Breathtaking Growth in E-commerce Can Reignite Packaging Innovation
If e-commerce did not already exist as a really, really big thing prior to the life-changing COVID-19 pandemic, it would surely have been invented out of necessity to keep the globalized consumer economy from crumbling into outright chaotic collapse.
With the global e-commerce market expected to reach global sales of US$5.55 trillion this year, according to New York-based market research firm eMarketer, the online shopping experience is fast becoming a routine daily task for millions of Canadian households, as routine as loading up the dishwasher or taking out household recyclables.
With Canada ranking as the 10th largest e-commerce market in the world—with China and the U.S. runaway leaders—the rapid growth in online shopping has prompted many leading CPG (consumer packaged goods) manufacturers and retailers to reassess their packaging strategies to tap into this massive new customer base.
As expected, finding the right balance between quick delivery, superior product protection, effective branding and sustainable packaging was never going to be an easy endeavor—requiring significant financial resources and keen understanding of modern consumer expectations.
For all the wonderful things that product packaging does for consumers in the brick-and-mortar retail environment, the importance of good packaging execution cannot be overstated in the context of an online purchase that extends consumers’ interaction not only with the primary packages, but also all the secondary, tertiary and protective packaging that arrives to their doors as part of the deal.
Having to dispose of heaps of packaging after unpacking their purchases has understandably created a fair bit of consumer backlash and resentment—channelled across popular social media to poke ridicule at the worst packaging excesses and other shortcomings.
But that’s a fair price to pay for what has become a once-in-a-generation opportunity for packaging designers and producers to push the boundaries of creativity and creativity and problem-solving to introduce and commercialize some genuine cutting-edge packaging innovation.
According to the highly credible Chicago-based market intelligence firm PreScouter, “The boom in e-commerce caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have lasting effects on the way consumers shop, and packaging has become a top priority for many e-commerce providers.
“As one of the most complex processes within the e-commerce operation, packaging impacts everything from shipping costs to the customer experience.
“Previously, manufacturers rarely considered how the packaging would be used or transported,” PreScouter says in its new Innovations in eCommerce Packaging report. “Today, e-commerce packaging industry challenges include optimizing retail packages for home delivery, reducing costs, and avoiding unnecessary packaging.”
With the global market value of e-commerce packaging projected to reach US$98.2 billion by 2025, according to PreScouter, packaging companies large and small have plenty of incentives to give their e-commerce packaging the undivided attention and focus it deserves.
That means moving beyond the low-hanging fruit of customized graphics and taking a more holistic approach to the entire e-commerce packaging value chain by improving:
• Technology. The digitization of the value chain, which was accelerated by the pandemic, created the need to integrate technology into packaging through radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and near-field communications (NFC).
• Perishable goods. Direct-to-consumer shipments of perishable products—especially food—with main focus on preserving the product’s shelf-life and freshness.
• Logistics. Logistics players need to make adjustments by evaluating current operations to ensure that new types of packages can be processed (conveyor belts, scanners, pick-and-place, etc.) and delivered undamaged to their recipients.
• Materials. Simplifying the number of materials per package by using monolayer materials or delamination features for multilayer packaging.