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Statistics showing 5 factors to achieve the best eCommerce packaging

David Mason: Last Updated 21st October 2022
Posted In: Guides and Advice | Increase Sales xx 31633

Insight from the 2022 Unboxing Survey

Statistics demonstrating five key factors that enable the best eCommerce packaging

eCommerce packaging is crucial to your business’s success. Yet statistics gathered from consumers have revealed five specific factors that brands must consider when striving to achieve the best eCommerce packaging. This includes focusing on sustainability, branding, protection, personalisation, and avoiding excessive packaging.

The figures – taken from the Macfarlane Packaging seventh annual unboxing survey – provide a compelling picture of what consumers expect from the eCommerce boxes they receive and how retailers and online sellers respond to their feedback.

A shopper opening an example of best eCommerce packaging
A new collection of statistics highlight the five factors in creating the best eCommerce packaging for your business.

This guide details a number of the more eye-catching statistics and how these relate to the eCommerce packaging best practices to which all businesses selling online should adhere.

It covers:

  • How retailers have improved their packaging over recent years.
  • Why sustainability is becoming ever more critical.
  • How focusing on branding and personalisation can drive sales.
  • And much more besides.



eCommerce in the UK

The UK is the third largest eCommerce market, accounting for around 30% of global online sales. The UK is also the most advanced eCommerce market in Europe, with an expected 60 million active online shoppers in 2022.

But besides the growth in eCommerce shoppers, there has also been an increase in businesses selling online. Whilst the Coronavirus pandemic undoubtedly accelerated this, there was an increase of 79,000 eCommerce websites in 2020. There are now almost 600,000 websites selling in the UK.

All of this adds up to the requirement for significant amounts of eCommerce packaging. And a recent unboxing survey has revealed several interesting facts and figures that all eCommerce businesses should pay attention to.

A person visiting an eCommerce website on their mobile device
The UK is the third largest eCommerce market globally.

The "Unboxing" survey

Macfarlane Packaging – the UK’s largest packaging distributor – has run an annual packaging survey since 2016. Named the unboxing survey, it aims to discover key statistics, trends and data relating to consumers’ experiences with packaging (and that used for eCommerce in particular).

The 2022 survey, conducted during July and August, gathered opinions and feedback from more than 1000 consumers.

For further details and survey analysis, you can visit the Macfarlane website (and download a free white paper too).

However, this guide takes a number of the key findings from the survey, relating them to the critical considerations you should consider when sourcing eCommerce packaging for your business.

Macfarlane packaging
The Macfarlane Packaging Unboxing survey has been running for seven years.

5 common factors for best eCommerce packaging

What eCommerce packaging statistics reveal for online businesses

Put simply, the statistics gathered from consumers highlight the five key areas businesses must focus on when looking to produce the best eCommerce packaging possible.

These are:

  • Packaging should be sustainable and recyclable.
  • eCommerce packaging should feature company branding
  • Businesses should look to include personalisation and interactive elements.
  • Brands should avoid excessive packaging.
  • Packaging should provide adequate protection during shipping.

Whilst some may sound obvious, the following statistics show just how critical these factors can be to the success of your online packaging.

Sustainable eCommerce packaging

How the sustainability of your packaging has become a crucial consideration

Arguably the most essential factor in the success of your eCommerce packaging – and one that is certainly growing in importance – is its sustainability.

Thankfully this is an area that businesses appear to be placing greater emphasis on too.

In fact, 81% of consumers now report that the eCommerce packaging they receive is recyclable. This figure has grown from 73% in 2021 and more than doubled in the last four years.

Whilst this may be partly due to education and awareness of how to recycle amongst online shoppers, the trend is undeniably positive.

11% of shoppers are unsure of whether they can recycle packaging

Despite these positive figures, as many as one in ten people are still unsure how (or if) they can recycle the eCommerce packaging they receive.

This lack of clarity can actually be a significant inconvenience for consumers, with many citing clear recycling instructions as being important. At a minimum, it allows them to dispose of and recycle packaging with little friction.

