Finding the Sweet Spot in E-commerce Packaging

Packaging World
Wednesday, June 1, 2016

 As Packaging World established in Part I of our Special Report on E-Commerce, online grocery sales are growing rapidly, with market analysts predicting that between 2013 and 2018, online grocery sales will grow at a CAGR of 21.1%, reaching nearly $18 billion by the end of the forecast period. One of the major drivers of this shift away from brick-and-mortar sales—offline grocery sales are expected to rise by just 3.1% annually during the same period—is consumers’ desire for convenience.

Today, consumers can use any number of digital platforms to order grocery items for delivery direct to their doorstep or for pickup at local retail locations. But as much as consumers crave convenience, they are also very vocal—usually though social media—about their dislike of excessive packaging materials or packaging that is difficult to dispose of.

In a 2014 study from Sealed Air“Packaging for E-Commerce Success," 34% of respondents said that the packaging a retailer uses for e-commerce shipping tells them about the company’s environmental policy and commitment based on the type and amount of packaging materials used. When asked about their pet peeves related to e-commerce packaging, 32% pointed to packaging that is difficult to dispose of (i.e., takes up too much space in the garbage, requires breakdown), and 27% said packaging that is difficult to recycle or is unrecyclable.

However, if a product arrives at their door damaged, 20% of respondents said they would never purchase from that retailer again. At the same time, consumers expect the same speedy, yet inexpensive, delivery of online orders they get from Amazon—two-day, overnight, and even same-day shipping, depending on the membership package.

So, how can e-commerce retailers find that sweet spot between protecting their product while using minimal and eco-friendly materials and still compete on shipping costs?

In Part II of this Special Report, we will explore some of the new packaging machinery and materials that have been introduced to help optimize the use of packaging materials, provide more sustainable options, and reduce shipping costs.

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