Product Managers Learn That It’s All About The Packaging

It all about the experience
It all about the experience
Image Credit: Praveen

So product manager, what does your product look like? No, I mean when your customer first has a chance to get their hands on their version of your product, what does it look like? Does it show up in a nondescript cardboard box? Is it in an unremarkable container? You do realize how very important first impressions are, right?

The Importance Of A Good First Impression

So what do you want the appearance of your product to say to your customer? The answer to this question should be part of your product development definition. What you are going to want to do is to deliver a specific experience to your customers. By buying your product, you would like them to feel as though they are gaining membership to a club, while making a virtuous purchase. As they unwrap your product, you want to use this as an opportunity to start an ongoing relationship.

Not all products arrive this way. The new age of e-commerce and two-day delivery from Inc. has brought a storm of hastily packed cardboard boxes and plastic mailers with it. It turns out that consumers received 8.6 billion e-commerce packages in the U.S. last year, up from 7.6 billion in 2018. More product managers are trying to drive business results by extending their focus beyond the actual products for sale to concentrate on moments that get increasingly bundled under terms like “consumer experience.”

Product managers need to understand that these moments range widely, from how a product feels in a customer’s hands to whether they feel guilty or sanctimonious about discarding the packaging later. Product managers at startups in particular are motivated to find ways to stand out among larger, more established rivals. If they can get this right, then they’ll have something to add to their product manager resume. For some product managers, packaging creates a cachet around the product — especially when it becomes the subject of admiring “unboxing” videos on Instagram or YouTube.

The Power Of Packaging

We need to understand that when our customers get a beautiful package, they feel like they’re part of the brand’s universe. Customers buy something because it’s part of their identity. If a product manager does not address that on the packaging then this is a miss. New packaging considerations, however, can mean more cost to companies.

With more customers shopping online, there’s a lot more cardboard in the recycling stream these days. Product managers at Amazon are working constantly to reduce waste, including by collaborating with manufacturers to monitor throughout the supply chain. Their sustainable packaging initiatives have reduced packaging weight by 27% per shipment over the past four years.

Sourcing materials is another challenge for product managers that want to provide a certain packaging experience. One of the challenges is that the best materials may not be ready for scale. Finding the vendors who can provide the right packaging material for your product may be difficult. As some in the industry like to say, “you may have to look on page 10 of a Google search” to find vendors that met the needs for sustainability and still looked enticing.

What All Of This Means For You

Product managers are starting to realize that their customer’s relationship with their product starts when they receive the product and unpackage it. This means that how we go about packaging our product should be part of our product manager job description. This is when the real relationship with our customer starts. What we now need to learn is how to make the most of that moment.

Product managers need to understand that the appearance of their product says something to their customer. We want to use the unwrapping as a way to start a relationship with them. Many products arrive in cardboard boxes and plastic mailers. Product manager need to start to focus on the consumer experience. Product managers at startups can use product packaging to stand out from other competitors. Product managers need to understand that packaging can add costs to a product. Packaging products need to be recyclable. Sourcing the materials needed for creating packaging may be difficult.

The good news about product packaging is that this is one aspect of a product that is firmly in a product managers hands. We control how the first moments that our product will spend with our customers will turn out. If we take the time to fully understand our customers and study how the unpackaging process works, we can find ways to maximize the value for our products.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: How do you think that product managers should measure how their customers feel when they are unboxing a product?

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