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30th May 2018

Posted In: Guides & Advice | Increase Sales

More than a box.

When it comes to online shopping, the packaging really is more than just a cardboard box

The chances are that you have come in to contact with some form of ecommerce packaging in the last 12 months.

It may well be the case that you have received an order from an online shop in the last week. It is highly likely you may even have received a delivery the same day as you are reading this.

And you are not alone.

Worldwide ecommerce sales increased by 13% in 2017 from the previous year. In the US, the largest ecommerce market, 51% of consumers now prefer to shop online, with 80% having made a purchase online in the last 30 days.

Ecommerce packaging
The importance of your ecommerce packaging can be easily overlooked - until it starts leading to transit damage and unhappy customers

In the UK, ecommerce accounted for a 19% share of total business (based on 2015 statistics – this has only increased since). Whilst this may seem relatively small, this equates to 533 billion pounds.

And with around 90% of ecommerce orders being shipped in corrugated boxes, that’s a lot of packaging being sent via postal and courier services.

The crucial role packaging plays in ecommerce

Everyone has a good laugh when there is another stories in the newspapers about how Amazon (or another large online retailer) as sent a tiny product in a comically oversized box.

Plus, most people have some experience of package arriving looking battered and bruised or, even worse, the product itself being damaged.

Whilst these examples are amusing and annoying in equal measure, for the vast majority of the time online orders are delivered successfully with little fuss. For many, and depending on the nature of the purchase, the excitement (or lack of) at receiving the order means the packaging it is sent is in largely ignored.

This can lead to ecommerce sellers overlooking a potential opportunity however.

Successful, well thought out ecommerce packaging can have a huge impact on your business success. It can help to minimise the volume (and cost) of returns. It can help to foster customer loyalty. It can get your branding in front of more people.

It may even end up with your packaging getting thousands of views on YouTube in an “unboxing video”.

So whilst packaging needs to fulfil its primary tasks – getting your products to your customers safely and as cost effectively as possible – there are a number of additional benefits that can be leveraged if you know how.

7 facts on the importance of ecommerce packaging

The importance of ecommerce is highlighted quite starkly in a number of facts and figures gleaned from numerous studies and research conducted over the last few years.

With the explosion in ecommerce, more attention has been paid to packaging by savvy online businesses, which has resulted in the following findings.

1: Consumers generally form their impression of a brand (and indeed many other things) within 7 seconds. It is then very hard to change.

2: Research has shown that nearly as many consumers (10%) consider a products packaging almost as important as the brand itself (12%).

3: It has also been reported that online sellers / businesses that pay due attention to their packaging report, on average, a 30% increase in consumer interest.

4: Approximately 90% of all products in the United States (and a similar figure in the UK) are sent in cardboard packaging of some description.

5: A slow shipping time – which can be influenced by packing processes which are too slow themselves – will deter approximately 40% of consumers from making a purchase.

6: Conversely, if you can absorb the cost of shipping and the packaging itself to offer free delivery, it is likely to result in customers average order value being 30% higher.

7: Around 52% of online shoppers that receive their order in custom packaging say they are more likely to return to that same company for future orders.

So what does this mean for your ecommerce packaging? Please continue reading to see how you can use your postal boxes to take advantage of these facts.

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First impressions count

As highlighted above, people will generally form a first impression of something or someone within 7 seconds.

The same thing will happen with the ecommerce orders you ship to your customers.

Obviously, the individual will have looked at your online shop, conducted research and decided to place an order with you. But what is the first physical interaction they will have with your business?

Your packaging.

Branded ecommerce packaging
Branded ecommerce packaging should make the right first impression on your customers

If a tatty, damaged box turns up, it creates a terrible first impression. And whilst this must be avoided at all costs, it is actually possible to focus on much more than just making sure the parcel reaches your customer in one piece.

Clever branding, personalisation and more can make your customers feel valued and add to the sense of excitement. In fact, this is the reason that there has been a huge growth in unboxing videos on platforms such as YouTube.

Ultimately, think how you would feel handing over a damaged, shoddy looking box in person to a customer that has just spent potentially hundreds of pounds with you? Make sure that doesn’t happen.

Packaging is (almost) equal to branding

Studies have shown that nearly as many people think the packaging itself is as important as the brand that they purchase from.

However, it could be argued that is a bit ingenious.

Your ecommerce packaging should be an extension of your brand. It should play a key role in conveying what your business and products are about, and how they can make your customers feel.

