Online Shopping Presents a Physical Marketing Opportunity: The Package

A few, focused ideas for performance marketers

Millions of marketers have the same thought their customers do about packaging: It’s a means to an end. Put the product in the package. Get the package to the customer. Mission accomplished. 

But experienced performance marketers know there are so many more packaging possibilities. They can literally market outside of the box. And even in it. 

Performance marketing on a package

Whether it’s a box or a bag, marketers can add URLs, QR codes, barcodes, branding and so much more. Marketers can even add brand mission URLs about subjects like recycling.

For example, on a Prime box, one of the customers bringing in the 37% year-over-year increase to $96.1 billion in net sales that Amazon saw in Q3 received a box with several barcodes used for tracking the shipment; recycling information about a nonprofit with which Amazon and other brands partner, at; and packaging tape with Prime branding.

The tape on this first box included calls to action to Prime’s services, including video, music and free delivery. A different package’s tape highlighted “Shop at and we’ll donate to your favorite charity” and “$183 million donated to charities so far.”

It’s in the bag

One way the UPS works with ecommerce marketers is to reveal to them that there’s more to packaging than boxes. That means there are many ecommerce marketers fulfilling orders with bags, too. And while bags tend to be plain, labels sometimes carry marketing–depending on what the mail carrier allows.

And UPS is among the carriers onboarding mail clients–especially SMB, which represented 18.7% in volume growth in Q3 vs. 10.5% in Q2. (Even as B2B business is down, not just for UPS at 7.8% year-over-year, but for many businesses, its average daily volume in the U.S. is up 13.8% year over year to 20.4 million packages a day. That’s because B2C shipments increased 33.4% year-over-year to 61% of total volume.)

While many SMBs are using UPS delivery options, others are taking a different route.

Local goes online

Maya Komerov is founder and CEO of Cinch Market, a local online marketplace for retailers in Brooklyn. As of last month, she had 50 stores on board and 50 more wanting to join. Because the National Retail Federation reports consumers want to shop local, despite increasingly going online to patronize marketplaces, entities like Cinch are in demand for Brooklyn’s speciality food, gift, toy, essential and pet food retailers.

“We keep the bags of the stores when we deliver the package to the customers,” Komerov said. “Most of the businesses have branded bags.” 

This reflects a trend Adweek reported on of retailers using stores as online fulfillment centers to offset in-store losses.

Thank you cards and inserts

Among those brands going for the personal touch in package marketing are those with marketers who add thank you cards or other personal notes within the packages. Those can onboard consumers to e-newsletters for content marketing purposes or provide some other cross-channel capability to create brand loyalty during a pandemic.

Performance marketers can also add fliers, whether they’re using third-party marketplaces or their own packaging. For instance, Tervis added a warranty activation insert in its product within an Amazon package.


Performance marketers who want to create new sales within the packages can add predictive analytics to the invoices. Similar to Netflix and Amazon, performance marketers can tell customers what they have to offer that’s similar to what the customer already bought, or might interest them based on what they bought. 

Marketing thought leaders say not to do what Shopify suggested about unloading less-desirable inventory on customers as a gift within packages. It’s not moving for a reason: customers don’t want it.

Package shipping will continue during the pandemic

The USPS is moving 708 million more shipping and package pieces vs. the same time last year. That’s a 49.9% increase.

“In the near term, the postal service anticipates that these trends will continue given the surge in e-commerce as many Americans stay home due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” according to Q3 results. Package marketing may bring a whole new bag of tricks to performance marketers looking for an edge with pandemic purchasers.