Packaging Your Craft Products
Welcome to Episode 22 of the Craft Seller Success podcast. In this episode I discuss why packaging is an important part of your craft business, how to save money and improve your packaging and lots of hints and tips to help you delight your customers.
Listen to the Packaging your Craft Products podcast here, download it for later or read the transcript below.
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This is the Craft Seller Success podcast from Tin Teddy. Episode number twenty-two – Packaging your Craft Products
Welcome to the Craft Seller Success Podcast – helping craft sellers sell their crafts
Hi, I’m Deborah Richardson from Tin Teddy. My apologies for my voice this episode, I am recovering from the flu.
Whether you sell your handmade creations at craft fairs, in a bricks and mortar shop, via a marketplace like Etsy or Amazon Handmade, or from your own online shop, you will need to consider the subject of product packaging.
Packaging needs to serve three purposes:
In other words, your items must get to their new homes safely, look good and fit with your branding and help your customers remember you.
If you sell at craft fairs, or in a bricks-and-mortar store, then your packaging needs to enable the customer to get their products home safely.
If you sell online then it needs to survive the postal system and ensure that the contents are perfect when they arrive at their destination.
Obviously different types of products will have very different protective packaging requirements.
Some things you will need to consider are:
If your products are easily broken then I’d recommend doing some research into packaging solutions. There are lots of handy tricks out there to help protect delicate products.
For example, many people swear by double-boxing. This is when you package the item inside one box, with packing peanuts, inflatable bags or whatever you wish to use. You then put the whole box inside another, slightly bigger box, with more packaging material in between the two. The idea is that the outer box creates a “crumple zone” that absorbs any damage that may befall the package.
You also need to be sure that if your product did break, that no people who come into contact with the parcel could be hurt. So if you have glass, pottery or similar products, ensure there are adequate layers around them to prevent any broken shards causing issues.
What if it rains on your parcel during delivery? What if the postman drops it in a puddle or some snow? Whilst we can’t predict and prevent all possible issues, popping a fabric or paper item into a plastic baggie may help ensure its safe arrival.
If your parcel is going through the postal system, especially if it is going overseas, it will get a LOT of handling, both by machines and human beings. Be sure it is robust enough for this.
You may want to try packaging one of your products and posting it to yourself to test whether your proposed packaging technique will work as planned.
Check out subjects such as “product packaging” and “postal protection” on sites such as Pinterest, where you will find lots of great ideas and tips.
If you sell in person then you may want to consider how the customer will carry the product, especially if it is large or an awkward shape. Having a handle on a box, including a carrying strap or packaging in a bag with handles can all help.
If you are selling delicate items, be sure potential customers know that you have a safe system for transporting the product. I have, quite a few times, seen items I liked at craft fairs but not bought because I have been worried about how I would get them home safely (I can be quite clumsy).
If you sell perishable products it is essential you work out a really good packaging strategy, ideally before you begin to sell. Remember that your customer is always entitled to receive what they have paid for. If you sell, for example, food products that are likely to suffer when being posted in warm weather, you should decide whether to include a cool pack and add this to the price as needed. Do not expect your customer to decide this, or to specifically choose to pay extra for it. If the parcel arrives ruined, you will still have to refund your customer, cool pack or not.
Your packaging is a significant part of how the customer sees your product as a whole.
If you are selling at craft fairs etc, it can be part of the overall stall display, such as having earrings in open boxes or standing small bowls on the boxes in which they will be packed. Here nice packaging will greatly enhance the appearance of the product.
When selling online the packaging is usually the first part of their new purchase that the customer will see. So you will want to make a good first impression.
A few years ago I bought a handmade necklace, from Etsy, as a gift for a relative. It was quite expensive, but was hand-painted and looked lovely. When it arrived, the necklace was in a little plastic baggy, inside a padded envelope. I was rather disappointed. Not with the necklace itself, it was stunning, but the presentation, or lack of it, gave me an instant feeling that the seller didn’t value their own artwork very much. For the price of the item, I would have expected a simple box, or at least for it to be wrapped in tissue paper. There was not even any branding, a tag or card with details of the item. I had to make one myself. I wanted the recipient of this gift to know it was handpainted. That was part of its charm. I never bought from the seller again but might have if not for this packaging experience.
If you sell higher ticketed items, your packaging is definitely more important, presentation wise, than if you sell “cheap and cheerful” products. For low priced items your customer wants to get what they paid for, they don’t expect to get extra. But as the item price goes up, the customer’s level of expectation goes up too.
Think about how packaging affects your own buying habits. There have been numerous studies that show that packaging is a much bigger part of the buying decision than many sellers may realise.
Your packaging is an important part of your business’s branding.
See episode 5, Branding for Craft Sellers, for lots more about branding and how you can incorporate it into your craft business, including your packaging.
