“There has been a seismic shift in the role designers play in the luxury market over the last decade. The importance of packaging has risen exponentially; no longer is it designed in isolation, but in many cases, it is an extension of the product itself.
“My personal experience of this shift in the world of luxury has been verified by recent research we carried out at James Cropper across 3,000 consumers, exploring how viewpoints on packaging have shifted over the last 10 years. Sixty-five percent of consumers expect the packaging which their luxury purchase arrives in to to be a continuation of the luxury experience. This is compared to just 15% who considered this to be important ten years ago. In fact, ten years ago, almost all consumers (82%) didn’t even consider packaging to be part of the shopping experience.
“What’s driving this change? The rise of social media has seen an unprecedented democratisation and opening out of the luxury market. With luxury items filling newsfeeds and Instagram streams, consumers are more clued up to the luxury experience, bringing with it rising expectations.
“Equally, with the boom of e-commerce, brands have played their part by focusing on packaging as a means to re-create that tactile physical retail experience at home. Social media ‘unboxing’ trends with countless influencer posts dedicated to filming the unpacking of a shopping haul have worked to place additional focus on packaging. Standout, ‘Instagrammable’ product designs often equate to more likes, shares and hype.
“But this comes with a warning - the focus on creating a brand experience through packaging can backfire if done for its own sake. Excessive packaging no longer accepted by discerning consumers. Glossier, the millennial makeup brand, is heeding the eco-conscious call from consumers, and will be changing its current packaging after listening to customer concerns about sustainability. And they are not alone, conscious consumers have the power to push environmentally-friendly practices forward, demanding better from brands, and making progress happen.
“In our research, over half of consumers (55%) agreed that they want reassurance that their product’s packaging is eco-friendly. So, while consumers expect creative packaging which extends both the brand and luxury experience as the new norm, there is also a growing expectation for sustainability. So much so that eight-fiver percent of people don’t mind if the packaging ‘looks recycled’, with a fifth believing eco-credentials will be one of the top considerations when buying luxury items in ten years’ time. Custodians of luxury brands need to merge these consumer expectations with the end-to-end design of their product experience in a way that fiercely protects brand DNA and maintains premium standards.
“The great news is that technology is advancing every day, and new solutions for a luxurious experience with eco-credentials is very much an achievable marriage. An example is the closed-loop system James Cropper has created for Selfridges, making the quality paper for its iconic yellow bags from upcycled waste coffee cups, sourced from Selfridges’ stores and offices. We’ve also supported Burberry with its new paper packaging, made from post-consumer paper fibres through our CupCycling™ process.
“Premium businesses and global beauty companies are committing to wider initiatives too. Stella McCartney, Ganni, L’Oréal, Unilever, Burberry and Selfridges are some of the brands which – alongside James Cropper and the UK Government – have signed the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment towards a circular economy, working to eradicate single-use plastics.
“While opening many new avenues for luxury businesses, the Internet has brought its own challenges, including retail pressures and the demands of globalisation. As a result, and amongst the busy noise of social media, brands are looking to create meaningful connections with consumers on the issues that are important to them. Standing out increasingly means standing for something. For designers, this means an awareness of changing macro trends and shifting consumer expectations is crucial. The designer’s role is becoming increasingly strategic and about upholding a brand; adding value and storytelling at all touchpoints.
“At the same time, the continued globalisation of consumers lives will continue to translate into increased pressure for design consistency, whether products are purchased in Singapore or London. With designers creating for all markets, uniformity of colour and its reproduction are key factors. This is a challenge we help clients to face; being the only paper mill with a specialist onsite colour laboratory helps us to ensure brands can deliver this need for consistency across multiple markets.
“With over 170 years of papermaking heritage behind us, we are clear that the focus needs to be very much on the future; the shape of which is changing at pace in the luxury market.”