Over the past few decades, packaging has become a critical component of product differentiation. In fact, according to a market study shared by Technavio, a market research firm, the global packaging market is expected to grow at a CAGR of six percent until 2021.
Packaging no longer serves the role of merely securing the product. Manufacturers use product packaging to interact with customers, make their product stand out in a sea of brands, and influence purchase decisions. On the other hand, consumers see it as a medium to get more information about the product quality.
Consequently, the trend in the packaging industry is drifting towards meeting the needs of the customer and creating unique user experiences. Here are five packaging trends that you must watch out for in 2018 that will influence consumer buying habits.
1. Flexible Packaging Will Continue to Grow
The flexible packaging domain will continue to see a healthy growth due to its functionality, sustainability, and convenience to customers. Packaging experts are excited about coming up with innovative flexible packaging designs that can offer better shelf appeal, premium branding options, and improved shipping efficiency. Thus, flexible packaging is leading the way in packaging innovation, offering portable, lightweight, and affordable packaging solutions to manufacturers.
Customers prefer flexible packaging such as pouches, bags, and overwraps as they can be easily opened and resealed and can be carried around with ease. Stand-up pouches, for instance, are found to be the most preferred type of flexible packaging amongst health food manufacturers and customers.
Thus, as customers become picky about choosing products that offer consumer-friendly packaging, manufacturers are expected to desert conventional cartons, bottles, and cans and use flexible packaging because they are compact, environment-friendly, and offer premium branding options.
2. Use of Unique Design Elements for Customer Convenience and Engagement
In this age of technological innovations, packaging not only serves the role of protecting the products but also enables manufacturers to highlight the product attributes and interact with the customer. In the years to come, product manufacturers will employ a variety of functional as well as decorative design elements to enhance customer experience and ensure frustration-free customer packaging experience.
For instance, the e-commerce giant Amazon has tied up with several manufacturers across the globe to design Amazon-Certified Frustration-Free packaging that is compact, devoid of redundant aesthetic features, and can be easily opened by the customer.
Similarly, immersive technologies, namely augmented reality (AR) in packaging are being employed by manufacturers to make it exciting for customers to receive the parcel, creating a unique experience for the end user that captivates and forges a lasting brand connection. For instance, Absolut Vodka teamed up with Shazam, an application that can sense music, to create a creative and interactive content for customers interested in cocktail recipes and other social media content. Thus, the customer only has to hold a hand-held device in front of the bottle to interact with the brand. Heinz Tomato Ketchup also employed AR to share exclusive recipes with their customers, enhancing brand advocacy through audience participation.
3. Big Data and Internet of Things Will Revolutionize Food Packaging
Just like Augmented Reality, other advanced technologies, namely Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) are changing the manner in which companies add value to their product packaging. The food packaging market, in particular, is using these technologies to create smart packaging that is interactive and intelligent.
Manufacturers are now using Big Data and IoT to determine the safety and freshness of food items. For instance, Seafood Analytics introduced a smart way to verify the freshness of fish using a non-evasive device with sensors that capture data that determines whether the fish was previously frozen, the period for which it was stored on ice, the time since harvest, and the maximum shelf life. Moreover, these sensors also share information on the environmental conditions that prevailed throughout the supply chain. Thus, Big Data and IoT capture and record all the relevant data from catch-to-consumption.
Similarly, PackageTagz, a smart pouch-packaging solution from iZipline uses the Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to facilitate instant interaction with customers, enabling product manufacturers to collect valuable user data.
As food traceability and transparency is gaining significance, packaging experts expect to see an increasing use of technology to influence customers’ buying decisions. In the coming years, the packaging engineers will leave no stone unturned for incorporating smart features such as NFC, quick response code (QR), and scan codes that are compatible with hand-held devices, enabling customers to access product information the moment a smartphone is held up to it.
4. Flexible Packaging Will Continue to Grow
With an increasing number of consumers becoming health-conscious and eco-aware, sustainable packaging will drive the global packaging trends in 2018. Consumers across the globe are not only opting for eco-friendly products but also the ones with portable, recyclable, and lightweight packaging.
The Global Packaging Trends Report 2017 shared by The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies predicted that in the year 2018 consumers in emerging and established markets will drift towards environment-friendly packaging options, pushing the designers and the package development team to meet the right social and environmental standards.
Thus, manufacturers are expected to use innovative recyclable materials, such as polylactic acid (PLA), biodegradable plastics, molded fiber, bagasse, and other recycled products to develop sustainable packaging, reducing the amount of waste being diverted to the landfills and the ocean floor and minimizing the ecological footprint. For instance, Evocative, a New York-based biomaterials firm developed a mushroom-based packaging material that can be used as an alternative to plastics.
5. Manufacturers Will Use Personalized Packaging to Ensure Customer Satisfaction
Luxury brands have been offering premium and personalized packaging options for several decades. However, in the past few years, the technological advancements and the personalization software developments is making customized packaging a norm for all manufacturers.
Consumers are increasingly getting interested in engaging in brands, such as Coca-Cola, Nutella, and M&M’s that allow them to customize the product label. Thus, the personalized packaging is about offering innovative experiences to customers and connecting with them at an emotional level.
It isn’t surprising that brands have to come up with innovative product packaging solutions in order to increase brand engagement and customer loyalty. The upcoming packaging trends shared in this article represent the most recent consumer attitudes and purchasing behaviour in both global and local markets. Considering the above-mentioned trends during the packaging design stage will enable manufacturers and packaging experts to stay on the pulse of these constantly-evolving customer preferences.