If selling online, consider whether it is worth including a picture in your product listings of your beautifully packaged items. Remember that nice packaging can greatly enhance the perceived value of the product, meaning you can charge more, and/or look better than your competition.
Your packaging should reflect your branding style. So if you sell edgy urban jewellery, your packaging should ideally be edgy and urban too. Remember that it is all part of the overall customer experience.
There are lots of ways to incorporate your branding style into your packaging:
If you can get packaging that matches your “corporate colours” as used on your website etc then you will instantly up the perceived value of your product. Think about big companies who use this. High-end jewellers, Tiffany, for example, have become very famous for their trademarked colour “Tiffany Blue”. All their packaging is in this lovely colour and they use it throughout their marketing.
Many craft sellers include their business name somewhere on the packaging. There are quite a lot of options for this.
Printed for you, or print your own. Can include your name and/or a logo
Get a custom stamp made for you with your brand name and/or logo
If you have neat writing, or know a little calligraphy, this can work well for handmade items
Embossing, engraving etc
If you intend to use custom wooden boxes or something similar, you may want to invest in having them branded for you too. Whilst this sort of packaging is of course quite expensive compared to many, for very high ticket products it can definitely be worth considering. Do plenty of research into your options and prices first.
Don’t forget that including a business card, leaflet or flyer with your product is another aspect of packaging that you might feel could work for your business.
For some products, there are international, national or statewide laws that affect the packaging of the product.
For example, in many countries, bath and beauty products must have labels clearly stating their ingredients. The same is true in many places for food products.
If you are selling handmade toys to the European Union, for example, your products must be tested and then marked with the CE mark. Without this mark, the item can be seized by customs and destroyed.
Products made from certain materials, such as wool, may also be subject to labelling requirements.
Be sure you know what your particular product line requires as soon as possible.
Choosing Packaging to Use
There are some important factors you need to think about when choosing your packaging.
It is all very well to come up with exciting, imaginative, exotic packaging ideas to wow our customers, but we must never forget that packaging costs money – and the more we spend on it, the more we will have to charge our customers, or lower our profit margins, and the less competitive we become.
Be sure you are aware of how much it costs to package each item. This is part of the cost (COGS) of the product and needs to be considered when working out your prices and your profit margins.
Just as with the materials you use to make your products, consider the quality, impact and usability of the packaging products versus their cost.
Return on Investment
You will need to seriously consider the return on investment (ROI) for your packaging choices. In other words, how much value does the packaging add to the products?
Obviously, you need your packaging to protect your products, without this you will not be able to make your business work. Customers will not be happy to receive broken products and you will end up refunding more than you make… and getting a bad reputation too. This can easily ruin a business quickly.
So there is a bare minimum amount of packaging that you have to have. But most craft sellers want to have a bit more than that, so they can delight their customers.
But does the extra add value to your product or the customer’s shopping experience, or just add to your expenses?
Well, thought out packaging can increase the perceived value of your products, meaning you could raise the price and still sell.
Adding a ribbon may make a boxed jewellery set look much nicer and really enhance the presentation, so be worth doing. But you need to decide whether using a deluxe real silk ribbon is really going to be better than a much more economical polyester ribbon. If the poly-ribbon works just as well, your business accounts are going to thank you.
So it is a balancing act. You want to use packaging that will make your products more desirable, more exciting and delight your customers. But you want every penny spent on this packaging to actually be working towards those goals.
We should always consider the environmental impact of our packaging choices.
Many craft sellers reuse boxes and other crafting materials. I have heard of sellers who have had customers complain about this, though it seems this is rare. I have heard far more of customers who like the greenness of reusing stuff. I’d recommend warning customers, and making a USP of your recycling all in one.
Add something to your shop about how you want to help protect the environment so you use recycled packaging. This way you can avoid issues with anyone who really doesn’t like reused packaging, but encourage those who do to buy from YOU.
I know crafters who recycle ribbon, bows, boxes and the brown paper from parcels they themselves receive. As long as the finished effect is attractive, this can indeed save you a lot of money over time.
Handy Hint – you could consider reusing branded packaging from other companies, such as Amazon but cutting and turning the box inside out before use.
Being ecofriendly is another reason not to go too overboard on the packaging. Your customers will be just as happy with something simple and in keeping with your brand. Unnecessary fluff and fancy will end up in the bin.
Indeed one complaint I have heard from craft buyers on forums is that they dislike getting a lot of pretty, but useless packaging that just gets thrown away.
When packaging the die cuts and toppers I sell myself, I try to ensure that everything is reusable by the crafty recipient. The products are in reusable sealable baggies. These are fixed into a simple scrapbook card folder. The branding label on the folder is held on with repositionable adhesive, meaning the recipient can easily remove it and then use the card in their projects. The baggy is held into the folder with washi tape that is again reusable by the recipient.
