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Functionality and Sustainability – an Unrealistic Partnership in Ecommerce Packaging?

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E-commerce packaging

The UK is currently the world’s second largest online grocery market according to IGD whose worth is expected to almost double to reach $28 billion in just 5 years. So can retailers and packaging companies afford to miss out on these online grocery opportunities but also deliver on functionality and sustainability?

Packaging itself is becoming more important in the online retail experience by playing a crucial part in the consumer’s third moment of truth; when they actually receive the packaging.

For the retail brand ecommerce packaging is an extension and representation of the brand that reaches the consumers doorstep, quite literally. As we all know first impressions count; a consumer is much more likely to re-purchase that particular product if it is packaged attractively, protects their order and fits their idea of sustainability.

But the dilemma arises; packaging innovators need to combine these novel and creative designs with protection and functionality all whilst giving great consideration to their CSR policies including the environment and sustainability factor. The environmental trend will only keep growing. According to Dotcom Distribution, 61% of consumers consider green packaging when deciding where to shop.

Companies are taking more time when designing innovative packages and taking into consideration size to ensure space is maximised. This in turn benefits both the consumer and the manufacturing company in the long run as extra packaging space costs the brand more in materials and shipping costs but also tends to be inconvenient for the consumer trying to fit that awkward big value pack in their cupboard.

Increased product protection using less material is likely to be a big investment for manufacturers. But surely the cost of returns, additional handling and potential loss of an unhappy consumer when the product becomes damaged in transit becomes negligible? It seems a no brainer- the investment’s worth it. 

So what can be expected next?

Companies can help consumers by increasing recycling information and make it more prominent on the pack to prompt and inform them on how and where it can be recycled or reused. These changes along with an increased effort from the consumers themselves can result in the e-retail cycle becoming a more eco friendly process.

According to the Packaging and Films Association, the reusable packaging industry has seen annual growth of 10% over the past few years. Packaging manufacturers are already reviewing and changing processes in order to incorporate recyclable packaging and recycled materials into their systems. Take LINPAC who manufacture a range of trays and punnets using recycled PET and supply shelf-ready packaging that can be collected and reused again. 

It’s all well and good companies jumping on the green packaging bandwagon but they also need to make it cost-effective and worthwhile for themselves. It does appear however that with the right practices the ecommerce packaging world holds an array of opportunities for manufacturers. It’s one tough balancing act delivering a product that functional and sustainable but that’s where the industry’s headed! 

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