As e-commerce dominates the retail landscape, secondary packaging is more important than ever. All the fleece pullovers, Fitbits, and K-cups you order online have to make their way to your home somehow.  That journey can be smooth and easy or fraught with damage. You won’t know which path your parcel took until it shows up at your doorstep. Pass or fail?

From the packaging side, a lot goes into making sure these e-commerce orders not only pass the delivery test but also build brand awareness, enhance the customer experience, and strive for sustainability. Myriad factors are influencing the packaging industry, which, driven by robust e-commerce, is constantly seeking to develop new solutions and strengthen existing ones to keep up with consumer demand.

Here are my top 5 packaging predictions   Secondary packaging mistakes to avoid  

1. Clever Customization

As the in-store experience erodes, the at-home experience will explode and the all mighty customer experience will soon occur straight out of the box. Undamaged, quick deliveries are now an expectation not an exception so customized secondary packaging will become a game changer for brands and retailers.

Expect innovative direct-to-consumer startups such as razor maker Harry’s, handbag seller Dagne Dover, and home goods company Snowe to disrupt more traditional consumer packaged goods and leverage packaging customization as a means of differentiation.  

2. Corrugated Crunch

Boxes have been the traditional vessel for transporting consumer goods but as the cost of corrugated continues to increase, warehouse space to store it shrinks, and changes are taking place in the waste streams for recycling it, retailers are rethinking the box.

In addition to the resurgence in padded mailing envelopes, look for retailers to use more custom box sizes rather than stock, and to seek ways of strengthening the primary package for delivery, which eliminates the need for a secondary corrugated box. Expect more companies to invest in automated solutions that don’t eliminate the box altogether but instead enhance its capabilities and give companies the ability to build a box that meets particular design specifications.  

3. Dimensional Weight Strain

Dimensional weight is the weight assigned to a shipment based on volume versus actual weight. Implemented in 2015 by major carriers, this pricing structure is expected to continually increase as rising e-commerce makes interior truck space more valuable. To combat these carrier fees, shippers will have to reconsider secondary packaging materials and methods and make immediate changes that will result in smarter and smaller secondary packaging.   

4. Micro Fulfillment

The surge in niche micro companies is proving that when it comes to retail, bigger isn’t always better. As we move to a more personalized economy, businesses that provide singly focused, creative services and products are becoming more popular (think craft breweries).

For micro companies that exist solely as digital storefronts such as Etsy, eBay, and Shopify proprietors, fulfillment will become a challenge as consumer traffic increases and buyers expect the same type of damage-free, fast deliveries they receive from larger retailers. Since micro retailers are operating on a small scale with few employees and limited space, they will need to rely on companies such as Shyp, which provide small businesses with on-demand packing and shipping services via an app.

5. Less EPS

The days of piling on the packing peanuts are coming to an end. Not only are package recipients complaining about the mess created by loose fill in their homes, but sustainability factors and end-of-material-life options are also driving companies to eliminate the use of expanded polystyrene (EPS), commonly known as Styrofoam.

Seeking affordable solutions that provide similar damage protection and recyclability, more shippers will turn to inflatables for securing and protecting items during transit. Air-filled plastic can provide blocking and bracing capabilities without the baggage that comes from foam.