Wrapping Up the Sale
Packages come in all shapes, sizes and substrates. They can be used to store, embellish, transport or simply house products. Suffice to say, there are plenty of options for distributors when it comes to finding the perfect packaging for their clients. But those choices can become overwhelming if distributors don’t know how to use them to their clients’ advantages.
To gain further insight, Print+Promo spoke with Janet Steiner, president and CEO of Corona, California-based FoldedColor Packaging; and Lance Wilson, vice president of sales and marketing for Woodinville, Washington-based Labels West. While FoldedColor Packaging specializes in folding cartons, boxes and packages, and Labels West focuses on labels, both companies know how to harness the power of packaging to get the best results. Here are a few tips distributors should keep in mind.
1. Understand your clients’ needs
Whether it’s a label or a corrugated box, packaging provides the end-user with a first impression of the product. It’s important to make it count—to make the client’s imprint a memorable one. That is why distributors need to understand their clients’ desired aesthetics and applications for the promotions. “You want to know what the client is trying to achieve in terms of look [and] feel, and what the end-use [of the] application [will be],” Wilson said. “Application is so important to understand as that drives the specifications (material, varnish, etc.).”
With that information, distributors can determine how to combine the proper materials with the client’s intended look. “Getting this information and providing it to your supplier should yield a real opportunity to exceed the customer’s expectation and give an opportunity to really ‘push’ the packaging,” Wilson explained.
In order to meet and exceed those expectations, distributors need to know what works (and looks) best for a variety of applications and substrates. They also need to understand basic packaging and marketing concepts, like shelf impact, first moment of truth and billboard effect, Steiner explained. “[Distributors] should learn the common packaging styles, structures and assembly requirements to have productive conversations with suppliers and customers,” she noted.
2. Go green
With packaging, the message it conveys is important, but so is how it’s conveyed. For many distributors, using eco-friendly packaging is becoming a priority. “[Clients] are keenly interested in making environmental improvements to their packaging, so be sure you can offer the data to prove your story,” Steiner said.
FoldedColor Packaging supports its eco-conscious story by using renewable energy and vegetable-based inks, manufacturing paperboard from sustainable sources or recycled materials, and producing cartons with 100 percent wind power.
But the shift to becoming environmentally friendly isn’t without its challenges—and one of the biggest is cost. With an increased demand for green products, however, the industry is likely to see more cost-effective pricing come into play, Wilson predicted.
There are other ways to keep the environment and the bottom line in mind, though. For one, be aware of packaging waste. “Packaging waste can be a major driver of cost for a retail operation, so distributors should work closely with their [clients] to ensure their packaging is as efficient as possible,” Steiner explained. “Good packaging can avoid excess waste and reduce costs across a [client’s] entire supply chain.” To lessen package waste, she suggested using lighter-weight packaging materials where possible and ordering lower quantities with just-in-time delivery to minimize inventory levels.
3. Constantly look for new techniques and technologies
Just because a distributor has a successful promotion doesn’t mean he or she has perfected the art of packaging. The industry is constantly expanding its techniques and technologies, and the client always is looking for the most effective ways to produce packaging. Whether it’s through competitive prices, low order minimums, free spot colors or all-inclusive quotes, Steiner suggested distributors look for suppliers that will help them continually provide the best product and process all around.
Wilson agreed. “It’s easy to get complacent with a vendor and a vendor’s methods,” he said. “Keep pushing and looking for better ways to do things. Technology is changing so fast that this is important to stay on top of.”
That also means keeping track of the new services offered by suppliers. FoldedColor Packaging offers a custom packaging builder. The fully automated web-to-print platform is able to shorten the entire production process by allowing distributors to select and customize their own designs, dimensions and substrates, and instantly create a downloadable template to ensure products will be created as expected.
Meanwhile, Labels West recently upgraded to the latest HP Indigo digital press, which allows the company to more accurately match Pantone colors that aren’t available with standard four-color process print. The supplier also invested in new equipment that provides combination printing, which combines different printing techniques to create high-end, embellished labels for greater functionality and appearance.
4. Preview the promotion
One of the major hurdles in package printing is not having the product on hand to check for aspects, like proper sizing, performance and function of the packaging, Steiner said.
Distributors can combat that challenge by offering prototypes. In fact, prototypes not only reassure clients, but can be used as an effective selling tactic, as they can ensure the product effectively meets the client’s needs through proof-of-concept analysis or market testing. Does it work for the product’s purpose? Does it appeal to the desired market? Did the idea turn into an effective promotion in practice? “Simple, inexpensive prototypes can provide valuable insurance prior to a longer-run production order,” Steiner explained. “Plus, the extra effort will earn you credit from the customer, as they will appreciate your investment in their packaging project success.”