Take Apple as a good example. All of their products, from iPods to their high-end Mac Books, are effectively luxury, high-end products. And if you have ever purchased one their devices, you will know that the packaging is of equal quality, being sturdy, aesthetically pleasing and very tactile.

In effect, it matches their brand values, proposition and position within the market.

Increase in interest / retention

Following on from the above, it shouldn’t be a revelation that online businesses that spend due time on their packaging see up to 30% higher interest from consumers.

This could, in fact, be for any number of reasons.

Perhaps they have built up a good reputation by never delivering faulty or damaged goods. Perhaps the brand values that attracted the customer to purchase in the first place are reflected in the packaging. It may even add to the excitement of receiving an order, aiding loyalty and the repeat business this can generate.

Even beyond that, successful packaging, and particularly that which has the wow factor, will likely benefit your business through the oldest and arguably most effective form of marketing – word of mouth.

A customer that receives a striking package is much more likely to tell their friends and family, and may even retain the pack (with your branding on) for much longer or even indefinitely.

Nearly all orders are sent in cardboard boxes

Cardboard boxes are often seen as one of the most boring and / or simple products that we use on a day to day basis (just try starting a conversation at the gym or pub about them to see exactly just how boring!).

This represents both a challenge and an opportunity.

If your competitors are simply using standard, brown, unbranded boxes with no striking features whatsoever, then you immediately have a point of difference from them and can use this to position yourself where you wish in the market (e.g. the luxury, a premium option perhaps, or maybe the eco-friendly option).

Corrugated ecommerce packaging
If you are using plain brown ecommerce packaging then you are potentially missing the chance to stand out from your competition

This will allow you to start developing your brand and add some real value to your products.

It may even be worth placing some orders with your competition just to see what they are doing – so that you can better it!

Make sure your business isn’t the one that blends into the crowd or is eclipsed by your nearest rivals.

30% extra spend if shipping is free

OK, a lot of this will come down to your courier or shipping partners, but your packaging will still cost money.

Even if you are only paying 20, 30 or even 50 pence per box, over the course of a thousand orders this can add up to a significant cost.

What is more, the size of your box can also make a big difference to your shipping costs, particularly with the introduction of volumetric (i.e. by size) shipping charges.

It is therefore critical that you have appropriately sized boxes for your order (or you are paying to ship fresh air or void fill such as foam and air sacks), and that this is balanced with a sensible unit price for your packaging.

It may be tempting to pass the cost of shipping to your customers, but statistics say it could seriously hamper your potential for growth.

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Slow shipping time discourages customers

Again, whilst a reliable courier makes a big difference here, what many people forget is that picking and packing of an order takes time too.

Whilst you should have a robust plan and processes in place for the picking of ecommerce orders, the actual packing part can often be forgotten.

Boxes that are slow or difficult to assemble and / or seal can add critical time to the fulfilment process. As can the retrieval of boxes for packaging, if you have a particularly large and complicated inventory.

If you know you can get an order picked and packed as quickly and efficiently as possible – with your packaging helping in doing so – then it gives you a fighting chance of offering next or even same day delivery options.

Ecommerce delivery
Slow delivery times are a huge turn off for ecommerce customers - so make sure your packaging does not affect this

Custom packaging drives loyalty

Over half of people having received custom packaging say they would use the same company for future orders.

That itself is a hugely strong argument for at least considering custom ecommerce packaging.

Even moving beyond that statistic, custom packaging will tend to be cheaper to send (as a custom size will reduce the volume and hence shipping charges), will protect the contents better through eliminating movement during transit, will be better for the environment through using less material and will also eliminate secondary packaging (and the cost) such foam pellets or polystyrene.

It also gives you that chance to drive loyalty, increase visibility of your brand and generally delight your customers as well.

Personalised ecommerce packaging
Custom, and even personalised ecommerce packaging has been shown to drive loyalty in customers

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In Summary.

The importance of your ecommerce packaging

Whilst often overlooked – especially as a marketing tactic – your ecommerce packaging has the real potential to increase sales, drive customer loyalty and position your business where you would like to be in the market.

All of this, in turn, will have a significant impact on your business success and profitability.

So in summary – overlook your ecommerce packaging at your peril!

Jay Daggar, Sales Manager at GWP Packaging

About the Author: Jay Daggar

Sales Manager | GWP Packaging

Jay initially 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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