaught of online shopping. Virtual fitting guides and generous return policies may well be part of the solution, making shoppers more likely to shop and return. Then of course, there is packaging.
”Packaging is really all you have left”, says Fredrik Rosén. ”And that is why I think packaging will become even more important as online shopping grows.”
As the head of Stora Enso’s design studios, Jon Haag is paid to mull over questions like these. Once a graduate from the Royal Institute of Technology, Jon has spent a good part of his career in the forest industry. Before joining Stora Enso, he spearheaded the creation of Nine, a Swedish design agency.
”What I like about packaging is that you can talk to anybody about it. I can talk with my neighbour about packaging, and I can talk to my kids about packaging,” says Jon.
Having said that, he is also a firm believer that retailers now need to wake up and realise that squashing merchandise into a brown cardboard box doesn’t necessarily make for a memorable experience at the receiving end of the logistics chain.
”Shopping online, your first experience following the actual purchase is usually that of receiving an ugly, anonymous box. Then you’ll probably encounter a layer of padding material before you run into an invoice. The product you’ve waited for is the last thing you see, and all this is part of the consumer experience,” says Jon.
Perhaps a better experience makes financial sense too. Innventia has found that attractive packaging in itself actually seems to make people inclined to pay more for a product. With online retailers already paying between 100 and 500 Swedish crowns for each acquired customer (approx. between €11 and €52), investing a few extra cents in a good user experience may be a good idea. “Historically businesses have looked at packaging from a bottom line perspective, resulting in low quality solutions,” says Jon. “Now it is becoming a business driver, which means they have a lot of work ahead of them.”
Written by Jacob Bursell