And with more people being sensitive to their environmental impact, if consumers are unsure whether your business provides sustainable packaging, it may impact customer loyalty and future sales.

Corrugated recycles logo
An industry standard "corrugated recycles" logo printed onto corrugated packaging.

27% will not purchase from the same retailer again if the packaging is not sustainable

In fact, over a quarter of consumers would not purchase goods from a supplier again if they knew (or perceived) the packaging they receive to be unsustainable. This figure has also risen by around 8% since last year.

Considering both of these statistics, it is crucial for your business’ long-term success to not only use sustainable packaging, but to promote this too (or at the very least highlight how consumers can recycle your packaging). Using FSC® packaging is a good idea here.

Failure to do so could mean losing over a quarter of your potential future sales.

As such, there is a clear argument that the best eCommerce packaging simply has to be sustainable.

Branded eCommerce packaging

How branding can engage and retain customers

Another area where the Macfarlane survey highlights retailers’ improvements is the use of branded packaging.

In 2016 – the first year of the survey – only 39% of all eCommerce packaging was branded. Fast forward to 2022, and 59% now feature logos, branding and other printed features.

However, the adoption of this appears to vary by industry. For example, 92% of all floristry packaging includes branding, while 75% of fashion deliveries arrive in branded boxes or packaging.

41% of consumers indicated that branded packaging encourages future orders

The unboxing survey revealed that four in ten people would be encouraged to place future orders with the same retailer if they received goods in branded packaging.

It is likely that the increased brand awareness will also help with future purchasing decisions.

Branded eCommerce packaging
Even simple branding can improve the perception of your eCommerce packaging and business.

52% of consumers purchase again if retailers ship orders in luxury packaging

Most will agree that the best eCommerce packaging provides a premium, high-end experience for specific markets and sectors.

However, this may be spreading to other areas. Separate research conducted by eDelivery showing 52% of consumers indicating that luxury packaging influences their decision to place repeated orders with the same brands or retailers.

Person putting lipstick
The lipstick effect is a phenomenon seen during periods of financial difficulty.

This may also be another demonstration of the “lipstick effect”. With the cost of living crisis, uncertainty over the economy and potential recession, many consumers will not be able to afford big-ticket luxury items.

However, many will find the cash for small luxury items, such as premium lipstick purchases. In this scenario, using premium eCommerce packaging can help businesses tap into this phenomenon.

61% of shoppers are more excited by parcels arriving if branded

Other studies, including one by Bouvier Kelly, suggests that almost two-thirds of shoppers are more excited if their orders arrive in eCommerce packaging that features branding.

This, and the other facts regarding branded packaging, should highlight to online sellers that if they still use plain corrugated packaging for their deliveries, they are missing a huge opportunity.

Printing your boxes is one the oldest eCommerce packaging ideas, yet can still be critical to your success.

Bright orange eCommerce box
Bright colours, branding and other graphical elements can engage and delight your customers.

Personalisation and "connected" packaging

Gaining an additional competitive advantage

Clearly, adding branding is one of the ways to ensure the best eCommerce packaging for your business. But with around 59% of online sellers already doing this (and much higher in specific sectors), this competitive advantage can often be negated (i.e. it is an essential requirement).

So what can you do beyond adding logos and an attractive appearance?

There is a 40% increase in customer loyalty when using personalisation

Perhaps one way to move beyond simply printing eCommerce packaging is to personalise the boxes and shippers your business sends.

Doing this can result in as many as one in four customers reporting an increase in loyalty to a specific brand or business, research by Konica Minolta shows.

Adding details such as customers’ names, handwritten notes (depending on the scale of your operations), or other unique features could help differentiate you from your competition.

65% of shoppers would use "connected packaging"

Whilst a relatively new term, almost two-thirds of online shoppers would be happy to use connected packaging if they received it (as shown in a study by Sharp End).

