When it comes to your small business, product packaging is key to establishing your brand and creating the best experience for your customer. This packaging may differ depending on whether your product is being sold in store or being delivered. Either way, the way you package and present your product line is critical to how your customers perceive your brand identity.
While there are basic supplies you need, it’s about getting creative and producing attractive packaging that generates purchases and keeps the customer coming back! To help you, we’ve compiled 50 tips to create successful small business product packaging. Whether you are a budget-conscious DIY enthusiast or a small business looking to freshen up your packaging, our guide covers a wide range of ideas to make your packaging functional, attractive, and even sustainable!
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- Get the basics down
First things first, you need the right elements and the right supplies. A good list to stick by is:
- Outer layer packaging: This can consist of a simple box or mailer, depending on the product they are needed for. This is your most significant opportunity to include branding, but you don’t need to go overboard. Sometimes branding your packaging can mean simply making use of your brand assets – more on this later!
- Inner layer packaging: Your inner layer packaging is what goes inside the box or mailer. Often this is simply functional – such as padding to protect the product within (think bubble wrap or polystyrene). However, a lot of businesses take this opportunity to enhance the customer experience by including aesthetic supplies. Skip to our list of DIY tips for more!
- Labels: If you are sending off your package for delivery, make sure you include the address label, so it gets to where it needs to be!
Check out this packaging below. A box is used for outer packaging, and the inside is filled with shredded paper (and a couple of cute roses). A business card and thank you card have been included, as well as a freebie! Finally, a sticker has been added with extra decoration to give another touch of branding. Nice!
- Branding, branding, branding.
So, what’s the difference between your average parcel and an exciting product from a local small business? You guessed it – branding. Branding your packaging is always an effective way to get the customer’s attention, and more importantly, keep it.
If your small business is just starting out, it’s always a good idea to figure out your branding first. Create some brand guidelines so both your business and your customers are clear on who you are and what your brand stands for. By keeping the main elements of your branding consistent, reflecting this in your packaging is an easy job. This includes your brand colours, typography, and graphics (such as your logo).
Use of colour in your product packaging can influence the way your product or brand is perceived. Think of Coca Cola – did a certain colour come to mind? Colour is extremely influential- in ways we don’t always notice. Darker colours are often associated with more high-end, luxury brands, while bright colours are thought to be more inclusive, affordable brands. The best thing you can do is keep your colour scheme consistent, especially in your packaging, so your brand identity is clear and recognisable to your customers, whether this is in the shop or when your product is received. Try out a colour scheme generator such as Coolors to help you get that perfect palette for your brand.
The font you use on your packaging might be more of a significant decision than you think. The font you use should reflect your brand, as customers often use these elements to interpret your brand’s identity. Try and consider what you are trying to achieve with your packaging design, and who you are targeting. If you are using your packaging to give information, make sure this info is displayed in a legible, clear font. If there are opportunities to get creative – do so!
- Research trends.
It’s always a good idea to do your research before executing an idea.
Try going online and find out what packaging has been successful in the past, especially in your industry. Have a look at what is popular, and analyse why. Or simply get inspiration for creative concepts you can use for your own business. For example, there are plenty of pages on Pinterest with a multitude of images, articles and general inspiration for your own packaging.
- Research your industry.
And while you’re at it, why not find out what other businesses in your industry are doing, or even your competitors. If you’re struggling with this, look at other brands and companies which are targeting a similar customer-base to get ideas. Mintel is a great source of data and information on industries and consumer-bases. Semrush Competitor Research is another great way to analyse what your competition is doing.
- Include a business card.
Create a lasting relationship with your customers by including a business card in your packaging. Include your social media handles, website and any other useful links on the card so they have easy access to your brand platforms. They might want to share their purchase and tag your account! Business cards are cheap to print and easy to personalise!
- Include a thank you note.
Take this relationship one step further with a thank you card. These can be printed in bulk or handwritten – either way, they add a personal touch to your brand and increase the likeliness that the customer will buy from you again! Need ideas for your thank you card? Have a browse through this Pinterest board for some inspiration.
This will enhance this customer relationship and give them a sneak peek at your other products, maybe one they wouldn’t have otherwise tried. Freebies can also take the form of brand merchandise, including stickers and stationery. For some ideas on what kind of freebies to include in your own packaging, check out this article by GB Labels.
- Discount deals.
Why not offer your customer a discount within the packaging? This is another great way to keep the customer coming back and trying more of your product line.
- Feature your packaging on your social media
No matter how large your business, customers love a ‘Behind the Scenes’ insight. You can indulge this by sharing the packaging process, or even your finished packaging masterpieces, on your social media.
