An e-book is a book publication made available in digital form. An e-mail is a method of exchanging “mail” between different people using electronic devices. An e-pack is the digital representation of a physical pack.

E-books are thought to exploit their digital form. You can search terms, automatically search words in the digital dictionary or translate them into any language in no time.

E-mails are far from being a scan of regular mail. They are born digital. They can travel faster than any letter and reach as many recipients as the issuer bothers to type in.

Yet, e-packs, the representation of a pack in digital form, resemble much more their physical selves than e-books or e-mails do with their corresponding counterparts.

E-packs are usually a picture of the physical packaging – or a 3D representation of the same – with a bit of retouching/postproduction in the best of cases. They are the kind that are used as thumbnails on grocery sites and show the product as it looks in real life.

Yet, these traditional packshots don’t really work when they hit the digital shelf, on-pack information is often invisible. Pack design appears cluttered from the small mobile screens since they are carefully and beautifully conceived to stand out at the brick and mortar stores but fail to convey critical information for shoppers that need to make a decision online.

Since information such as type of product, brand, variant or size is often unclear, picking the wrong product by mistake is already the norm – accounting for 7% of purchases according to Clavis Insight. Which is not a surprise given that the e-pack lives on a surface of 16mm2 when seen from a mobile device, and on frequent purchases – such us the grocery shop – is well-known that users scroll down and shop products directly from the search, rarely browsing inside product detail pages – where the image cavas is a bit more generous.

In this scenario, invisible and cluttered pack design, poor user experience and the need to make the shop as quick as possible, a new generation of e-pack is needed urgently if we want to make online shopping as accessible as possible.

We are in need of E-packs, that as well as e-books and e-mails, are thought to shine seamlessly in the channel they are living. These online-friendly e-packs were called originally “mobile ready hero images”, term coined by Unilever alongside the Cambridge university 2 years ago, and are nothing else that packshots that have been optimised – enhancing key information, decluttering irrelevant content – and are often accompanied by off-pack communications that highlight size and product type. GS1 took the torch later and put on the table specific “mobile ready hero images” guidelines that aim to ensure industry-consistency when optimising e-packs.

It´s a simple idea that triggers a win-win-win scenario for all stakeholders – brands, retailers, consumers. Brands gaining sales and brand presence when switching traditional packshots for optimised e-packs, retailers improving the quality of the user experience of their sites and lowering returning-goods and consumers being able to pick the right products at the speed they want.

As David Swan from GS1 frames it, this idea has the potential of “affecting every single product in the world.” It´s scope is enormous, yet, although top global brands and the US and UK market already embrace e-pack optimisation as industry-best-practices. It´s a concept already unknown or at “beta stage” across the globe.

Although lots of research has been conducted on the field – eye-tracking xxx – backing the importance of grocery e-pack optimisation to ensure an optimum online shopping experience across devices. It´s common sense the argument that often “makes a click” in order to get brands/retailers on board: an unseen pack won’t be sold, and making the buy happen – alongside improving consumer experience – is pretty much at the heart of any business plan in a capitalist market.

The knowhow is there, the parties are ready, it’s only a matter of time that optimisation becomes the new norm around, and by then, those brands that failed to adapt will just be Darwinly left behind.