Online retailing has experienced an unprecedented boom over the last few years with UK shoppers spending a reported £107 billion in 2014, up from £91 billion in the previous year.
Growth for sales online surpassed all expectations in what many retailers consider the busiest month of the year, December, resulting in industry experts predicting year-on-year growth of 14%, with overall sales set to reach £116 billion by the end of this year. E-retail accounts for a sizeable chunk (24%) of the market, making the safe transportation and delivery of goods more important than ever.
With an estimated 3.7 billion parcels sent annually to customers domestically and throughout the EU, fulfilment and logistics businesses must work at maximum efficiency to meet this growing demand. A major barrier, however, presents itself by the theft of goods in transit; figures released by the Home Office suggest that it is costing businesses in excess of £6.6 billion every year. This can result in unknown damage to reputation for both the retailer and its logistical partners, resulting in loss of customers, sales and revenue.
Furthermore, goods being transported are ever-increasing in value, with a higher online demand placed on luxury items such as smartphones, laptops and other premium products – 2014 saw an estimated 74.5 million devices shipped from Samsung and Apple alone. Of course, this works wonders for the value of the luxury goods market, but on the other hand it bears an increased risk of theft, loss of business income and more specifically loss of reputation.
COUNTING THE COST
For retailers and logistics companies it’s not just the cost of replacing an item – there are also related costs to re-packaging, courier costs and time spent on investigating where the shipment has gone. We have seen cases where companies have been defrauded by expensive electronic items replaced with similarly weighted bricks, or generic packaging purchased and used to imitate the genuine product. It’s therefore imperative that packaging is fit for purpose and secure enough to avoid recognition of a high-end product while in transit.
Less clear, however, is estimating the cost of damage to your reputation as a retailer and any of your partners. Customers nowadays are spoilt for choice with the wide availability of products that are simpler to purchase than ever before, so retailers will struggle to retain customer loyalty if their experience has been negative. Therefore it is vital retail and logistics suppliers are fully aware of the secure packaging options available to reduce these risks. Even when responsibility for safe and secure transit shifts to the courier, theft or damage will still impact negatively on the retailer.
With packaging supplies such as standard bubble wrap envelopes and brown packaging tape now available from the local corner shop or online marketplace, it’s easy for would-be thieves to ‘clone’ generic shipments and defraud companies and customers. Gone is the era when black, plastic wrapping on a pallet provided sufficient protection; nowadays, this method of wrapping makes it difficult to spot-check for missing or tampered goods.
The secondary carton used can also offer greater insurance, by making one parcel indistinguishable from the next while others offer tamper-evident closures. These all-in-one packaging concept solutions have been specifically designed for the safe transportation of high-value goods such as smartphones, perfumes and tablets. With loadbearing foam to counteract impact and a self-sealing, tamper-evident tear-strip closure these cartons allow the supply chain as well as the recipient to instantly see if their package has been compromised.
Something retailers may not have considered is the standard brown tape used in packaging, which is easily interfered with and then replaced. Those who are shipping high volumes of expensive goods should consider looking at secure tape options, such as bespoke, personalised tape which has been printed with a company logo or traceable code. Then there are tapes offering features such as ultra-delamination or inking when tampered with, and tapes using invisible UV fibres and polydot technology that is almost impossible to duplicate.
Originally designed for applications in the Ministry of Defence and high-security government shipments, these tapes are now being used in the transportation of large-volume consumer goods to minimise the risk of theft.
Of course, enhanced premium packaging compared to generic packaging products can cost more, but logistics suppliers and retailers need to weigh up the associated risks to luxury products and brand reputation, versus choosing the cheapest packaging solution. It’s all about selecting the right solution for the value of the product to ensure safe and secure delivery, and the best possibility of maintaining customer retention and future orders.