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Many small business owners make the mistake of treating packaging like an afterthought. Your product is what people are after – it’s what’s inside that counts, right? Well, yes. But without great packaging, customers may never even take a chance on your product.

Packaging isn’t just an aesthetic complement to your product, it’s an integral part of the branding of your company. If you’re using generic bags, boxes and shipping packages, you’re missing out on a key opportunity to expand your brand’s reach.

Custom packaging and labeling help define the aesthetic of your brand. The colors, the fonts and the overall look can give a lot of information about the feel and values of your company, and you’re sending that message not just to your customers, but to everyone else that sees those bags and boxes.

It can be complicated to navigate what your company’s packaging needs are – from your actual product’s packaging to shipping boxes and labels – so here are some tips to figure out what’s best for your business.

Sort out your product labels

Your product’s labels will help define the aesthetic of your brand. The kind you choose depends a lot on where you need to put them and what functions you need them to do. There are a lot of options out there, so here are some questions to consider:

Clear or opaque?

Most bags, tins and boxes you put your products in will work best with opaque labels so that the colors and design of the label really pop. There’s an exception though: if you’re using clear bottles, jars or bags, and want your product to speak for itself, consider clear labels with simple white lettering. This shows off what’s inside the packaging and gives it a sleek, modern aesthetic.

Glossy or matte?

This is a question of aesthetics and the kind of look you’re going for. Labels in either texture can look great. Glossy will generally be more eye-catching and bright, but the more subtle, muted tone and texture of matte can really complement hand-crafted and artisanal goods.

Where will your product be used?

Making handmade ice creams, shampoos or other products that will be used in wet or frosty environments? You’ll want to make sure your labels can handle the humidity. Look into durable roll labels, which are waterproof and can withstand hot and cold temperatures, so your labels won’t peel or fade when exposed to the elements.

On a budget?

If you’re tight on funds but want sharp-looking branding on your packaging, consider paper roll labels. You can get a big roll of stick-on labels at very inexpensive rates.

Once you’ve figured all that out, it’s time for part two.

What’s on the outside

The boxes and bags your customers walk out of the store with are key to spreading your message far and wide, so make sure your logo is on there. If your small business doesn’t have the budget for custom-printed boxes and bags, consider using stickers – again, paper roll labels are one affordable option here. Matte labels can also be a really nice touch here.

And then there’s a whole other part of the packaging to experience: Shipping.

The unboxing experience

Shipping packaging offers a whole realm of opportunities to give customers “the unboxing experience” – that joy when your package arrives, and you get to unwrap it and finally get the goods. Unboxing is actually a massive subculture on YouTube – people film videos of themselves opening a new package and taking a look at the product that has just arrived in the mail. So, having great-looking, well-branded shipping packaging matters more than ever before.

Here are a few ways to really enhance that experience:

Packaging tape

Print your logo on custom packaging tape that wraps around the exterior of the box for maximum effect. You can also plug promos and upcoming sales on packaging tape.

Custom shipping boxes or labels

Custom shipping boxes with your logo really enhance the effect of your brand. They can be pricey, though, so a great low-cost alternative is sticking your label onto low-cost generic boxes. This doesn’t have to be your logo – it could be your company’s slogan, or a sticker thanking customers for their purchase in your brand’s colors and font.

Collectible stickers

Toss in some cool collectible stickers, with a great design, into the shipping box as a little extra touch. It’s another chance to spread your logo’s message around.

Thank-you notes

If you have time, adding a carefully-designed thank-you note to the shipping box is a really nice touch. Make sure your brand’s info (including social media handles) is on it – and if you can, address the individual customer, possibly with a hand-written note. This helps establish rapport with customers, lets them know they matter to you and reminds your customers that they’re helping support a small business with real humans running it