Is it Time for Custom Packaging?
By Agile SCS
February 13, 2020 | Ecommerce Fulfillment

As a kid at Christmas, you’d unwrap a gift and the box would be from some high end, chic place and you’d get excited about what was inside. Because of the label, the brand, the image it conjured, for one fleeting second, you’d be the proud owner of …

“That’s not the real box,” your mother would say and the magic of a Tiffany’s box would fade as it was revealed that inside the box was a six-pack of tube sox.

The packaging makes an impact.


Custom and Stock packaging 

There are basically two types of packing you can employ when sending your products to market or to customers. Let’s look at their differences before we break down which is the right choice for you.


Stock packaging

Stock packaging is largely ready-made, generic packaging that you can affix a label to. This type of packaging is usually very inexpensive to make and to purchase and it most often comes in restricted, standardized sizes and designs.

Many companies use stock packaging exclusively because it wouldn’t make monetary sense to have their packages custom made.

In retail, jars of sauces or salsas, vitamin bottles, beverage bottles, protein powders, canned foods and the like are all examples of stock packaging with custom labels affixed.

A giant company like Johnson & Johnson would have the money and the need for things like having custom bottles for their products made. If you’re selling jars of honey on the weekends at the local farmer’s market, do you really want to incur the expense of having specially designed honey jars? Does that make sense for your burgeoning business? Is that where you need to spend your money right away?

Stock packaging is cheap, easy, abundant and it won’t break the bank if you’re a start-up or a small business that isn’t looking to take over the world.


Custom packaging

As opposed to the ready-made, generic packaging of stock, custom packaging is just what it sounds like. Custom packaging is packaging that is specifically and uniquely tailored to your product.

This type of packaging is actually designed by a packaging structural engineer and it requires special tooling. The tooling, cutting dies and printing plates, are used in various machinery that creates your specific packaging.

This type of packaging is more expensive than stock because it requires a lot of prep time, along with extensive planning and designing.

Custom packaging usually requires that a prototype be made and approved as well as production set-up, which you will pay for, and the tooling that was mentioned before. It is expensive and the up-front costs can be intimidating when making the choice between the two options, stock or custom.

It should be noted that the level of customer service during all stages of custom packaging is much higher than it is when dealing with stock packaging. You’re paying for a higher quality of goods and you’re getting a higher quality of service as a result.


Custom packaging costs

You should be aware when weighing whether to go for custom packaging or staying with stock packaging, that custom packaging companies often have a minimum start-up cost. This means you’ll be charged a minimum price just to get the machinery started. This is applied even if you order just one unit of packaging.

There will also be a minimum volume requirement included in the start-up costs. This is actually in place so the entire process makes more sense. For example; a packaging company might have a minimum start-up cost of $2,500. That would include a minimum of 1000 units of packaging.

You should know that most packaging types: folding cartons, rigid boxes, stand up pouches, poly-bags and the like have both custom and stock options.


Which is best for you

There are things to consider on both sides of the aisle when it comes to choosing your packaging. What are you looking for from your packaging, how much can you afford to spend on packaging and could that money be better spent elsewhere in your company or is it worth the cost?

Also, think on these things. The aesthetics of your brand are vital and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your packaging may be the first or the last impression your brand has with a customer. As most companies know, acquiring new customers is much more difficult than keeping old, loyal customers. With that in mind, the first impression you make with your packaging may be more important than you think.

Stock packaging generally works well for smaller volumes of packaging. Some examples of who might benefit from stock packaging are:

  • Start-ups with limited budgets
  • Test marketing situations
  • Production shortages
  • Trade show samples subscription boxes
  • Shipping boxes used by online stores

Stock packaging is a good choice for those seeking less of an expense when buying small quantities. It’s easier and faster to get stock packaging and it’s perfect if you’re new, starting out and custom packaging may be too much of an expense at this point in your business.

It’s reliable and serviceable.

With custom packaging, you’re getting more. Custom packaging doesn’t just mean boxes or poly-bags with your logo printed on them. It means box sizes and protective packaging that is customized to your product.

DIM pricing is starting to become the standard for shipping rates. Customizing packaging to optimize size and level of protection can save you money on shipping costs over time. A customized size will get the best DIM shipping rate for every order.

On top of that, the branding feature can improve a customer’s perception of your business. Branding custom packages represents an opportunity to create something memorable and give your customers a positive experience through your custom packages.

If you have a larger volume of packaging needs custom packaging is going to save you money and time over the long run and, you’re creating a better brand image connection with your customers.

The advantages of custom packaging are certainly worth considering if you’re looking to move up or you want an advantage over your competition.



Another feature of custom packaging that’s important to consider is the protection it can give to your products.

Because custom packaging fits your specific product, when packing for shipment, your products fit better in boxes, with little wiggle room and thus they’re more protected from possible breakage.

Also because of the better fit, there should be fewer waste materials. Excess or waste material can mean the packaging itself as well as fill packaging that is often used for shipping in ill-fitting stock packaging.

Better fitting packaging might not seem like an important detail however, better fitting packaging means more products per pallet can be shipped which will lower your shipping costs.

And, secure packaging cuts down on returns and customer complaints. Giving the customer a positive experience when shipping to them can add to brand loyalty and translate to more conversions.


Who worries about complaints

If you’re not worried about complaints or product returns due to damage in shipping, then you’re not doing yourself any favors. When a customer complains, you need to pay attention because a bad review or a complaint can be devastating to your business. Especially if you’re just starting out.

When a customer is not happy there is a 91% chance they won’t do business with the offending company again. Dissatisfied customers typically tell 9-15other people about their bad experience. And it takes roughly 40 positive customer experiences to undo the damage of one negative review.

This is something to keep in mind when you’re deciding if your product is going to be shipped in a one-size-fits-all package or a more unique, perhaps safer, custom package.


Is it time?

Basically it’s not a matter of should you or shouldn’t you but rather its a matter of is now the time? If every business had the kind of financial strength as a giant like Johnson& Johnson, there would be no question, yes, we will use custom packaging.

However, unless you’re Johnson & Johnson, you’re not Johnson & Johnson. Maybe you’re just starting out and there are expenses you want to meet now that preclude using custom packaging. That’s fine, stock packaging has its positives in terms of affordability and quick availability. It has been around for some time so it works.

If you’ve got the capital and you feel that your brand is champing at the bit to take the next step and get a serious edge on the competition, then you need to put serious thought into custom packaging.

If it is time and you’re ready for that next step, Agile is the perfect place to turn for all your ecommerce and order fulfillment needs. We’re here to get you started and keep you going, making sure you get the custom packaging that’s perfect for your products. With Agile, you’ll climb higher, faster.