Canadian Packaging

Making E-Commerce Packaging Enhance Consumer Experience

George Guidoni   

It is virtually impossible to overstate the huge impact that the unstoppable rise in the popularity of online shopping and e-commerce trade have had on the packaging business—creating ample opportunities for new packaging design and innovation that would have seemed unfathomable at the turn of the century.

With the notable exception of sustainability, it’s hard to think of another packaging mega-trend to rival the profound game-changing influence that the burgeoning e-commerce industry has had on packaging strategies of leading companies across virtually sector of the global CPG (consumer packaged goods) manufacturing industries and their retail customers.

Not only has it breathed new life into the realm of packaging innovation, but it has also created a growing industry-within-an-industry brimming with fresh ideas about packaging functionality, performance and circularity.

According to the Chicago-based market-research firm PreScouter, the global market value of e-commerce packaging is expected to rise to US$98.2 billion next year, capping off a five-year trend of breathtaking 15 per cent annual rate over the last five years.

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Today, it is not uncommon to see traditional packaging-machinery manufacturers creating new subsidiaries or divisions dedicated solely to producing machines tailor-designed for e-commerce fulfillment, to go along with the multitude of feisty new startups eager to make their mark in a thriving new business sector with virtually unlimited growth potential.

Even at this relatively early stage of the e-com packaging industry’s development, there are already plenty of well-established e-commerce packaging suppliers generating hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues, while providing countless online retailers with many novel ways to connect with their customers.

In the U.S., these new rising stars include Conformer, Fuseneo and Eco-Close, with the St. Charles, Ill.-based Conformer ringing in revenues of just under US$1 billion in 2021.

As the PreScouter e-commerce packaging study notes, “Packaging is one of the most complex processes within the e-commerce operation, impacting everything from shipping costs to the customer experience.”

“Previously, manufacturers rarely considered how the packaging would be used or transported,” the Innovation in E-Commerce Packaging report observes.

Interestingly, the study notes that most innovations in e-commerce packaging at the moment focus on packaging customization and enhanced customer experience, rather than the development of new materials.

According to Bob Makofsky, co-founder and general manager of aforementioned Conformer Products, Inc., generating consumer excitement at the point of delivery is arguably the biggest challenge that e-com packaging providers have to overcome to maintain their viability and competitiveness over the long term.

As he is quoted in the PreScouter’s report, “A lot of companies miss the mark, where there’s a disconnect between the marketing department, which wants to do all those promotion codes and talk about the next greatest product they’re launching, and the buyer, who is tasked with buying the cheapest packaging possible.”

“Most of my customers don’t have retail stores: they’re entirely online,” Makofsky states.

“So that physical experience of interacting with the merchandise, especially when they first open it, is critical.

“There’s too much focus on acquiring the cheapest thing possible to get the job done when it comes to e-commerce,” Makofsky adds.

“There’s no worse buying experience than when you just receive a carton at home with your new merchandise in a plastic bag and there’s nothing else,” he points out, “and it shocks me how often that’s the norm.

“So yes,” Makofsky concludes, “I think there is a huge amount of room for improvement.”

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