What is eCommerce Packaging?
Packaging is perhaps one of the most underestimated and overlooked factors when it comes to setting up an eCommerce store. People often make the mistake of underrating the importance of eCommerce packaging. They do not realize that not only can Packaging influence your sales but may even increase it. Here we will discuss how you can make the most out of your eCommerce packaging.
Let’s start with the basics: what is an eCommerce package? Simply put, an eCommerce package is the packaged product sent to the customer, once he/she has bought a commodity from an online store. The eCommerce package may be small, large, heavy, or light based on the product purchased by the customer. They say, “The First Impression is the Best Impression,” and the same is true for eCommerce packaging. Whatever the content of the package may be, the customer always sees the box first. Imagine you are a customer, and you just ordered an expensive piece of jewelry. You’ve been eagerly waiting for it to arrive and at long last it does. But, when received it appears to be poorly packed, and you are worried that your product might have suffered the same damage as the package. Naturally, you are disappointed and pray that the product is safe. However, the customer may or may not have received a damaged product. Let us assume that the product is, in fact, safe despite the package suffering the damage. Would you still shop from the same seller? You would at least think twice before buying from the same seller. Therein lies the importance of Packaging in eCommerce.
The purpose of a package is to protect its contents; when it comes to the eCommerce industry, its purpose has much more significance. It is a marketing tool; it is a way to earn customer loyalty. At this point, at least some of you are saying or rather wondering “HOW?”. I assure you that your questions will be answered as you read on. Put yourself in the shoes of the customer who has ordered an expensive piece of jewelry again, except this time you receive it beautifully packaged. You are excited to open your package and not at all worried about the condition of your product. You now feel it is safe to order costly or breakable jewelry from that seller or site, which makes it probable for you to shop from the same seller/site. One way to earn customer loyalty is by maintaining proper Packaging of your products.
Why You Shouldn't Cut Corners on eCommerce Packaging
In case you are still not convinced about the importance of Packaging, I urge you to read on. It may be human nature to cut corners on occasion, but I have always tried my best to avoid it if possible. When it comes to eCommerce packaging, it is indeed possible to not cut corners and provide an acceptable (if not perfect) packaging for your customers. You may ask, “But why should I make an extra effort on packaging when I am already giving customers good deals on my website?”, you might ask. The good deals and premium quality products don’t amount to anything if the customer receives a tampered or damaged merchandise. The customer must go through the trouble of repacking and sending it back to the seller in case of tampered or damaged product. He/She could end up resenting your eCommerce store for the inconvenience caused. This not only mean that you’ve lost a customer; it means that you risk losing your brand reputation. Brand Reputation is something that once lost is very hard to regain.
An agitated customer may even post a bad review of your eCommerce store, which further damages your brand reputation. In the meantime, if the customer receives a well-packaged product, it will most likely affect how he/she perceives your brand. It is not uncommon to stumble upon praises on the comment/review section for good Packaging on popular eCommerce stores, which can provide an insight into how important a role eCommerce packaging plays in the industry.
The primary purpose of a package is to ensure the safety of the product. The package is bound to experience some shocks and shakes and vibration during transit. The Packaging must be good enough to withstand shakes, bumps, and drops to protect the product inside. Delivering a tampered or damaged product to the customer is the last thing you want to do. Not only does it hurt your brand reputation, but it also affects your credibility as a seller. When it comes to eCommerce, the safety of the product is one of the prime concerns, you absolutely cannot compromise safe packaging. Customers always look for reliable sellers to buy their products from and protection plays a significant role in choosing an eCommerce store. A damaged product is a liability for both the seller and the buyer and should always be avoided.
eCommerce Packaging - A Marketing Tool?
Previously I referred to eCommerce Packaging as a marketing tool. eCommerce packaging, if done right, is capable of marketing your products and I'll explain how. It is accomplished by offering a refined shelf-presence with better graphics and branding. In doing so, you are elevating the unboxing experience for your customers. Customer and user-generated marketing is an affordable marketing method that makes use of the presence of users and customers in social media and its content for marketing.
