“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

You’ve likely heard this proverb a couple of hundred times and while virtuous, it doesn’t exactly match reality, even when it comes to the book market.

History shows that only the most sacred and valuable texts were leather-bound. In other words, the “cover” had to reflect the importance of written contents or communicate the level of quality.

Think about it. You’d feel very awkward keeping your prized possessions in a plain card box, right? The same goes for companies and their esteemed product offering – they require quality packaging.

Custom packaging for small business is an essential branding tool. As the eCommerce market is getting exponentially larger and more saturated, creative and visually appealing packaging is becoming key leverage for small businesses to stay one step ahead of their competitors.

Judging by the almost tangible impact of custom packaging for small businesses, one would think its use is just as important as what you put inside it, if not more.

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What Is Custom Packaging for Small Businesses?

Simply put, custom packaging is what small businesses use to ship their products in.

As the name suggests, custom small business packaging is tailored around the needs of specific small businesses — a mile away strategy from the usual one-size-fits-all solutions in the industry.

The size, shape, color and materials used for the packaging are suited to reflect the product and business as a whole, creating a better buying experience for prospective customers.

Custom packaging is a must-have for small (eCommerce) businesses as it is the first thing buyers see when their shipment knocks at the door. It fosters a positive experience and lays the framework for building brand loyalty.

There are numerous packaging solutions for small businesses and the choice entirely depends on the brand’s mission, USP/UVP and the product itself.

For example, food and beverage production firms are less likely to follow the same packaging principles of a typical cosmetic company.

Despite these differences, effective custom product packaging should reflect its respective brand’s unique identity and stay consistent with the colors, logos and fonts.

How Important Is Custom Small Business Packaging?

With a steady addition of players to the game, the competition is getting fierce. This means businesses that are not on a corporate level have a harder time convincing prospects to buy from them.

Despite this, a lot of brands still blindly stick to basic, boring aesthetics when it comes to their product packaging, shipping them in plain cardboard boxes. If you’re looking to gain customers’ attention and elevate user experience, these just won’t cut it anymore.

As a small business owner, you need to do everything in your power to ensure that your product gets noticed. Reaching a point where it effortlessly stands out on the shelf while next to your competitors is easier said than done.

Custom packaging for small businesses can help in achieving these goals.

In recent years, the demand for custom small business packaging has increased drastically as its potential to sharpen businesses’ competitive edge has risen.

But why exactly? Custom box packaging is still something to be thrown out as soon as you unpack it, right?

Not quite.

The Benefits of Custom Packaging Solutions for Small Businesses

From a small business’ perspective, custom packaging opens up several benefits. Let’s explore them all.

1. Excellent Customer Experience

A healthy conversion rate has always been the main goal of any marketing effort. Crucial as it is, this KPI won’t help you retain customers without truly understanding their behavior. It may sound corny, but the journey from shopping to shipping is even more important for your brand.

When a prospective customer orders something from your online store, they are indeed converted. But their experience, fueled by (often unhealthy amount of) expectation, has just started.

We’ve already covered the basics. No, the axiom: the packaging of your product is the first glimpse customers get of your brand. With unique packaging, you’re bound to guarantee an excellent user experience right from the get-go.

Just look at YouTube or any other major social media platform. Unboxing videos have become the new "piano cat." Their massive popularity created a whole new subgenre, an environment where prospects form an opinion and a bond with a business before they have even opened their package. Hell, before they’ve even ordered it!

Ideally, shipping boxes for small businesses should use branded and/or unique materials and also the best shipping tape. While more expensive than your standard package, it is a major part of making your brand stick in peoples’ collective minds and creating a positive experience, with or without a physical storefront.

2. Brand Recognition

A major challenge for any business, big or small, is how to differentiate itself. This is especially taxing today when the market is cluttered with lookalike products. When everyone aims to be unique, no one truly is.

It can’t get any simpler. When a small business uses custom packaging, customers will know who their package is from.

Finding a way to make your packaging cool and creative, or banking on minimalist trends can set your brand apart from others. Remember, being innovative for the sake of innovation is not enough and can backfire instantly. Therefore, custom small business packaging needs to provide consistency and cohesiveness in line with the overall branding and marketing.

Branding your products and packaging can play an integral role in the customers’ decision-making process. In fact, your custom packaging isn’t just an eye-pleasing wrapping, it conveys your brand’s mission statement, core values and how your products can help your target audience solve current issues.