Connected packaging is effectively boxes, bags or other packs that feature a QR code or other image/icon that can be scanned with a smartphone to connect customers with relevant experiences and content.

QR codes, for example, could link to information on the returns process, exclusive content or offers, product instructions, or allow customers to leave reviews of the experience.

This type of feature is much less adopted than branded eCommerce boxes (currently), so it has the potential to elevate your eCommerce unboxing experience over your rivals.

A person scanning a QR code on a packaging box
QR codes on "connected" eCommerce packaging offer a wide range of ways to engage your customers.

Protection during shipping

Why you should not ignore the primary function of your packaging

Of course, even if your eCommerce packaging provides the best unboxing experience, branding, innovative features, and excites your customers, it will all be irrelevant if the ordered items arrive damaged.

The unboxing survey reveals this is a lesson that online sellers are taking on board. Just 7% of all orders arriving damaged or incomplete in 2022, compared with 10% in the previous year.

However, the sharp increase in eCommerce activity driven by the Coronavirus pandemic put considerable stress on courier networks, leading to a higher number of breakages. As this eases in 2022 – and with better-established delivery processes and eCommerce packaging guidelines in place – this could at least partly explain why damage in transit is decreasing.

The average UK resident received 74 parcels in 2020

Even with the incidence of breakages dropping to 7% in the latest survey, this can still result in consumers receiving a surprisingly large amount of damaged goods.

Reports also suggest that the UK generated the highest number of parcels per capita in Europe, with the average person receiving 74 each. If 7% of these arrived damaged, the average shopper is disappointed between seven and eight times each year.

Person holding parcels containing eCommerce orders
The average person in the UK receives approximately 70 parcels each year.

58% wouldn't purchase from a site again if their order arrived damaged

When you also factor in the statistics indicating that almost six in every ten shoppers would not purchase from the same site again if orders arrived damaged, it highlights how big a problem this remains.

In fact, the percentage between those who wouldn’t place repeat orders if the item arrived damaged (58%) and those who wouldn’t if the item was never delivered at all (64%) shows how seriously consumers take this issue.

eCommerce packaging in a couriers vehicle
The best eCommerce packaging is that which protects items through the varying delivery touch-points.

Put simply, the best eCommerce packaging is that which not only provides an excellent unboxing experience but also maintains protection through the delivery process.

Excessive packaging

How overpacking eCommerce orders can be equally damaging

Going back even a few years, many eCommerce businesses would look to prevent damage by overpacking their orders. Others were guilty of using ridiculously sized packaging for small items (such as these packaging fails) to save costs on their packaging inventory.

But retailers appear to be shunning this approach.

When the Unboxing survey was first conducted in 2016, as many as 41% of respondents claimed they had received orders that were sent in excessive packaging. This figure has dropped to just 14% in 2022, however.

48% of customers cite excessive packaging as annoying when shopping online

This statistic is significant, as almost half of the consumers (when questioned by Which) indicated excessive packaging was one of the most annoying aspects of shopping online.

However, eCommerce businesses need to balance deliveries arriving undamaged without over-packing them. Doing so can often be a fine line to tread, especially for items that may be delicate, particularly expensive or susceptible to other forms of damage (such as moisture, dust, surface abrasions etc.).

A large amount of bubble-wrap
Excessive packaging is one of the biggest annoyances for online shoppers.

In Summary

How can you achieve the best eCommerce packaging for your business

The statistics detailed in this article highlight just how crucial eCommerce packaging can be to your business.

But, by taking a methodical approach, following eCommerce packaging guidelines and considering the five key areas detailed, you can benefit from a solution that will offer protection in transit and delight (and help retain) customers.

If you would like eCommerce packaging ideas or advice on developing and sourcing the best eCommerce packaging for your specific product, market or requirements, please get in touch with a member of the GWP team today.

Further reading

About the Author

David Mason, GWP Packaging

David Mason

Sales Director | GWP Packaging

David is Sales Director for GWP Packaging, having originally joined the company (then Great Western Packaging) back in 1990. [Read full bio]

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