Last year, a U.K. couple ordered a 24-piece place setting from a major European retailer. Every single plate, bowl, and cup was individually packed inside a box, which was placed inside a second, bigger box. The couple received a total of 48 boxes and enough paper packing material to cover their entire living room floor.
The customer had likely requested the fastest shipping option available. The retailer wanted to meet that need by providing the items from wherever the stock could be located and shipped the fastest.
This kind of omnichannel-enabled response is another incredible advancement in the world of e-commerce. It’s an innovation that is increasing the effectiveness of brick-and-mortar stores by turning them into miniature shipping warehouses, decreasing the number of road miles a product travels, and lowering the carbon cost of each item.
Those are all great things.
But lurking underneath those benefits are a number of risks to brands and to profitability: untrained labor, inconsistent results, and limited space.
Using front-of-store labor to fulfill back-of-store shipping requests can be a productivity power boost. But it also means that the employees fulfilling orders have probably received little or no training on how to use packaging materials effectively and efficiently.
This quickly leads to overpacking and underprotecting mistakes.
But it also leads to wasted material and higher freight costs.This has become an even bigger risk in in the new era of dimensional weight pricing that went into effect in the U.S. last year, and is spreading across the globe.
Many retailers now offer free shipping on returns. But if items are not packed efficiently on the way out, even if customers can easily reuse the same packaging for their returns (which they love), the items won’t be packed efficiently on the way back, and retailers are taking the freight cost hit going both ways.
In another example, a selection of switch plates came packed seven different ways from the same online retailer.
An item this durable and low-profile could have been sent in a cushioned mailer, which would have saved the retailer quite a bit on shipping costs and taken up less room for the freight carrier.
But more importantly, had this item been more fragile, the inconsistency in the way it was packed -- likely at several different locations -- could have exposed the order to the very real (and very pricey) risk of damage.
But it’s hard to blame the retailer for which these ship-from-store operations are new territory. Too often, these stations are shoved into whatever back-of-store space is available. Shipping supplies usually consist of nothing more than basic boxes and void-fill materials. So of course there’s going to be one switch plate per big box. That was probably the only size box the retailer had.
And it’s more important that the customer received the order on time and that it was accurate than how it was packaged, right? Except that on time and accurate are the table stakes. You don’t get credit. It’s expected.
So the packaging - how well it protects, how it looks, how much hassle it is to dispose of - does matter, because it says something about how much care the company took with that order and how well they run their business.
One key strategy for addressing these risks is to implement compact, efficient, integrated ship-from-store solutions that offer a range of packaging materials that are easy and intuitive for anyone to use and require little or no training.
One of our own solutions for this exact challenge, we are proud to say, has recently been recognized by the DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation. Our Korrvu Lok™ solution is quick and easy to assemble, protects items without brand-obscuring and wasteful void materials, is easy to use for returns, and was specifically recognized by DuPont for being a package that enhances the user experience.
Are you contemplating adding ship-from-store to your omnichannel fulfillment strategy?
Have you encountered these or other similar challenges that are putting your brand at risk?
For more information on how adding mailers to your packaging strategy can reduce freight costs, visit our Dimensional Weight Resource Center on Sealed Air.com to access webinars, tip-sheets, and more.