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Eco-packaging: does it matter?

May 2019

A key issue that online retailers are struggling to overcome is dealing with excessive parcel packaging and sustainability. Savvy and environmentally conscious consumers are also becoming more clued up on the severity of the problem. Here at Whistl, we surveyed a representative sample of 1000 UK adults to discover whether parcel packaging really does matter to them when purchasing online.

Factors that influence ordering online

There are many factors at play when UK consumers are considering placing an order with an online retailer. Contrary to popular belief consumers deem the cost of delivery and ensuring the package arrives safely to be more important than speed of delivery; over 90% of shoppers consider them to be very or somewhat important. In fact, most British consumers are willing to wait an extra two or three days for items ordered if delivery is free.

Over two-thirds of UK shoppers think minimising the amount of parcel packaging used and using environmentally friendly packaging is important when they place an order. Surprisingly this is more important to those over 35 rather than millennials. Although, the ability to specify delivery location is seen to be the least important issue for consumers; 61% of consumers see it as very or somewhat important.

Frustrations when buying online

High delivery charges remain to be the number one frustration for the majority, followed by delivery delays and excess packaging. Non-environmentally friendly packaging however is lower down the list at number five. For those who consider minimising packaging and environmentally friendly packaging to be the most important factor in online shopping, too much packaging is their second highest frustration after delivery charges.

The 55-64 age group find excessive packaging and non-environmentally friendly packaging the most frustrating; with 18-24s finding it the least. 39% agree that excessive parcel packaging is frustrating compared to 21% for non-environmentally friendly packaging

Environmentally friendly packaging

When pressed for what they consider environmentally friendly packaging to mean, the majority (92%) consider this to be an item that can be recycled.

58% of UK shoppers consider packaging to be an afterthought or never consider it at all after placing an order. As for businesses educating consumers on their packaging when ordering online, there is some interest in getting information beforehand but only 1 in 5 are very interested. Interest in how the product is to be packaged is strongly related to the stage at which shoppers consider the packaging. It is strongest amongst those who consider packaging before looking online at 63%.


Would you pay more for eco-packaging?

Half of UK consumers would be unwilling to pay more for eco-friendly packaging; with those under 35 appearing to be more receptive to the idea. Resistance is lowest in London and the South East and highest in Northern England and in Scotland/NI. Those who only consider the packaging once the order has been delivered or never consider it, would not be willing to pay any more. Surprisingly, frequent shoppers would be willing to pay more for an eco-friendly option compared those who shop online infrequently.


If there was a charge for eco-friendly parcel packaging, we found that UK shoppers are on average willing to pay 82p extra. The amount shoppers might be willing to pay for an eco-friendly option decreases with age. Those aged 18-24 are willing to pay £1.19 extra compared to just 47p extra for the over 65s.

42% say that they would take or have taken some sort of action if an order arrives in what they consider to be non-eco-friendly packaging however, 58% are unlikely to do anything or do not care. If consumers do choose to voice their concerns, they are more likely to either leave a bad review or inform friends and family via word of mouth; with a further 15% choosing not to purchase from the company again.

What are the eco-packaging options?


Over the years the packaging industry has responded to the desire to use eco-friendly packaging through the increased use of recycled boxes and paper, however, the biggest challenge remains in the use of plastic in packaging. The Attenborough effect from Blue Planet 2 has made consumers even more conscious about the use of plastic based products in protecting their purchases. The industry is responding by introducing replacements for items like bubblewrap with geami paper; jiffy bags with 100 recycled paper bags; air cushions with paper void fills. The challenge remains the price consumers are willing to pay for these new products such as plastic tape replacement. One overlooked area is the packers themselves. If the packers are trained to pack goods with care and minimise the use of packing materials and correct box size, this makes a huge contribution to the reduction in unnecessary materials used in the packing process.


So, Eco-packaging: does it matter?


These results show that although some consumers do care about the environmental impact of their packaging, cost of delivery and secure product packaging are the strongest motivating factors for UK online shoppers. However, for businesses minimising the amount of packaging sent to a consumer and ensuring that it can be recycled kerbside could help boost how satisfied  customers will be once their item has been delivered.


With specialised warehouse facilities we can offer you a bespoke pick and pack service. You can be sure that your product reaches your customer safely, using only the packaging that is needed for each order to reduce wastage.

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