Blog Post

7 small business packaging ideas for 2023


With limited budgets and resources, running a small business isn't for the faint-hearted. And in a crowded market dominated by larger companies, standing out can be a daunting task.

But don't worry. As a small business owner, you can make your mark in plenty of ways — and packaging is one of them.

Packaging ideas for small businesses

  1. Choose the right packaging
  2. Elevate your interior packaging
  3. Give your branding a boost
  4. Add enticing extras
  5. Build your customer base
  6. Make more sustainable switches
  7. Create cost savings

1. Choose the right packaging

As a small business, you’ll want to build trust with your customers, fast. That means delivering products that arrive intact and as promised. And that starts with choosing the right packaging for your product.

For example, clothing is soft and flexible but susceptible to staining. It won’t break if it’s dropped but could pick up marks from moisture or fingerprints. So, a recycled poly mailer bag would be the ideal waterproof packaging to get products like these from A to B.

Of course, if you sell cosmetics, your needs will be different. Goods like makeup crumble easily when banged or dropped. So in this case, you’d want studier packaging that’s more durable.

And here’s where custom packaging, like our mailer boxes, comes into play. Mailer boxes are incredibly versatile and you can even create a custom size to match the size and shape of your product. This ensures a snug fit, reducing the risk of damage during transit. You can also choose the thickness of your packaging walls so it’s strong enough to deliver your product without being excessive.

Once you know the best type of packaging for your product, think about how you’ll store, stack and ship it. Remember that whilst uniquely shaped packaging can help you stand out from the crowd, it might not be the most efficient design.

Your packaging is an extension of your brand, and your reputation is always on the line. Aim to strike the perfect balance between protecting your products, conveying your brand's values and meeting your business needs.

Learn more: 23 sustainable packaging design ideas with examples

2. Elevate your interior packaging

Your interior packaging needs to be functional and protective. But it’s also an opportunity to create an impressive unboxing experience.

One way you can do this is with custom inserts, a cost-effective way to take your packaging to the next level. They can be die-cut to fit any product, keeping it firmly in place. So when your customer opens their package, your products are presented just as you intended.

You can also dye your custom inserts to complement your exterior packaging or even the product itself. This extra attention to detail shows your customers that you care about their buying experience, which can encourage positive feelings and repeat purchases.

Die-cut inserts also allow you to neatly add extra items in your packaging, such as free samples of new or complementary products. This is a great opportunity to showcase what else you’ve got to offer and encourage customers to try other products.

3. Give your branding a boost

Take five seconds to picture a popular brand logo. What does it make you think and feel? If you’re visualising Nike’s tick, you’re probably thinking about effort and winning. If it’s Apple’s logo, simplicity and style.

Consistent imagery and powerful messaging like this sears your brand into your customers’ minds. So over time, you become a trustworthy and logical choice to buy from.

Think about the colours you use and how these will make your customer feel. You could opt for blue, often associated with calm and trust. Or black, which in colour psychology is considered edgy and minimalist. Paper-based packaging, like mailer boxes, can be printed on with any colour so the sky’s the limit.

But why stop at one? Using colour gradients helps you bring in more shades from your unique brand palette. Whatever you go for, the point is to use colour to make your brand recognisable (and attractive) to existing and potential customers.

Your artwork is another opportunity to stand out. You can embrace minimalism with a plain background and strategically placed logo. Or, go all in with detailed designs that your target audience will love.

With tools like our online design studio, you can upload your own designs and experiment endlessly until you find the look that’s just right.

So now you have a packaging design that reflects your brand's unique personality. But what can you add to it for that extra flair? How about replacing your run-of-the-mill packaging tape with branded gummed tape? For starters, it’s a great alternative to plastic packaging tape, with a carbon footprint up to 50% smaller. Secondly, it’s another place to add your logo or on-brand messaging, helping you generate brand awareness.

And let’s not forget stickers, a cost-effective, stylish way to elevate your packaging. Use them as an extra, branded seal or to hold tissue paper in place. Or give them away as a freebie for your customers to enjoy! They’ll be reminded of you every time they see one.

