Sharing insights from Global Packaging Summit - part 2

Published 3 July 2017
Packaging plays a different role in online retail (AKA e-tail), compared with in-store, and e-tailers have a good reason pay more attention to their packaging than before. Half of online shoppers think the packaging does not live up the quality of the ordered product, so what can e-tailers do about it?

As mentioned in part 1, the cost of packaging is becoming significant and the interaction with consumers is becoming a key competitive advantage – or it could be, based on a study made by Stora Enso in Sweden and Poland in December 2016 with 120 consumers and more than 20 e-tailers.

Today, e-tailers tend to use many different packaging formats, typically 5-10 different packaging sizes. They ship multiple brands from their fulfilment centers resulting in e.g. 3 brands, 5 sizes, in total 15 different packages to stock. Packaging design that doesn’t reflect the brand is worrying e-tailers, especially when sending expensive items in cheap plastic bags.

The packages are often too big and bulky, and it is difficult to adjust the packaging size to a specific order. Many e-tailers still use also manual labour quite extensively, for example sealing each pack with regular tape. Packaging that gets damaged in the opening is way too common (especially plastic bags), so it can’t be used for returns. Mixing different packaging materials such as cardboard, plastic, tape etc. is also common. Plastic filling materials dominate as not enough filling materials made of renewable raw material are available in the market.

What online consumers would like to have more, is more attractive packaging with smart opening and nice wrapping inside. Their biggest pain points are weak and damaged packaging, too bulky packaging and excessive filling.

So, these are the five areas to improve e-tail packaging from both consumers’ and e-tailers’ perspectives:

  • Design: more attractive for consumers & matching brand and product quality
  • Smart features: hassle-free for consumers & cost-efficient with sealing, opening and carrying
  • Protection: undamaged goods fitting tightly & reduced number of package sizes, shapes and filling materials
  • Personal touch: attractive presentation and unboxing experience & efficient packaging
  • Sustainability: favouring environmentally friendly renewable materials & avoiding multi-materials and plastic

As e-tail is growing so rapidly, the online consumer experience can actually have the power to change the game in all types of retail, putting brands and packaging providers in a new competitive situation. Are you ready?

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