The ‘stay at home’ impact of the pandemic is turbocharging the importance of packaging. It is a critical component helping retailers to sell more products online and effectively move goods through busier and changing supply chains that are constantly flexing in response to the impact of Covid-19.
At the same time, as retail becomes increasingly remote, packaging continues to be an ever-more important interface with shoppers. With these factors in mind, packaging can help strengthen retailer resilience in uncertain and competitive markets.
Growing ecommerce sales have been responsible for accelerating a shift in packaging perspectives amongst consumers, brands and retailers. IMRG reported a 36% growth in online sales in 2020 – the highest growth in 13 years. This means that as shoppers receive more items to their front doors, they are also taking delivery of more packaging.
Shoppers are becoming more interested in packaging, taking the time to think about how materials and design are used to protect the products they’ve bought. They are also giving more thought to how they can re-use packaging and how they can responsibly, and practically, dispose of it when they no longer have a use for it. Additionally, they are actively thinking about the choice of packaging materials used by companies and how this reflects corporate brand values and environmental commitments.
All of these elements create opportunities for retailers to leverage packaging to drive positive brand awareness and build shopper loyalty. Realising these benefits requires consideration, communication and collaboration.
In recent years, packaging materials have been brought to the fore with the influence of both mainstream and social media sparking global debate and greater consideration being given to packaging sustainability as a result. This can be seen in Duo’s Future of Packaging research that shows more than half of companies (53%) believe reducing environmental impact will be the most important factor in defining packaging strategies in the next ten years.
It’s often the case that sustainability is the priority topic of conversation when we’re discussing packaging solutions with retailers. There’s a genuine eagerness to reduce carbon emissions. However, this enthusiasm can tend to prioritise a packaging material’s end-of-life options. While this is a great starting point, consideration should also be given to the whole packaging lifecycle.
Focusing on the role of packaging throughout the entire supply chain ensures consideration is given to all performance criteria and requirements, rather than just recyclability. It’s an approach that scrutinises all the possible hazards during storage, handling and distribution, which can contribute to improved sustainability. Correctly specified packaging can limit waste caused by product damage and reduce emissions by optimising usage of transportation space. These sustainability credentials can be communicated through packaging design to help educate and inform consumers.
During the past few years, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of retailers and brands including on-pack messaging in their packaging. This has evolved from featuring recycling symbols in monoprints to sophisticated designs and graphics that are more traditionally associated with primary packaging – the outer packaging that plays a key role in presenting and promoting the product inside.
These increasingly artistic designs on secondary (delivery) packaging, such as mailing bags, tell sustainability stories in succinct and engaging ways. They are an effective means of satisfying consumer interest in the choice of packaging materials and allaying any concerns they may result from wider misinformation and packaging myths. It also engages consumers and connects them with a retailer’s brand values.
On-pack messaging on Duo’s GreenPE mailing bags has worked well in enabling retailers to tell their customers that purchases have been delivered in an outer bag created from material produced from sustainable sugarcane. The resin material is completely renewable and recyclable and offers the same performance, appearance and versatility as a fossil source-based polyethylene. Consumers wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell the difference between the bags, which makes the on-pack messaging even more important.
Retailers must be confident with on-pack communication and this applies equally to the use of plastic. The material has been widely demonised, meaning that sometimes there’s little understanding of why it is sometimes the most environmentally friendly option for a particular usage. On-pack messaging in this respect can prove an eye-opener and challenge incorrect views.
Incorporating sustainability messaging as a key feature of the secondary packaging captures consumer attention at the right time, whether that’s before or just after they’ve opened their delivery. It’s at these points when shoppers are most likely to consider the sustainability of packaging and engaging them in this moment can affect how they feel about a retailer and their propensity to buy from them again.
Packaging innovation, technology and legislation is evolving at pace. This increasingly means there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution when it comes to the perfect packaging. Instead, the most effective route is for all parties throughout retail supply chains to work together.
Retailers, distributors and packaging manufactures sharing insights about what consumers want and balancing these against operational demands, commercial objectives and legislative requirements will deliver a best-fit packaging solution. It’s an approach that can strengthen agility and better protect margins throughout supply chains.
The strategic value of packaging will continue to grow in line with ecommerce demand. With the right consideration, communication and collaboration, retailers can optimise the all-important moment an expectant consumer receives and opens this delivery to enhance their levels of satisfaction and loyalty.
Zoe Brimelow is brand director at Duo