From banking to dating, many people today use digital technology to assist them in their daily lives. This shift to digital is influencing processes in almost every industry. In retail, online operators like Amazon have disrupted the traditional store model by creating new dynamics in how customers shop. For example, if a customer is shopping online, what is the role of packaging design? This article will consider digital package design in an online environment, as well as the differences between digital and physical shopping experiences.
Differences Between Digital and Physical Shopping Experiences
First, it is important to understand how digital shopping differs from in-store shopping. While navigation may still include clearance sections, featured products, and department categories, the online channel is restricted to visual and auditory information, whereas brick and mortar stores can also leverage smell, touch, taste, and physical exploration.
The path-to-purchase in these two channels may vary. Before online shopping, customers would often investigate a product in store, leaving them influenced by displays and packaging, as well as prior exposure to advertising and marketing campaigns. Now, customers can either look at a product in store and then buy it online, or bypass the in-store visit altogether. Online purchases make the role of traditional marketing methods, such as package design, unclear.
The Role of Digital Packaging
In a physical store, packaging is about more than protecting a product. It helps identify a brand and communicate a message. It can also help deliver a unique experience. When shopping online however, there is more space for communication and brand expression. Customers can decide to click through text information and read reviews, meaning space is not limited to just the packaging.
This flexibility enables more options to communicate brand or product attributes in a digital environment. Some products sold online do not include branded packaging, since customers would only interact with it after they have already made a purchase decision; here, packaging functions singularly to protect the product while in transit. This strategy also can be promoted by connecting with customers’ motivations to reduce waste. Other retailers may show packaging online for brand consistency across channels, to help customers find familiar products that they would buy in store, or to create a more premium un-boxing experience when the product is received.
Enhancing Digital Packaging
If an online retailer does choose to show packaging, there are ways to make it a more compelling experience. One way is to go beyond 2-dimensional images of products and their packaging. Since the focus is on the visual and auditory senses, these elements need to be highlighted. The use of video, or 3-dimensional images that can be rotated or viewed in augmented reality can help customers visualize a product as if it was physically present. For example, augmented reality technology can be used along with a mobile phone to show a beverage as if it was sitting on your kitchen table. This technology can also be used to virtually place a product on store shelves during the concept development phase to help with visualization. These techniques can make digital packaging more engaging and life-like, which will help maintain the same level of brand communication and expression as digital shopping continues to grow.
Blending Digital and Physical Experiences
It is important to consider how retailers are attempting to solve the challenges of each channel. For example, hybrid models are becoming more common. In recent years, retailers have attempted to bring digital into physical stores to add more convenience and engagement to the experience. Digital screens, mobile phone app integration, and QR codes on products all help create a blended digital/physical experience where customers use their personal phones to look up information online as they shop in a store. Conversely, digital retailers are also looking to add physical and immersive elements to their experience that more closely mimics real life interactions. hese elements could include augmented or virtual reality technology, adding a physical store presence, or sending trial products to customers that can be returned easily for free (i.e. Warby Parker’s Home Try-On).
The increase in digital channels has made shopping behavior more complex, but is also providing more opportunities to connect with different customers.By understanding the differences between digital and physical experiences, we can enhance these channels and better inform future marketing strategies.