Sealed Air President, Product Care Division, Ken Chrisman, looks at the all-importance of product protection and positive customer experience…
As footfall and revenue on the high street continue to decline, the goal for many retailers and brand owners is to replicate the experience
pictured on the internet or in the catalogue inside the consumer’s home. The days of consumers visiting stores and strolling through aisles experiencing the effects of creative merchandising are gone.
As the retail industry continues to change rapidly and more consumers switch to purchasing goods online, retailers are trying to react by changing their fulfilment strategies to remain financially competitive while still maintaining the brand experience. As demand for online orders increase, labour pressures are intensifying. Labour is the first variable to get squeezed in the more-volume/same-hours equation, so it is imperative that companies implement solutions that provide relief to human packers while also growing volume.
Retailers are tackling the volatile retail market conditions in different ways to try and meet the demands of consumers. Some are tightening the valve on inventory and keeping more product stored in distribution centres where it’s taking up costly warehousing space. At sky-high rental prices, every square foot of warehouse space is becoming precious. Other retailers are supplementing dedicated e-commerce fulfilment operations with ad-hoc ship-from-store set ups that make use of in-store employees. Manufacturers are also getting involved in order fulfilment and shipping directly to consumers. This is either by choice or as a result of massive consumer demand for fast deliveries.
MOMENT OF TRUTH
Whilst there are fulfilment transformations occurring in responding to this revolution, retailers are looking to maintain focus on customer
experience. Retailers need to adapt to as they become increasingly affected by consumers demanding a unique, tailored brand experience.
Packaging is, therefore, playing a bigger role than ever in ensuring product integrity and an ideal customer experience no matter whose hands touch each order first, third, or last. Packaging is now the last moment of truth – the last interaction and impression an online shopper has with a brand before consuming the product. The doorstep – or more precisely, the living room – is the new battleground for retailers trying to increase market share. With the increase in online shopping globally, retailers must operate an efficient supply chain in order to maintain a brand’s reputation. This may sound simple, but it’s hard to execute.
Research from Sealed Air highlights that 50% of consumers have received a package in poor condition, 34% have received a package in poor condition and the product(s) inside were damaged, and 20% of online buyers have difficulty opening packages. For retailers looking to fulfil online orders, these are not great numbers. But more strikingly, figures from the same research show 20% of consumers would consider never shopping with a retailer again after receiving a damaged package.
These figures suggest that online shoppers will be increasingly compelled to compare prices and look for items with the best delivery dates
and lowest shipping costs. The winner may come down to which retailers know the consumer the best.
The good news is retailers are nowhere close to tapping the potential for impactful, emotional, stimulating at-home experiences, so there is still time to get out ahead of the masses.
At Sealed Air, we have focused on developing solutions that heighten the unboxing experience. One of our lines of inflatable air cushioning offers a variety of shapes and patterns so that retailers can provide a bit of personalisation while still protecting the contents of the box. Another innovation, our durable carton wrap, is an opaque material that eliminates the need for a secondary corrugated box by wrapping the primary packaging and making it strong enough for delivery.
Personalisation – both of the packaging itself and the entire at-home delivery experience – is the next frontier for retailers needing to differentiate. Retailers need to understand and make connections with today’s highly engaged consumers. Only by doing this can retailers truly stand-out in this ultra-competitive market.