impact-of-packaging-design-in auto-parts-ecomm

Packaging is a key component of ecommerce success – so much so that many auto parts and accessories manufacturers should re-evaluate all of their existing packaging. For years, packaging has been designed with two primary concerns:

  1. Packaging as a sales tool – Conveying product value, helping the customer visualize product ownership, and addressing common objections.
  2. Packaging as an expense – Packaging can be one of the largest expenses when making a product. For years, manufacturers have tried to reduce packaging expenses with shapes that are easy to pack into a box or onto a pallet, and simple color schemes that are cheap to print.

While these concerns are still valid, there’s a third consideration that doesn’t always get enough attention: What’s the cheapest way to ship the product directly to the consumer? That consideration is crucial to maximizing ecommerce success.

In Ecommerce, Shipping Is Where Profit Can Disappear

For a variety of reasons, consumers have come to expect “free” shipping whenever they buy online. While shipping obviously isn’t free (hence the quote marks), it’s something that consumers believe is cheap and/or incidental. Unfortunately, many etailers (particularly auto parts and accessories etailers) find that most of their gross profit pays for shipping.

To limit shipping expenses, etailers often resort to minimum purchase requirements to qualify for free shipping, bundling (a great way to increase order value relative to shipping expense), and special fees for oversized or heavy products. While these tactics can help manage shipping costs, there’s some low-hanging fruit in packaging design.

Which is another way of saying: If product packaging was designed with direct-to-consumer shipping expense in mind, it could save etailers a fortune. (More on packaging in this blog post.)

  • Ready-to-ship packaging eliminates the need for a separate box and/or packing material
  • Packaging that is under certain dimensions can be inserted into a USPS flat rate box, which can be a big savings for heavier products
  • Thin packaging that is flexible and resistant to be damage when dropped or placed under heavier items can be placed in a padded envelope and shipped USPS first class mail
  • Packaging products together in a kit can reduce shipping costs for retailers who often sell multiple products together

And when etailers save money, that translates to more aggressive sales and marketing, better customer service, and less of an incentive to find new brands to offer. Which all adds up to more sales for the manufacturer (win-win, as they say).

The vivid primary colors make Hawk Brake Pads
stand out in Google Ads.

Package Design Tips For Ecommerce

If you’re able to redesign your packaging for etailers – and your brand is selling direct to consumer – here are some packaging tips and ideas to consider.

Think About How Your Packaging Will Look In Photos

Winning packaging is obviously branded, conveys one key feature/benefit, and can stand up on its own.

  • The obvious branding is great for Google Shopping, as Google prohibits branded product imagery unless the imagery includes the packaging.
  • The key feature/benefit on the front of the packaging is great for ecommerce engagement, as the customer can learn about the product the instant they view the main product image.
  • Packaging that can stand up on its own is easier to position and photograph.

For bonus points here, avoid clear or overly reflective packaging or plastic packaging that can wrinkle. These can be very difficult to photograph.

Create Packaging That’s Ready To Ship

Ready-to-ship packaging isn’t always practical, as it can require heavy corrugated cardboard, custom packaging inserts, and/or a padded plastic envelope/mailer. However, if it’s possible to make your product packaging ready to ship, the extra $2 spent on packaging will save retailers at least that much in packaging and packing materials expense.

TIP: If the packaging is dimensioned so that it slips right into a USPS flat rate box with no problems, it doesn’t have to be as beefy as a package that must be ready to ship.

Also, if you’re going to make your packaging ready to ship, be sure to leave a big empty space for the USPS/UPS/FedEx label.

Branded packing tape is a good trick for putting your name on an otherwise boring box.

Create Custom Adhesive Labels And Branded Packing Tape

If you’re trying to keep costs to a minimum while still offering ready-to-ship packaging, consider using custom printed adhesive labels and branded packing tape in place of a fully printed box. While they’re not quite as nice as a printed box, they can definitely dress up a plain cardboard box, and the expense is much lower.

Slip Stickers In The Box To Wow The Customer

We’ve been talking about this trick for years, but a lot of manufacturers still don’t do it – put branded stickers in every package! They’re cheap, automotive DIYers love them, and they’re free advertising if your customer decides to put the sticker on their vehicle. And if you can toss a fun/clever sticker on the box that says “WARNING: This Box Contains Raw Horsepower” or similar, even better. Just make sure the warning label doesn’t look official, as that could cause problems with the shipping companies.

Pillow Boxes Are Great For Small Parts

Last but not least, consider investing in a pillow box for smaller items. While they’re quite a bit more costly than a plastic bag, they look much nicer and convey a lot more value. And they are damage resistant too, so they can be slipped into a padded envelope and mailed for just a few dollars.

Summing Up

Manufacturers are under pressure to reduce costs and trim away expenses. However, a packaging decision that saves the manufacturer a dollar can cost the ecommerce retailer three or four dollars in additional shipping expense. So, before any packaging design or cost decisions are made, think about how those decisions impact ecommerce.

And if you’re looking for some expert help on auto part or accessory package design, be sure to contact us.