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The Value & Experience of Shopping Bags for Your Store

The customer experience.  As an independent retailer, you do everything in your power to make it positive.  You offer excellent customer service, the best possible value, and a pleasant store atmosphere.  These all contribute to a better experience in-store.  However, the connection between the customer and your brand should not end at the “Exit” sign.

Your shopping bag is one of the few store elements that leaves the premises with your customer.  Therefore, it should be more than a utilitarian item used to transport products.

A great bag has the potential to enrich and extend the shopping experience, as well as provide exposure and stimulate positive memories for the customer.

First, retail packaging can elevate the shopping experience by providing convenience.  Imagine that your customer is shopping for a gift.  The purchase process could include choosing the gift and proceeding to a separate aisle, service counter, or perhaps a different store for gift wrap.  However, the modern shopper is savvy enough to realize that he or she can shorten the process by choosing a retailer whose standard packaging is sufficient as gift wrap.

One well known retailer that does this is Sephora, who exemplifies how retail packaging can market a brand and enhance the shopping experience.  Their standard black and white printed euro tote with red tissue paper communicates their premium position and can act as gift wrap.  However, Sephora took the concept one step further when they introduced a promotional bag for Valentine’s Day, 2014.  The bag, which featured a printed pattern, die-cut heart-shaped handle, and magnet closure, was the perfect solution for Valentine’s Day gift givers.

Retail packaging can also extend the experience beyond your store’s physical boundaries.  You offer the best possible service, quality, and value.  Therefore, your packaging should be consistent with those benefits, as well as your product offering.  Details such as material, artwork, and construction can add to the experience and reinforce your brand identity.  For example, the Lilly Pulitzer experience focuses on the brand’s signature prints.  The store atmosphere often features a brightly colored walls, printed upholstery, and furnishings that complement the product.  Their shopping bags continue the experience with a bold printed pattern, equity colors, and ribbon handles.

In addition to enhancing and extending the store experience, a great retail bag also provides exposure.  We all know that it pays to have shoppers toting your bag around town.  However, it means nothing if the design does not attract attention.  As an independent retailer, your budget may not permit details such as foil stamping, embossing, or UV coating.  Or, perhaps you’re concerned about environmental responsibility.  These constraints should not affect your ability to design something memorable.  The iconic Bloomingdales “Brown Bag”, which debuted in 1973, is a basic bag that is completely recyclable.  It draws attention and has become a major symbol for the brand.  In fact, Bloomingdales sells cosmetic bags, passport cases, and seasonal items, such as Christmas ornaments, that feature the “Brown Bag” art.  Their smart phone app is also appropriately named “Big Brown Bag”.  The point is that you don’t have to be fancy.

Last, retail packaging can remind the customer of a positive shopping experience.  It is human nature to associate certain symbols, colors, scents, or physical items with a particular time, place, or event.  In this case, we’re using packaging to stimulate memories of a favorable retail experience.  This requires a design that inspires shoppers to save, reuse, or repurpose the bag.  Last November, I made a purchase at Alice & Olivia’s New York City location in the Meatpacking District.  Their standard packaging is a branded reusable nylon tote with durable rope handles.  It is now mid-March and I am still using the bag to transport clothing, books, magazines, etc.  The bag is functional, reminds me of my trip, and makes me look forward to my next store visit.  The nylon material makes a statement, but may be more than your store requires.  You can also achieve staying power with a sturdy art board bag and creative design.

The bottom line is that your packaging should be more than a transportation tool.  It can improve and extend the shopping experience, increase exposure, and remind consumers that you’re there to serve.  It is good practice to involve your vendor throughout the design process.  Discuss all marketing objectives, budgetary constraints, and environmental goals.  Acknowledging these at the beginning will result in a finished product that builds your brand and best meets your needs.

Contributed by Melissa Molyneaux, the marketing director for BoutiqueVision.com, a website that provides printed signage, shopping bags and in-store marketing materials to independent retailers. The site’s mission is to provide the benefits of custom merchandising, without high volume requirements or agency expenses. Boutique Vision is fully owned by InnoMark Communications, a provider of custom visual mercha
ndising solutions for major retailers and consumer packaged goods (CPG) clients. Molyneaux may be reached at Sales@BoutiqueVision.com, or 855-889-5362.


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