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Good packaging design helps products to stand out in retail

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

If you have a product and you are getting distributors to sell it for you, chances are, it will end up in various retail stores or hypermarkets. With stiff competition from competitors and many different choices, what would make your products stand out from the competition?

I have experienced this the hard way. As the owner of a few brands, after a few hard lessons on “why did my products not move?”, I quickly realized that most consumers do not read your benefits and do not have the time to compare the advantages of the products when they shop. They only thing that they care about is the price and how the packaging looks.

I created the most advanced socks in 2004, 200-needle count, 3-D stitching, using the most superior fibers – Eco-fabric and Lycra. These socks are comfortable, durable, and only better than anything out in the market. Working with several chain stores, and after the managers tried out the samples, they agreed to carry the product. To those who can afford it, it was an easy sell once you get to explain to them, and I thought since I have the best product, why should I spend money on design and marketing?

I was dead wrong. The initial launch was met with lukewarm success, and sales did not pick up. After a few months, the packaging was gathering dust, and we had to pull them off the shelves to try to understand what happened. After getting a few consultants in, we quickly realized that the plain 2 color packaging did not fit the product itself. People immediately reacted to the price and felt that the product was expensive because the packaging looks plain; not many people read the benefits or even pick up the product.

It was an expensive lesson as it impacts the brand’s reputation, and we lost several distribution channels because of the poor sales performance. We had to destroy all the packaging and print new ones that were attractive and fit the product. When that was done, our sales were expected, when customers bought one, they came back for more, word of mouth spread and sales grew fast.

So, if you have a new product that is about to launch, I have one piece of advice: Get a fantastic design for your box that allows it to stand out in the retail stores.

How can your products stand out in retail?

Let us start with a few questions;

Have you been in a Hypermarket where you see hundreds of products in the same category for sale down a long isle?

Do you notice some of the products that catch your attention, and you are curious to pick them out to learn more about it or purchase it to keep the container?

Do you find some of the products create an excellent design when they are stacked together?

Have you encountered attractive display areas where products and information are displayed to highlight features and benefits?

Visual merchandising is an art practice in the retail industry of developing floor plans and three-dimensional displays to maximize sales. Visual merchandising contributes to a brand’s personality and the characteristics associated with the brand.

How to start the process of incorporating visual merchandising?


  1. Visit potential retailers to check out the competition.

  2. Visualise your product on their shelves and imagine how it looks like in the space.

  3. Which of your competitors stand out, and why?

  4. Are there excellent design features that catch your eye that you can incorporate in your design?

  5. Do you have enough budget or products to feature in an Endcap or a Gondola?


  1. What are the design features which catch your attention, and how can you incorporate them into your product packaging?

  2. For your products to fit in the retail outlets, are there colors that would complement the product mix to make the products “fit” space or are there colors which you should use to make your products stand out.

  3. Know your demographic, does the product packaging fit the segment you are selling to?

  4. How would you make your simple packaging look chic and attractive?

  5. Consider Eco-friendly options.

Today technologies allow you to quickly create a prototype and bring it back to the supermarket to see how it compares. Once you have the sample designs, you can easily print it in full color and paste onto a box of the exact size and bring it to the supermarket to check how it compares on the shelves. See if the prototype stands out. Stack a few sides by the side and see how the design line flows as the prototypes stack together.

You still have time to change if you spot design features that you don’t like before mass production. Sometimes, if you orientate your product box a certain way, you may not see anything at all, and there can be design elements on the side of the box to try to draw more attention to the product.

The packaging is compelling because it tells consumers why your product and brand are different. New products fail because consumers do not have time to read and learn about it. Great packaging is especially significant for growing startups because it can have a direct impact on sales and a company’s overall appeal.

Want more proof?

Do you want to know how poor packaging can fail?

Look at cigarette packaging today. The countries with standardised cigarette packaging reduce the attractiveness and appeal of tobacco products, increase the noticeability and effectiveness of mandated health warnings, and reduce the ability of retail packaging to mislead consumers about the harms of smoking.

“Compared with branded pack smokers, those smoking from plain packs perceived their cigarettes to be lower in quality, tended to perceive their cigarettes as less satisfying than a year ago, were more likely to have thought about quitting at least once a day in the past week and to rate quitting as a higher priority in their lives. Plain pack smokers were more likely to support the policy than branded pack smokers,” the researchers said in their paper.

Not only can Marlboro not use its logo, but it also can’t use its typeface. The packages, covered with health warnings and graphic images that deter smoking, resulted in the most significant smoking decline Australia has seen in 20 years.

Remember, your product packaging is part of your communications as well. Make the packaging part of your brand experience. It is fun to unbox, and with stylish typography, cards in muted colors, a relatively inexpensive solution can feel high-end.

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