Far from being something simply found outside a product for transportation or protection, packaging plays an important role in consumer behavior. A recent survey of more than 15,000 consumers across Europe, North America, and South America, for example, found that 57% are less likely to buy products in packaging they consider harmful to the environment.
Evidently, packaging is much more than something consumers discard as soon as it’s fulfilled its purpose. It determines how your products are viewed, the values they embody, and, ultimately, whether they are purchased at all.
What is intuitive packaging?
Packaging has four principal functions: To protect an item, inform about the contents, attract the consumer and stand out from your competitors. In terms of providing information, it is essential that packaging is honest with the consumer, easy to understand, and versatile. As the world changes, brands and consumers evolve, so packaging must be able to accommodate future demands.
Emerging packaging trends
Packaging is evolving in several ways. Recently, a few major trends have emerged that are taking packaging from brick-and-mortar retailers to global supply chains, from shop shelves to front doors, and from being constructed out of individual plastic components to more sustainable alternatives. We’ve explored a few of these trends below:
Communication & Experience
Packaging helps brands communicate, displaying their core values to the consumer. But more and more, we are seeing packaging becoming an experience that creates engagement. For example, we can see the “unboxing” trend emerging across social media channels, which positions packaging as the starting point for receiving, opening, and experiencing a product. Emphasizing the experiential nature of your packaging strengthens the consumer’s emotional connection with your brand and boosts engagement.
Why purchase your groceries from the supermarket in person when you can have them delivered to your home? Packaging needs to become more efficient, sturdy, and transportable to facilitate this e-commerce surge. Research indicates that online businesses that pay due attention to their packaging benefit from a 30% increase in consumer interest, on average.
At the same time, brands need to rethink how they can attract consumers via virtual packaging across different platforms. According to the Pantone Color Institute, individuals experience 80% of their awareness from sight. Neon shades like bright pink and bright yellow and all metallic colors are instant attention grabbers. This year will witness a continued domination of bursts of color, flare in design, and creativity in logos when it comes to customized packaging. Unique designs on packaging provide an exceptional customer experience which adds to brand value and customers that keep returning for more. Even though many customers may not see your packaging in person until it’s been delivered to their door, organizations should ensure it is clear, bold, and visually appealing when viewed online.
Personalization is becoming a strong trend for consumers - and brands are now applying it to their packaging. This is particularly true of younger demographics, with half of all Millennials and Gen Z customers stating that they generally ignore communications from companies that don’t personalize their content.
Digital printing is making it easier for organizations to adjust their packaging designs when compared with traditional printing methods. Customized packaging can have a huge impact and doesn’t need to consume a lot of resources - look at the success Coca-Cola has had by printing customer names on their cans.
Nowadays, with society fully immersed in the digital world, a certain form of nostalgia for times gone by is emerging. As such, some brands are choosing to use vintage packaging to capture the sense of the “good old times.” Old-school visuals can generate a strong emotional response, conveying a sense of history, authenticity, heritage, and quality. The use of retro packaging provides a way for well-established brands to flaunt their longevity. It is a way for companies to embrace their past, show a connection to the present, and promote their ongoing evolution into the future.
The big CPG manufacturers like Procter & Gamble, General Mills, Hostess Brands, and PepsiCo are pulling old package designs out of their archives for brands like Tide, Cheerios and Doritos and bringing them back to store shelves. The retro movement is driven, in part, by consumer-goods companies feeling pressure from retailers’ private-label products, which are generally less expensive. Leading brands brands are saying, wait a minute, we invented that category, and we want to remind consumers which brand came first and is the most authentic.
People are more concerned about the environment than ever and, unsurprisingly, are willing to pay more for sustainable products - including the packaging that surrounds them. In fact, 86% of consumers under 45 show a willingness to pay more for sustainable packaging. This trend is driving innovation at many companies where they are switching out materials - usually plastic - for more sustainable options. Reusable, compostable, and even edible packaging has been employed by some brands to demonstrate their green credentials.
The future of packaging
Many of the trends affecting product packaging are the result of longer-term market and consumer forces but, often, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated them. E-commerce, for example, has surged in the aftermath of the pandemic - as has digitalization. Cloud computing is also set for a prominent role.
Smart solutions can enable brands to connect their packaging supply chains from start to finish, improving visibility and transparency. In turn, this empowers brands to embrace some of the trends mentioned above. Smart labels and QR codes can turn packaging into an experience. Brands can use it to engage with customers, share values and, at the same time, shape how they are viewed.
We are undergoing a period of continuous and rapid change. As such, brands need to have their eyes open to how they can not only use the above trends to ensure they are part of the next wave of transformation but also, through innovation, move forward and bring something new to the table. Who knows what is coming next?
The FMCG world has changed fundamentally in recent times - and so has how we interact with packaging. The packaging industry is constantly evolving, with new shapes, materials, and designs hitting the market each year. At the same time, the perception of packaging is shifting equally quickly. The social and emotional experience connected with packaging is unlikely to ever be the same again. As we look to 2023, organizations must be attuned to emerging trends and those to come. At Innoleaps, we have worked with a number of leading FMCG and CPG brands to help them innovate just like a start-up. We have helped them use shifting consumer demands in the packaging world to seize new opportunities. Because innovation isn’t just for product development; it relates to packaging too.
Marta Castán Pobla is a creative designer specialising in Graphic Design, and is leading the Design & Creative Team within Innoleaps. She has experience working on projects of various scales and in multiple fields, including print, digital, editorial, branding design, UI/UX and 3D