Research shows that more consumers are narrowing or making product decisions way before they enter a store, with more exploration as well as more purchasing happening online. Shopping online offers consumers endless new choices, making it much harder for retail brands to build long-term relationships with them. Digital discovery is now more important than ever for reaching retailers as well as consumers, as is evident from the success of ABInBev Brazil Bees.
The design process for packaging solutions should evolve to ensure an initial focus on the discovery assets required to engage these digital-first customers. Putting digital-first up-front in the design process, rather than having it as an after-thought, can decrease the cost and reduce the risk of product development and omni-channel launch. Features such as virtual try-ons, ingredient stories, dynamic pricing and enhanced experience are common features in digital-first brands such as L’Oreal to RightRice, spanning the gamut of beauty to food & beverage.
Most obviously, the viability of packaging solutions depends on whether they will work well in digital marketplaces, so you’d better get that right from the start.
Packaging solutions also need to work on social media platforms and with the influencers who dominate there. How well will the solution work in unboxing videos by influencers? In their videos of using the product? In their reviews? (In beauty, reviews from @nyane or @huda can make or break a product.) Packaging can even be literally a central part of the social media campaign such as Chipolte’s lid flip challenge.
Immersive product experiences, such as 3D and video assets, should also be developed as an intrinsic component of the packaging solution, rather than be developed afterwards as a marketing add-on. For example, the liquor brand Otaca has an NFC-enabled label that allows reordering with a tap of the bottle.
Focusing on digital streams and digital assets is also an opportunity to attract and retain consumers who want hyper-personalization. CAD, long understood as an acronym for computer-aided design, now also can be understood as consumer-aided design: for instance, Nike by You has driven engagement and order volume for both footwear and sportswear. With digital, there are more and more opportunities for packaging as well as products to be personalized.
Indeed, the lines between virtual packaging and virtual product, and even between virtual packaging and physical product, can get blurry. Are Fortnite skins and cosmetics next-generation packaging, or products in their own right, or both? Or consider Gucci’s Vault, it’s “experimental concept space,” which is itself a destination experience. As consumers spend more time in digital worlds such as Meta, it may become more important to have digital twins not just for apparel, but for a much wider range of physical products and services.