Marketing via packaging involves using relevant hashtags and posting pictures of the packaged product on social media. You might be wondering, "You might be wondering, "how does my package come into the picture?". Imagine you bought a delicate home décor piece from an online store. It reaches you packed in a wood crate or box, aesthetically packed with the brand logo placed on the package. It's not hard to imagine that you end up sharing the picture of the package or box on social media such as Instagram or Snapchat with a caption like "Box of happiness" or "it's finally here!!!". The customer has thus marketed your product and best of all, you didn’t even have to ask for marketing. Pictures attract more attention from buyers than words, which is seen in all aspects of eCommerce, this means your branding or logo on the package is almost as important as the picture on your eCommerce store website. Learn more about the Importance of Product Images For Your eCommerce Store.
What are the Things to Consider Before You Package Your Products?
Weight – This is a priority. One thing you should consider before packaging your eCommerce product is its weight. The weight of the product may vary with the type or model of the product and affects how it is shipped. If your website sells a wide range of products, then you should choose the right kind of packaging depending on its weight. But, if your website sells a particular set of products (for example jewelry), then the weight probably won't be subjected to marginal change. Different types of parcels are used for different weights. The weight also affects total transportation cost.
Here is one example of a rough guide that an eCommerce shipper might develop to ship various types of products based on weight. It is also a good idea to check with your shipping company, they usually provide great guidelines online you can follow:
Type Of Parcel
0 - 11 lbs
11 - 22 lbs
22 - 66 lbs
Size and Shape – The next thing to consider for eCommerce packaging is the size and shape of your product. Product dimensions (size) play a significant role when it comes to Packaging, no matter what product you are selling on your online store. A package which is large but weighs less would still require a large packaging despite the weight. You must make sure that the items do not touch the outer walls of the box and has protective filler in the box to keep the product from moving during shipment. If the product being sent is odd-shaped or rounded Packaging, it may need extra attention. Shock-absorbing materials should be inserted if necessary.
Type of Product – You should consider the type or nature of the product you are selling. Different products like clothing, electronics, jewelry, etc. have a different kind of packaging methods. This is where content-based Packaging comes into play. At this point, you should ask yourself questions like - is it easily breakable? Does it have gaps that should be filled? And so on. Packaging for products such as clothes does not require detailed Packaging, however premium products like smartphones, electronic gadgets, etc. need to be packaged with care. Extra cushioning and protection should be applied for fragile items. Make sure to use special handling labels for such items.
Value of contents – The only thing worse than delivering a tampered/damaged product to a customer is delivering an expensive tampered/damaged product. Neither the buyer nor the seller wants this to happen. So, you should always consider the value of contents, if it's a valuable content inside the package, extra cushioning and protection should be provided for it.
Mode of Shipment - This is a factor which could potentially decide the price of shipping as well as how the product needs to be packed. The mode of shipment may vary depending on the location and the time within which it must reach. There are three modes of shipment; sea, air, and land. If it is an item that ships by air, then the packaging cost for it would be high, but it is also the fastest choice, if receipt if time sensitive. Similarly, ground shipping is the slowest, but usually the cheapest mode of shipment. Sea transport is usually preferred for shipping bulk containment across a long distance when time is not an issue.
Types of eCommerce Packaging & Materials Used
An eCommerce package generally involves two layers of protection; an external packaging and an internal packaging.
External Packaging – As the name implies, it is the outer package you receive your product in. Usually, high-quality corrugated boxes are used for parcels. For fragile or bulky items, double-wall or tri-wall construction should be used as they can provide better protection against crushing or dents. Do not reuse old boxes as they lose their strength. Make sure the boxes are the right size as under-filled boxes may collapse and over-filled boxes may burst. For fragile products, keep the product at least 2 inches away from the box walls and fill the gap with cushioning.
If the product being shipped weighs less and and is not fragile (for example, clothes) flyer bags may be used. The flyer bags should meet the standard quality required to avoid splits or tears.
Internal Packaging (dunnage) – Internal Packaging is used inside the external package to limit the movement of the contents inside the box. It also acts as a shock absorber to protect the contents. Bubble wrap, airbags, corrugated, and foam peanuts/pellets are all commonly used for internal packaging material. Each material acts differently and is used for different purposes.
