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One of the biggest challenges for private label brands (and e-commerce brands in general) is trying to create a memorable, unique, and rewarding customer experience. As an online retailer, you are both closer and further away from your audience than the traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. On the one hand, modern online brands have methods to communicate with customers that businesses simply didn’t have 20 years ago. Email, Twitter, Facebook, instant messaging: all these tools make it easier to keep in touch with customers, answer questions, resolve complaints, and more.

On the other hand, you don’t get much actual face time with your clients. You don’t get to draw customers into your store to walk around, look at or try out products, select their purchases, and then walk to the checkout counter to finalize the transaction.

Instead, all this plays out virtually, on a website designed for user convenience. While online shopping is convenient, it can take away some of the excitement of shopping. Most online retailers seem faceless and somewhat interchangeable to customers. So long as your brand isn’t doing something to offend or disappoint its customers, the best you can hope for is to be lumped in with all the other e-commerce brands out there. Or is it?

How Paying More Attention to Packaging and Order Fulfillment Can Set Your Brand Apart

The conundrums discussed above are things that e-commerce retailers are going out of their way to solve. Every year, we see the results of these efforts in flashier, more unique, and more intuitive web store design. We see it in the form of sales, promotions, and loyalty programs. We see it in the way that online retailers are becoming increasingly more active on social media.

But if you’ve already taken these steps and others to boost customer retention and perceived value for your private label products, where can you go next? We propose branded or printed packaging.

Here’s the pitch: every other online retailer or private label brand is already doing the same things you are to improve the customer experience. If you want to give your brand a “point of difference,” you are probably going to have to look beyond your website design, your promotions, your loyalty programs, and your social media account. Luckily, there is a whole other category of the customer experience to think about even after your customers have finalized their purchases through your web store.

That category is order fulfillment, and it is one of the considerations that e-commerce retailers—particularly small private label brands—overlook most frequently. A customer’s experience doesn’t end because your website did its job and converted them from visitor to paying customer. On the contrary, finalizing that sale is just the first step of a new mission: converting your paying customer into a repeat customer. An intuitive online store is key to lead conversion, but customer retention depends mainly on product quality and fulfillment. If you fumble the ball with either, you risk losing the client and all the future business they might have brought to your brand.

The Components of Order Fulfillment

A lot of things go into fulfillment. It’s important that you get your orders shipped out quickly so that your customers get their products in a matter of days. (If you can’t handle this part of the process in-house, it’s okay to outsource the process to a third-party company that offers fulfillment services.) You need to make sure that your product gets to the customer in perfect condition, which means choosing the right box sizes or bubble mailers—and making sure more fragile goods are padded appropriately.

Finally, you need to ensure that the unboxing process itself is exciting for customers. Part of the reason that shopping experiences feel less “unique” in the internet age is that most brands send products to their customers in the same boring boxes and envelopes. Companies like Amazon have started subverting this trend, sending goods in custom branded boxes. When you come home to find an Amazon box on your porch, the branded touches add to your anticipation because you know what is waiting for you underneath the cardboard and tape.

Improving the Fulfillment Process with Branded or Printed Shipping Boxes

You don’t necessarily need to invest in branded shipping boxes for your private label products (though, depending on the number of orders you fulfill, custom packaging might be worthwhile). However, you should note that boxes and envelopes that are different from the norm can add perceived value to your brand for customers.

Even just a shipping box that has graphics printed on the inside can make the unboxing process more fun and memorable. It doesn’t cost much to do this type of printing, but it provides a fun surprise for your customers and sends the message that you care enough about the customer experience to do something a bit left of the norm. Both perceptions can cause your brand to stick in a customer’s mind as others fade into the background, thereby boosting your customer retention figures.