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Design for the Online Customer: How to Stand Out in the Amazon Market

I came across this article in The Atlantic just before the New Year in which Lisa Pierce, editor of Packaging Digest says, “one thing the folks at Amazon admit is that aesthetics don’t matter as much when products are being sold online.” 

That gave me pause. 

While I can agree that the online buying experience is night and day from a retail purchase, I would argue that packaging design is far more important in the age of e-commerce. After all, products purchased online are often viewed side-by-side with dozens of competitors. When shopping online, consumers can easily scroll through hundreds of products available from all over the world. 

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The quality of your design will immediately communicate perceived quality, value and prestige of your product. 

There are three key packaging design considerations to take into account for the online customer: 

1. Eye-catching labels. Packaging for e-commerce has two-phases. First, the actual product must be eye-catching and communicate your brand. Amazon shows the product itself, not exterior packaging, so consumers are making their first choice based on your label and the visual appeal of your product. 

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2. Customer experience. The second experience occurs once the product arrives. The “unboxing experience” should delight the customer and encourage repeat purchases. At a minimum, it should protect the product, be frustration-free, and provide useful instruction. Thoughtful packaging will also enhance the customer experience. Think about opening a pair of Apple earbuds. Would the experience be the same if they arrived in a plastic baggie? Not even close! 

3. Shipping considerations. Packaging designed for maximum visibility on a retail shelf is often not optimal for shipping. If the online customer is an important part of your business, streamlined, minimal packaging that reduces waste and shipping cost is essential. It’s also better for the planet! 

You will also want to consider a short video to show the consumer your product (Zappos does this beautifully). How does it look when it comes out of the package? How should it be used or displayed? For food products, how might you pair or serve the item? 

Customer reviews are also important. If you have a new product on Amazon, ask your customers to post a recommendation, or even better a detailed review. How did they use the product? Do they have a favorite recipe or serving tip? There is good research to show that consumers are more likely to be influenced by other people than they are by organized marketing. 

The Amazon marketplace becomes more competitive everyday. Thoughtful, professional design gives your product a competitive advantage and provides consumers with reassurance that they are buying a reputable, high-quality product. What works for retail may not work for e-commerce, but a few strategic adjustments can make your product stand out from the (online) crowd.


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