Should you allow your potential customers to open your retail package to examine your product?
Open package returns are a big problem for companies. Most retail stores will return a damaged package to you but often times also if they were simply opened by shoppers inside the store.
For one of my own products that ended up in retail stores such as Circuit City, Best Buy, Radio Shack, and Fry’s Electronics, we saw a huge amount of returns of boxes that were simply opened by customers who wanted to see what the product was made of and and big it was. We had ample photos and illustrations on the outside but it was still not enough to satisfy their curiosity.
So, for our second round of designs, we created a package that could easily be opened and resealed. The customer or store employee could take out the product and place it back into its cradle without any trouble. The simple tab on the lid could be closed without tearing and resealed with a reusable wafer seal. These simple changes, along with some improvements of the description on the outside of the package, resulted in dramatically higher sales and a lower rate of returns.
I have always been frustrated by the experience of shopping for an iPhone or iPad case because I can’t touch them before buying. Most cases sold are completely sealed in their packages. I believe that is how people inadvertently end up with bulky cases that easily slip out of their hands or pockets. Some have little holes where you can feel the texture but it is still not the same as to slip a case onto your device and experience the feel in your hands. For that reason, I always get cases based on what my friends have.
Theft, of course, is still a big problem for many retail stores and boxes that can easily be opened are simply not feasible. If your product is easily damaged or has a delicate surface, resealable packaging would also be impractical.
It is interesting that Apple’s own 2012 guidelines for manufacturers call for packages that can be opened: “Packaging should be easily opened and resealed so that customers can experience the product before purchasing. If needed, clear wafer seals may be used to secure sleeves.” I applaud their stance on blister packages that are frustrating to consumers and not very environmentally friendly:” Clamshell blister packaging is not to be used at any time.”
So, how can you prevent open box returns without resorting to clamshell blister packaging?
Use quality photography. If you don’t want them to rip open your package, let the shopper clearly see what the item looks like, if possible from different angles. I also find it helpful to show at least one of the photos to show your product in context to its environment. For example, showing a hand holding your product can give the shopper an idea how big or small your product is without opening the package. If your product is an accessory, simply showing it attached to a well-known product like an iPhone, iPad, Mac, etc. also helps your potential customer to gauge its size.
Utilize a die cut window. Let the user see some of your product to see its construction, material, color, reflection, or size. New advances in acrylic windows give you the option of using material that can’t easily be punctured. For products that have an important “touch” component like phone cases, have a little opening that allows the user to feel the texture.
Illustrate its use: Show how the product can be used or connected to other gear. If your product has USB, Thunderbolt, Firewire, etc. ports, show a photograph or illustration of it. Don’t let some gearhead rip open your package because you failed to show the product’s back panel.
Observe customers: Visit retail stores and observe how customers chose products that are similar to yours. Learn from them how they scan the isle, pick up packages, read the descriptions, and much more. Listen to the questions they ask retail clerks.
Answer the most important questions. Make sure customers find out what your product is, what features it has, and how it can make their life easier. See What Is Your Customer Thinking