Getting started with packaging prototypes for your D2C startup
Getting your first package prototype out to potential customers is a surprisingly simple process
My first thought: How do I get from here to there?
Building out a company that requires packaging is something that I haven’t done before. So the biggest question for myself was about getting from point A to point B with my idea.
It’s funny how our ideas are seemingly clear in our heads. We can imagine things to be whatever we wish them to be. But when we are faced with bringing into reality, the details are what become incredibly confusing.
I ended up facing the same reality when I began my journey of turning my idea into reality. I honestly didn’t know where to go first. So, I started with a simple search on Google.
Research and reaching out
Research can be incredibly daunting when you don’t know where to start. Most often, you’ll search for custom packaging and be met with minimum order quantities (MOQ) into the thousands. This isn’t that great for starting out. You don’t need to have pallets of boxes sent to your house if you are only testing things out. You’ll be changing a lot of things along the way, so avoid ordering too many things at once.
I simply just started searching for box companies and send out a few emails on what I was looking for. Every company was incredibly friendly and responded quickly. On one occasion, I was emailing a sales representative many times throughout the day. I thought this was important to figure out what you really need or want. I also learned that vocabulary is incredibly important at this stage.
If you don’t know how to describe what you want, it may be more difficult to get it. Learn the vocabulary.
The big takeaway at this point is that you need to reach out to people and see what you can reasonably obtain. Once you figure out dimensions and the type of box you want, ask about samples. There is no need to worry about design at this point. Your focus should only be about figuring how to package your product and get it in front of people to test.
Getting your first round of samples
I plainly asked for samples when I was talking to the packaging companies. I usually asked for around 10 boxes. This seemed to be a good amount to start with and test out some ideas. The sales representative will always ask if you want to put in an order for many more boxes. Don’t do this or you’ll be back in the same situation where you’ll have too many boxes.
Once you get your samples in the mail, start putting a few of them together and check if the dimensions are correct. After that, it’s a matter of putting your product inside of one and testing out the customer experience yourself. If all is good, then start packaging up a few more for your testers.
Be aware that there will be some upfront cost
You have to pay to play. There is really no way around this part. The best bit of advice at this stage is to eat the cost and keep testing out ideas. You should have a small budget to just try things out. I decided in my head that I’d require a budget of a few hundred dollars for testing. You should do the same.
I ended up sending over sample dimensions to the packaging company and they were able to get something quickly into production. I ended up paying around $150 for around 15 samples. Honestly, I was originally expecting to receive around five samples so I was really happy to see that I got more than I bargained for. This gave me an opportunity to create more prototype boxes to give out to people.
I approached this part of the process has a necessity. I knew that my $150 was going towards the testing phase. You can try to figure out dimensions at home and how you “think” everything will fit in together but it’s better to get the physical box in front of you. If you think this part is too expensive, I think you could reasonably buy some cardboard and create the boxes yourself.
Packaging up my assumptions
This part was incredibly fun for me. I got to see an idea come to life, although it still wasn’t in its final form. The biggest difficulty for me was that I wasn’t sure how to pack things up properly. The first version of my prototype box was large and took up a lot of space. I knew the first version would serve its purpose by helping me test assumptions about the overall experience that I created for a customer. However, I wanted to decrease the physical footprint of the box by 40–50%. To do this, I have to continue going back to the drawing board until I find the best solution for what I’m looking for. Once I get packaging figured out in its raw form, I’ll move towards branding.
Take action and keep moving.