Remember that even the tiniest bits of packaging add weight to your overall parcel. If your packaged parcel is very near a postal rate threshold, be extra careful about what you use to package it. If you push it over the threshold your postal costs could go up by quite a bit.
There are lots of lightweight packaging solutions available nowadays. You may want to try a couple to see which works best for you.
From where are you going to get your packaging materials? This is a question that is worth considering as soon as possible.
Can you get more at short notice? Will you be able to get a discount if you buy in bulk? Can you transport the materials to your home easily (taking a big roll of bubble wrap on the bus attracts lots of suspicious glances!)? How much will postage be when buying online?
Buying in bulk can save quite a bit of money. But I’d recommend starting with smaller quantities until you are sure that the packaging solution you intend to use works well – and if it does, then you can consider buying bigger quantities to get those overall savings
I have heard a few stories of craft sellers buying large amounts of a box size or type of bag only to then find out, after a few sales, that it doesn’t really protect the product as well as they had hoped, or that there is a cheaper way to package and post.
If you have increased sales at certain times of the year, for example coming up to Christmas time, be sure you will be able to get extra packaging ready for this.
You will need to consider how you will be posting your product, and how much it will cost to do so.
Whilst putting a delicate item inside multiple boxes will protect it, doing so will also make for a bigger parcel, and this could significantly raise the cost of shipping it.
Be sure you know the weight and overall dimensions of your PACKAGED items when setting prices in your store. Many new sellers weigh and measure their basic items then get a shock when they go to post the fully packaged item and find the postage rate is much higher than they anticipated.
Check out the requirements and thresholds for the postal service you intend to use, and experiment with packaging products to make the most of them.
For example, you may find that packaging three items side by side, to make a long thin parcel, is cheaper to post than packaging them on top of each other to make a short, fat parcel.
Or you may find that using a just slightly thinner box allows you to use a lower priced shipping rate and save a lot of money.
It is worth taking a moment to consider how you store your packaging materials, especially if you buy in bulk or build up extra stock for busy times of the year.
Just like your products themselves, your packaging materials need to be kept somewhere that is safe, dry and protected. They should be easily accessible when you need them and you need to know exactly where they are! invest in storage boxes, labels etc if needed.
I’d strongly recommend that all craft sellers put a return address on any parcels they are posting. This is obligatory for some postal services. If something happens to the parcel en route, such as the recipient’s address becoming damaged or unreadable, the parcel being damaged etc, or even that the recipient’s address is faulty and the parcel is undeliverable, then the postal service needs a way to get it back to you. Without this, your beautiful handmade product could be forever lost in the postal ether.
I always include a receipt in my parcels too, with both the recipients and my own addresses on it. This increases the chances of a problematic parcel getting delivered correctly, or at least it’s being returned to me.
Preprinted return address labels are very economical and save so much time over writing it by hand on every parcel. You can also buy sticky label paper and print your own.
Some Packaging Ideas
Make Your Own Boxes
You can get special scoring boards that make it very easy to measure and crease card, so as to assemble your own boxes. I use the Crafters Companion Ultimate Crafters Companion Pro and the Boxer Board extension for it, but there are lots of other ones available, in all sizes, I will include some links in the show notes. These boards allow you to make boxes of any size, cheaply and easily. It is much easier than having to measure manually or use a template.
You will need sturdy card, strong adhesive or tape, scissors and, of course, time. I have made many such boxes for craft shows and you can do a big bunch in one go quite quickly, but you do need to consider the time it takes when working out whether this is the right option for you.
You can also get dies that cut ready-to-assemble boxes for you, but you will, of course, need a die cutting machine for this, so the initial investment may be quite high. You can also buy ready cut flat boxes for assembly. Being flat makes them cheaper to post to you, plus you save a little by assembling them yourself.
If you want to have boxes with clear windows. you could reuse acetate from packaging. Lots of products come in acetate so it is easy to build up a free stock of it.
Ribbons, bows and other such things
Adding a ribbon or bow can really make a simple box or envelope look pretty. There are lots of options for this so you can match your packaging to your brand and your budget. Here are a few ideas:
- Garden twine – it is very cheap, comes in many pretty, rustic colours, is easy to cut and handle and looks very pretty
- Paper ribbon – this is often cheaper than fabric ribbons but looks very similar in use. You may find it cheap as a florist’s supply. Comes in a very wide range of lovely colours but very rarely other than solids
- Literally paper – you can create simple faux ribbons by just sticking a slim strip of paper or card around your box or bag. You can even make paper bows too. There are scoring boards and dies that will help you do this easily. I will be adding a range of ready to assemble paper bows to the Tin Teddy shop later in the year – they look cute, are lightweight and very economical
Stickers and Labels
Preprinted stickers, whether purchased or homemade, are a simple, quick and economical way to add your branding to the packaging.