Although this type of packaging isn’t inherent to small-scale ventures, custom packaging for small business opens another door – personalization!

Taking a more targeted, customized approach isn’t exclusive to digital marketing. Providing added personalization via unique packaging helps you connect with customers in a meaningful way that will persuade them to become loyal patrons of your business and ideally, brand ambassadors.

3. Green Agenda/Sustainability

Along with personalization, another major brand recognition tool started to dominate the global market – the green agenda.

There has been a huge trend in consumer buying habits towards brands that do business with causes in mind. The increasing majority of consumers prefer to buy from companies that share their values and are taking sincere steps to affect positive change.

For this reason, consumers are more inclined to choose a company that uses recyclable packaging that won’t pollute the environment when disposed of. Young, mainly millennial consumers, want the companies they support to act on social causes.

As a result, more and more companies are investing in environmentally friendly initiatives, especially in packaging and delivering their goods.

When it comes to custom packaging for small business, you should consider how an eco-friendly packaging process increases your chance of connecting with your target audience.

4. Easy/Flexible Customization

With custom box packaging, you can easily switch up your initial design for different products, holidays, seasons and events.

Adding to one of our previous points, you can also ship birthday-themed packaging to your customers during their birth months. It’s these details that customers appreciate, driving them to maintain a healthy relationship with your brand.

5. Shipping Fees Management

Opting for custom product packaging is a good decision from a cost standpoint as well. By choosing this option, small businesses can avoid using larger boxes they don’t actually need.

Business owners often have to worry about meeting a minimum order quantity and/or dealing with packaging that is not the optimal shape or size for their products. When this happens, they have to shell out more to cover additional costs for supplementary materials that will keep their products packed tightly and well-protected both in-store and in transit.

When operating on a tighter budget, these issues can cause a lot of stress and can further deter said owners from investing in custom packaging.

However, ensuring you get the best possible ROI can be done with the right approach. Considering that shipping companies/services charge for volume in addition to the weight of the package, using custom small business packaging is definitely a way to go, or ship, if you will.

Bottom line, as a business owner, you should look for custom box manufacturers that offer a good balance of quality and price.

What Is Included in Custom Product Packaging?

There’s a wide array of customization options to choose from when deciding on the perfect custom packaging for small business. These include material, colors, flexibility, safety, shape, size, space and more. Of course, your main product line and its specifications play a major role in determining which type of packaging you should end up using.

The functionality of your packaging impacts the unboxing experience just as much as the aesthetic of it.

To provide a unique and exciting unboxing experience and show your customers you’re willing to go the extra mile, there are a couple of different packaging design options you should consider:

1. Fully Customized Packaging

Fully custom small business packaging are boxes, mailers or any other kind of shipping containers that are, you guessed it, fully customized for your brand — thanks to the various design features present within and outside the container.

While the most appealing, it is also the costliest option as it goes beyond just slapping a logo on the box. They often have unique shapes that complement that of the product, fully branded, colored and designed with meticulous care to tailor to the brand image.

Typically, you’ll see this kind of packaging on higher-end products and/or subscription services.

2. Printed Stock Packaging

Printed stock boxes are another option for adding a custom touch to the usual plain packaging. Although often perceived as a bare minimum, it’s an important stepping stone for newly established small businesses.

Custom printed packaging takes a stock box or other container and adds a brand logo on the outside. This type of customization is a great way to increase recognition without the added cost of material.

If you opt for this particular type of packaging, you need to ensure that the logo placement is prominent and immediately discernible. Also, be mindful of the color contrast. Darker inks help ensure the best possible visibility.

3. Customized Exterior Stickers

Another cost-effective way to customize an otherwise ordinary packaging is by adding custom (logo) stickers. Once you receive the stickers and boxes, you may opt to assemble them in-house to save even more money.

One of the added advantages is that tailor-made stickers can be water-resistant, which is extremely useful when shipping products.

4. Package Insert Customization

When it comes to custom packaging, “thinking outside the box” often means finding a new way to enrich the confines of the said box. But sometimes, it can also mean adding multiple creative touches inside the same box.

A “thank you” note on branded stationery, wrapping your product with tissue paper that flaunts your logo decal or simply adding a customized sticker as the seal that people can stick to their water bottles or laptops can get you far. You never know!

