Packaging for Online Sales
One cannot discuss branding and packaging of supplements and functional foods/beverages without considering the various sales channels—particularly online storefronts. While no manufacturer, brand, or marketer would dispute the significance of Internet-based presentation, sales, and customer engagement, different philosophies do exist in how to approach online versus brick-and-mortar marketing.
On one hand, Pure Branding’s Medore points out that channel boundaries “are more and more getting blurred” as products become almost equally available and accessible in both mainstream outlets and natural stores, and online. “More natural consumers spread their buying to multiple locations,” he says. “So think less about the channel and more about who the brand participants are that you are targeting. They may cross channels, but that does not change who they are and what they are looking for.”
He does add that brands should “think about all packaging as being online, only a click away from more information.”
On the other hand, Chase Design Group’s Goolsby believes that shopping for natural products online is a “very different experience” than shopping in a traditional retail outlet, and that brands need to understand how consumers encounter and interact with products online. “Packaging designs need to be engaging at thumbnail scale,” he points out.
Nosco’s Anderson adds that, online, “decorative features aren’t as important. They become more so when you are touching the product.” Online, he explains, the consumer has fewer senses with which to work. That consumer can’t physically touch the packaging, he points out, so “unique structures, soft touch, and metallic or shimmer are not necessarily conveyed well.” However, Anderson adds, online, brands have “complete control over how they and their products are represented. You’re limitless when it comes to creative graphic elements and shapes, which is important because customers need to remember the package and want to buy it again.”
In a brick-and-mortar store, he says, brands are limited to certain structural designs that will work well on a shelf and “what’s allotted to them in a plan-o-gram.” Additionally, retail is more competitive, Anderson asserts, and brands don’t have control over lighting, shelving color, “or even who their neighbors are.”
A Word About Science
For natural products, science and substantiation are relevant and worthy of addressing in branding and, by extension, packaging; however, beware of prioritizing them above all else. “This is the number-one trap we see brands in this space fall into,” Pure Branding’s Medore states. “Every brand we’ve ever worked with claims they have the best science. And that may be true, but for the consumer it’s just noise.” He further explains that science serves an important purpose in “credentialing. It needs to be there and validates the decision to participate with a brand. But it is not a compelling differentiator that gets me to participate,” he explains. His perspective is that science and quality are “costs of entry,” and viewing them as more than that is unwise. What matters most, he continues, is the emotional connection you can make about who you are as a brand and the “why” of what you’re doing. “Lead with the passion, support it with science,” he asserts.
Likewise, Anderson of Nosco says that “first and foremost, it’s important to focus your messaging on your customer.” He does recommend marketing a product’s special differentiators, if any, but overall, “you want to clearly convey your value proposition with your packaging, labeling, and marketing,” he advises.