This abnormal period is working hard to also profoundly influence packaging design trends. No more excuses as the focus is now even more on the theme of sustainability and on consumer safety concerns. Now that e-commerce is also peaking, it's a pertinent question as to whether packaging design is a future-proof, direct-to-consumer model. In other words, these three mega developments are causing a small landslide that makes a big contribution to shaping the “new standard” of packaging.
When it comes to the future of packaging, sustainability is nothing new. Long before the health crisis, this trend was a hot topic for brands, retailers and designers. However sustainability must be redefined with now a greater attention on hygiene. The sustainability goals of fmcg producers and retailers to innovate their packaging portfolio with high recyclability remains the same for the time being. Nevertheless, the materials and design requirements of the new standard packaging need to be reconsidered. The pandemic has turned consumer behaviour upside down. Even though consumers remain extremely price sensitive, online purchases will only increase across all categories, further reducing the frequency with which real stores are visited. Whether the consumer will remain loyal to his trusted brands as a result is the question. In other words, it is hyper-important that in times of social distancing, “close-contact-with-your-customer” remains high on the agenda. Buying online is like starting a relationship on Tinder and depending on the attention obtained, he or she swipes your brand or product to the left or to the right.
We can also assume that consumers will focus even more on “health” and “hygiene”, which requires high expectations from both the product and the packaging design. The extremely high demand for take-away meals and DIY meal boxes resulted in the return of one-way packaging. Considering packs may have been touched by several hands before reaching its final destination, anti-bacterial materials could give the consumer an improved perception of safety. In any case, one of the main reasons why consumers wish to shop close to home is that it makes them feel safer and more comfortable. It feels very much like one-on-one shopping, which you can almost compare as shopping with a mouse click. Perhaps a touch-tracking system offers a solution for supermarkets, where the packaging indicates by means of color indications whether there has been a long-term human contact.
Covid19 has also accelerated the need for e-commerce-proof packaging. As such, the packaging must be robust enough to arrive at the customer in perfect condition and yet also with the correct aha experience. Any brand who can adapt swiftly in such situations, may employ additional messaging, such as raising awareness about hand hygiene and other safety precautions. This resulting in a preference for brands and products that offer complete confidence. People still wish to identify with meaningful brands which requires to address the need to be able scan quickly those brands and products visually - both off and online - before making a purchase. As a brand you need to remain aware of your responsibility towards your customer to communicate concisely and transparently through packaging.
Do we currently require more or less packaging? That question remains so far unresolved. Perhaps the biggest change is the fact that with the packaging design we compelled to guarantee consumer peace-of-mind. When hygiene is paramount, many will turn to packaging to find that sense of security. However, that must be carefully considered. Deliberately reducing waste to a minimum also means minimizing packaging material. If the pandemic pushes us in the other direction, it will undoubtedly have to be 100% sustainable.
Patrick De Grande, Creative Farmer @ Quatre Mains, Branding & Packaging design.