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Black Friday Packaging: How to cope with 2020 demand

Last Updated 19th April 2021
Posted In: Efficiency & Productivity | Guides & Advice

Ecommerce Packaging

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.

Quick Reference / Contents

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.

Black Friday packaging
Recent Black Fridays have seen huge amounts of consumer demand (and media coverage) - make sure your packaging doesn't ruin it for your business

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:

  • An average UK consumer will spend just under £850 online over the course of a year
  • However, the typical black Friday shopper will purchase 2 products, with an average value of just over £80 each.
  • This means that approximately £8.1 billion will be spent in the UK on Black Friday
  • 8% of this will be on products that arrive damaged.
  • Of these, around 30% will be so badly damaged as to be unusable
  • Ultimately, this leads to feelings of disappointment (70%), frustration (30%), anger (25%) and upset (25%) due to the experience of receiving damaged goods.
  • More than 60% of Black Friday shoppers use the event to purchase Christmas gifts
  • This in turn sees toys making up around 10% of all damaged products delivered during this period
  • Yet around a quarter of shoppers will not seek a refund for damaged goods
  • 40% cite the returns process as being too difficult or time consuming, whilst just under half judge the damage as not severe enough to warrant a replacement.
  • This stance is arguably justified by up by a third of consumers having a return delayed or refused.
  • All this means that, in total, up to £162 million in refunds will not be claimed.
  • But who’s to blame? 40% believe that it is the fault of the courier, whilst 15% believe incorrectly sized packaging was the main factor.

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 retention
  • Customer experience opportunities
  • Omni-channel packaging
  • Packaging Efficiency
  • Inventory considerations
  • Competitive advantage

02: Preparation

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.

Cyber Monday packaging
Knowing in detail your business' peaks and troughs in demand - such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday - can help you mitigate any impact these have.

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.

Packaging for online shopping
Packaging used for online shopping orders can have up to 50 different "touch points", providing many opportunities for damage to occur

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.

Ecommerce loyalty
Your packaging is one of the key tactics you can use to drive ongoing loyalty amongst your customer base

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.

christmas shopping packaging
There should be consistency between any Christmas or promotional packaging used across online and offline channels

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.

Packaging reduction
Packaging rationalisation is effectively a design led process, whereby varying similar packaging boxes are condensed into a more manageable inventory.

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!

In Summary

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

Further Reading...

About the Author

Jay Daggar, GWP Packaging Sales Manager

Jay Daggar

Sales Manager | GWP Packaging

Jay joined GWP Packaging in mid-2008 before becoming Sales Manager in 2011, meaning he has worked for GWP for over 10 years. [Read full bio…]

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