When retail goes online, the rules of packaging change. Firstly, the online product is already sold before the outer packaging is even seen. Secondly, as many as 30% of the goods are returned in some retail sectors. Thirdly, the packaging replaces face-to-face contact with a sales person. For these reasons, the packaging needs to be easy to open and reseal for convenient returns and reduced waste, while also delivering an enhanced purchasing experience through personalisation or exclusive wrapping.
Packaging for online retail also poses certain economic and sustainability requirements. Light packaging provides savings on logistics. Durability is crucial since broken packaging may result in damaged goods. At the same time, more and more consumers prefer packaging that is responsibly produced, by not wasting raw materials, and fully recyclable.
In key markets, Stora Enso is actively responding to the online retail demands, to optimise handling, shipping and climate-smartness, as well as the end-user experience.
Sense and track
Packaging not only contains and protects, it can also sense and track. Stora Enso has been working for several years internally and together with partners at universities, suppliers and customers to create solutions enabling these functionalities.
The technology exists today, for example, to incorporate the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and sensor labels into the packaging. With an RFID tag, a box is easily traceable enabling logistics benefits in the customer value chain. With printed sensors, consumers can be assured that, for instance, frozen food has been kept at the correct temperature. Or sensors can be used to detect biological processes and indicate when food is no longer suitable to eat – better than a printed best-before-date.
Another example is intelligent packaging with medicines. With the help of printed electronics on the packaging and connected via a service network, it could be possible to keep track of when a pill is taken out of the medicine package and even set alarms to indicate if a medicine dose has been forgotten.
On the go
In China, in the next ten years, about 200 million people are expected to move from the countryside to the cities and embrace the urban lifestyle. That number is the equivalent of the population of Germany, France and the UK combined.
Urban migration, a growing middle class and greater purchasing power bring many opportunities on the packaging front. Small packaging for small households, smart packages to cut waste, focus on food hygiene and health, environmentally friendly consumerism, and demand for packaged meals ‘on the go,’ to name a few.
Stora Enso is among the 20-30 largest companies in a fragmented Chinese packaging market. The top ten companies represent only about four percent of the market. That leaves plenty of room for growth.