Why Experiential Shopping Matters to Packaging

shopping aisle image

In this article, we will discuss an article from Conor Pope of the Irish Times, where he discusses what experiential shopping is and why retailers should be aware of it. We will examine how this relates to packaging and why you should consider experiential shopping when working on your packaging design.

What is experiential shopping?

Experiential shopping simply means that shopping is an enjoyable leisure experience as opposed to being a joyless chore. Mr Pope gives a very good example of experiential shopping when he describes how the petrol stations have enhanced their stores and products to create an experiential shopping experience for their customers. He describes how petrol stations used to sell petrol, diesel, cigarettes and some sweets and if you were lucky, there may have been a run-down, grubby toilet at the back of the store.

He contrasts this with the present experience in petrol stations where freshly ground coffee and freshly baked pastries are available, a wide range of products including luxury gifts are available and the bathroom facilities are immaculate.

Why has there been a rise in experiential shopping?

The rise in experiential shopping has occurred as “bricks-and-mortar” shop owners try to compete with the huge rise in online shopping. Thomas Burke, the head of Retail Ireland stated that “the reality is we have to give consumers a reason to come out from behind their computers, and they will do that if they feel a sense of belonging, so what we want retailers to do is to build a sense of community.”

Experiential shopping is rising across all types of shops including department stores and shopping centres to offer manicures, massages etc, all of which help enhance the consumer’s experience and make it more than just about handing over cash for products. This kind of shopping appeals especially to millennials who will frequently post their shopping experiences on social media which is good news for brands as these millennials essentially become advocates for their brand and their experiential stores and products.

Simon Pratt, managing director of the retail chain Avoca explains how shopping at Avoca has always been “experiential” and that they have “always worked to create a little bit of theatre in our shops”. He goes on to say: “When people are in the retail environment it should be a cheerful and uplifting experience. It is a leisure activity, after all, and it should be fun and that has always been part of how we have seen it.”

Experiential Shopping and Packaging

What implication does the rise in experiential shopping have for packaging? If you sell in retail stores, you will know that your packaging is your product’s salesperson. If you have a fantastic product, it will not sell well if your packaging does not reflect this. A consumer who has never seen your product before won’t be enticed to pick it up and consider it if it’s packaging doesn’t do an effective “selling” job.

If you consider this alongside the retail consumers’ preference for experiential shopping, you will quickly realise that your packaging also needs to give the consumer a pleasant experience when they see, pick up or interact with your product’s packaging in any way.

How can I make my packaging experiential?

There are numerous ways in which you can make your packaging experiential and thereby increase the consumer’s enjoyment of interacting with your product.

It goes without saying that the graphic design of the packaging, (including the images, text, layout, colours etc) have a huge part to play in the consumer’s experience of your product. (You can read more about packaging design on our website in the four-part blog on packaging design written by the Lorraine Carter of Persona Design).

However, there are additional ways in which you can increase the ways a consumer can experience your product through its packaging.

Increase Consumer Interaction with Apertures/Open Windows

Packaging studies have shown that consumers are more likely to buy if they can touch the product before buying it. If possible, include a window on your product’s packaging so the consumer can see and, if the window has no patch, they will also be able to touch their product. This can work particularly well for toy products where a child can, for example, touch a button on the product through the open window in the packaging.

All cartons need to be die cut, i.e. when the carton sheets have been printed, these sheets need to be put through a cutting machine, (using a die-forme) to be cut out into their final shape. While the die forme is used primarily to cut the carton out, the die forme can also incorporate blades which will cut windows of any shape or size and as a die forme must be produced anyway, this is often a very cost-effective to enhance packaging without incurring an extra additional cost.

Figure 1 below is a carton was a finalist in the ECMA Awards 2018 – Confectionery Section. This shows very effectively how the correct graphic design and use of windows allow a consumer to have an enhanced experience of this product.

Cadbury Egg carton with toy

Figure 1

When considering a new packaging design, remember that windows can be cut into any shape – they do not have to only be simple rectangular or circular shapes. Also, there can be more than one window in your packaging – an extra window may not even cost any more* (*this will depend on the design – check with your sales rep first)

Special finishes on packaging

There are numerous special finishes that can be applied to the carton board from which your packaging is made. Below is a list of the most popular special finishes and how they can enhance your product’s packaging. You can read more about this in one of our previous blogs on the topic of special finishes for printed cartons and sleeves.

Spot and overall UV varnishes

UV varnish image

Figure 2 Spot UV Varnish

UV varnish is a clear varnish that is applied to the board after printing. It gives the printed sheet a glossy appearance. It can be applied over all or to certain parts of their board only (spot UV)


gold foil

Figure 3 Gold Foiling

Foiling is when you apply a thin layer of metal foil to a design—usually a printed piece—to give the appearance of (gold) leaf. While foiling was traditionally only available in silver and gold, it is now possible to apply for while in many different colours to your printed carton or sleeve. It is often used in luxury packaging design, on birthday cards, on Christmas packaging and on children’s books.

Embossing and Debossing

embossing example close up

Figure 4 Embossing

Embossing or debossing a printed sheet creates a raised or lowered area on a cardboard sheet. When embossed, the image is raised; when debossed, the image is below the sheet surface. It is often combined with foiling on the raised or lowered area.

If these finishes are combined with the best packaging design for your product, you can enhance the consumer’s experience when they interact with your packaging in retail stores.

You can read more about special finishes here.

Please contact us on 01 847 00 44 if you would like help with enhancing your printed cartons or sleeves.