Rob Carle, e-commerce specialist at DS Smith’s UK Packaging Division talks packaging that will protect your brand and the product…
It is predicted that European e-commerce sales will rise by 14.2% in 2017, meaning online sales could reach £230.62bn this year. This growing retail channel is fundamentally shifting the way we shop, and causing all retailers to sit up and think about how to adapt and respond in this ever-changing environment.
In addition to the impact it has on retailers, e-commerce has also challenged the packaging industry. Packaging strategists have had to work very closely with e-commerce retailers in the last couple of years to design solutions that not only meet the requirements needed for such a complex supply chain, but also impress and excite demanding shoppers. So, what are the main considerations for retailers when developing e-commerce packaging?
THE BIG 5-0
Protecting the product remains the number one priority for all packaging. The e-commerce supply cycle has up to 50 touch-points, each
with its own unique risks, which means there is potentially 50 separate opportunities at which a package could be mishandled, damaged or lost. Something as simple as a package being returned to a depot several times following a failed delivery or the more futuristic vulnerabilities created by a delivery via drone, means that packaging needs to be structurally sound and more adaptable than ever before. We have recently invested in a unique ‘Real World’ testing facility that replicates the rigours and forces of the e-commerce supply cycle. This facility allows us to be confident that the package has the strength it needs to protect our customers’ products whatever the type or length of its journey from the supplier.
However, protecting the product isn’t the only consideration for packaging strategists. A package that arrives in a customer’s home is required to fulfil many of the roles that would have traditionally happened in store. A product that stands out in-store still needs the ‘wow
factor’ when delivered inside a box and in an environment free of sales assistants, POS and ambience. Packaging also has a big part to play in post-purchase engagement with customers. In other words, the opening of a package needs to be a special event, a moment where a customer feels the excitement of a good purchase; the last thing a customer wants when they receive a purchase is to wade through polystyrene filler or struggle to open the package in the first place.
Finally, consumers are now more environmentally conscious, and they have less time and more choice than ever before which means loyalty is hard to win and difficult to maintain. As a result, retailers and packaging strategists need to ensure packaging has cut through in a crowded retail market and exceeds consumer expectations. Shopper criticism of excessive packaging remains an issue, and this is a challenge that DS Smith is working hard to overcome, by developing a range of innovative ‘right-sized’ packaging solutions. There is still work to be done in this area, but when you consider the breadth of the product range offered by online retailers, and the almost infinite combinations of products purchased and shipped together, you start to understand why this is a complex issue for the industry to solve. We need to work together with e-commerce retailers to address this issue, and continue to innovate and create packaging that is highly efficient in its use of space, even when multiple, differing objects are delivered together.
The e-commerce revolution isn’t going away any time soon and if anything, will only get more complicated. It’s crucial that retailers work closely with their packaging strategist to ensure that not only are their products sufficiently protected, but that their packaging will leave a lasting impression with customers. The retail environment is fiercely competitive but packaging provides a way to stand out from the crowd. If you get it right, you will reap the benefits.