4 Foolproof Tips for Great Retail Packaging

A successful retail brand is the result of a thoughtful strategy, creative art direction, and consistent execution. Here are four ways to build a retail packaging system that connects with your customers and inspires long-lasting brand loyalty and steady sales.

Why is packaging important to selling any product?

We’d like to think that consumers make choices based on rational and informed mindsets. That’s not true. Most shoppers buy products based on their instincts. The colors used in the design and shape of the product’s packaging impacts buyer decisions just as much as a trusted brand name or having the lowest price.

Find success on shelves with these tips for strategic ways to apply smart design thinking to your retail product packaging.

What is good packaging? Memorable visuals.

The most successful packaging stands out on the shelf with iconic, memorable visuals. Grab your target audiences’ and consumers’ attention with a distinct icon, bold color palette, or even a repeated pattern — something that’s immediately appealing and eye-catching. In some cases, that means being louder than the other brands on the shelf, but other times, a subtle, simple design is more effective.

Having memorable visuals — an added bonus — helps shoppers easily recall what they’re looking for because they’ve made a cognitive link with a brand. If a product's packaging is hard to describe to someone else, for example, it makes it less compelling and overall less memorable, decreasing the opportunity to connect with potential customers.

Related: Do You Need Retail Packaging?

Upslope Brewing

Upslope Brewing Company broke the mold in the craft beer industry with an entirely different approach to their packaging. Their simple, clean, and iconic aluminum cans feature the highly recognizable Upslope logo front and center, with very straightforward, minimal text for each variety of their coveted brews. This approach — of using memorable visuals — has allowed them to stand out from other Colorado breweries, which have been known to have overly detailed and cluttered can label designs.

Good retail packaging needs the power of emotion

A brand can have the most beautiful packaging design in the world, but if it doesn’t trigger an emotional engagement in the first few seconds, it will fall short of its full potential. It’s a fact that consumers take a purchasing action when a brand makes them feel something; it could be a retro-inspired package that tugs on the heartstrings with the feeling of nostalgia, or a design that radiates a sense of calm, peaceful relaxation.

Sir Bananas

The packaging of brand new milk product, Sir Bananas by CanonWave, evokes feelings of adventure, discovery, and child-like happiness. With a fun, whimsical monkey as the brand’s mascot, the retail packaging for the banana milk positively sticks out in the sea of similar looking milk cartons — making this product near impossible not to take home and enjoy.

Tangible business benefits of retail packaging

Does your product’s retail packaging clearly communicate what the consumer will get out of your product? It’s critical that every aspect of your retail packaging strategy, from visuals to messaging and advertisements, gets a point across and subtly signals shoppers to buy.

A great ongoing litmus test to ensure your retail packaging is returning on its investment is to take a step back, look at the lineup, and assess it with a consumer lens:

  • Will it protect you from bloodthirsty mosquitoes?
  • Will it keep you warm at temperatures below zero?
  • Will it nourish and moisturize your skin?
  • Will it clean your filthy clothes without using harsh chemicals?
  • Will it fill you up at snack time and serve as an excellent source of protein?


LucidMood, a cannabis brand, relies heavily on their retail packaging to translate the tangible benefits of each of their products. The discrete, portable vapor pens are offered in a variety of different moods for consumers to choose based on the feeling they’re seeking to achieve such as focus, bliss, relax, or energy.

Use retail packaging to offer consumers a unique perspective

Effective retail packaging showcases a distinctive point of view to a brand’s target audience by clearly communicating why it’s unique from the rest. Don’t be afraid to be different, or disrupt a ho-hum category where everyone is doing the same ol' thing as everyone else.

Find a way to show off what makes your brand truly unique. Are you a restaurant brand that focuses on using only high-quality ingredients? Are you a certified B-Corp leading the way in sustainability and corporate responsibility in your industry? Whatever that hook is that makes you stand out should be translated throughout your retail packaging.

Frico Frizzante by Scarpetta

Frico Frizzante, by Scarpetta, is an example of how alternative packaging for products in industries where packaging is not typically leveraged to differentiate the product, such as wine, which has come to be synonymous with large long-necked glass bottles with wrapped paper and foil labels.

The company decided to use eco-friendly cans to reach a new younger segment of consumers to break the mold into a mainstream category. By offering their delicious sparkling Italian wine in clean, modern cans they were able to make their product pop out among the glass bottles it shared fridge space with, but in a way that preserves the sophisticated and tasteful feeling the wine industry is known for.

Consistently assess and update your product's retail packaging to remain competitive and relevant

Whether you’re developing retail packaging for a new product or going through a packaging refresh, keep these four simple tips in mind to create a successful retail packaging system that stands out on the shelf and makes a lasting connection with your audience.