Fulfillment Solutions: Is Retail Packaging Better Than A Brown Box?


Retail fulfillment packaging resized 600When electronic retailers are beginning, they often ask if they should ship their inventory packaged in bright retail packaging or if they should send the inventory loose, having their fulfillment company pack the items directly into a standard brown shipping box.

To answer this question, consider the following:

  1. Are you going to sell these products in brick-and-mortar retail stores, or only direct-to-consumer?
  2. Have you already figured out which combinations of products work best to make your customers place orders?
  3. Are you more concerned about your brand’s image, or are you more concerned about cutting costs?

If you plan on selling your product to brick-and-mortar retailers, they require your product have been run through professional product packaging design and placed into bright retail packaging that sells your product to the customer as he or she walks down store aisles and sees your product alongside of hundreds of other options.

This is particularly true for the DRTV (Direct Response Television and Infomercial Industry). Typically, an infomercial product will be something innovative that requires demonstration via a video, and so the idea is that the consumer has already seen a demonstration of what problem the product solves. The consumer then goes to the store, and the retail packaging including the “As Seen On TV” logo is bright enough to grab the customer’s attention. The consumer can quickly recognize that this is a product from the infomercial that they almost bought, and now are ready for the impulse buy, encouraged by the retail packaging.

Retail Packaging Ultimately Increases Perceived Value Of Your Product

Retail packing costs significantly more because of the increase in perceived value. This additional price is clearly justified if it becomes your primary sales channel when the customer is browsing aisles.

Hopefully, you don’t find yourself in a position of not being able to sell your inventory on the primary market and needing to go to a liquidator who will sell your product on the secondary markets. If you do find yourself here, the liquidator is not interested in buying your inventory unless it’s in retail packaging. If you are able to provide just your loose product, the liquidator is not going to give you much for it.

That said, there are still times when it makes sense to send your inventory loose to the fulfillment center. These scenarios are all typically related to the stage of the product lifecycle. If you are testing a new product or combination of products, there are many reasons why loose packaging in a brown box makes more sense in the beginning of the campaign.

Have you already figured out which combinations of products work best to make your customer place orders?

In the infancy of your new product’s lifecycle, you may find that you are not selling one single item; you are selling a combination of items together. For example, you purchase a piece of exercise equipment, which also happens to come with some exercise DVDs and some supplements. Which combinations of items make the customer purchase at the price point you need determines what items are ultimately included in that order.

In the beginning, you will likely be testing different combinations. Because of this, it is very expensive to have custom package design performed and retail packaging included for a combination of products that don’t sell and ultimately need to be reworked.

With new product campaigns, it’s better to begin with shipping the items individually in a brown shipping box. Once you determine which combination of offers works best, then you may choose to put those items into product-specific retail packaging.

Keep in mind, this is more work for the order fulfillment company, and you will likely be charged some small additional pick fee per item; however, that pick fee is insignificant compared to the cost of testing different retail packaging when you are still determining the best offer.

Are you more concerned about your brand’s image, or more concerned about cutting costs?

For many sellers, selling product in big-box retail stores is not part of the sales formula. For those sellers, the choice of retail packaging versus brown boxes comes down to their brand image and what their customers expect. Apple is a master of retail packaging. When you open your new Apple device, there is a certain pleasure derived from that process. Can you imagine if your new iPad showed up inside a brown box just lying in some shipping paper? Only you can determine what your brand represents and how this matches up with your customers’ expectations. Shipping loose in a brown box can certainly save some significant costs if it makes sense for that specific product or if a campaign is still in a testing phase.

Shipping Retail Packaging Without A Brown Shipping Box

Sometimes direct marketers have already purchased product packaging design and retail packaging, and they request that a the fulfillment company simply put a shipping label on the package without a brown shipping box. You may opt to pursue this alternate cost savings opportunity, but you will need to have your customer service center monitor the increase in product theft that occurs to determine if the cost savings actually make sense.

When you are first testing out what combination of items are the most popular for your direct marketing business, the help of an order fulfillment company is going to help you get the best packaging results

Ready to learn more about product fulfillment services for your direct marketing business? Call 800-808-3304 or click here to speak with a product fulfillment expert at Moulton Fulfillment.


About The Author

Patrick Moulton specializes in logistics and marketing with 15 years of industry experience. He is currently enrolled in the USC Marshall School of Business Executive MBA program.