Type of MATERIAL
When it comes to eCommerce packaging material, a corrugated box is the most conventional and popular choice. However, there are more options to choose from. While corrugated boxes are the traditional choice for parcels, for lightweight items, a flyer bag is often used. There are a variety of eCommerce packaging materials to choose from like plastic Packaging, Flexible Packaging, carton, and corrugated packaging. Each material has different properties under different conditions, and selecting the right one for your product makes all the difference. Companies are also opting for recycled or upcycled Packaging to contribute their share for a sustainable future.
How to Reduce Your Packaging Cost Without Cutting Corners?
Despite being one of the prominent factors when it comes to eCommerce, Packaging is a sector which can let you cut down on your expenses. The packaging is something that can be changed, adjusted, or modified to suit your needs. We have already established that the purpose of a package is to protect its content. An added layer of protection works well with expensive or premium products, but we need not do that for every product shipped. The most obvious way to cut costs on Packaging is physical elimination or reduction. Which doesn’t meanyou use an inadequate amount of packaging material and get your product damaged on the way. Yet, you could use the minimum amount of material for Packaging without compromising the safety of its contents.
Another method to reduce the packaging cost is by eliminating the extra layer of protection by strengthening the primary Packaging. This ensures the safety of the package while still being able to reduce the packaging cost. Corrugated trays are still widely used for Packaging; one option is to replace the trays with sturdy shrink wraps. The next aspect that you could make changes to cut costs on Packaging is the printing method used for the Packaging. Printing process like lithography printing can be utilized for accomplishing cost reduction.
Another way to cut on packaging cost is to make sure that less expensive material is used for Packaging. Substituting an expensive material like SBS (solid bleached sulfate) paperboard with CCNB (clay coated news back) paperboard is an example for effectively reducing packaging cost. Similarly changing the materials or designs can also affect the packaging cost. Negotiating with your packaging supplier and sourcing from multiple suppliers will drive towards more competitive packaging costs.
In the eCommerce industry, pallets play a significant role in transporting the package. A pallet is a flat structure that is designed to stably support goods while being lifted by a forklift. It was found that a high cost is incurring due to pallet damage. The solution for this is quite straightforward – modify the pallet design to increase the strength of the pallets. Increasing the strength of the pallets will result in a higher cost per pallet, but it can also reduce the overall cost by reducing waste. Require your pallet supplier to use industry standard designs and do not reuse pallets that have visible damage or have been discarded.
The packaging industry, especially the eCommerce packaging industry, routinely uses plastic packaging. There are many reasons for this; plastics protect their contents from water, dirt, and the sun; they are light and easy to handle. However, plastics are considered a significant threat to the environment. Companies are redefining what is considered to be sustainable packaging and opting for new, eco-friendly packaging for their products. eCommerce packaging waste has become a big concern with limited recycling facilities and climate change on the rise, due to manufacturing processes. About 165 billion packages are shipped each year in the US alone. The majority of these are corrugated and plastic, leading to a significant number of trees cut down for corrugated and paper, and a substantial amount of plastic waste. Energy needed to produce both types of packaging is significant. The rate of consumption is so alarming, combined with the fact that the number of resources with the ability to recycle plastic worldwide has recently declined, that governments have started making regulations regarding eCommerce packaging.
The solution most companies are opting now is to use recycled or upcycled or biodegradable eCommerce packaging. Using sustainable Packaging also plays the role of a marketing agent; all of us want to do our part about the growing concern of climate change and waste reduction. The consumer feels good that he/she is able to contribute whatever they can for what they deem to be a good cause. Companies can print eco-friendly and sustainable messages on their packaging, which automatically creates a good impression on the customer. This could even influence how the consumer views the company or brand. We can see both recycled and recyclable Packaging being used. Although they sound similar, they are quite different. Recycled products have already been recycled, whereas recyclable products can be recycled, if the end users locality recycles that type of packaging material. Another alternative would be to use biodegradable material for your eCommerce packaging. The biodegradable package can be easily broken down by the water, oxygen, the sun’s rays, etc., when exposed to these elements and not landfilled. It would come as no surprise if the entire eCommerce packaging industry eventually switches to biodegradable Packaging as the preferred pack for a sustainable future.
