Why Packaging Matters: Thinking About The Box

USPS delivers the package you have been eagerly awaiting.  You ordered the scarf online so you haven’t felt or even seen it in person. You have taken a risk with this purchase but you are hopeful that it was a good investment. Your internal drumroll begins, you take a deep breath, and begin the “unboxing.”

Scenario 1: The mailer is white unrecyclable plastic.  You assume it is the scarf you ordered but can’t really tell due to the lack of branding on the outside. You open the package to find the supposedly handmade luxury item in a clear plastic bag. There is a white office label stuck to the bag covered with a bunch of letters and numbers, a product identifier of some sort. The scarf itself is haphazardly folded, yielding a strange grid of deep creases. The scarf is crisp and a bit hard and smells a little too factory-ish for your liking.  It is unwearable due to the creases so you look for care information. On a white piece of paper at the bottom of the bag, you find the word “Handwash.” Great. You have to wash the darn thing before you can wear it even once.  You throw it in your handwash pile and prepare to forget about it for at least 3 months.

Scenario 2: The mailer is made out of some sort of craft paper, probably recycled you guess. A sticker with the company logo let’s you know that it is in fact the scarf you ordered from that cute online textile company. You open the package to first find a handwritten note from the owner of the company thanking you for your support of her little venture. You then find your scarf enclosed in a simple drawstring cotton bag with the logo of the company on the front.  You untie the drawstring and decorative ribbon and open the bag to find the scarf neatly wrapped in dark gray tissue. A burlap ribbon with a sticker listing care instructions holds the tissue closed. You then find a colorful postcard explaining how your scarf purchase supports wildlife and habitat preservation. It makes you smile to think that this gift to yourself is doing some good. The scarf itself has been folded meticulously and when pulled out to its full length, is beautiful, soft, and fresh-smelling. You wrap it around your neck and don’t take it off until it is time to go to bed.

As you can probably guess, we at Beastly Threads chose Scenario 2. Four things were important to us in developing our packaging strategy.

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1) The packaging had to align with our mission of being good for the environment.

What’s the point of supporting wildlife and habitat preservation if you are hurting the environment with your manufacturing and packaging choices? To stick with our green ethos, we used mailers, stationery, stickers, tissue, and postcards all made with recycled and/or FSC-certified paper.  The drawstring bags are organic cotton and can be used again and again to keep the scarf safe or act as a travel jewelry bag. 

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2) The packaging needed to help create a personal connection between the customer and our small company.

We think one of our greatest strengths is that we are a small company with a big heart. Any time someone purchases from us, we want them to know that their support is greatly appreciated. We also want to reconnect them to the mission of the company so that they will consider buying from us again and/or telling a friend. The handwritten note and postcard help to reinforce this connection and act as a virtual hug for our new friends.

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3) We want the packaging to be so tasteful and pretty that it elevates the product itself.

If you have spent a good amount of money on a purchase and the packaging provides a less than satisfactory first impression, that does not bode well for your state of mind when you see the actual product. We want to make sure that our customer is smiling when the product is unveiled to her, not frustrated because the packaging is messy, cheap, impersonal, and/or bad for the environment.

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4) Every scarf is essentially gift-wrapped so we don’t have to worry about that additional feature for gifts.

Many people have ordered our products to be given as gifts. Our regular packaging is so attractive that a separate gift wrap option isn’t necessary. This significantly simplifies our fulfillment process. If the package is going to a shipping address different from the customer’s billing address, we do follow up directly with the purchaser to ask if they would like a special gift message to be included in the handwritten note. We think this extra effort makes a difference for both the customer and the person who receives the gift.

Of course, we will need to revisit our packaging strategy regularly to make sure it continues to achieve our goals. As we grow and ship out more and more products, we will need to make sure that the packaging process doesn’t slow us down too much. Whatever tweaks we make, however, we will remain true to the four non-negotiables described above. Our customers and our brand deserve it.

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Torrey Shawe is the owner of Beastly Threads, a small eco-ethical textile company that supports wildlife and habitat preservation.

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