Caraustar: can your packaging survive the eCommerce

Can your packaging survive the new eCommerce distribution chain?

eCommerce is shaking up the safe, predictable world of product packaging.

For decades, almost all packaged goods made it from factory to warehouse to store shelf unscathed. Packages may have been crushed every now and then, and harried store clerks damaged products here and there, but the risks were well-known. Losses could be projected within reasonable bounds.

Picture the humble cereal box, shipped from the factory in a large paperboard carton holding a bunch of similar boxes. Shipping or warehousing damage to the big carton might degrade a few of the few boxes inside, but most would make it to the store shelf intact, where customers could bring it home in the same condition they found it at the store.

Now, imagine someone having the same box home-delivered from Amazon or Walmart. The potential for damage between the fulfillment center and the customer’s front porch goes through the roof.

So, as you adapt your product packaging to the realities of online retailing, you have to make sure it’s built to withstand the abuses of the eCommerce distribution chain. These are the top points to keep in mind:

They want it fast

Nobody likes to wait to enjoy products they have paid for online. That’s why people are talking about using aerial drones for same-day delivery. And it’s why online retailers prioritize speed at every point in the distribution chain.

Alas, the emphasis on ASAP delivery creates an incentive to cut corners in other areas. Online retailers might reconcile themselves to delivering goods with a certain number of dents, cuts, and bashed-in corners when the package reaches its destination. The question is whether you—and ultimately your customers—are okay with that.

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You’ve lost a lot of control

Shipping consumer goods in 12- or 24-pack cartons for store shelves provides built-in protection: The few products that may be damaged in transit cushion the blow for the many.

You lose that cushion with online sales. Your customers buy each product individually, and everything must be boxed up in ways most favorable to the shipper, namely, quickly and cheaply.

Instead of being packed snugly against another box of identical mass and dimensions, products of widely varying sizes and shapes all end up in the same packing box. Bottles of laundry detergent might be packed next to single-serve packages of potato chips.

Items meant to be shipped upright could be boxed up at angles you cannot predict, much less control. Items could spring leaks and contaminate an entire shipment, causing returns that somebody has to pay for—whether that is in cash or lost customers.

Consumers are paying more attention to packaging

Consumers want their goods in recyclable packaging. They also want brands to reduce the amount of packaging they use, both to simplify the process of unpacking and to protect the environment.

Meanwhile, you’re always on the hunt for more economical and efficient ways to package your products. These forces put brands in a bind: You want to simplify packaging while reducing costs and enhancing your bottom line.

But if your packaging cannot survive the rigors of the eCommerce distribution chain, you risk the ultimate marketplace irony—trying to please customers ends up making them unhappy.

Agility and creativity solve a lot of packaging problems

What worked in brick-and-mortar-retail has to evolve in the eCommerce era. The future will belong to the companies that find the right blend of packaging durability and flexibility that sustains their business while keeping the customers satisfied.

At Caraustar, we’re spreading the word on the potential for paperboard-boxed packaging to solve some of these online-shopping challenges. New technologies are expanding the possibilities of paperboard packaging, creating options that never existed before.

These innovations mean brands that have traditionally packaged their products in plastic, glass, or cans may be able to find workable alternatives in sustainable, recycled paperboard.

Of course, paperboard is not a cure-all: Packaging must suit the requirements of the product and the demands of the marketplace. Today’s push to online sales forces everyone to be more agile and creative.

Caraustar has decades of experience with consumer product packaging with some of the world’s biggest brands. If there’s a paperboard solution to your eCommerce riddles, we can help you find it.