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When creating a product to sell it’s really important to think of the whole package – including the packaging!  This can’t be an afterthought.

Why is packaging important?

The packaging is an integral part of your product and can help to add value to what you’re offering.

For example, what looks more premium – a baby towel packaged in a box, or the same product shrink-wrapped in plastic with a sticker applied?  It’s the same product, and the difference in cost (for the packaging) won’t be much, but it makes a big difference in terms of perceived value and what you can potentially charge for it.

Packaging serves other functions too:

It’s a way to reflect your brand and give it some character. 

(As an example, my products all come in recyclable kraft boxes.)

Tiny Chipmunk bamboo bowl box

This is the box for my bamboo bowls

It protects your product!  

Even if you feel your product might not need traditional packaging, you do need to think about how you’ll protect it during shipping and storage.

Do you need packaging?  (Yes!)

Here’s a brief story to illustrate why.

I recently brought a hairband online and it came in an unbranded clear plastic bag.  While this didn’t do anything to tell me who I’d brought it from (and perhaps the seller didn’t feel it was important), the main thing is the product was clean and in good condition.  (It was also cheap and, for this purchase, the brand wasn’t important to me.  I just wanted something functional.)

Had it come in an envelope, with no extra packaging, while that might have been sufficient, there’s always the chance it could have been torn, or dirty and I might have returned it – costing the seller money and giving me (the customer) a poor experience. 

So even if you genuinely feel your product doesn’t need a box, or bag, do read on.  Even if you only have packaging for a purely functional purpose I think for the majority of products it is needed.  Unless it’s something you’re creating and distributing yourself (either you’re only selling face-to-face where customers take the product away with them, or you’re physically packing and shipping it). 

What you can’t count on, at any stage of the process, is someone else caring about your product as much as you do!

I know from experience that products get thrown around in vans, in warehouses, thrown over people’s gates, stuffed through letterboxes and left outside in the rain.  While of course you can’t prevent any of this from happening, do at least package your product in a way that protects it as well as you can. Plus, if you read on, you might even be inspired to add a simple card inside your bag, to give you and your customer even more value!

Where do you start when thinking about your packaging?

There are 3 main things to consider:

  • Functionality – your packaging needs to do it’s job – i.e. be sufficient to keep the product safe and in good condition.
  • Aesthetics – ideally it’ll look good!
  • Purpose – is it purely functional, or do you also want to use it to share more about your brand, get people to your website, or educate them about your product and how to use it?

There are a few practical things you can do if you have no idea what packaging you need.

Look at how other, similar, products are packaged

You can either go into a shop, or order products online (with the intention of returning them) to see how they’re packaged and get some inspiration.

How’s it packaged, is there an insert card or flyer included, what’s actually included on the packaging?

Make notes and take photos – but don’t copy anyone else’s packaging outright.  This is just a starting point.

Look at marketplace requirements

If you’re looking to sell on online marketplaces then some (I’m thinking of Amazon FBA specifically) have requirements on how products need to be packaged (they call it prepped) when they arrive at the warehouse.

These are mainly for the reasons I’ve outlined above – if they feel your product isn’t adequately packed to prevent damage they may return them.

For example, Amazon states that textile items ‘must be wrapped in shrinkwrap or placed in a sealed poly bag.’

Check relevant legislation

Certain products will have rules around how they’re packaged and / or what’s included on the packaging.  As an example, in the UK, there are certain things that are required to be on the label for pre-packaged food products.

Google is the best place to start.  If in doubt, do lots of research and make some calls.  It’s best to get this right to save making changes at a later date.

What are my options for packaging?

The ‘standard’ options are:

  • A box – either with your design, or a plain box with a sticker or label applied.
  • A bag – perhaps with an insert card, or tag.
  • Shrink-wrapping – again perhaps with a card or tag.

There are of course more creative options, or you could combine some of the above.  For example, having a plain box, with a more detailled insert or flyer inside.

Which is right for you will depend on:

  • Where you intend to sell (i.e. will this ever be sat on a shelf somewhere)
  • If packaging is important – i.e. is this a gift item?  Or is it fragile?
  • What’s required.  For example, putting a cheap hairband in a cardboard box makes little sense – as the packaging may, in that case, cost more than the original item – and it’s just not required.

Where would I get packaging made?

One thing to consider is where your product is made.  

If you’re making it yourself you might find a packaging supplier either local to you, or online.

If you’re sourcing your product (either abroad or in your own country) your supplier should be able to help themselves, or put you in touch with a packaging supplier.  Generally, if your product is being produced abroad it’s cheaper to get your packaging made, and your product packaged, in the same place, before it’s shipped.

One thing to know here is that it’s usual for packaging to have a higher MOQ (minimum order quantity) than the product.  If this is the case I suggest either asking for the leftover packaging to be stored by your supplier (if you’re sourcing from overseas) or store yourself for your next order.  

How do you brief a packaging designer?

If you’re going to have packaging designed, whether that’s a box, a backing card, insert or label, there are a few things your designer will need to know:

  • The dimensions. (If you’re not sure, your supplier should be able to advise.)
  • The material used (i.e. is it a kraft card, white card, etc)
  • Details of colours, fonts, etc, that you want to use.  (If you have this.) It’s good to give them an idea of the kind of thing you like.  This is where sharing photos of packaging you’ve seen and like can be really helpful.
  • If you have any restrictions around colours – i.e. some suppliers charge more if you print using more than 2 or 3 colours.
  • Everything you want included.  (See next point!)

What do you need on your packaging?

I’d suggest the following, as a minimum:

  • Your logo
  • What the product is
  • Where the product was designed and made

Other things you can include:

  • Any information you’d like to share about your product or how to use it.
  • A printed barcode, or space for a barcode sticker to be applied at a later date
  • A call to action (i.e. leave feedback, join my mailing list for a discount, etc)
  • Social media links, or your website address
Tiny Chipmunk 100% bamboo muslin swaddle blankets-boxback

The back of my swaddle box. You’ll see it includes some product information, plus how to swaddle safely

Get creative!

Packaging doesn’t just mean a box, or a bag.  For example, I’m now selling my 100% bamboo muslins in a reusable Fairtrade cotton bag.  (See image below.)

While I still need to think about protecting the product and bag (I intend for it to be kept and used) if I decide to have it stored anywhere, right now I’m shipping them myself, so I know I can keep them clean and I post them in a padded envelope.

Your packaging can definitely be part of the product if you choose!

tiny chipmunk bamboo swaddle in fair-trade bag

So there you have it!  Hopefully you found this pretty comprehensive.  However if there is anything I haven’t covered please do comment and ask.

There’s also an older post on packaging – most of this still stands, so it’s worth a read too!