Sustainable packaging requires less overall manufacturing without losing the sense of user interaction that comes from unboxing.

The glamour of shopping and buying experience can be easily summed up to how much we like the look of un-opened boxes. It’s a shopping high that can be summed up around the psychological term of “payoff trigger” that brings a sense of both excitement and accomplishment when you see and begin opening a package. When we see boxes of pretty things lined up on shelves and we pick up one of them, it makes us believe that we will be happier when we open it.

The package itself determines how much we like what’s inside of it. It’s an important factor that many online and offline shops employ when packaging items and design product packaging. They make boxes with bright materials, tape that’s easy to cut through, stiff cardboard that’s firm to hold, colorful paper on the inside for packaging.  The entire act of opening a package is planned to create an enjoyable user experience. 

Every brand needs to take packaging design seriously because the package is the first experience the consumer has with the product. Designing the package for optimal use and user experience allows the consumer to interact with the brands’ products and have a direct experience with their brands. The entire act of shopping and buying doesn’t just stop with paying for the product, it also has to incorporate opening the box.

What we buy is a reflection of our values, today consumers value environmentally responsible products that are made of quality materials and produce less waste. But the biggest part of waste consumption doesn’t come from the product itself. It’s been estimated that over 41% of all waste produced in the EU comes from packaging waste such as cardboard and paper while 19% comes from plastic, totaling to 60% of waste disposed coming from packaging*.

The general problem from this is

that: not all packaging can be

recycled and therefore is

unsustainable. 

If your product represents your brands’ quality, then your packaging represents brands’ identity. Sustainable packaging doesn’t just incorporate using recyclable materials, it also involves the overall user experience when unboxing a package.

Packaging that represents your brand

Today consumers’ are interested in sustainability with a focus on environmental responsibility; and it’s now businesses’ responsibility to show consumers they are supportive in creating a new sustainable environment. One of the most important decisions a brand can make now is personalizing their product packaging to reflect more sustainable materials while still giving a quality unboxing experience for its consumers.

Packaging needs to change, but not by withholding the user experience and enjoyment of unboxing. Our packaged boxes need to make consumers want to touch them and open them up to lead up to a purchase. Poor packaging leads to negative user experience, and a decrease in probability that they’ll buy the product again or recommend it*. Packaging that has too many materials may call into question the quality of the product, and lead to the same problem of less likely hood to buy again. 

Your packaging is an experience; the most valuable aspect of any product now is how the consumer interacts with it and experiences unboxing. To make sure the user experience is pleasant and still represents your brands’ commitment to environmental protection, updating your packaging to new industry standards will be key in keeping your brands’ engagement relevant and competitive in todays’ market.

Labels on a box doesn’t mean the package is sustainable.

Nothing is more annoying than buying a product that is certified as eco-friendly, then having to clean up all the packing peanuts (polystyrene based) that are inside the box that can’t be recycled. 

When trying… Your package should be straight forward and easy to open without too much ___. Keeping your packaging simple and easy yet fun to unbox….

Make sure you’re packaging shows it’s sustainable:

1. Don’t have too many combinations of materials 

The front of your packaging should be clear and easy to read, the same goes with inside the box. Having too many materials such as several layers of plastic film or stacking styrofoam takes away readability and adds too much waste. To keep your packaging simple, make sure the container needs as little extra packaging as possible. This can be done by reducing the overall size of the box, having molding built into the package, or creating a built in system that keeps the product front and center while protecting it. 

2. The first thing you touch…

Be sure to have only the minimal amount of materials and textures in your packaging. Too much styrofoam and plastic takes away from the enjoyability of opening a product. Cardboard is an easy material to pack with and open, but avoid filling it with styrofoam packaging and molding, that adds too many competing textures to the packaging and adds too much weight to the overall product.

This is also the time to say the most obvious: Make your packaging easy to open. There should be clear signs where to start opening it and how to open it up. Limiting the amount of packaging inside the package will make opening the box easier and helps the consumer easily access the product in a fun and memorable way.

3. Have your product at the center

The first thing you should see inside a package is the product. It creates the most excitement for the consumer when they see the product displayed at the center of the package and the first thing they open. If your product is covered in insulation materials and too much shipment materials, it cuts into the user experience of excitement and leaves the overall packaging like a box full of trash.  

To make sure your package is safe during shipment, incorporate shipping packaging into the total design of the package without covering the front of the product. This can be done by molding the outline of the product so that it and all its accessories fit carefully inside the package without needing to extra packing materials.  

How you open the box is just as important as what’s in it.

Unboxing is more than a trend in social media, is a major factor driving consumer behavior. It’s one of the best experiences of buying a new product, sometimes even better than using it for the first time. 

Your consumers are paying for a quality unboxing experience, one that engages them with the product and your brand. Your packaging needs to reflect our desire for interaction and a creative way to showcase the product. All while maintaining your commitment to sustainability by limiting waste materials, your brand can stand out and reflect consumer values. 

About the Author: Healy Restrepo is a content creator, advisor and an English educator. She is also a content advisor in Bright Design Studio.