I wrote recently on a talk by Daniel Kahneman, concerning how people's memories of an event are influenced by the last points of their experience. The essence being: memories of an overall good experience can be spoiled by a bad experience right at the end or, conversely, memories of an overall bad experience can be improved with a good (or less bad) experience at the end.
The end points of a person's journey with you are often neglected. There is a huge opportunity to give your customers an exceptional final experience with you. Meaning it's more likely they'll be back to use your service in future. More likely they'll not only recommend you, to friends and family, but also (as I am now) actively photograph, blog and share on social media their positive experience with you.
Here's my story ...
Last week I got home and my girlfriend gave me a surprise gift, in itself a wonderful experience - but not actually what prompted me to write this.
The package was a cardboard mailing sleeve from Rapha - a high end cycling brand - containing a copy of their new book. From the outside, nothing too unusual.
When I opened it though - I had a great experience. The inside of the box was printed with a black and white landscape photograph (evocative of the historical cycling photography included in the book). The book was then wrapped in pink tissues paper. Custom printed to look like newsprint from Gazetto della Sport (a reference to the Italian newspaper that sponsors the Giro d'Italia).
Rapha are renowned for their quality, levels of service, attention to detail - they're certainly what you'd call a user experience focussed company. Having shopped with them before I know that the journey from seeing a product (in an email for example) to visiting the website, placing an order and having it delivered would have been a good one.
Had the book arrived in a completely plain cardboard sleeve and been wrapped in plain white tissue paper, I wouldn't have been disappointed. I would have still described it as a good user experience. I might have been delighted with the book - but it was bought with the expectation of being delighted with it. The effort of customising the packaging is unexpected and made a really exceptional and delightful experience.
Custom printed packaging
Other companies might not do this because of the extra expense. I'd be interested to know what the extra cost of this is - but it feels like it would be a minor cost in comparison to the added customer satisfaction. Plus the social and marketing benefits. For a small premium on some packaging, I have developed a stronger attachment with the brand - increasing my likelihood of going back. Plus I'm photographing the packaging and blogging about it. These things compounded across multiple customers is likely to quickly offset the extra costs.
Packaging (and I think printed invoices) are an under-utilised part of the user experience journey.
Some brands (Apple certainly has it nailed) have wonderful packaging for their products. But the cardboard box it gets put in to mail to a customer is rarely given such attention. Right now it is low hanging fruit for a massively improved customer experience.
Perhaps more companies do this and I just don't shop enough to know about it. But I believe there is only a small number of clever companies taking advantage of it and striving to find new ways to offer a delightful experience to their customers. If you're selling online - it would be a great time to think about how you could take this idea for your packaging. Right now the bar is low and the entry point cheap. The longer you leave it the more expensive it will be to stand out. And by the time it becomes a common design feature - you'll be ahead of the curve and ready to move on to thinking creatively about the next UX point.