Ken Chrisman, SVP, Global Commercial Operations and Equipment

3 Packaging Mistakes Brands Should Avoid

Here’s a dirty little secret about the protective packaging business. If packaging doesn’t perform well — and an item packed inside arrives at its destination damaged — the packaging company is almost never going to be on the receiving end of an angry phone call.

Consumers are unlikely to go digging for the 800 number of the companies that made the boxes. They’re going to complain to the retailers that sent the boxes or the carriers that delivered them.

A person shopping online using a tablet surrounded by plantsIn fact, 59% believe the retailer and the package carrier are equally responsible for damage to a product ordered online.

Every delivery is a tangible touchpoint a consumer has with your brand. But that experience doesn’t end on the doorstep — it's just the beginning. So how do you make sure the experience your customers have when they receive, open, reuse, recycle, or return the packages you provide is a positive one?

Here are three big, costly packaging mistakes that I have seen companies make in every industry in every region around the world:

Mistake No. 1: Neglecting Return Logistics

Sometimes a product has to be returned. But just as consumer expectations for fast, free delivery have risen exponentially over the last few years, so too have consumer expectations for how easy it should be to return that item.

In fact, 94 percent of consumers say they strongly prefer to return items using the original packaging. Best-case scenario: a prepaid return shipping label is in their package. They can slap it on, and drop their packag at the nearest pickup location. That’s working pretty well. Consumers are pretty happy with that. But there’s a big difference between pretty happy and downright delighted.

The customer experience isn’t over when the box is delivered, not even if a retailer went to the trouble of putting a return label inside. Every return is another point of engagement with your customer. It should reflect the same focus and attention to detail as every other part of that experience. Don't make return logistics an afterthought.

Mistake No. 2: Overpacking

When you think of overpacking, you’re probably thinking about an explosion of foam packing peanuts — that’s the nightmare. But more often, overpacking looks like piles and piles of boxes, a nest of excessive air pillows or a tiny item swimming inside an oversized container.

77% of consumers think packaging reflects the environmental values of the brand they purchased from.

Consumers know waste when they see it. That waste reflects negatively on their perception of a retailer — and not just when it comes to sustainability. When an order arrives in multiple, unnecessarily large boxes, consumers see inefficiency.

Consider this: Consumers say their top three pet peeves when it comes to packaging are bothersome disposal, mess and recycling difficulties. Sending products with too much packaging might have protected the items they ordered, but it also told them the retailer isn't thinking too much about the consumer, who is left to do the dirty work of getting rid of all that wasteful material.

Wasteful packaging practices already cost retailers more money in materials and freight costs, and could also cause a loss of long-term, loyal customers.

Mistake No. 3: Underprotecting

Getting a piece of clothing in the mail and deciding you don’t like the fit or the cut? Minor inconvenience, provided the retailer has effortless return logistics. Buying an expensive high-definition, flatscreen TV online and having it arrive cracked down the middle? That’s a nightmare.

With the invention of Bubble Wrap® more than 60 years ago, Sealed Air unlocked the small-parcel economy, and it’s grown in ways we could have never imagined. This means that a lot of fragile, heavy, and oddly shaped items and are now being put through a delivery chain that wasn’t designed to handle them — and in packaging solutions that weren’t designed to fit them.

The result: damage, damage and damage.

Reducing that rate of damage is not just a customer experience imperative. It’s also a sustainability imperative. There's no amount of recyclable, biodegradable, reusable packaging that can wipe out the carbon footprint of a damaged item. Damaged items have to get back on a truck or back on a plane and go back to their origin point, where they are rebuilt, repaired, restocked, rehandled and sometimes just relegated to the landfill.

Then comes the reshipping, with that item making another journey through the supply chain, in another box filled with packing materials. If you want to be a more sustainable company, reducing damage is the most impactful thing you can do for your brand and for your bottom line.

It’s not too late for you to avoid these common packaging mistakes and rethinking the experience your customers have with your packaging, before they rethink the experience they have with you.