Why you must get your packaging right for Black Friday
Whilst Christmas may still seem (at the time of writing) way off in the distance, there are now less than 100 days to the big event. This means that one of the most significant shopping days – Black Friday – is even sooner.
With the focus for most businesses likely to be on meeting the Black Friday and Christmas season demand, it is all too easy for a crucial element of your fulfilment to be ignored or neglected. Your Black Friday packaging.
This guide highlights why this is mistake, how to avoid the common pitfalls associated with increased packaging demand, and how you can leverage packaging as a competitive advantage.
It will cover
Key statistics on the importance of packaging for black Friday
How to avoid upsetting your customers
Ways to exceed expectations
Much else besides.
Please continue reading below, or jump to your area of interest using the table of contents below.
History of Black Friday
An unprecedented surge in consumer activity
So what is Black Friday? And how did it all start?
Well, Black Friday happens on the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. It started as a way to entice shoppers into starting their Christmas shopping – an official launch to the festive season if you like.
Ever since 1924 when the New York City department store Macy’s started its now traditional Thanksgiving Day parade, the day after was known as the official start of the Christmas shopping season as the store opened its doors and reduced its prices.
The “Black Friday” phrase however wasn’t coined until the 1960s. Some claim that it refers to the fact that it is the day that retailers ‘move into the black’ and start making a profit for the year. Others claim it is related to the markdowns on prices.
Whatever the origin of Black Friday, it has transformed the retail calendar in the UK over the last 5 or so years. In fact, it has even overtaken Boxing Day and “Cyber Monday” as the most significant shopping day of the year.
And whilst consumers still head to bricks and mortar stores on the day itself, the real growth since the event became established in the UK has been in online sales. This in itself can pose difficulties for many businesses however, and their ecommerce packaging in particular.
01: Statistics & Research
Key Black Friday packaging statistics
It is one thing saying that Black Friday has become increasingly significant and important to retailers, both off and online. But what does this actually mean?
Well, various studies and research (including by corrugated material producer DS Smith) have yielded an interesting collection of statistics that truly convey the scale of the phenomenon.
As such, the key facts and figures (based on 2018 activity, but still relevant for Black Friday 2019) are as follows:
Challenges, considerations and best practice
Whilst these figures can seem fairly stark, there are a number of steps that can be taken to ensure that it is not your customers who are left with negative feelings towards your business.
The remainder of this guide covers the key points to address and consider. These are:
Preparation and planning
Preventing transit damage (and customer returns)
Customer experience opportunities
Coping with additional packaging demand on Black Friday
The sheer scale of the black Friday event puts an understandable strain on all aspects of your business. Manufacturing. Admin. Advertising and Marketing. Supply Chain. Shipping and Returns. All of this is impacted.
This is why it is critical to plan well in advance – with many retailers now starting to make preparations as early as July to maximise exposure, sales and profitability.
Saying that, any business should know all of its peaks and troughs in demand throughout the year, and plan accordingly.
And whilst your packaging supplier may be able to pre-empt the majority of these (especially if you are using a JIT service),it is always wise to keep an open dialogue and work together to ensure packaging stocks are at the required levels to meet any surges in demand.
03: Damage in Transit / Returns
The key role of Black Friday Packaging
As the statistics earlier in this guide highlight, the potential for damaged products – and therefore customer returns – across the black Friday and Christmas period is hugely significant. With the increased online activity of consumers, this is only likely to increase too.
It is possible that there can be as many 50 different touch points for an ecommerce order before it reaches the end consumer. This in turn means 50 potential opportunities for the package to be mis-handled (and damaged) before reaching its destination.
This is in comparison to an estimated 10 touch points for products ending up in traditional retail stores.
As such, it is absolutely critical that your packaging can withstand the rigours of the delivery network. This means working with a packaging designer that can advise on the optimum material, design and size for your packaging. Testing – both theoretical and physical – can also be priceless.
By neglecting your packaging’s primary function – to protect its contents and be easy to open when required – you also run the risk of negative coverage and sentiment about your brand and products being shared across social media too.
04: Customer Retention
Packaging as a strategic advantage
Leading on from this, poor quality Black Friday packaging can actually have a longer term impact on your business success.
