To say the news of Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods shook the grocery business to its core is an understatement. What it really means has been widely debated, but what is certain is that it will have a major impact on how people shop and how they view and purchase products. The lines between brick and mortar and online shopping experiences will continue to blur and marketers and package designers are going to have to think differently about how their products are presented.
For branders and designers, shelf impact has always been the end all, be all at retail. But what if a growing percentage of your audience never sees you at retail, but as a featured item on Amazon or a Whole Foods online store? Suddenly all the rules of packaging are less relevant; are regulations regarding logo/name/descriptor sizes still valid on a product thumbnail? Products presented online will include lengthy descriptions, unlimited images, zoom, 360 rotation, associated video content and more - completely changing the way product information is delivered to consumers.
It’s likely that Whole Foods’ shelves will ultimately be of marginal value to Amazon but rather their 400 plus locations in upscale, affluent neighborhoods and their warehousing capabilities that Amazon will find most important. Not surprisingly, Amazon’s target Prime audience overlaps nicely with the core Whole Foods shopper with store locations based on not only core demographics like household income but also concentration of more educated, more liberal and more health-minded consumers.
One of Amazon’s greatest challenges has always been delivery speed and they have devised a number of approaches to getting product to consumers more quickly. The notion of armies of drones filling the skies carrying smiley-face boxes caused more than a small amount of concern. Proximity seems to be their latest and most logical solution.
So with the prospect of more and more consumers e-shopping, what does that mean for package designers? Ultimately it means that the carton, bag, pouch or label is only one small part of how a brand will make an impression on shoppers. The instinct of brand managers to try and say everything on a package lest some amazing feature or benefit gets lost on consumers becomes less of an issue since there can now be a variety of support media attached to online product listings. Need to communicate your product’s versatility? Include recipe suggestions complete with videos by celebrity chefs, nutritionist testimonials and effusive customer reviews. Interested in buying those fresh Pad Thai noodles? Don’t forget the imported tamarind sauce. And how about a highly rated, stainless steel wok to prepare it in? The up-sell/cross-sell opportunities are endless – with all delivered to your doorstep within the hour. A greater emphasis can be placed on unique, striking, original and generally more creative branding that goes beyond the package, but rather offers something that works across all brand touch points and mediums to give consumers the info they demand, no matter where they find a product.