Designing packaging specifically for the booming E-commerce market is essential. With up to 15 additional touchpoints in the distribution environment, E-commerce packaging requires more robust, tailored packaging than that which sits on the shelves at your local Walmart.
Understanding the requirements of your product when experiencing hazards like compression, shock, vibration, and atmospheric conditions are paramount to design a package that ensures the product arrives without damage.
Overlooking the additional touchpoints, methods of transport, packaging handlers, storage, etc. when moving from a traditional distribution environment to E-commerce will often leave the product and brand reputation damaged.
Holiday E-commerce Challenges
With the increase in E-commerce sales due to the holidays, trucks are packed with boxes en route to the doorsteps of anxiously awaiting shoppers. During 2018, holiday E-commerce shoppers spent $126 billion, up 16.5% from 2017. With 55% of all sales taking place online, package handlers experience a much higher volume of deliveries.
Between trying to fit as many packages on a truck as possible and rushing to get them all delivered on time, it’s no surprise that damage rates increase as well, especially in packaging not designed for the E-commerce distribution environment.
For example, at Adept Group, we ordered tumblers for our associates from a promotional merchandiser for holiday gifts. (Pictured below) To give you an idea of the product composition, these tumblers have a stainless-steel exterior; glass insert and plastic top.
What would have been a beautiful gift for our associates turned into four boxes of shattered glass, a panicked phone call, an extremely compressed shipping timeline and a lot of rework for the promotional company.
Our products arrived in four double-walled corrugated boxes with obvious compression damage. When we picked them up to move them, the sound of shattered glass was evident. Separated by single-walled corrugated dividers, the glass insert of 56 of 100 tumblers was in pieces at the bottom of the box, rendering them unusable.
Without the dividers being strong enough to keep the box from compressing, and no padding to absorb any of that pressure, the force of whatever packages were piled on top of the box crushed all of the glass that stuck out above the stainless-steel exterior. This presented several problems:
- We’ve been forced to delay shipping gifts to our associates, as we wait for the new shipment to arrive
- The opportunity for shipping gifts to our associates across the globe in Italy before the holidays is quickly closing.
- This compressed timeline increases shipping costs for us to attempt to get gifts to associates before the holidays.
- The damaged products caused a production loss of four associates for 2 hours, as we went through the boxes to determine the number of broken tumblers, cleaned up the broken glass and washed the products that were not broken to ensure our associates do not consume glass particles once they receive their gifts.
- We were covered in piercing glass particle and had to move and dispose of four boxes littered in shards of glass. There were more than a few minor cuts and pokes.
- Correspondence with the promotional company involved their quality assurance department, resolutions team, our direct contact, and 3 other people; as well as 2 calls and 29 emails to get this rectified.
Suggestions for a Redesign
This mishap could have been avoided had they used packaging that was designed for their specific distribution environment and considered the rigors the products must withstand during E-commerce shipping. We enlisted our design expert to provide some suggestions that he would make to decrease the likelihood of damage for these products:
Outer Carton: Upgrade the material specification for the corrugated to 44ect BC flute with specific liner and medium specifications that can withstand a single parcel shipment.
- Upgrade the material specification for the corrugated to 44ect C flute with specific liner and medium specifications that can withstand a single parcel shipment. This will add the correct buffer between cups and eliminate glass to glass contact.
- It’s important to maintain the caliper thickness on the partitions between glasses to keep a snug fit and isolate movement.
- Raise the height of the partitions slightly to reach the top of the glass lip.
- Eliminate any chance for the glass portion of the cup to make glass to glass contact. Improved partitions will help with this.
Add an interior top pad: This will allow the glass to compress into the pad, both restricting movement and reducing or eliminating impact and compression damage.
When damage occurs in E-commerce, it presents unique challenges. With the shipping package being the first point of contact with a consumer, a damaged package can impact brand perception; whereas a damaged product will. Not only does it harm the brand reputation, but it causes frustration, time loss, extra effort, additional spend and frequently, loss of business.
Designing for ecommerce
If your company has a high damage rate or is just getting into the E-commerce market, consider leveraging an expert to design packaging to avoid these pitfalls.
Understanding the product needs, having visibility into the distribution environment, and having access to the materials and expertise needed to develop packaging that protects the product is pertinent for success in the E-commerce market.
For any questions regarding quality remediation or new package development for E-commerce, contact us. Our experts are happy to help.
For additional tips for designing E-commerce packaging, check out our white paper: Evolving Packaging for the Ecommerce Market in our resource library.
Follow-up (second shipment):
If you’re thinking, perhaps this shipping experience was an anomaly, you’d be wrong. The same company, shipped the same product, in the same packaging, through the same distribution environment, and guess what? We got the same result. Half of the tumblers in the second shipment were also damaged and unusable.
Long story short: Packaging matters. Design packaging for the E-commerce market with your product and distribution environment in mind to avoid loss of business and a destroyed brand reputation. Contact us for assistance!