The continued growth of e-commerce – which reached an all-time high of more than $2 trillion worldwide last year – has changed how brands should look at the packout part of the fulfillment procedure. Once considered a basic step within the order fulfillment process (after the order is picked and before it is shipped), it now presents an opportunity for e-tailers to express their core values and influence growth. Brands who leverage this step to their benefit can more efficiently interact with first-time shoppers and improve the lifetime value of return customers.

Define Your Key Priorities

There are countless options when it comes to designing your packout experience, including shipping insert options; packaging design and type, such as poly bags or pre-made boxes; and branded or generic tape. Honing in on the most important elements for your brand will help craft your customers’ ideal unboxing experience while effectively managing costs. How you design your packing process is an extension of your brand and depicts certain messages to your customers, so these decisions should be carefully considered. Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, if simplicity is your goal, limit the amount of extras that are added to orders during the packout experience. This means minimizing the amount of inserts, packaging complexity, and other intricacies that contribute to add-ons during the packing process. Fulfillment costs will be lower with fewer touches, and the packout process will be faster… improving fulfillment speed.

Being efficient in your packout experience can also promote environmental responsibility. Research has proven that modern, eco-friendly shoppers are more likely to purchase from brands that promote sustainability. By limiting the extra amount of dunnage and inserts in your packaging, your consumers may even be willing to pay more for your product if they believe they’re contributing to a higher cause. Using biodegradable or recyclable materials can appeal to these customers, as well. An added bonus is that reducing your environmental footprint may help your business qualify for tax credits or deductions.

Is It Ready for Shipping?

Damaged items can significantly harm your company’s reputation and, ultimately, your sales. Whether the product was defective or destroyed in transit, resolving the issue and the associated costs usually fall on the seller.

To reduce this possibility, decide what is necessary to protect the product in each order you send out. Poly bags are usually fine for light apparel but fragile or heavier items typically require shipping containers that allow for added layers of protection. Always secure product with the appropriate void fill material like bubble wrap, air pillows, or paper. To determine the most appropriate methods, you should perform thorough analyses considering the size and weight of the products and material costs.

Create an Engaging, Shareworthy Experience

A premier unboxing experience can increase your brand’s image. A study conducted by Dotcom Distribution scientifically proved that opening a gift causes elevated levels of dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin in the brain. As a result, the unboxing process can elicit excitement, pleasure, and trust within your customers, if done properly.

These neurochemicals are also associated with a person’s likelihood to repeat the action and even share the experience. This aligns with the unboxing trend, where customers who record their box-opening processes and share them via sites like YouTube and Instagram can become loyal third-party brand advocates who can expand your brand’s reach. To appeal to this tendency, your packout should include a call to action that captures consumers while the elicited emotions are still fresh.

Garnering this result requires a multi-sense approach, optimizing how the package will look, feel, sound, and even smell. When designing packaging, you may want to focus on the inside of the box to not draw unwanted attention to the package before delivery.

Another opportunity to consider is showcasing seasonal changes in a fresh and unique way. For example, many companies may change the color or design theme of their shipping boxes to emphasize the holiday spirit and maximize excitement.

While branded inserts can create an upscale perception, it may be more cost-efficient to convey the same brand messaging directly on the shipping packaging itself. It’s equally important to create standard operating procedures or packout guidelines so everyone, from marketing to operations, can ensure their efforts are in line with the brand experience intentions.

Creating a strategic packout experience is a crucial aspect of your brand’s fulfillment process and ability to impact future sales and increase your customer lifetime value. Optimize the process to be cost-effective and express your brand’s key values and characteristics while also encouraging your customers to want to buy from you again. Taking the time to impress consumers with efficient and exciting packaging can create the trust and reliability necessary to reach more shoppers and make first-time customers lifelong brand advocates, significantly improving your bottom line.

s a founder and CEO of third-party logistics provider Dotcom Distribution, Maria Haggerty leads the charge toward helping retail brands achieve loyalty and return sales by acting as a catalyst for improvement. Recognizing that the e-commerce journey does not end at delivery, Dotcom guides clients in transforming lackluster packages into unboxing experiences worthy of excitement, praise, and sharing. Previously, Maria was a CPA at Arthur Andersen and CFO of GoodTimes Home Video, where she helped grow the company’s distribution business. Follow on Twitter @dotcomdist, @mhaggertyceo, or for more information.