Packaging often doesn’t need to be extravagant to catch the customer’s eye. Some of the most appealing concepts have simple designs. Have a read of this article from Elliot Packaging, about how simple designs can stand out in a cluttered market.
- Be informative.
The one thing the customer may be looking for is information about what the product is, what it does, how to use or prepare it, etc. If your product is perishable, there are regulations to follow on giving the customer all the information on this. A good starting point is the government website.
- Think about functionality.
Going beyond packaging design, functionality can be an important factor. There are instances when you are trying to protect your product through the delivery process or sustain the product long after purchase (such as food packaging). Fulfilling these requirements are essential to successful packaging. Invest in bubble-lined mailers for your fragile products, plastic films to keep out moisture, or zip-lock bags and pouches that give your customers the option to open and close the packaging over and over.
- Reflect your USP.
Your product’s unique selling point (USP) is the main reason a customer will purchase it, and this should be reflected in the packaging. If your product is environmentally friendly, develop a packaging design that shows this. If your product has a significant flavour or ingredient, make sure this is included in the design. The product package is a huge opportunity to communicate your product’s USP and give your potential customer base a chance to connect with this message.
- Think about longevity.
It’s helpful to imagine how your packaging design will look on products of different shapes and sizes. Think about how your product-line may evolve over time and consider this when conceptualising your designs. Also consider continuity across your business. See our tip on branding for more details.
- Consider the customer experience.
Packaging doesn’t have to be boring! Why not try to create an exciting experience that creates anticipation. This is called positive conditioning – a 1992 study by Professor Daniel Howard found that the act of unwrapping created a predisposition of happiness. The brand Tiffany are excellent at this, creating a packaging experience that simulates opening a gift with the use of ribbon and traditional gift-style packaging.
- Get playful.
If your brand doesn’t take itself too seriously, why not get creative with humour and fun? Print some stickers that use puns, include some creative copy, or implement the product into the design in order to develop something unique. Need some ideas? Check out this Pinterest board!
- Get pretty.
If it suits your brand identity, you could try an elegant aesthetic in your packaging design, with light, pastel colours and a feminine print. An example of this is the brand Winky Lux, whose entire product line utilise pastel colour schemes, floral patterns and rose gold accents to create a feminine, ‘pretty’ aesthetic that fits perfectly to their make up brand.
- Limited edition packaging.
Taking this a step further, you can never go wrong with limited edition packaging! Getting a chance to get our hands on something rare makes it more valuable to us – utilise this in your packaging! We’ll never forgot Coca Cola’s ‘Share a coke with…’ campaign, even years later!
For those small businesses on a budget, or small businesses just starting out, we have loads of helpful tips on how to make your packaging compete with the big leagues! Here are some small business packaging ideas you can do yourself!
- Kraft Paper.
If you don’t have the budget for bespoke designed packaging, you can never go wrong with some Kraft paper to give a rustic look. There are many benefits to using kraft paper. It’s stronger than regular paper, but lighter, keeping delivery costs down. It’s also environmentally friendly. Check out this kraft paper packaging Pinterest board for ideas.
- Twine or sting.
It may seem like a basic idea but implementing twine can add to your rustic appeal (if that’s what you’re going for). You can also get creative by using coloured string. Check out the below packaging, and the vintage feel the twine creates.
Stamps are a great tool to customise your packaging supplies without paying for them to be printed. The design possibilities are endless, and you could even have a custom stamp made with your business logo or images related to your brand. Check out Stampit – a great UK based company for affordable, custom stamps for your business.
- Custom tape.
Instead of using bog-standard sticky tape or parcel tape, why not go for something more exciting, or even a custom tape, that, like the stamp, could include your business logo or graphics/typography related to your brand.
- Washi tape.
Alternatively, a cheaper option is washi tape! Any fan of stationery will know washi tape can get addictive to buy and use. These aesthetic tapes are cost-effective and versatile. With an endless array of colours, patterns, designs available, there’s a washi tape for every situation – you’re guaranteed to find something to suit your small business.
- Custom stickers and labels.
Don’t stop at the custom tape! Why not try some custom stickers to decorate and personalise your packaging. There are plenty of places to have your stickers printed in bulk, or you could even invest in a pack of sticker paper and print them out yourself at home! In terms of your sticker design, try platforms such as Fiver.com, where there are thousands of freelance designers with affordable commission. You could also design the stickers yourself for the ultimate personalised look!
- Shredded paper.
