The threat of a physical retail store disappearance has been around for years now. Articles about the longevity of the retail store show up in blogs and news reports almost daily. I don’t know about you but I have never bought a pair of shoes online or have been fitted for a suit over the internet. Additionally, I don’t plan on buying groceries online anytime soon either. Of course these are all anecdotal examples but the evidence suggests retail isn’t dying it’s just changing. Worldwide retail store sales have grown steadily almost every year for instance. However, major retailers, such as Footlocker have had to close down stores and pivot their strategies. So retail isn’t necessarily dying but it is experiencing major changes and the companies that cannot adapt will lose out . This of course affects retail packaging and all things related to custom boxes and retail displays. Retail packaging has had to adapt with the ever increasing consumer demands such as personalization and very design oriented packaging. It’s not enough to wrap a product in a plain cardboard box. Consumers want the value of the product to reflect the box design. And they want the unboxing experience to be just as beautiful as the product.
The retail stores that will continue to survive in 2019 will combine the retail and the online experience. Stores that understand how to create a symbiotic relationship between online and instore buying will really excel in 2019. This means that packaging design and in store retail displays need to be thought of as an omnichannel experience. A customer might shop online but they might come into the store to finalize the purchase. Or they might buy online and pick the product up in store. This means that branding and messaging must be consistent for the entire customer journey. An example of a retailer that has had done an excellent job of combining the online and the offline is Urban Outfitters. They have managed to figure this out and grow steadily.
A key driver in understanding the customer journey is data and technology. Gathering as much data as possible and utilizing this data to help inform an omnichannel branding strategy will help companies create packaging experiences that will complement the offline and the online world. For example understanding what customers are talking about over social media can help designers narrow down well executed packaging and branding strategies. And the only way this can happen is through greater investment in tracking and gathering data on current and future customers.