Packaging design lessons from small

Street view of a few small businesses

Successful small businesses find creative ways to customize their packaging so it reflects their unique mission and values.

With all of the hard work and energy that goes into developing innovative products, packaging can seem like an afterthought for small businesses. However, custom product packaging can be an essential point of differentiation for small businesses looking to set themselves apart from the competition. Packaging does more than just protect products — it's the first thing customers see when interacting with merchandise.

Creative packaging reflects a company’s values


Successful small businesses find creative ways to customize their packaging so it reflects their unique mission and values. They don’t have to rely on design alone to tell their story though. Luxury brands often use premium packaging material that may offer a tactile experience, and environmental companies frequently use recyclable packaging with features like resealability. Printing technologies have enabled designers to create packaging with branding and labels integrated into the packaging itself, a natural fit for minimalistic brands.

Intelligent packaging preserves product quality


In addition, advanced packaging technologies have helped brand owners ensure that the integrity of their products stay intact throughout the shipping process. Ning-Geng Ong, founder of Malaysia-based Chocolate Concierge, shared his insights on using custom packaging to successfully transport small orders of specialty chocolate.

“Our chocolates begin their journey on six cocoa farms here in Malaysia, before we ferment, dry, roast, crack, winnow, grind, temper and mold the chocolate – all in house. We’re one of only a handful of chocolate makers that own the entire value chain, so preserving our quality is important.”

To protect the delicate custom chocolates and preserve their unique flavors and textures, Chocolate Concierge uses a wide range of specialty packaging and shipping techniques. The chocolate requires packaging with barrier layers to maintain humidity and temperature control during shipment. Operating out of a tropical country complicates matters, as well.

“We ship during the coolest months whenever we can," says Ning. “We also ship at night to keep our products as cool as possible.”

Efficient packaging makes e-commerce more affordable


In today’s retail world, e-commerce is a necessity. Small business owners can sell and ship to customers across the world just like major retailers, but most small businesses can’t negotiate freight deals or build international distribution networks like brick-and-mortar or e-commerce empires. That doesn't mean they can't compete. Small businesses can plan their packaging around e-commerce shipping rules from the start to maximize efficiency in shipping.

“E-commerce is transforming shipping,” said Jeff Wilson, owner of a Unishippers franchise, a third-party logistics company specializing in helping small businesses. “E-commerce shipping is primarily small package - think anything that doesn't come on a pallet - and small package shipping is transitioning from the old volume requirements to new density shipping requirements. Small business owners call us when their shipping costs double overnight, and we help them eliminate the wasted space in their boxes and get back down to a competitive rate.”

Small businesses that initially design their products and packaging to meet shipping requirements, whether choosing a major freight company or a third party, have a leg up on success. Using the latest protective shipping materials and creating products that fall under oversize container limits are keys to achieving manageable shipping costs.

Effective packaging can improve brand loyalty


Customer service records are invaluable for small businesses that don't have budgets that allow for extensive packaging prototyping and testing. Customer feedback reliably identifies the strongest and weakest aspects of a product’s packaging. It benefits small businesses to track what customers are saying about their products and packaging and then address trends directly.

There are many considerations small business owners should take into account when searching for custom packaging solutions, such as choosing materials based on product and ingredient properties, opting for selections that take into account customers’ locations and preferences, as well as navigating the quickly-changing world of shipping requirements and regulations. Thankfully, there are more options than ever before when it comes to packaging and shipping goods.