  • Thank You notes and Offer cards: Adding a (pseudo) handwritten thank you note or attaching a coupon voucher for your customer’s next purchase can go a long way. It is an easy and cost-effective way to add a personal touch to your packaging.
  • Custom tissue paper: Wrapping individual products within your small business packaging boxes demonstrates that you take good care of your customers’ orders and that their goods are valuable. Custom packing paper is yet another great opportunity to reinforce brand recognition.
  • Inner packaging: There is a general rule of thumb when packing different products: merchandise like clothing is wrapped customarily in tissue paper, glass-made products in well-protected, sturdy boxes, jewelry in small cushioned containers, chocolate in aluminum foil, composite films with plastic or paper trays, etc.

Here are additional custom packaging supplies for small business you can add to make your packaging stand out:

  • Customized rubber stamps: A simple and fairly inexpensive design option is to go for customized rubber stamps. These stamps can include the company logo or tagline to resonate with the targeted customers.
  • Customized packaging tape: Adhesive tapes that help secure the boxes can also be customized to reflect your brand.
  • Customized bags: Customized bags can be helpful for businesses that need sturdy packaging, not to mention that customers can always use them as walking billboards, adding another free marketing layer to your efforts.

5 Custom Packaging Tips for Small Businesses

Even with an extensive guide, most businesses still wouldn’t know where to start with small business product packaging. Should they go with a full package (pun intended) of customized solutions or should they pick and choose elements best suited to their needs?

Here are some actionable tips for small businesses interested in investing in custom packaging:

1. Select Your Custom Packaging Style

Before anything else, you need to choose the custom small business packaging style that complements your product. Below are the guide questions designed to help you determine that:

  • What product are you packing?
  • What values do you want to communicate?
  • Where will you sell your products?
  • Which packaging size offers the best balance of protection, quality and aesthetics?

After blueprinting the type of packaging, you want to create, it’s time to choose your boxing style. Custom packaging companies usually offer:

  • Mailer box: These are sturdy, solid boxes that can be sent directly through the mail without compromising quality. They are perfect for subscription models, retail gifts and eCommerce packaging.
  • Shipping Boxes: They are ideal for heavier or larger items. This type of packaging is robust and durable and is the most economical option for bulkier products. You can also infuse branding to these boxes for added style and enhanced brand recognition among customers.
  • Product Boxes: For relatively lightweight products, you’d want to design more luxurious packaging. Enter product boxes! They act as primary product packaging and can be placed into the above-mentioned packaging to keep the unboxing experience one of a kind.

2. Design Your Packaging with the Customer in Mind

It goes without saying, but you should always consider your customers in every business decision you make, which includes how you approach your custom packaging for small business.

Take your time to pinpoint exactly who your ideal customer is and design your custom small business packaging with them in mind. Perhaps your audience likes high-end products or maybe they are eco-conscious?

Understanding your customers and their interests will help you shape the design of your new custom packaging. Learn to trust them and don’t forget to emphasize what makes you different as a brand.

3. Focus on Functionality

Your packaging solution should fit your purpose first and foremost! That’s why it’s crucial to focus on being functional.

Does the selected material adequately protect the product inside? Does it reflect your brand in the desired fashion?

The beauty of custom packaging for small business is that (unlike ready-made boxes) you can create and design them based on your brand’s primary needs.

4. Personalize It

Remember, the whole point of customized packaging is to help you add a personal touch to your branding strategy. Consider different ways to make the unboxing experience tailored to your customers.

5. Do the Math

If you just started thinking about custom small business packaging, it’s important to do some calculations before dipping your toes in finding the right provider. Do you actually need custom packaging? While empirically worth your money, starting is the hardest part of any endeavor. Calculate the potential ROI, the best and worst-case scenarios. Decide how much value you expect your custom packaging to provide to your brand and why.

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Wrapping Up Custom Packaging for Small Business

Custom packaging can be an expensive investment, especially for smaller businesses. But if implemented correctly, it can skyrocket their brands to new heights. If you’re able to deliver on the visual promise neatly packed with your product, your business won’t be “small” for long.

Custom small business packaging brings a slew of benefits including:

  • Excellent customer experience
  • Brand recognition
  • Potential green agenda appeal
  • Easy customization
  • More economical shipping
  • And more

Before you start considering reaping these benefits, you should decide on:

  • Your packaging style, shape and size
  • What your customers expect or need
  • The packaging’s functionality
  • Your approach to personalization
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