4. Add enticing extras

Think about the last time you received a package that made you excited to open it. Perhaps it had a personalised note or a beautifully tied ribbon. Or maybe the packaging itself was so striking that you couldn't wait to see what was inside. These extra touches create a sense of anticipation and generate a positive emotional connection with your brand.

And in today's digital world, presentation is more crucial than ever before. Unboxing has become a major trend on social media, and customers are heavily influenced by unboxing videos that showcase the excitement of receiving and opening a package. These videos can instil confidence in potential buyers who are unable to see the product in person.

So, what kind of extras can you add to enhance the unboxing experience?

Consider thoughtful elements, like personalised notes. These don’t necessarily need to be handwritten; simply greeting the customer by name can create a connection between you. And this isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s increasingly expected. 54% of consumers buying for the first time say that personalised communication affects whether they’ll buy from that brand again.

You can also delight customers with collectibles like cards or stickers. They can use these unexpected extras as decorations and may want to buy again and collect the full set.

Then there are reusable items like fabric pouches or refillable containers. These practical gifts show the customer you’ve thought about their experience using your product, which can make them feel valued and appreciated. It can also build a sense of belonging and exclusivity to your brand.

Cosmetics retailer Lush is a great example to follow. Their monthly subscription boxes not only come in brightly coloured packaging but also include fun extras inside. This adds to the unboxing experience and encourages customers to share their orders on social media. It’s basically free advertising.

So remember, the little details can make a big difference. Take the time to create an experience that will leave a lasting impression, and watch your brand's reputation grow.

5. Build your customer base

As a small business, you know that building a loyal customer base is key to your success. And by offering promotions and incentives, you can keep your customers coming back. In fact, McKinsey research shows that top-performing loyalty programs can boost yearly revenue by up to 25% — pretty impressive.

Your packaging is a prime opportunity to do this. Include a card or leaflet to advertise promotions, loyalty schemes or referral discounts. For a sense of urgency that can boost sales, offer limited-time or seasonal discounts.

And if you want to reduce materials and costs, print a QR code on your packaging instead. Customers can then access your website or app and interact with your brand on a whole new level. This can create a sense of community and can lead to higher customer lifetime value.

6. Make more sustainable switches

No matter how big or small your business is, your packaging has an environmental footprint. And whilst sustainability might be high on your business agenda, for many it can be a source of concern. For example, you might feel unsure about which materials are the most sustainable, or what the cost of switching to these might be.

The great news is that there are plenty of affordable options available. For example, paper and cardboard products are some of the cheapest packaging materials out there. These typically have a lower carbon footprint than plastic or styrofoam and can be just as effective in protecting your products. Plus, they’re widely recyclable at the kerbside. This makes disposal easy and takes the pressure off the planet’s virgin resources.

And this isn't just about you caring for our environment, or feeling a sense of duty to take action on climate. Reducing your environmental footprint is key to the success of your business.

Consumer concern about the environmental impact of their purchases is growing. In fact, online searches for sustainable goods have increased by 71% since 2018. And your customers won’t budge on their values. In the fashion industry alone, 81% of people surveyed said they’d boycott brands that haven’t prioritised sustainable practices by 2025.

Learn more: 18 more eco-friendly and sustainable packaging ideas in 2023

When switching to more sustainable packaging, make sure you’re not accidentally greenwashing. This is becoming more of an issue and it compromises the fight against climate change. Many brands worry about accidental greenwashing and the implications for their reputation, but there are steps you can take to stay in the clear.

Firstly, take genuine impact that can be evidenced with data. Talk about it as factually as you can and avoid buzzwords like “eco-friendly” or “green”.

A good example would be making sure your paper or cardboard packaging is responsibly sourced through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC ensures that the products come from responsibly managed sources, mitigating the risk of illegal logging or the destruction of ancient and endangered forests. Knowing you’re working with a well-known and respected authority means you can confidently report all of this to your customers and stakeholders.

You can also use tools like our online studio to create your packaging, which gives you live carbon data as you design. Accurate data like this backs up your claims and helps you to be transparent with your customers. This builds trust and loyalty to your brand.

To cover all your bases, find your local equivalent of the Competition and Market Authority’s Green Claims Code. Check off every item on the list and you can rest assured you won’t be caught greenwashing.

Sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s a key part of any modern business strategy. And as a small business, you have an opportunity to stand out against industry giants as that climate-conscious brand your ideal customer is looking for.

7. Create cost savings

Setting up a business comes with many unforeseen challenges and expenses. And that’s on top of what it takes just to keep things running day-to-day. Luckily, a bit of resourcefulness goes a long way in keeping your costs down.

For starters, buy your packaging in bulk. For example, you can save up to 80% per unit when you buy 1000 Sourceful mailer boxes instead of 100. And if storage is an issue, you can keep your packaging in our warehouse until you need it. This also means you’ll have a buffer stock in the event of supply chain disruptions, so you can keep your operations (and finances) running smoothly.

Another way to save money on packaging is by designing your packaging online by yourself. Our online studio is the ideal tool for this. It’s user-friendly and can help you create custom designs that reflect your brand's personality and values. This is all at a fraction of the cost of hiring a professional. Of course, if you get stuck, we’ve got a team of experts on hand to help you.

Purchasing your packaging has an obvious cost. But there are less obvious ones that you also need to be aware of, like the extended producer responsibilities. These are new regulations that make businesses responsible for managing a product's environmental impact throughout its whole lifecycle. This includes what the customer does with your packaging once it’s done its job.

So, you need to stay up-to-date on how environmental regulations like these are changing and what this means for your business.

For example, think about the plastic packaging tax, a recent tax on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content. Any packaging below that threshold will be taxed, which translates into higher costs for you. Simple switches, such as from a virgin poly mailer to a recycled one, can help you avoid these.

As a small business, you don’t have money to waste. But with some careful planning and the right tools, your packaging can be one area where you save. And it’s an added bonus that reducing the environmental impact of your packaging can bring your costs down further. A win-win.

How to choose the best custom packaging for your small business

1. Know what you’re prepared to pay

Your budget will affect the materials you use, packaging extras and how custom your packaging can be. And yes, budgeting is vital. But going for the cheapest, no-frills option may not be best for your business. That’s because your packaging can also be seen as an investment that encourages repeat purchases and increased sales in the future.

So, consider an acceptable top and bottom amount that you’d be willing to pay and what you’re prepared to stretch on. Then, see what your options are.

If you want to design your packaging yourself, our design studio gives live pricing data with every change you make, so there’ll be no surprises when it’s time to order. But if you want help working out how much you should be spending and how this fits into your budget, get in touch with our team. They’ll be happy to help you work things out without breaking the bank.

2. Know your target audience

Would you use wrapping paper designed for an adult as gift wrap for a child? Probably not. Because design appeal differs between demographics. So yes, your branding should represent your brand's personality and values. But it should also reflect what your target audience likes.

To do this, you can consider customer age, nationality, ethnicity, gender, profession, religion and income to name a few. Think about what your customers value and are drawn to. Remember, always be sensitive and avoid reinforcing stereotypical ideas if that’s not your intention — like pink for girls and blue for boys.

To know if you’re on the right track with your design, ask the audience! Post some options on social media, send out surveys, stop people in the street or run focus groups. They’ll tell you which designs appeal to them most, and you can confidently start ordering your new packaging in bulk.

3. Know your competition

When you’re running a small business, you need to know what you’re up against. This includes all the small businesses like yours, right up to those big corporate giants. How do they package their products? Do you notice any industry trends?

This is an opportunity to see what works well and why (if no one is making triangular shipping boxes, there’s probably a good reason). It’s also a chance for you to spot gaps in the market that you could fill. This is where you find your niche — that thing that makes you stand out against the rest. Because niches can apply to packaging as well as products.

Start your small business packaging journey with Sourceful

As a small business owner, standing out in a crowded market can be a challenge. And limited budgets and resources can make it even harder. But your packaging is one area where your small business can make a big impact.

From reliable delivery to memorable unboxing experiences, your packaging choices help build your reputation and boost sales.

At Sourceful, we understand the challenges that come with running a small business. Which is why we offer custom packaging that delivers on sustainability at an affordable price. So, if you're ready to elevate your small business packaging and make a lasting impression on your customers, we're here to support you every step of the way.

Get in touch

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