How many times have you wondered what a manufacturer was thinking when it designed its product packaging? If you are like other resellers, you have likely been frustrated by retail packaging that does not clearly inform customers, takes up too much (or too little) shelf space, or does not effectively deter shoplifters. It is during these moments that the importance of channel-friendly packaging and branding becomes evident.
In the old days, tiny memory cards were sold in difficult to open plastic cases that measured 15×10-inches to deter theft. But, times have changed. Now, if a product does not strike the delicate balance of addressing the needs of both you and your customers while at the same time being environmentally friendly, it will not be successful in the channel and might end up hurting the brand in the long run.
Communication is key
As a photo channel reseller, it is partially your responsibility to act as a resource for your customers. More often than not, customers will enter your store (or visit your Web site) with questions they need answered before making a purchase, and need your help identifying the best products for their particular purpose. As a result, it’s crucial that you and your staff are able to identify the appropriate products and their intended uses. While it is not necessary to have the technical specifications memorized for each product (although the important specs should be clearly communicated on the packaging), you need to be able to quickly spot the products that customers need and explain why they need them.
The effects of poor packaging can be far-reaching. While you may know what a product is designed to do, your customers may not. For example, they may bypass the tripod they need because they aren’t sure if it’s for a digital SLR or an HD video camera. They might pass up the right flash because they don’t know if it will work with their particular camera model and don’t feel like scanning the box to figure it out.
The end result is that the customers do not buy the product, and you miss out on a sale. One may argue that they will find something else to buy, and the reseller will still generate revenue, but that may not always be the case. We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve been in a rush to purchase something, could not find what we needed and left the store to go somewhere else. It’s a situation that both manufacturers and resellers want to avoid!
On the flipside, the impact of effective product packaging can be far-reaching, as well. If customers know they can come into your store and easily find what they need, when they need it, they’re likely to return. To take it a step further, if you and your staff understand and can convey the function of products, customers will know they can speak with you when they have questions, and will look to you as a resource for future questions and recommendations.
Is bigger better?
As consumer groups are calling for manufacturers to use less and less packaging, and many manufacturers are taking steps to reduce solid packaging waste, it’s important to know that a key component of retail packaging design is focused on limiting “shrinkage.” Additionally, it is important to remember that it is very difficult to include appropriate product messaging on small packages, especially if those messages are translated into numerous languages.
In addition to clearly communicating its key messages, product packaging must be bulky enough to keep shoplifters from slipping it into their pants or backpack and walking out of the store. Theft, or “shrink,” is a major concern for all retailers, and one of the best ways to curb shoplifting is to deter would-be thieves from considering it in the first place.
To aid resellers, product manufacturers make packaging that would be cumbersome to steal. This includes adding some heft to the packaging and making the product hard to open (now you have an explanation for when customers complain about plastic packages being almost impossible to open).
Product packaging sizes are also dictated by the dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of resellers that need to fit the products onto their shelves. Some products sit on a shelf, some sit under glass, some hang from a peg. The products with the most versatile packages make it easy for resellers to find a spot for them.
What can you do?
Given the multiple criteria that product packages must meet to be effective, you will always find examples of “channel-unfriendly” packaging. You may think you’re doomed to live with packaging that’s hard to understand, easy to steal and does nothing for your bottom line…but you’re wrong!
Speak up! Mention your thoughts to your sales reps. Share complaints from your customers or show them how much of their product has “grown legs” and walked out of the store. Good reps will relay your thoughts onto their marketing teams, who will appreciate and consider the feedback you provide. As their reseller, you have a direct connection with their customer so don’t be afraid to make your voice heard.
Jeff Cable is the Director of Marketing at Lexar.