The Basics of E-Commerce Packaging

What you should know

Feel you’re ready to venture out, start your own gig and begin selling your products online? Is your product offering about this or that? The consumer has to know firsthand, and how you go about your e-commerce packaging will be the closest you will get to them, and before the product: comes the product packaging. Whether you want to give your customers a personal message along with relevant information, or if you want it to be almost intrigue worthy with minimal design, it’s all in the package. But there’s so much more to e-commerce packaging than getting your products to potential customers; while it can be daunting, understanding the basics is a good place to begin, especially if you’re starting out small but plan to sell your products locally, nationally or internationally. Eventually, your e-commerce packaging should prove to be optimal for your business in the short and long term, afford your customers a great experience and make your operations profitable. 

So what is “what is e-commerce packaging?”

The definition of e-commerce packaging will be different for consumers and producers, yet just not so much. For instance, consumers will care about the safety and well being of their investment first, as will producers: nobody wants damaged goods this way or that. 

Securing the product is the primary function of all e-commerce packaging, but it’s not the only one. Your brand’s identity, ethos, tenets, are also disseminated through your choice of packaging for your products. Another key function is ensuring shipping and other overheads are kept at a minimum with judicious design and dimensions. Greater customer experience and better profitability are the endgame of all good e-commerce packaging. 

Product packaging can include a box along with any infill that may be used, or flexible packaging to wrap or secure the product, plus tape and any other inserts such as cards or coupons. You should always evaluate and factor in how your choice of e-commerce packaging affects the cost of  production and shipping, which will be determined by the the total weight of your product and its packaging. If you are committed to being eco-friendly,  your focus should be on green packaging; or sustainable packaging, using materials  that require minimal energy for being produced, and e-commerce packaging that is biodegradable or recyclable. 

Planning your packaging

You’ll have to see if you need to box or bag your products, heavier and fragile products will do better with boxes while lighter, less fragile objects can easily go through flexible packaging bags or mailer bags.

Remember that your customers will see and observe the packaging before anything else, and first impressions always matter. If you’re thinking of shipping high-value items, think of spending a little more on protective packaging; it’s a good investment and shows your customers that you care about them placing their faith in you, an important brand value, especially for  luxury goods. 

A growing number of consumers are more environmentally conscious and make purchases based on products and packaging being eco-friendly. Your choice of packaging has the potential to attract customers who share the same beliefs and will enjoy the eco-friendly packaging your products arrive in, they’ll also spread the word which will help attract new customers. The modern consumer wants to buy from someone who shares the same values as them, and that’s fair. 

We also advise you include very clear and apparent recycling information for your packaging. It’s not easy understanding how recycling works and if you’re using any compostable elements, try and add a small note to provide a website link that will explain the proper way to dispose the materials. 

Your packaging options

Cardboard boxes

 Corrugated cardboard boxes are still preferred for most e-commerce packaging as they are sturdy, don’t weigh much, and can be recycled. 

For heavy and fragile products, double-walled cardboard provides extra protection and strength. For shipping high-value goods like electronics or video game consoles, an extra box to obscures what’s inside is a good idea.

Just make sure to not use boxes that are too big for the products inside, customers don’t like dealing with big boxes, they also require more infill, weigh more and raise shipping costs. Even delivery platforms like FedEx and UPS penalise shippers for sending products in oversized boxes. If you go for standard sized cardboard boxes and buy in quantity, your shipping price will go down.

 

Bags and envelopes

If your products are light and not too fragile, a plastic mailer bag, a poly mailer, a paper mailer mag or other flexible packaging options will be a great choice. Flexible packaging, delivery bags and envelopes weigh next to nothing, are really strong, convenient to handle and easy to store, self-sealing, tamper proof and highly reusable. They work exceptionally well for shipping clothing orders and are waterproof to boot.

 

Padded mailers 

These protective mailer bags are ideal for shipping small or flat items that need extra protection, like jewellery. Mailers can be padded with shredded paper, making them recyclable while some are filled with bubble wrap, which is very protective but not the greenest choice. There are padded mailers made from recycled materials, but consumers need to do a bit like removing portions of the mailer bag which will allow it to biodegrade safely afterwards. 

 

Customised Packaging  

A customised box can lift your brand value beyond a cardboard box. You can enable your customers to have personal experiences with your product, appreciate and remember it. Custom boxes also come with the benefit of fitting your products to size which will ensure orders are safe and secure. 

 

Don’t forget the Tape

Tape? Really? Yes! Tape is also key to packaging success, it’s quite literally the glue that holds it all together. Clear acrylic tape for smaller boxes works just fine whereas water-activated kraft tape provides a strong seal for heavier packages. 

Fill-in the Infill

For most e-commerce deliveries, you’ll have to add infill to keep the contents still during shipping; also giving them extra padding and safety. There are many infill options you can choose from; for instance, Amazon uses a combination of air-filled pillows and brown paper. You’ll need to devise your infills strategy based on your specific product and shipping, and there is a broad range of eco-friendly fillers available in the market. Be sure to test your options in real-world scenarios to ensure their adequacy.

Some great infill options include brown Kraft paper, which is versatile and flexible, can be cut to any required size of sheets or be crumpled to fit any infill requirements,  is completely recyclable and can be sourced from recycled paper. Air pillows are air-filled plastic sacs and one of the lightest forms of infill, best for keeping the package’s weight low while providing a lot of infill. Packing peanuts are also an option but are fast getting outdated. We all know why we love Bubble wrap, but more than the fun of popping the bubbles, it is great for wrapping delicate items and is also recyclable, bubble wrap could never be wrong, yes sir.. Foam wrap is an alternative to bubble wrap but is not recyclable and creates environmental problems.

Shredded cardboard is gaining traction as a superior way of recycling and wrapping at the same time. These cardboard sheets securely wrap around fragile items to protect them and have proven to be the ultimate in green packaging. Using eco-friendly options sourced from recycled, recyclable, or biodegradable materials will make be positive for all stakeholders, the planet of course,  your brand’s commitment to furthering sustainability and  customer satisfaction. A friendly suggestion would be to make sure you don’t use plastics to wrap up products that claim to be sustainable. 

Make it personal

Every aspect of your e-commerce packaging conveys a message. First, a well-packed box will tell your customers that you care for their orders as much as they do. The extra note you leave in the package, or the funky stickers you’ve stuck on the side: help build your brand and improve customer loyalty. Apparent, transparent and useful information on product usage is always welcome.

If you wish to outsource your fulfilment, you can turn to a packaging company for expert advice on e-commerce packaging. You can try out your packaging provider by having orders shipped to yourself; which will help you better understand your customer’s unboxing experience.

Don’t view packaging as static: improvise and improve your process, use better, greener materials, tell your customers you care and try and communicate with them directly in different ways, and as your venture grows, upgrade the look and feel of your orders.  Also; you have better and greener packaging and infill options to choose from than you’ve probably had before, so make the right choice, preferably the green one, for your e-commerce packaging. 

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