Packaging for online trade cannot be compared directly to packaging that ends up on the shelf. The former are often rather heavy and large and have to meet completely different requirements.
But if you think e-Commerce packaging still looks the same as it did twenty years ago, you would be wrong. If we take a closer look at online retailer portals for fashion, technology, food or cosmetics on the Internet, we will find several providers who use completely different packages for their goods than the simple, brown boxes of old. After all, today packaging is one of the most important components of e-Commerce. Why? Because for many customers, the first impression when they unbox their ordered goods is decisive for satisfaction and repeat purchases.
Packaging as an advertising medium
According to a survey among online retailers carried out by the IFH Köln (Institut für Handelsforschung Köln, institute for trade research in Cologne, ECC), 38 percent of all respondents viewed packaging as a practical advertising medium. But besides the company logo, only few are currently using a further advertising slogan (24 percent) or other marketing tools. At the same time, today’s consumers expect a lot from their packaging.
Less frustration when unboxing thanks to pull strips in the cardboard, among other things. Photo: Christian Erfurt on Unsplash
Unboxing on social media
For a lot of consumers, unboxing ordered goods is an important, emotional moment. The numerous unboxing videos on social media are proof of this. The iPhone X unboxing video alone has more than ten million hits.
Seeing and feeling play a significant role in providing a special unboxing experience. Packaging that has been specifically designed increases the probability of consumers sharing their unboxing on the Internet by 50 percent. In addition, personalisation and personal depictions of the company’s history strengthen customer loyalty.
Example: The packaging company DS Smith created an unmistakable brand with their packaging solution for “The Modern Man”. Their customer, British care product manufacturer “The Modern Man”, has been using packaging with their own corporate design for years and effectively uses their packaging as an advertising medium.
Packaging should also be easy to open. Pull strips and self-adhesive strips ensure consumers have a frustration-free experience when they take products out of the box. As a positive side effect, this also simplifies returns. For many, namely more than 70 percent – according to the ECC survey – this appears to be a decisive factor for repeat purchase in an online shop. On average, around 15 percent of goods are returned by customers in Germany. This can increase by up to 50 percent for clothing. The returns process is simplified by using pre-printed bar codes instead of return slips.
Global Internet trade is booming. Photo: Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Manufacturers can make packaging more sustainable with reusable packaging and less filling materials. Some packaging companies already rely on fully automated solutions with which the outer packaging can be tailored to the exact size of the goods. This completely does away with filling material. And in return, this is good for the environment and at the same time reduces costs.
International online trade on the rise
Internet trade with goods has been on a steep growth curve for years, and there is still no end in sight. According to surveys by Statista, the market value of global online trade in 2017 amounted to 2.3 trillion US dollars. Forecasts expect this to double to around 4.8 trillion dollars by 2021.
Emerging economies also count on e-Commerce. The respective Chinese market, for example, increased to 3.82 trillion US dollars in 2017, according to numbers provided by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. And forecasts by the research company Statista expect revenue in the e-Commerce sector on the entire African continent to increase from 16.5 billion US dollars in 2017 to 29 billion US dollars in 2022.
What does the future hold?
Packaging already meets numerous customer requirements. But the future holds a lot more:
Apps with artificial intelligence to analyse purchasing behaviour
Fulfilment services: Third parties help reduce storage costs and enable use of improved shipping technologies. With the help of services offered by UPS, FedEx and other courier services, small and mid-sized companies can now be as fast as international companies. And customers demand speedy deliveries. According to studies, 65 percent of retailers in the USA already guarantee same-day deliveries. And more than 60 percent of customers are prepared to pay more for this service, according to the same study.