Insights by AUSPACK

Ecommerce packaging: consumer demands and solutions

Posted on July 16th, 2020 in Insights by AUSPACK

Ecommerce sales were steadily growing even before the COVID-19 pandemic introduced online shopping to a new captive audience.

With more consumers in Australia and around the world relying on ecommerce and home deliveries than ever before, packaging has never been so important – nor under so much scrutiny. As more customers experience the high service levels offered by the likes of Amazon, their expectations from packaging become greater, and smaller businesses need to be able to meet these demands too.

While some consumer demands for packaging are specific to the coronavirus crisis – namely the greater concern over hygiene – other preferences and innovations observed during those months are likely here to stay.

How is ecommerce packaging different?

The logistics of eCommerce shipping require different approaches to packaging compared to products on sale in brick-and-mortar stores. While deliveries require eCommerce packaging to be more robust, brands can also take opportunities to improve the customer experience when they don’t have the restrictions of a physical store.

Five significant points of difference between standard packaging and eCommerce packaging are:

  • Protection
  • Security
  • Convenience
  • Sustainability
  • Hygiene

Read more about how eCommerce businesses are responding to consumer demands in each of these areas to improve the online shopping experience.

Protection

The most obvious difference between packaging for items on a shelf and those shipped directly to customers is that the latter need more robust protection to prevent damage, both during transport and if exposed to the elements during drone deliveries or when left unattended.

According to DHL’s latest Rethinking Packaging Trend Report, eCommerce packaging is handled 20 times more on the journey to customers than goods distributed to stores. Each of these touch points is another opportunity where goods may be damaged – and almost 50% of consumers say they would be less likely to buy from a retailer again if they receive damaged goods.

While goods in brick-and-mortar stores have their own transport process to get there, stores can remove this excess protective packaging and have the chance to inspect items for damage before displaying them for sale.

The difference is clear to see in most brick-and-mortar retailers requiring packaging to be drop-tested from five angles to prove its sturdiness, while the leading online retailers require drop tests from 18 angles. This helps to satisfy the customer demand to receive items in perfect condition by lowering the risk of damage.

Security

Security is an important consideration for both in-store packaging and shipped orders, but in different ways.

In brick-and-mortar stores, rigid packaging such as clamshells prevents items from being touched or stolen until they’re taken home and opened by the customer. Shoplifting and in-store tampering aren’t concerns for eCommerce shipments, so internal packaging can be made more user-friendly and easier to open.

Outer packaging should still be made secure to prevent accidental opening during transport, but no amount of packaging can prevent theft if items are left unattended.

Convenience

Reducing the need for annoying security packaging such as clamshells improves the customer experience when items are specially prepared for eCommerce shipments. The best example is Amazon’s ‘frustration-free packaging,’ which was introduced in 2008 to cut out unnecessary packing materials and simplify the steps involved for customers to access their new purchases.

If shipped items are heavy or bulky, packaging can incorporate handles or other features to improve handling by customers and delivery personnel. If the unpacking process itself is complicated, instructions can be printed on the outside of the packaging to avoid accidental damage.

Sustainability

Wasteful packaging and non-recyclable materials are pain points for many customers today and can influence their decisions over which brands to buy from. These are common problems when shipping directly to customers, as they can see all the packaging needed for the entire journey, which it’s then their responsibility to dispose of correctly.

According to DHL, almost a quarter (24%) of eCommerce packaging is empty space. Businesses need to make sure they’re cutting out unnecessary packaging as much as possible while keeping goods protected during transit. Businesses should also aim to avoid single-use plastics and explore more sustainable materials and reusable packaging systems for larger items.

Hygiene

The COVID-19 outbreak saw more customers scrutinising companies’ hygiene practices when packaging goods for delivery, especially regarding food and groceries. With the typical online delivery involving around 20 touch points, businesses have had to implement strict hygiene measures such as vacuum and protective atmosphere packaging to minimise the risk of contamination.

Even when coronavirus is (hopefully) no longer a concern, the experience is certain to have a lasting impact on consumer demands. Packaging measures introduced during the pandemic will likely stay in place for a good while to come to reassure customers that their shipments are safe.

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