📦 Top 4 ways the pandemic has changed packaging

  1. Adapting to Shifts in Buying Patterns
  2. Increased Focus on Health and Safety
  3. Strong Sustainability Initiatives
  4. Innovative Design in E-Commerce

As the world continues to grapple with the changes COVID-19 has brought with it, we’re seeing shifts in every industry. 

No sector has been immune to changes from COVID-19, and there continues to be a lot of adaptation and evolution across businesses. 

Packaging is no different. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, packaging has played an integral role in meeting consumer demands.  

From food packaging and other retail sectors to increased e-commerce sales, packaging has played a fundamental role in keeping businesses afloat.

There has been an increase in demand for packaging with a focus on design and safety.

Packaging will continue to play a crucial role for e-commerce and retail, and we’re already seeing major changes come into play as the pandemic continues to run its course. 

Here are four key ways COVID-19 is changing packaging!

  1. Adapting to Shifts in Buying Patterns

E-commerce and online shopping as a whole has become a significant player, and with that, so has e-commerce packaging. 

There has been an unprecedented spike in online shopping, and this has had a domino effect on the packaging industry.

Consumers have had to adapt to the retail store restrictions, leaving them no choice but to opt for online shopping. 

E-commerce, in many ways, has been the main reason brands we know today have been able to stay afloat during COVID-19 restrictions and closures.

With that being said, businesses have had to adapt to the e-commerce world very rapidly to serve the demands of customers. 

Because of this large shift to online shopping, brands have had to evaluate their existing packaging designs to serve its purpose effectively in deliveries. 

Learn more about retail ready packaging and e-commerce ready packaging

Packaging that works for retail stores doesn’t always work as well for e-commerce.

It has to be able to withstand rough use, wear and tear, long distances and a myriad of things before arriving in customer’s hands.  

Businesses who mainly operated on a brick and mortar store basis, have had to change their packaging designs to ensure safety for their products in transit. 

With these in mind, the packaging industry has seen an increase in protective and durable packaging structures and designs that ensure customer satisfaction. 

This is especially true for items that were usually bought in person, such as groceries and produce, which have now shifted to online purchasing options. 

Increased buying patterns have meant more physical demand for packaging. 

Aside from durability, there is also more focus on hygiene, contamination risks, and constant rigors of shipping as the packaging industry looks to evolve alongside the pandemic. 

  1. Increased Focus on Health and Safety 

Packaging isn’t just about durability, it’s also about safety.

The pandemic has made people much more aware of their health and has in turn seen a spike in health concerns when it comes to purchasing decisions.

With the constant risk of surface contamination and packaging that is passed around often, there has been a lot of emphasis on hygienic packaging.

Although it’s been shown that packaging doesn’t hold the transmission risk that it was first thought to, there is still a lot of fear and worry surrounding this issue.

It has become a norm for people to wipe down their products purchased in-store to avoid catching COVID-19. 

Example of health and safety in packaging
Source: Behance

The packaging industry has had to adapt quickly to these design concerns and provide packaging on stricter guidelines.

They now have to assure people that there is nothing to worry about when it comes to transmitting viruses on packaging surfaces. 

However, as customers continue to disinfect packaging and worry about its risk, it’s clear that efforts in the packaging industry to create hygienic packaging will become a priority. 

Packaging will also need to be redesigned to assure people of its safety by using different materials. 

Whether it’s switching from plastic to cardboard based on surface contamination data or redesigning current packaging for more safety measures, there is a lot to consider for the packaging industry. 

Health and safety will likely remain a concern even as the pandemic winds down, and packaging will need to adapt accordingly to give consumers peace of mind in their purchasing decisions. 

Other considerations include new delivery mechanisms to reduce the amount of interaction with products as well as adding in depth information on packaging itself to communicate its safety to consumers right from the start. 

Tamper-proof and sealed packaging has made an emergence in packaging trends this year, as it offers more confidence in the safety measures taken by businesses and the packaging industry for consumers. 

  1. Strong Sustainability Initiatives

Consumers remain eco-conscious in the wake of the pandemic. 

Even with financial struggles and the shift to e-commerce, customers still seek to build authentic connections with brands who maintain eco-friendly brand initiatives. 

As demand spikes, the environmental impact of these demands needs to be taken into consideration by both businesses and the packaging industry.

As we consume more, we are likely to waste more, even if we are using sustainable materials.

Example of sustainable packaging
Source: The Dieline

Packaging has been a way for industries to balance demand and sustainability while continually reassuring consumers about their commitment to sustainable initiatives.  

Packaging has had to quickly improve design to ensure little to no wastage and evaluate each aspect of the design and materials to determine the impact of them on the environment and how well it is adapted to the new world of COVID-19 restrictions.

Looking at the supply chain for packaging materials has become a priority for many businesses as they take more extensive steps to improvements of their manufacturing process.

More partnerships will be made with suppliers to ensure sustainability initiatives without driving up costs and resources to serve the demands of both retail businesses and consumers. 

As sustainability continues to be a priority moving forward, we can expect to see more packaging experts using innovative materials such as biodegradable packaging and reusable packaging to reduce waste and improve their sustainability efforts. 

Artwork and typographic designs will also be more focused on communicating recycling capabilities and environmental efforts to continue serving the demand of eco-conscious shoppers today.

  1. Innovative Design in E-commerce

Last but not least, this change likely does not come as a surprise. 

With increasing consumer dependence on e-commerce, packaging design needs to be updated accordingly, as briefly touched on above. 

As in-person retail shopping behavior shifts online, packaging design takes on more importance in the e-commerce industry. 

E-commerce retailers will look for options that prevent damage, boost productivity, and offer an array of design opportunities for brand differentiation. 

Customers haven’t had the opportunity to interact with products in person before purchasing, making first impressions very difficult to grasp. 

E-commerce brands have to make an impactful impression after purchase, which heavily plays into the unboxing experience of products.

Making the unboxing experience as memorable as possible allows customers to get a better sense of your brand and, better yet, share unboxing videos to their social media platforms – a win-win for businesses and consumers. 

While unboxing experiences has been a priority for businesses before the pandemic, COVID-19 has really put an emphasis on the importance of the experience for e-commerce businesses.  

What was a slower development has now accelerated rapidly, forcing brands to evaluate their packaging designs and how valuable they actually are for customers, in an e-commerce scenario.

With the pandemic still changing the norms globally, more customers have become accustomed to shopping online for products rather than entering stores in person.  

Packaging will continue to evolve with e-commerce businesses as more design trends make an emergence in the packaging industry. 

We can expect to see more emphasis on the interior of corrugated packaging, as brands continue to create exceptional unboxing experiences. 

Things like printed inserts and interior printing for packaging has already made an appearance in the retail packaging industry before the pandemic, but has become a dominating trend during the pandemic.

Inserts and corrugated packaging allows for both protection and creativity to enhance brand narratives and authority with every box, even without retail stores operating. 

While these changes may seem minor now, the pandemic will shape the packaging industry in the future. 

With more focus on sustainability, health and safety and the shifted buying patterns, the packaging industry will tailor products more accurately to target markets. 

As we continue to deal with COVID-19, one thing is clear: Everything is uncertain! 

We’re likely to see more trends emerge as time goes on. 

And even with the trends we have identified, we’re going to see them evolve and change further to meet new demands and expectations in the market. 

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of being flexible and being ready to adapt within a moment’s notice in every industry. 

As long as changes continue to head in this direction, the packaging industry is in a great position to see innovations and methods to enhance the consumer experience.

Read more about The Future of Packaging

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