How to Use Sustainable Packaging to Build Customer Loyalty

It is not just about your product anymore. Consumers today want to know how your company is making a positive difference in all areas, including packaging.

According to Asia Pulp & Paper's 2017 Paper & Packaging Consumer Trends Report, 31% of consumers are likely to buy from a company whose products use sustainable packaging. The report also found 25% of consumers are willing to pay more for products with sustainable attributes.

Your packaging could attract more new customers and increase their loyalty to your company. The Billerud Consumer Panel 2017 found the top result consumers want from packaging development is to make it fun and easy to recycle. Asia Pulp & Paper's 2018 Paper & Packaging Consumer Trends Report echoes that: 65% of Americans say packaging sustainability is more important compared to 5 years ago, and 55% are willing to pay more for products in sustainable materials.

Sustainable packaging is what consumers want, and they are willing to pay for it. Here is how you can use consumer demand for sustainable packaging to build customer loyalty.

What Does Brand Loyalty Look Like Today?

Consumers have more options than ever before, including many at their fingertips through smartphones and e-commerce. The shift in brand loyalty can be seen in the following statistics cited by Inc.:

  • 61% of people switched brands in the past year
  • 77% of people retract brand loyalty faster than they did 3 years ago
  • 78% of millennials say brands have to work harder to secure their loyalty

Numerous organizations with the highest consumer loyalty are businesses that carry multiple brands, such as Walmart, Amazon, and Target, Business Insider reports. For packaged goods, it is easy to grab a different box off a shelf. 

So what makes consumers loyal today?

What Influences Customer Loyalty?'s 2018 Retail Customer Loyalty Study uncovered insights into factors driving loyalty. Most notably:

  • Consumers ages 44 and younger are more likely to value socially responsible organizations
  • Consumers ages 13 to 24 are 3 times as likely to list “status symbol” as a tie-breaking factor that would induce loyalty

These insights relate to each other. Luxury brands ranging from hotels to beauty brands are embracing sustainability, since three-quarters of millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable products, according to Nielsen Research. That is a 25% year-over-year increase, the study reports.

Package Printing reports the packaging material that is dominating luxury brands is paper and paperboard. Not only do the materials emit a luxurious feel, but they provide durability and embellishment opportunities. They can also positively impact brand loyalty.

Tips to Build Customer Loyalty Through Sustainable Packaging

Since sustainability, social good, and luxury can all impact customer loyalty levels, here are some ways to integrate those into packaging.

Use Sustainable Packaging Materials

Sustainable packaging solutions that are created with recycled, sustainably-sourced or biodegradable materials will draw consumer attention. Even more so if the materials are certified by trusted organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.

Primary fibre-based renewable materials like corrugated board are strong, lightweight, versatile and recyclable. They reduce your environmental impact while delivering efficiency gains throughout the entire supply chain.

As companies convert their supply chains and shift more towards sustainability, materials like plastic, foil, expanded polystyrene and other non-biodegradable options are being used less and less.

Communicate Your Brand's Sustainability Mission

You can do this by:

  • Showing on the packaging what packaging materials are used
  • Explaining to the consumer how the packaging can be reused, recycled, or composted
  • Conveying to the customer the sustainable impact they are making by choosing your product

Maybe your packaging resulted in fewer carbon dioxide emissions compared to another type. Or the fact that your packaging is compostable means the consumer will not be polluting the ocean with plastic. Think of ways to creatively communicate insights like these on your packaging and encourage them to visit your website or social media channels for more information on your efforts.

Share Your Numbers

Did a shift toward a certain type of packaging result in less environmental impact? Is your packaging much more likely to be recycled? Show your results by conveying them in easy-to-understand data on your packaging, for example, number of trees saved by using reclaimed material. Direct them to your website for more detailed information, which should use existing industry-specific indexes to allow for fair comparison. 

Reward Customers and Partners that Practice Sustainability

To build awareness about your company's sustainable packaging efforts, create campaigns highlighting your customers' efforts. For example, some companies hold recycling contests, where customers are asked to show how they are creatively reusing or recycling product packaging.

Other companies recognize their partners that are making strides in sustainability. Walmart, for example, named Unilever its Sustainable Supplier of the Year after Unilever adjusted a product package and saved more than 2,100 tons of cardboard packaging a year. Having a sustainability recognition program like this in place reinforces to consumers that Walmart cares about sustainable products in its stores.

Webinar - Inbound Packaging: The Hero of Your Business

With more emphasis on end users, more touch points and longer freight distances, packaging is more important than ever. Find out how inbound packaging drives value.

Want Loyal Customers? Use Your Packaging

One of the best ways to create a loyal fan base is through packaging. Your packaging is the first and last impression customers have of your brand. If consumers can feel good about purchasing your product and reusing, recycling, or composting your packaging, they'll know that any future purchases they make from you will be a sustainable choice, too.

If you would like to learn how to innovate ways to communicate your sustainability efforts through packaging to your customers, talk with a Billerud packaging specialist. For an in-depth look at how to design a sustainable packaging program, download our Designing a Sustainable Packaging Program ebook.

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