Today even large eCommerce players are trying to cut down on the amount of packaging material used. Amazon is planning to implement a zero packaging initiative for any type of packaging over the next few years. According to a study, e-commerce generated 1.3 million tons of container board in North America in 2018 – an increase from 1.1 million tons the year before. The demand or regulations to use recycled packaging is moving at a slower pace in the US as compared to Europe or Asia. The reason for this is the recycled packages are often weaker compared to packaging made with new or virgin material. Additionally, the abundance of wood in the US contributes to using more virgin packages. Over time, manufacturers have improved processes to manufacture recycled corrugated that stands up to wear and tear, so it's usable for longer shipping routes.
The most likely solution to increase the use of sustainable packaging is to reduce the packaging material used; in other words, using just the right amount of packaging that doesn't compromise the safety of the contents. One of the experts in "right-sizing" packaging, developed a machine that can automatically calculate the exact size of the package needed for an item to fit in a box. As soon as the customer hits the "buy" button, the machine is able to automatically cut the material and form the box to size directly on a conveyor belt. With world leaders in the field like Amazon working to reduce eCommerce packaging waste, we are sure to see revolutionary changes in the eCommerce packaging industry.
Retailers are trying to capitalize on the "unboxing" trend by shipping their own boxes. This lets them customize packaging by putting their brand logo on the box as well as adding specialized messages in the package. The package serves as a mini-billboard, which enhances the unboxing experience of the customer. Amazon is also running a pilot in India, where they deliver the products in reusable plastic totes. In China, a company is using shared plastic delivery boxes in 13 cities that can be reused many times, increase product protection and reduce waste. With companies adopting more and more eco-friendly steps and with more customers who are demanding sustainable substitutions for packaging, the coming years look promising for the eCommerce packaging industry.
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See What Our Expert Says..
How do you tackle the issue of delivering the packages when there are unexpected problems like a natural calamity which directly or indirectly affects the storage and transportation of packages?
There are several ways to deal with this issue. First, if there is a natural calamity more than likely many people are impacted and you can communicate directly with your customer base what is going on and they will usually understand the delay because it’s not personal. Second, you can have a plan in place in case of disruptions in your supply chain that You can put in place in case of a natural calamities such as shipping on small trucks versus by boat or flying product to the customer once the calamity is over. Third, it is key is to have a plan and have a great relationship with your delivery company so that they partner with you in such an event.Fourth and most importantly, once you have your plan you must be able and ready to execute as soon as possible. Time is key in such a situation to make sure your customers are minimally impacted.
How can we make sure that our customers have a unique and enhanced unboxing experience?
You must have a detailed understanding of what your customer expectations are. Follow what’s your customers purchase and what they respond to on social media. Once you know these things, develop a list of those attributes and include these in your Packaging Requirement List. As you finalize designs, test the packaging with consumers to get their immediate feedback. It’s also important to be flexible and make changes if you find that consumers are not having the unboxing experience you want them to have.
What is the procedure to be followed when a customers received a product but claims that he/she hasn't received it?
This is where a relationship with your shipping company is of the utmost importance. All of the major and reputable shipping companies have had excellent tracking technology for decades. You would be amazed at how they truly understand shipping patterns and can tell when something was lost versus when someone is trying to get free product.
There are two approaches you can take - either work with the shipping company to track and file a claim or you can follow up with your customer and send a free product if you find this is not a pattern. The first option is great when you see a pattern of theft or a customer is simply trying to get free stuff. The second option is great when it is truly a fluke and you want to build customer loyalty. In many cases, companies are willing to eat the one time cost versus filing a claim as a short term solution. Keep in mind, this process affects the bottom line in the long run.
What are the changes to be implemented on packaging and shipping time when shipping edible foods and drinks?
Using labels and colors to identify your product, brand, and flavors is important, because it helps customers remember your product when it is time to reorder.
You must also be sensitive about time if products are perishable. This may mean express shipping or adding freezer packs to keep the products at the proper temperature.
Understand what causes damage to your product and design for that. For example, potato chips should not arrive broken, and steak needs to remain cold.
Also, it is very important to make sure the product will not leak on other products during shipment. Leakers not only cause your products to arrive empty to your customer, it will damage anything that comes into contact with your product. So the impact is threefold: losing your product, an unhappy customer, and the widespread impact your product can have on other shipments. Be a good eCommerce neighbor and know your product can affect other companies and their customers, they have no control over their packaging, if your product leaks.
Have questions on eCommerce packaging? Get in touch with our experts!