Ecommerce Packaging

Ecommerce packaging vs retail packaging: what’s the difference?

We live in a world dominated by ecommerce. Since the world went into lockdown, ecommerce packaging has significantly increased in popularity.


In fact, the global ecommerce packaging industry is set to witness the fastest growth of all e-commerce formats. The global market for ecommerce packaging is currently valued at an estimated $49.2 billion. This is projected to increase to $98.2 billion by 2025 - that’s just over 3 years away.

Ecommerce packaging is the closest your business will come to giving a personalised touch to your customers, without actually having verbal or face-to-face contact with them.

But what exactly is ecommerce packaging? Why is it important? And what’s the difference between ecommerce packaging and retail packaging?

In this article, we’ll be exploring the topic further and explain why ecommerce packaging is so important.

What is ecommerce packaging and why is it important?

Ecommerce packaging is how businesses encase their products whilst they are being transported from the warehouse to the customer. It is a type of protective packaging, which must be travel-friendly and protect the product from damage.

Product protection isn’t the only reason ecommerce packaging is favoured by online businesses. It’s used for the following reasons:

  • Increasing profitability
  • Establishing brand identity
  • Enhancing the customer experience
  • Product protection

The product packaging is the first interaction that customers will have with your brand, making it essential to create a satisfying unboxing experience via quality packaging. That means great design - visually and structurally.

Your choice of ecommerce packaging will also affect your profitability. Here are some of the ways your packaging choice could affect the price you pay in shipping costs:

  • Heavier product packaging can increase a product’s overall shipping cost.
  • Using the wrong material to ship products can increase the number of damaged products, thus increasing the number of returns.
  • Using the wrong sized packaging can increase shipping costs, as you could be unnecessarily shipping air / unused packaging space.
  • The infill used inside the packaging can also add unnecessary costs if it does not protect the product.

These are all hidden costs that can become unnecessarily expensive for your business if not monitored. Reduce the risk of paying out needlessly, by working with a packaging expert to optimise your ecommerce packaging when shipping your products.

ecommerce packaging

What is retail packaging?

Retail packaging is the display packaging a product is in when it’s ready for sale in a retail store, such as perfume boxes, food product boxes and other various items.

The function of retail packaging can almost be entirely narrowed down to aesthetic and impactful design, to entice the customer to buy the product when they are in store. A product branded successfully can lead to increased sales in a competitive retail market where customers will make a decision in seconds.

Retail packaging should also include important product information, such as ingredients, allergy information, expiration dates etc.

What is the difference between ecommerce packaging and retail packaging?

There is one real difference when it comes to ecommerce packaging vs retail packaging - the function of the packaging itself.

Where retail packaging is designed to advertise the product inside, e-commerce packaging is designed to protect it through transport.

Both types of packaging have important roles to play within the customer journey. Ultimately, retail packaging is responsible for initially attracting the customer to buy from a brand. It should be aesthetically pleasing, provide important information about the product, as well as encasing the product in a creative way that showcases the brand.

But ecommerce packaging will possibly be the only real touch point with your brand and can determine whether a customer will return to purchase from the brand again in the future.

How to create successful ecommerce packaging

There are a lot of elements to consider when designing packaging for unboxing and transport, but you should also consider sustainability.

You’ll need to consider creating packaging that is the ideal size for your product, meaning you can minimise on excess and unnecessary packaging. Does the transport method require extra protective packaging for your product? Does your packaging need to fit through a letterbox? How easy are returns for your customer? What do you want your customer’s experience to be?

No matter how great your unboxing experience is, consumers are more environmentally conscious than ever before. If you can create ecommerce packaging that is robust, with the experience of unboxing, alongside the message that your brand is focused on sustainability, you’ll be sure to improve your brand reputation.

Ecommerce packaging from Swiftpak

Reliable and robust protective packaging is important for any ecommerce packaging business. With over 40 years in the packaging industry, we know we will be able to provide the right packaging solution for your business. Contact our team of ecommerce packaging experts today.