Unpacking the trends and challenges around eCommerce packaging in 2019 and beyond

Unpacking the trends and challenges around eCommerce packaging in 2019 and beyond

Tuesday, January 8, 2019Lauren Macdonald

One thing that has stood out in the eCommerce world as of late, is an increased importance in the packaging a product is shipped in.

As we start off 2019, eCommerce industry analysts are stressing the importance of paying close attention to packaging trends and challenges.

What are the trends?

Research by mega-packaging supplier Tetra Pak reveal four omni-channel packaging trends to be aware of in 2019 and beyond:

1. Convenience: This will be the main driver for online consumer take-up, as time-crunched consumers look for new ways to make their life easier. Key opportunities include easy product replenishment, voice ordering, and convenient packaging.

A real-life example:

Take snacks for example. Consumers today are seeking products that are lightweight and portable, and convienent to pack and transport. Most importantly, smaller or individual-sized packages will allow consumers to feel more in control of portion sizes. Following this trend, Pepperidge Farm, sells their infamous Goldfish crackers in a box of 30 individually wrapped snack-packs on Amazon.


2. Sustainability: Pressure on plastic and awareness of the circular economy will continue to grow, and recycling will become ever more important. Consumers want to know whether brands are “doing the right thing.”

A real-life example:
One company that stands out when discussing the importance of sustainable packaging, is Saltwater Brewery. This brewing company, located in Florida, has created eco-friendly six pack rings that are made from by-product waste and other compostable materials, designed to replace plastic rings that are truly damaging to the environment.


3. Personalization and uniqueness: Customization of products and personalization in the consumer journey will be important differentiators going forward. This is accelerating the direct-to-consumer trend and as many as 80% of consumer packaged goods companies are predicted to migrate to this model by 2025.

A real-life example:

Apple has always been a leader in the unpacking phenomenon. Even recently, the iPhone X unboxing video has reached over 10 million views.

Apple’s packaging lies in its simplicity. And, they’re an acknowledged master at creating an iconic sensory experience that communicates its brand with packaging that is as artistic and visually appealing as the device inside.  


4. Technology and performance: Super-fast delivery in as little as 10 minutes is expected by 2025, changing consumer behavior to buy more frequently and in smaller amounts, adding more complexity to the logistics. Supply chains will continue to be transformed by a raft of technologies, notably radio-frequency identification and robotics, boosting efficiency and transparency.

A real-life example:

While nobody has yet to perfect delivery in as little as 10 minutes, eCommerce giant Amazon has been leading the fast-delivery trend for a while now. Currently Amazon offers same or next day delivery in certain locations and for specific products (even on weekends), which has put them ahead of a bulk of their competitors.

However, as the competition is starting to catch up, it’s likely that Amazon will be pushing ahead and coming up with even faster delivery times in the near future.


What are the challenges?

Emmy Corman, package design engineer at Dollar Shave Club, summarizes 3 eCommerce packaging challenges that all brands face:

  1. To be less wasteful by using less materials or reusable packaging

  2. To offer a new type of “shelf presence” with better graphics or branding; or to elevate the unboxing experience

  3. To optimize returns via the small parcel shipping environment, which is a concern brick-and-mortar retailers don’t face.

To overcome these challenges, Brent Nelson, senior manager of Amazon’s Customer Packaging Experience (CPEX) team says that the most important thing is for the eCommerce industry to work together to create packaging that’s great for customers, companies, and the environment.

A primary encounter is that packaging designed for brick-and-mortar retail is in many cases not optimal for online fulfillment. Packaging designed to stand out on a retail shelf is often oversized, with expensive design aesthetics, redundant features to prevent theft, and not sturdy enough to survive the journey to the customer. For that reason, CPEX is striving to create best-in-class certified packaging that customers love and that also meets the criteria brands need to ship their products successfully.

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