Packaging Innovation
e-commerce packaging
March 5, 2014

E-commerce packaging: one size doesn’t fit all

With the rise in popularity of web shops and low-cost click and collect services the e-commerce packaging industry is faced with a couple of challenges – optimizing retail packages for home delivery to name one. Reducing the cost and avoiding unnecessary packaging is the ultimate goal in a market with complex supply chains and unique design concepts.

Traditional packaging VS e-commerce packaging

Traditional retail packaging has to fulfil a lot of roles: its most important quality is to protect, next to carrying information, marketing the product, enabling handling, storage and use of goods. For e-commerce, however, not all these functions are required, while others –which are not relevant for retail packaging – have to be added to the list.

In ‘Packaging and the Internet – A guide to packaging goods for multi-channel delivery systems’ the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment in the UK makes a couple of suggestions to take into account when packaging for an e-market:

The complexity and variability of orders. Orders can be for single or a number of items and the goods may be delivered from more than one depot.

  • The need to include supporting paperwork.
  • Putting in place a systematic approach to new pack selection.
  • Assessing the packaging as part of the product and its supply chain, not in isolation.
  • The trade-off between having many different outer pack sizes or just a few.
  • The training and management of the packing staff.
  • Putting in place simple indicators and management controls.

As e-commerce grows it’s suggested to use simpler and smaller retail packs, perhaps leaving them unprinted. The need to enclose a receipt or other documentation may provide an opportunity to enclose marketing materials.

The outer pack: the real challenge of e-commerce packaging

The biggest problem for e-commerce goods, however, is the need of an outer pack to protect them during transportation and handling. The choice of pack depends on the number of items that need to be transported, along with size and weight. Ideally, the pack would be specifically designed for each order, yet, in practice that’s impossible. So packaging designers need to come up with innovative solutions to tackle these problems.