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7 facts highlighting the importance of eCommerce packaging

Jay Daggar: Last Updated 16th February 2024
Posted In: Guides and Advice | Increase Sales xx 31631

More than a box

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

In the last month, you have likely come into contact with some form of eCommerce packaging.

It may well be the case that you have received an order from an online shop in the past week. Chances are, you may even have received a delivery the same day you read this.

And you are not alone.

Worldwide eCommerce sales increased by 27.6% in 2020 from the previous year. In the US, the largest eCommerce market, 51% of consumers now prefer to shop online, with 80% making a purchase online in the last 30 days.

A young lady holding a large eCommerce packaging box
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 almost a third (27.1%) of total retail sales in January 2022. Whilst this may still seem relatively small, this is a significant increase on 693 billion British Pounds spent online in the UK during 2019 (the pandemic having driven further rapid growth since then).

And with corrugated boxes used to ship 90% of eCommerce orders, a lot of packaging is sent via postal and courier services.

Quick reference / contents

The crucial role of packaging

The essential part packaging plays in eCommerce

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

Plus, most people have some experience of packaging arriving looking battered and bruised. Or even worse, when damage to the product itself occurs during transit.

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, though, the excitement (or lack of) at receiving their items means the packaging is largely ignored.

This behaviour can lead to eCommerce sellers overlooking a potential opportunity, however.

The importance of eCommerce packaging

eCommerce packaging is of massive importance to the success of a business. Often being the first physical interaction a consumer has with a brand, 52% indicate they would be more likely to purchase from the same company again if the packaging exceeds their expectations. 1 in 10 also considers packaging as important as the brand itself.

Successful, well-thought-out e-commerce packaging can hugely impact your business’s 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.

A consumer making a purchase from an eCommerce store
There are seven facts that highlight the importance of your eCommerce packaging.

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 several additional benefits your business can leverage if you know how.

7 eCommerce packaging facts

Seven eye-opening stats on the importance of eCommerce packaging

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

With the explosion in eCommerce – particularly through lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 – more attention has been paid to packaging by savvy online businesses. This focus 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 difficult to change.

2: Research has shown that nearly as many consumers (10%) consider a product’s packaging almost as crucial as the brand itself (12%).

3: On average, online sellers/businesses that pay due attention to their packaging report a 30% increase in consumer interest.

4: Approximately 90% of products in the United States (and a similar figure in the UK) ship in cardboard packaging.

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

6: Conversely, if you can absorb the cost of shipping and the packaging 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.<

First impressions count

Ensuring customer satisfaction from the start

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

The same thing happens with the eCommerce orders you ship to your customers.

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

Your packaging.

Branded ecommerce packaging that provides a strong unboxing experience
Branded eCommerce packaging should make the right first impression on your customers.

If a shabby, damaged box turns up, it creates a terrible first impression. And whilst online sellers must avoid this at all costs, it is possible to focus on much more than just ensuring 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. A focus on the customer experience provided by packaging is why there has been an enormous growth in unboxing videos on platforms such as YouTube.

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

Packaging is (almost) equal to branding

Brand values, proposition and position within the market

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

However, there is an argument that this is a bit ingenious.

Your eCommerce packaging should be an extension of your brand. It should be a vital part of conveying what your business and products are about (and how they can make your customers feel).

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

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

Increase in interest and retention

Enhancing customer lifetime value

Considering the previous facts, 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 improvement in customer engagement could be for any number of reasons.

Perhaps they have built a good reputation by never delivering faulty or damaged goods. Maybe 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 (particularly with the wow factor) is likely to benefit your business through the oldest and arguably most effective form of marketing – word of mouth.

Customers who receive a visually appealing package are likelier to tell their friends and family. Some customers may even retain the pack (with your branding on) for much longer or indefinitely.

Cardboard shipping

The use of cardboard boxes to ship orders is widespread

The view of Cardboard boxes is that they are one of the most boring and simple products used by individuals on a daily basis (just try starting a conversation at the gym or pub about them to see exactly how boring they are!).

This perception represents both a challenge and an opportunity.

Suppose your competitors are simply using standard, brown, unbranded boxes with no striking features whatsoever. In that case, 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, premium option perhaps, or maybe the eco-friendly choice).

A brown kraft cardboard box with white branding
If you are the company using plain brown eCommerce packaging, then you are potentially missing the chance to stand out from your competition.

The opportunity provided by your packaging allows 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 to see what they are doing – so you can better it!

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

Order values

30% extra spend if shipping is free

OK, a lot of this comes down to your courier or shipping partners, but your packaging still costs 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) and pricing in proportion 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.

A courier unloading eCommerce packaging from a vehicle
Correctly sized eCommerce packaging can have a significant impact on your costs.

Slow shipping

Slow shipping time discourages customers

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

Whilst you should have a robust plan and processes for picking eCommerce orders, businesses frequently neglect or forget the actual packing part.

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 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 – it gives you a fighting chance of offering next or even same-day delivery options.

Courier making an eCommerce delivery
Slow delivery times are a huge turn off for ecommerce customers - so make sure your packaging does not affect this.

Customer loyalty

Custom packaging drives loyalty

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

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

Even moving beyond that statistic, custom packaging tends to be cheaper to send (as a custom size reduces the volume and hence shipping charges). Bespoke eCommerce packaging typically protects the contents better by eliminating movement during transit. It is also better for the environment by using less material and eliminating secondary packaging (and the cost) such as foam pellets or polystyrene.

Custom eCommerce packaging also gives you that chance to drive loyalty, increase your brand’s visibility and generally delight your customers.

A cardboard eCommerce box with black and white print on the inside surfaces
Your eCommerce packaging should be used as a tool to drive customer loyalty and engagement.

In summary

The importance of your eCommerce packaging

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

All of this, in turn, has a significant impact on your business’s success and profitability.

So, in summary, overlook your e-commerce packaging at your peril!

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 ten years. [Read full bio]

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