As economies attempt to reopen alongside the ongoing threat of Covid-19, e-commerce and social media have only become more crucial for consumers and brands alike. Packaging that interacts well with social media presents an opportunity to engage with the consumer as life moves more online.

Unprecedented internet access and smart device penetration have resulted in even more reliance on e-commerce channels during the Covid-19 pandemic. With sporadic regional lockdowns and the potential for future panic buying, consumers are expecting to more frequently look online to find the products they want. In a recent consumer survey, GlobalData found that 28% of global consumers expect to spend more time shopping for groceries online, while 26% expect to spend the same amount of time shopping for groceries online as before.

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Engagement is key to winning in the e-commerce channel and often overlooked opportunity for engagement is the packaging, which is a necessity for the channel during the transport from the distributor to the home and is one of the first digital and physical points of contact.

Companies, making the transition to e-commerce, need to consider that the brand image, appearing in searches, must convey the key information in a straightforward way. For online sales, the brand should emphasise simplicity in the pack design, name and text description of the product in order to retain the consumer’s attention. The lack of physicality to the product at the browsing stage means that many of the initial, attention-grabbing sensations traditionally used to evaluate a product such as texture or weight are much less important.

This is not to say that brands should not aim to make packaging interesting once the consumer receives the item. A strong argument for greater consumer engagement would be the opposite – when the consumer actually receives the item, an item that captures the imagination or that looks good on social media will do well in this climate. Covid-19 has forced people online and onto social media more frequently, and that means people will continue to post photos of what is both interesting and available to them. GlobalData found that 22% of consumers expect to actively post on social media more in the foreseeable future and 27% plan to spend more time browsing.

Influencers are more powerful now than they have ever been. Social media is a key part of the e-commerce journey with consumers sharing brand experiences and word of mouth travelling online. For packaging, to successfully target social media, simple, distinctive graphics and on-pack pro-social challenges will help attract attention online. Strategies for composing online campaigns could include funny viral campaigns, focusing on humour in every day or contributing products to a charity that the product is connected to.

Brands must optimise for the e-commerce channel during the pandemic. This means pro-social brand messaging and simplified, colourful designs that look good on social media.