5 Ecommerce packaging trends to watch out for in 2023

The ecommerce industry is booming. Retail ecommerce sales in 2021, generated about 5.2 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide, according to research by Statista. Experts predict that this figure will grow by 56%, reaching about 8.1 trillion dollars by 2026. 

With more growth comes increased competition. To make your brand stand out, it’s worth investing in branding and differentiation. One way to do this is by using ecommerce packaging that appeals to your audience. Packaging has a strong impact on how customers perceive the value and quality of your product.
Packaging trends have changed in the past few years, with bigger corporations like Amazon moving towards more sustainable packaging. If you’re not sure what’s trending with your audience, we’ll share five of the most important ecommerce packaging trends to help you stay up to date.

Top ecommerce packaging trends to hop on in 2023

Here are five unmissable ecommerce packaging trends worth experimenting with in 2023.

  • Sustainability 

With increased awareness about the impact of packaging waste (especially plastic) on the environment, many consumers are taking a stand for sustainability. Recent surveys show that 86% of consumers aged 45 and under are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. 

Governmental authorities worldwide are implementing new regulations to reduce packaging waste. For example, the German Packaging Act demands that manufacturers, importers, and retailers pay a recycling fee for all packaging which typically ends up in consumer or household waste.
Stronger environmental laws in the EU mean that more European customers expect sustainable packaging. With sustainability in mind, more brands are turning to packaging made from renewable resources like paper or bamboo, but also mushrooms and even wool. These are often recyclable, reusable, biodegradable and sometimes, even compostable.

Skincare company, Nokware uses natural packaging like repurposed raffia, jute sacks, bamboo, and calabashes as their primary packaging. They ship their products in corrugated paper boxes. Nokware also offers discounts to customers who return their product containers to encourage recycling and reusing.

Image source: Plaine Products

Plaine Products is an American sustainability-forward brand that makes bath and body products in re-usable, recyclable packaging. The company ships their aluminium product bottles in recyclable paper boxes.

We expect to see more companies choosing sustainable packaging alternatives or at least reducing their use of plastic packaging and working to eliminate packaging waste altogether.

  • Using packaging as a brand-building tool 

Branding is essential for building trust and generating revenue. Research by Lucidpress shows that using consistent branding can improve revenue by up to 33%.
Besides protecting products, packaging is a unique brand-building tool. It can help brands create increased awareness for their business as unboxing videos and pictures are now a powerful form of user-generated content. According to Google, one in five consumers watches unboxing videos before purchasing a product.

Regardless of which ecommerce packaging type you choose, there are many ways to use packaging as a brand enhancement tool. 

Some brands use packaging designs that include their brand colours. Others include branded messages on the packaging, use branded stamp or tape, and even add product blurbs to share quick usage tips.

Image source: Shipping Things

Hair and skin care brand, Function of Beauty sells products customised to individual customer needs. Their minimal packaging is on brand and includes a message to remind customers that their products are made for them alone.

Image source: Shipping Things

Drunk Elephant’s packaging is unmistakably bright and colourful like the brand and opens up with a funny pun (“an elephant walks into a bar”) to put a smile on their customers faces as they unbox. Drunk Elephant’s packaging team is onto something here – they probably know that studies have shown delight drives brand loyalty.

More brands are prioritising the branding of their packaging and ensuring that their products are recognisable even before customers open the packages. Find ways to let your packaging speak about your brand.

  •  Using unique materials 

The reign of plastic packaging is thankfully running its course and the packaging industry is getting creative with sustainable materials. Unique packaging materials made from mushroom, wool, and wood industry waste have taken the ecommerce world by storm.

For example, Woola specialises in making protective packaging out of waste wool, replacing the need for plastic bubble wrap. The packaging is reusable, recyclable and compostable. 

Image source: Woola

Besides Wool Envelopes—which are meant for shipping smaller fragile items like jewellery or cosmetics—Woola also produces sheets of Bubble Wool to replace bubble wrap for bulkier items. One thing’s for sure: it’s a unique packaging material, so it’s a great way to make your brand memorable for buyers.
Similar material innovation comes from wood industry waste:  RAIKU. Their offerings include a “wood fabric” packaging and the smaller sprigs which work well as packaging fillers.

Image source: RAIKU

Large brands are also taking notice of unique packaging materials. Health brand Seed uses biodegradable mushroom packaging for its products. Some of the packaging even dissolves in water. Also, notice the brand consistency in Seed’s packaging below.

Image source: Twitter

If you want to try unique packaging materials, consider which options best fit the size and shape of your brand’s products, as well as what your brand stands for – don’t forget to bring your packaging in line with your brand’s style.

  • Providing valuable supplemental information

Another packaging trend to look out for in 2023 is the advent of helpful packaging. Pretty packaging is nice, but packaging with useful information presented in a clever and fun way is even better.

Brands make their packaging helpful by providing valuable supplemental information that enriches the customers’ experience of the product. 

This includes adding QR codes as practical shortcuts either on packaging or on inserts. The QR codes could link to returns information, related products, warranty information, or even accompanying freebies like a Spotify playlist. 
QR codes are making a comeback and seem to be in it for the long haul, with eMarketer forecasting an increase from 83.4 million in 2022 to 99.5 million by 2025. They can hold large amounts of information and can be a great way to show more personality, share more information, and market your brand to customers without bulking up your packaging.

Image source: Twitter

Cookware brand, Caraway uses its product packaging to share product use tips—even labelling the pans for kitchen newbies. If you’re still wary of QR codes, this is a charming way to share more with customers unboxing your products.

  •  Including delightful surprises 

Although receiving a package is a treat in itself, you can multiply your customers’ delight by including a wonderful surprise in your packaging. 

Ashley Woodyatt, Marketing Manager at Woodyatt Curtains explains why that extra touch will go a long way in the future.

“We’re going to see a drastic uptick in ecommerce businesses adding handwritten notes and personalised messages within their packaging to really show that they’re going the extra mile.

With 2023 set to be a turbulent time for online retailers, it truly will be the golden era of customer service and customer retention. The more personalised an approach, then ultimately the more a customer is likely to return and truly feel valued.”

Fortunately, there are so many ways to bring a smile to customers’ faces when they open your packaging.

You can include some or all of the following surprises with their order: 

  • Packaging inserts with promo codes
  • Miniature test samples
  • Personal messages 
  • Frameable postcards 
  • Small swag items like pins, colouring pages, and stickers (get them at VinylStatus, for example)

Online consignment and thrift store store, ThredUp uses on-brand packaging that includes customised shipping boxes. The company also includes a “Clean Up Bag” that customers can use to send used clothing to ThredUp to resell. Even more delightful, ThredUp’s packaging often contains swag like the pins that remind customers to shop secondhand.

Image source: Shipping Things

Drunk Elephant’s customers love the free samples the brand includes with their orders. The company’s packaging also includes colouring pages so customers can add their flair to the brand’s colourful aesthetic.

Image source: Twitter

Get creative with ways to excite your customers during the unboxing experience. If you’re concerned about spiking your budget, you don’t need to give expensive gifts. Even using fun, customised inserts that hold the products in place in your packaging, instead of predictable void filling can make your customers’ day—while reducing your ecommerce packaging expenses.

Which packaging trend is right for your ecommerce business?

Trends may come and go, but they’re often an important marker of an industry’s direction and it’s wise not to be left behind. Global ecommerce is a rapidly growing industry with rising competition. 
To edge out competitors, you’ll need to show that you share your customers’ values (sustainability is on everyone’s minds), differentiate your packaging with unique materials and branding, and make it your aim to “spark joy” for your customers.