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Why Brand Consistency Matters in the Age of E-Commerce

By the year 2025, online grocery sales are expected to capture 20% of the market – equivalent to $100 billion. 

Man paying for goods using a credit card and his laptop.

In 2019, online grocery shopping sales are expected to reach $22 billion, part of a growing trend that is expected to accelerate as we enter the 2020s. Amazon and Walmart are the leading online food and beverage retailers, but others, such as Kroger are catching up. Furthermore, retail grocery stores are partnering with providers like Instacart to provide local grocery delivery of online orders. 

When consumers order online, they expect the products that arrive on their doorsteps to look precisely as they would if they had picked them off a store shelf. Therefore, food branding trends must pay attention to consistency across sales channels as e-commerce takes a progressively larger proportion of total CPG sales. 

What Today’s Packaging Must Do

Packaging must accomplish several key tasks:

  • Maintaining brand image and identity
  • Surviving the journey from warehouse to consumer homes intact
  • Providing sustainability as much as is possible for today’s sustainability-minded consumer base

Food branding trends must integrate with these necessary packaging features, while promoting strong sales at retail shelves, and to people purchasing products over the web. Packaging designs evolve, of course, but these evolutions must increasingly be coordinated so that they hit e-commerce channels and traditional retail shelves at the same time; that way, brand consistency doesn’t suffer. 

Lack of Brand Consistency Across Channels Can Erode Trust

Suppose a new packaging design hits retail shelves a few weeks before it makes it to e-commerce distribution. People may see a product in the store, order it online later, and find that the product they’re sent has the old packaging design. Conversely, if new packaging designs hit e-commerce channels before retail shelves, web shoppers may receive a product with a new and unfamiliar package design. Either way, there can be a mismatch between expectation and reality. This can chip away at consumer trust in a brand.

Woman appearing frustrated while looking at her phone.

That’s why it’s essential that, to the greatest extent possible, brands must ensure that new packaging designs arrive at retailers and e-commerce distributors at the same time. When consumers have consistency among on-the-shelf products, photos on e-commerce sites, and actual products received, that consistency is reassuring, helping strengthen their brand loyalty.

Sustainability Concerns Add Another Variable to the Mix

Simultaneously with all this, consumers and brands are paying more attention to sustainability. Consumers are doing more than giving lip service to the concept of sustainability. Two-thirds of Millennials say they’re willing to pay more for products that prioritize sustainability. Therefore, food branding trends must also account for on-package communications that educate consumers about sustainability. Consumers want to know brands are doing their part to increase sustainability, and they want information about how they can support sustainability, such as by recycling packaging.

Brands are working hard to design e-commerce packaging that offers protection with minimal bulk and weight, often made from recyclable materials. Alongside other packaging evolution, this adds yet another variable to the complex equation of optimum packaging design.

Food branding trends affect more than just the products that go on retail shelves. They also affect what products look like on e-commerce sites. Consumers want consistency between what they see in stores and what arrives at their homes when they place an online order, which means that changes in packaging designs must be timed precisely so that consistency across sales channels is maintained to the greatest extent possible. 

Add in the challenges of sustainability, and packaging designers certainly have their work cut out for them. Brands that rise to the challenge are best positioned to gain from the continuing shift toward e-commerce orders for grocery items. PKG Brand Design is always on the forefront of new CPG branding and packaging initiatives; please subscribe to our blog for the latest package design industry news!

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