Think Inside the Big Box

Think Inside the Big Box

Think inside the big box: Why you should become pallet-able with retail-ready packaging.

As a woman, there is always a great desire to be both strong and beautiful. We want to carry the contents and associated weight of each day on our shoulders, including information, expectation, encouragement, and fulfillment with a knowing style and grace. It’s the ultimate, desirable "package deal."

Similarly, a package delivered to retailers that is ready for the charge of shoppers, that wills the consumer to take a second glance, and is able to carry the product from warehouse direct to shelf, has become highly valued.

Yes, we've just drawn an analogy between "retail-ready" packaging (RRP) and women. The analogy makes sense when you view a woman in her innate role as collaborator, able to mitigate emotional situations, and help weigh important decisions.

And so, RRP meets consumers and retailers in the middle, finding a solution that satisfies both of their fundamental needs. The recent spike of RRP makes it an important tool for all consumer brands to consider in their marketing strategy.

No one likes a trashy lady

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 First, let's define RRP. It increasingly is a retailer requirement of consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies in which products are shipped in shelf-ready cartons. The objective is to reduce in-store labor costs. For the retailer, RRP serves as a great key to efficiency by speeding up the restocking process, doubling as storage space for the stock, and reducing personnel and shipping costs. Store labor and the associated hiring and training of staff undoubtedly are the highest operating cost for any retailer.

Plain and simple, with RRP, the shelves nearly stock themselves and need to be stocked less often, requiring less labor. Considering the super-thin profit margins on CPG companies, expect retail stores to continue to look the way of RRP and find "her" more and more attractive.

In turn, consumers like RRP because she makes them a smarter shopper, offering authentic products and the lowest product pricing, straight from the manufacturer. Consumers also fancy the look of retail-ready because her elegant simplicity, minus the individual packaging, indicates a smart, eco-friendly mind-set. The less packaging, the less trash for both retailers and consumers.

A closer look at checkout

Though RRP has been most popular and very effective in large discount stores and club stores, it steadily has gained speed in supermarkets and even drug-stores that desire to improve efficiencies of time, energy, and expenditure.

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 A good example of an RRP that has been on display for years in your neighborhood pharmacy is the entire gum and candy shelf at checkout. Those paperboard cartons that cradle your favorite candy bar and chewing gum are shipped to retailers, who simply pop the top, making them ready to slide them directly into our impulse-buying hands. Can you imagine if that shelf were full of loose candy and gum packs? It would be an organizational nightmare and require constant straightening.

Now, let's equate this merchandising approach to larger products like soap, soup, crackers, and pet food. Supermarkets like European-based Aldi already have initiated this type of retail showcasing, with entire stores lined floor to ceiling with retail-ready packaged goods. Consumers are offered less brand choice in exchange for amazing product savings. As many shoppers try to save money, the demand for these stores and this type of storage philosophy will grow. Retail-ready knows her value; do you?

RRP's implications for brands in terms of consumer loyalty are huge. Consumers will come to admire brands that follow the RRP suit, regarding them as good for the environment and good for their wallets.

Brands that think inside the big box will be scooped up more exclusively by retailers, thus pushing individual-pack competitors off the shelves, or at least to the side. Free-standing packaging that often comes in display-ready form makes it a no-brainer for retailers to place RRP products on aisle end-caps, increasing a brand's visibility.

Designing woman

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 So what does RRP offer designers? She's got the look for consumers and retailers, but does eliminating the need for complex and painstakingly crafted individual packages eliminate their need for design?

Well, for starters, RRP doesn't work for every product. While we wouldn't mind selecting from cans of pet food (or people food) piled high within a plastic bin at our local grocer, there are particular common items we like at eye-level, arranged by color, shade or sheen, and that's our eye shadow and eyeliner.

Certain products always will need to be placed on a pedestal instead of a pile, and that's just a categorical fact. So, we will always need a pretty, individual package, with sweet come-hither words that come to the consumer at a price. These items do not serve our basic needs, but we need them nonetheless, and they need to be cradled with care.

Second, the success of RRP depends greatly on the type of retail store. The size of the outlet and the type of consumer products carried within greatly impact the packaging decisions of the manufacturer and the shelving choices of the retailer. Sometimes, retail-ready just doesn't mesh with the more sensitive parfumerie, which admires the individualist beauty of every small carton—the masses be damned!

We have, however, come a long way recently with making individual packaging that is both lovely and environmentally friendly to satisfy both sense of beauty and sense of duty.

Shelf appearance matters little at a discount store or wholesale chain, where budget and necessity rule choice. However, more attention to eye-catching design and creativity in display is needed when RRP makes advances toward a grocery or drug store. RRP needs to doll herself up to be presentable in these venues, where scrutinizing shelf-scanners are shopping for more personalized products and making more thoughtful, emotional purchase decisions.

In this case, RRP has to provide the whole package—a stunning illustration of what she's got inside, who made her what she is today, and why the consumer not only needs her but wants her.

Away from the media and non-traditional forms of communication, packaging is the strongest point-of-sale marketing available to us for our products. Packages are like sirens singing to the shopper as they drift down the aisles; RRP, like traditional packaging, must sing us into the sale.

-By Rochelle Fainstein, Digital Marketing Manager


and Anna Roseberry, VP Marketing
, Sterling Brands

As seen in the December 3rd issue of Shelf Impact Magazine- www.shelfimpact.com.

About Sterling Brands:

We are a leading brand and design firm, formed in 1992 with a staff of 90 professionals in the United States. Sterling Brands also has affiliate offices in Singapore and London. We do two things really well — brand strategy and brand design. In every case, we work closely and collaboratively with our client partners to deliver fresh, inspiring, high quality work. We provide a passionate and ruthlessly honest point of view. We are obsessed with creating an outcome that will make a difference. A catalytic result. 

Our work is driven by a deep and genuine fascination about the relationships that exist between people and brands and we take the greatest satisfaction in applying this knowledge to deliver extraordinary work for our clients on every project.

Visit us online at www.sterlingbrands.com

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