No matter how you wrap it, product packaging is an integral part of our daily lives, affecting everything from the choices we make at the store to the ways we groom, feed, clothe, and entertain ourselves. Packaging is so prevalent, in fact, that you probably didn’t even realize just how often you think about and interact with it.

When was the last time you reached for a snack? Did you open a box, tear open a wrapper, or grab from a resealable pouch? Was the experience painless and convenient, or did you find yourself uncomfortable, frustrated, and generally hangry? If you felt this way, imagine how millions of other people might think as they reach for a granola bar or bag of trail mix on their next snack break.

Consumers interact with packaging regularly, and it’s up to brands to ensure that those interactions are enjoyable and, ultimately, profitable — and those experiences begin at the store.

It’s no secret that packaging influences people’s purchasing habits. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that, on average, consumers are drawn to visually attractive packaging designs and consider the overall outside presentation when making purchasing decisions. This remained true for shoppers who already felt confident about their personal preferences; for example, consumers who knew they enjoyed the taste of one candy bar may have still spent more time looking at another brand based on the colors and fonts used in the packaging, meaning packaging played a significant role in their decision making.

The findings make sense. Packaging is often the first thing a consumer interacts with when shopping and, for good and for bad, it can tell them a lot about the inside product and the brand as a whole. When designing a package, brands should consider the overall aesthetic, from the color scheme to the shape, as well as the information, such as nutrition labels and company facts, available on the package’s exterior. More than ever, consumers are looking for style and substance — don’t gloss over the product details.

Of course, not everyone does their shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. As consumers become more comfortable with online shopping, so, too, should brands. Making packaging pop on a webpage is as tricky, if not more complicated, than making it stand out in an aisle, especially because shoppers can’t physically examine the package. Social media also adds an extra challenge, as shoppers now see thousands of products on platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and even YouTube, where some users share “unboxing” videos and product reviews.

Another thing to keep in mind is how consumers play the role of advertisers on social media. Word of mouth endorsements aren’t new; but instead of connecting solely with their close friends and family, people are now able to share their interests with a much wider audience — especially if those posting are celebrities or influencers with thousands or millions of online followers. A simple photo of a Kardashian with a product in the background could increase brand recognition and potentially drive up sales. Make sure your packaging is functional, yet attractive enough for those picture-perfect moments.

That said, brands should know and cater to their audiences — not just the rich and famous. Different consumers will have different preferences. For instance, kids’ cereal boxes will often be bright, colorful, and inviting for young, hungry eyes. Conversely, a face mask package might have calm, serene colors that invoke feelings of peace and relaxation. Brands should also consider their look when designing packaging. If your brand uses earth tones in its marketing, it might seem odd if your packaging used vibrant, neon colors. Stick to what feels natural and best represents your brand; again, consumers want to feel they’re buying into an authentic experience.

Similarly, brands should consider how and why the consumer will use the product. Is this a single- or multi-use item? Was the product created to travel well, like a snack bag, or is it something consumers will take home and store in one place, such as a computer monitor or a bag of lettuce? Knowing the function will help you determine which packaging materials you should use. For on-the-go products like granola bars or dried fruits, choose flexible packaging options, which include bar wraps and resealable, preformed standup pouches. Single-use cosmetic items like face masks or sample beauty products also benefit from flexible packaging, such as cosmetic sachets. If you’re packaging something in a bottle, jar, or food-safe plastic wrap, you might consider pressure sensitive labels, which are designed to be attention-catching, yet non-invasive.

Consumers interact with packaging from the moment they see it to the second they dispose of it. Ultimately, product packaging should be designed to stand out in a sea of other products, easy to open (no one likes fumbling with a chip bag for five minutes), convenient to transport (either home from the store or as a grab-and-go item when the consumer is headed out the door), and simple to trash or recycle.

If you’d like to learn how your brand can maximize consumer interactions with your packaging, contact us via phone or email. We’d be happy to help customize the best solutions for your brand so you can focus on what matters most: keeping existing and future consumers happy.