Whilst the short term pain of replacing or refunding a damaged item should not be underestimated, more than a quarter of consumers would not order again from a business that supply goods in poorly designed / functioning packaging.
Putting this into the context of increased black Friday activity, there is the potential for thousands of pounds of business lost not only in returns, but in lost brand loyalty and repeat orders too.
The bottom line? Make sure your ecommerce packaging will protect your products during transit!
05: Customer Experience Opportunity
Make your Black Friday packaging exceed expectations
Whilst protecting products in transit is the primary objective for your Black Friday packaging (and indeed all packaging), the bar has been raised significantly in recent years.
In fact, a product arriving undamaged is now viewed simply as the base level of expectation. Par for the course.
In the age of social media and YouTube coverage, there has been an explosion in unboxing packaging and accompanying videos.
The feeling that your customers get when opening their order – surprise, delight, excitement – can turn them into brand advocates (as well as gaining your business crucial word of mouth recommendations).
As such, your packaging should aim to go above and beyond. Make your customers feel valued, communicate your brand message and cement your business in their mind as showing care and attention to detail.
06: Omni-channel Packaging
More than just ecommerce
Although the trend towards ecommerce is undeniable – and arguably accelerating – it has highlighted how the traditional distinctions between on and offline retailing are becoming more blurred. This further being seen in “click and collect” services and even in store returns.
What this also presents is an opportunity for businesses and retailers to take a more holistic view of their packaging and supply chain. What efficiencies can be gained? Are in-store and online packaging / branding consistent? Are there lessons that can be applied to streamline operations and reduce costs?
Whilst the rush of Black Friday and Christmas is not the best time to be looking for answers, this should be considered and any changes implemented during quieter periods.
07: Efficiency In Transit
Other ways your packaging can have an impact
Whilst a lot of the focus of this guide has (rightly) been on avoiding damage in transit, there should be consideration given to avoiding inefficiencies throughout the supply chain too.
Small changes – such as safely reducing material weights or thicknesses, or changing the sizes of boxes – can make significant long term impacts on your operations as a whole.
From minimising energy consumption, reducing packaging waste and even lowering CO2 emissions (simply getting more smaller boxes on a pallet or delivery vehicle results in fewer trips), cost savings can be used to improve competitiveness, slash prices or increase marketing presence.
And besides this, these efficiency gains are also likely to result in environmental benefits too, which can be another key differentiator for your brand.
08: Packaging Inventory Considerations
Rationalisation and careful management of packaging lines
The counter point to reducing packaging sizes to aid transit efficiency is the effect this has on your inventory of boxes.
It is simply not possible to have thousands of different sizes to cover all eventualities, and is not cost effective either. Larger numbers of different sized boxes actually increases costs as you can no longer maximise economies of scale.
The other side of the coin however is the negative press (and customer annoyance) at receiving goods in hugely oversized boxes (as is often reported in the press for larger businesses such as Amazon or Tesco).
This is why it is important to undergo rationalisation of your packaging lines. This should, if done correctly, result in the perfect balance between various suitable sizes and a streamlined inventory that allows you purchase cost effectively and manage efficiently.
09: Competitive Advantage
Leverage your Black Friday packaging opportunity
The bottom line is that, if you get it right, your Black Friday packaging can provide a competitive advantage. This can be considered even more important when set against the discounting (and subsequently slim margins) that characterises the trading across this period.
By minimising the cost (and brand damage) of returns, fostering loyalty amongst consumers and maximising the efficiency of your packing, supply chain and even retail operations, you can see significant long term benefits to your business.
All of these points and more need to be addressed. Which is why GWP have a team of talented and experienced designers considering all of these things, in order that you don’t have to!
Make sure your packaging is up to the Black Friday surge
If your online store, marketing, product selection and pricing are all on point, chances are you will see a surge in demand on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the festive period beyond.
If you do experience improved sales, then make sure you don’t let your customers down through poor packaging that doesn’t protect in transit, slows down fulfilment times, or is just plain hard to use / open.
And don’t neglect the un-boxing experience – you should aim to surprise and delight your customers.
Need help with any of this? If so, please don’t hesitate to get in touch using the details below
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