Shredded paper is an easy way to add to the prestige of your packaging without paying more for materials. You can make shredded paper yourself with tissue paper. We’d recommended colours that are from or compliment your brand palette. Why not try mixing different colours for a unique look?
If you’ve got the basics down and worked up to a bigger budget for your packaging, we’ve got loads of tips to give your packaging something special! Here are some packaging ideas for the ambitious small business!
- Unusual is memorable.
Get weird. Sometimes something unique or original is much more effective at grabbing the attention of the consumer. Need some ideas, check out this Pinterest board for inspiration.
Customers aren’t always keen to be throwing their packaging in the bin, especially if it looks appealing and makes them smile. If the product is something that could be displayed, why not implement this in the packaging? Alternatively, some businesses have created packaging that can easily be turned into something new. Check out this innovative idea of turning your packaging into a hanger, and a box you can display your bowties in. You could also encourage your customers to upcycle their packaging and use it to get creative! Have a read of this article by Pregis, in which they discuss creative ways to make use of all that old packaging!
- Use ribbon.
Another way to give a luxury feel to your product line is to add ribbon. As mentioned in an earlier tip, creating anticipation through the opening of the package produces positive conditioning, and wrapping your packaging in ribbon is a great way to do this!
- Custom tissue paper.
We’ve suggested custom stickers and custom tape, but did you know you can have tissue paper printed with your company branding? This is a lovely touch that your customers will appreciate and add that extra something to the prestige of your product.
- Metallic accents.
Speaking of prestige – nothing says luxury like metallic accents on your packaging. A minimalist design can still appear sleek and prestigious due to the metallic accents included.
Product packaging does not need to be damaging to the planet. We’ve got plenty of tips for you to try to keep your small business packaging sustainable, even on a budget.
- Biodegradable or compostable mailers.
Did you know that you can buy mailers which are made of 100% compostable materials? These mailers are of the same quality as your regular one, but do not include any polyethylene, but instead a blend of bioplastics.
- Reduce your use of plastic.
As more and more biodegradable ingredients are being introduced, there is much less use for plastic in your packaging. Where possible, you should always try to use recyclable, biodegradable or compostable materials over regular plastic. It’s always worth doing your research into these eco-friendly options, as it’s guaranteed to be appreciated by your customers and demonstrates your business’ commitment to the environment.
- FSC Frosted paper tags.
Frosted paper can create a luxurious look for your packaging, giving a premium feel. However, Forest Stewardship Council Certified frosted paper is also an environmentally friendly choice to make for your business. FSC certified paper differs from recycled paper, as it is typically made from virgin tree fibres rather than recycled materials.
- Biodegradable plastic seals.
Plastic seals are often used in packaging, which mostly end up in the nation’s landfill or natural environments. Instead try a biodegradable plastic seal that will break down over time.
- Honeycomb protective wrap.
Swap out your plastic wrap and foam for paper honeycomb protective wrap. This wrap is made from 100% biodegradable and recyclable paper. This paper is perfect for packaging fragile items, as the cells interlock and expand to firmly secure the products.
- Bamboo elastic tape.
Bamboo elastic tape is a great eco-friendly alternative to plastic tape. With the amount of plastic that is wasted a year in the UK, every little change can help.
- Returnable packaging.
In terms of delivery packaging, try including two adhesive strips on your mailers, so that items can be returned in the same packaging. This reduces waste and saves your customers from having to source another mailer.
- Edible packaging.
Another interpretation of the ‘no-waste’ idea – edible packaging! An article by PakFactory recommends edible packaging so that businesses can meet customer expectations regarding sustainability, as well as develop packaging that is multi-purpose and versatile. The article uses examples such as edible coffee cups made from hard cookies and chocolate, and sweet wrappers made from rice paper.
- Plantable packaging.
If your small business is keen to go completely eco, why not invest in seed paper packaging? This includes both inner and outer packaging, from your shredded paper to your envelopes and boxes. It’s the perfect way to demonstrate your brands commitment to the environment, and gives your business an edge, as well as great selling point.
- No Packaging.
It may seem like an odd idea in an article about packaging, but a ‘no-waste’ strategy is becoming more popular, meaning that many stores that sells grocery goods such as food and hygiene products ask that customers bring their own packaging. As the name would suggest, a ‘no-waste’ strategy aims to cut down significantly on waste and benefits the customer by making the act of shopping a more conscious activity. Another huge benefit of this concept is that it saves you money as it cuts down massively on packaging costs.
So those are our 50 tips on packaging for small businesses! We’d recommend getting the basics right with good quality, sustainable materials, then you can get as creative as you like! For ways to save your small business money, check out our Inspire Payments Blog!