Many craft sellers will advise against including anything on the outside of a posted parcel that implies that the contents are very valuable. Sadly mail-theft does occur sometimes.
If you leave your parcels at the post office and they stamp or frank them for you, be sure that there is no chance they will mistake a marketing sticker on the front of the parcel for a postal stamp and so not stamp the parcel properly – yes, I have had this happen.
Glitter and Confetti
For a while, there was quite a craze with craft sellers including loose glitter or confetti in their parcels. The idea was that when the recipient opened it, they got a “beautiful shower of glitter to brighten their day”. In practice, many people hated this. The glitter got stuck in the carpet. It caused problems for pets and babies. It made a heck of a mess. Time and again I have seen people on shopping forums saying “Please, no glitter!!!”
If you really want to add glitter or confetti to your parcels, be sure you warn your customers in advance. I would go so far as to ensure they have actually agreed to it up front.
Whilst there are no doubt some product niches where the glitter is a great selling point and desirable, for the bulk of products it is probably more likely to upset your recipient than delight them.
Rubber or acrylic Stamps are a great way to add both branding and decoration to your packaging. They are economical to use, will not add to the weight or bulk and can really fit with many handmade branding schemes.
You can get custom stamps made with your brand name or logo on. There are quite a few Etsy sellers who offer this service. The finished stamp should last a very long time. All you will need to go with it is an ink pad – unless you have a self-inking one of course.
I know a few craft sellers who use simple commercial stamps to decorate their boxes, parcels and envelopes. Be sure not to use trademarked characters for this, of course. When I used to sell earrings I would stamp a nice vine stamp, in green ink, on each box. It took seconds but turned a cheap kraft card box into a custom box, super cheaply.
A plain brown paper bag will look surprisingly attractive with a stamp on it.
There are lots of crafting supply products available now that you can use to add a unique touch to your packaging. Here are a few ideas:
These were all the rage a few years ago and I often see them in the reduced bins in craft shops now. They cut like normal scissors, but leave a decoratively shaped cut mark. Ideal to turn a plain piece of paper into a pretty ribbon.
Faux Enamel Dots
These are brilliant. They are a small plastic bottle of thick liquid. You squeeze out a drop of it then let it dry. When dry they look just like stick-on enamel dots. Adding a few of these to a box can transform it. Whilst you can buy stick-on gems and dots too, the liquid in a bottle sort will often work out much more economically, plus you can do dots of whatever size you want. I personally love Nuvo Drops by Tonic. They come in a large range of enamel colours, plus there are glittery and metallic ones too.
Click here to read my video review of Tonic Nuvo Drops, with links to where you can buy them at great prices.
Glitter Pens, Gel Pens, Calligraphy and more
Tthere are so many beautiful pens available now. I particularly like the various glitter pens such as the Spectrum Noir Sparkle Glitter or the Zig Wink of Stella. You just colour with these over text, images etc to leave a glittery effect. They are a simple way to “posh up” your packaging.
Investigate the vast world of gel pens, metallic pens and so on. Using these can add a lovely personal touch to your packaging that will set you apart from your competition – for a very low cost.
A friend writes all her customer’s address labels in beautiful calligraphy. She sells high-end products and doesn’t get many orders a week, so she has time to do this. She has had lots of positive feedback from customers who mention the “beautiful parcel”. It costs next to nothing, uses a skill she already had and doesn’t take (her) much longer than writing the address normally would. But it turns a simple brown paper parcel into something that the recipient is delighted to receive.
Gilding and Foiling
It is easier than ever to create a shiny metallic foil effect on writing, printing and so on. You can buy very thin sheets of foil. You apply strong, tacky glue to your surface – you can paint it on, draw it on with a pen or even stamp with it. Then you lay the foil on, rub hard, peel it off and you are left with a beautiful shiny effect.
You can also do this quicker with hot foiling machines and tools. There are quite a few ways to do it. Just search online for foiling and gilding.
Just adding your brand name in foil to a simple white card box will instantly give a very elegant look – ideal if you are selling wedding jewellery for example.
For loads more ideas on packaging your crafts, I’d recommend the book Packaging Your Crafts: Creative Ideas for Crafters, Artists, Bakers, & More by Viola E. Suntanto.
I would love to hear your hints and tips for packaging craft products. Please leave your comments on the show notes on the Tin Teddy blog.
Links to the book and products mentioned are in the show notes together with a full transcript on the Tin Teddy Blog.
The next episode of the Craft Seller Success podcast, episode 23 is called Essential WordPress Plugins for your Craft Seller Blog or Shop. It will be out on 19th February 2019.
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Check out www.TinTeddy.com for more Craft Seller resources.
Until next time, bye
The Craft Seller Success Podcast from Tin Teddy.
Featuring Deborah Richardson
Original music by Matthew French
Craft Seller Success from Tin Teddy
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