Op-Ed: First impressions in an e-commerce age

Posted Oct 1, 2013 by Alyssa Sellors
In the 'Age of Amazon' more and more online consumers have high expectations for speedy fulfillment of orders, and quality packaging.
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With the offer of free two-day shipping on practically every product within the U.S., Amazon's deals are hard to beat but smaller e-commerce businesses and start-ups with an online store front are finding that how the package actually arrives leaves the strongest first impression, not the speed of delivery.
We are a society that believes with our eyes. We tend to value things based on their packaging and companies know this. Packaging is a huge decision when marketing a product and impacts our view of the product, and company. When shopping online, all we have to rely on is our eyes, the visual appeal of the product and the product description. We cannot hold the item or inspect it for quality, so the packaging is the very first thing we notice as consumers.
Beyond finding unique product packaging, small businesses and start-ups should also consider the quality of the container in which the item is shipped. If you have an attractive product but it arrives in a beat up, old cardboard box, that is your first impression as a company even though you are not the one to deliver, or sometimes even package that item. If you are a small business owner or run a small online store front, there are a few solutions available to you to ensure external quality packaging of all of your items shipped. This first impression is especially important if you are an up and coming business trying to make a name for themselves. Instead of relying on USPS or UPS, it may be a good idea to check out online packaging solutions that can offer a wider range of packaging materials and options. Packaging Quote, Xpedx, and DuPont are just a few of the more popular “one stop shops” that offer durable and reliable product packaging and shipping packaging solutions to be sure your product makes a positive first impression.
In a recent posting on Real Business online, “The secret sauce of online success is ecommerce packaging,” the author questions peoples inclination to send back a package because of poor packaging as this seemingly minor detail in the scheme of running an entire business has a great impact on e-commerce businesses. Also cited in this article is a study conducted by packaging company Duo UK that “reveals that one third of consumers will view a company that uses poor or damaged packaging as unprofessional.”
A recent NY Times article highlighted small-business owners Hanna and Mark Lim, owners of Lollacup, and featured on the hit ABC show “Shark Tank,” as the are facing tough decisions when it comes to the packaging and delivery of their item. They decided to outsource their orders to a third-party logistics provider, or a 3PL, in exchange for a percentage of their venue. The challenging process of fulfilling orders is one that all small business owners share, and where there are many different possibilities.
Business Insider also took a look at what customers want, and expect when it comes to packaging. The “look and feel of packaging is linked to customer satisfaction,” and it is important to also know your customer base. For example, if you receive a package from an online store that takes you a butcher knife and two hours to open, you are frustrated. At the same time, “a key concern is that customers will respond negatively to reduced packaging.” So what is the solution and where is the balance? It seems to be efficiency and simplicity when it comes to choosing packaging materials for not only your product, but also the shipping package in which the product is shipped to customers. While you do not want to go bankrupt vying for that attractive or reliable packaging, packaging is your first impression when your product arrives on a customer's door step.