eTail Europe 2021

London, UK

Unilever's e-Commerce Strategy Revamp Product Photos and Packaging

As more and more ecommerce brands go through their digital transformations, they're finding it necessary to make changes to many aspects of their businesses.

This is especially true in the world of retail and consumer goods, as the realities of making products available to the world make certain practices and processes unwieldy. Organising delivery options, secure and shock absorbent packaging, address labels, insurance, and more can become a mammoth task. Plus, some products simply may not be suitable for delivery over long distances - perishable items such as food, for example - necessitating an assessment of inventory before listing them online.

As one of the world's largest consumer goods companies - Unilever - is ideally placed to lead the way regarding challenges such as this, and has some great ideas about packaging and product listings to get started.


When it comes to shipping goods around the world, a few inches or ounces here and there can make all the difference to the cost viability of ecommerce.

With consumers being easily put off by exorbitant postage charges - and reasonably so, given the number of brands who are happy to foot the bill for shipping - anything a business can do to shave a few pounds/euros/dollars off shipping costs is likely to be welcomed.

Unilever-owned brand Seventh Generation is a consumer goods company with a focus on plant-based products and recyclable packaging. As an environmentally-friendly brand, Seventh Generation already has an interest in reducing packaging waste as much as possible, but now it has an extra incentive.

The need to reduce shipping costs has led Seventh Generation to redesign the packaging for one of its detergent products, which is now five pounds lighter and nine inches shorter than the previous version - while still containing the same amount of product, meaning no loss in value to the customer. Not only is the new packaging designed to be shipped for cheaper than previously, but also in greater safety. The packaging is designed specifically for mail order and is less likely to be damaged or break open in transit than the old containers.

"Shipping any package can be expensive, and this is especially true for products like detergent that can be heavy," reports Business Insider. "By making these products lighter, brands can lower their own shipping costs, or the ones charged by marketplaces like Amazon, potentially enabling them to pass these cost savings on to consumers by reducing prices. Cutting product sizes and weights is particularly important for brands at the moment, as Amazon wants to stop selling unprofitable items that have low prices and high shipping costs."

The Seventh Generation innovation follows on from Procter and Gamble brand Tide, which recently designed a new eco-box for its detergent products which is four pounds lighter than the plastic bottles it used to ship in.

Product Images

Another aspect of its ecommerce process Unilever wanted to look at was the photos it uses to list its products online.

"When I first joined the eCommerce team, I spent my first summer eye tracking and talking to shoppers and I learned it wasn't that easy," said Unilever's Global Ecommerce Experience Design Director, Oliver Bradley. "They were frequently adding the wrong sizes in basket and were frustrated when the wrong products arrived at their door. It was clear from eye tracking that smartphone shoppers scroll fast, don't read the product title and were struggling to see the detail."

With more and more online shopping being carried out on smartphones, it's crucial that product listings and other elements of a brand's ecommerce presence are formatted for these devices. As pointed out by Bradley above, poorly formatted ecommerce sites lead to customer frustration, mistakes in ordering, and abandoned shopping carts - all ultimately resulting in missed revenue opportunities.

Therefore, Unilever has implemented new standards for all product images to make sure they are just as clear on a mobile screen as they are on a desktop. It partnered with Cambridge University to run further eye-tracking studies on the listings and noted a marked improvement on retention and understanding regarding factors such as pack size and colour.

Final Thoughts

Whether through reduced packaging size or improved formatting for ecommerce photos, Unilever is making sure its products have the best chance of performing well online as they do on store shelves.

You can hear Unilever's Global Head of Online Delivery, Amy Brix, speak at eTail Europe 2019, taking place in June at the QEII Centre, Westminster, London.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.

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