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Packaging and Wasted Space in Ecommerce

April 2018


In the last five to ten years ecommerce has come to dominate the retail sector, offering a number of solutions for consumers which have resulted in such growth. These include the ability to order products online and receive same day delivery, providing incredibly high levels of convenience. However, while there has been a lot of success for ecommerce it still faces one big challenge: dealing with packaging waste and sustainability. This post runs through the problems and offers a few solutions to reduce such waste.

The Packaging Problem

As ecommerce sales continue to grow, so too does the amount of cardboard, corrugated containers and plastic used for deliveries. The majority of this ends up in landfill, especially when plastic packaging is used that can’t be recycled.

Part of the reason that many ecommerce businesses go overboard on packaging is to avoid products getting damaged during the delivery process. Not only could this result in additional costs of having to send a replacement product but it can also reduce customer retention rates, with the majority of consumers who receive broken or damaged parcels less likely to use the same service again.

Inefficient and Costly Wasted Space

Along with excessive packaging, the other main issues for many ecommerce firms is the amount of wasted space some of their delivery parcels contain. There are thousands of examples online of small items, such as a cable or mug, arriving in a box ten times the size of the product.

As well as being inefficient, this type of packaging can be costlier for ecommerce companies. Pricing is usually based on the size and weight of a parcel, so the larger it is the more it will cost the ecommerce company and consumer. Especially for companies that require frequent parcel delivery services, the costs can soon add up.

Growing Consumer Concern

A lot of consumers are more eco-conscious these days and have noticed the excessive packaging and wasted space with their orders. Through documentaries, news coverage and petitions, there has been a growing consumer concern about the amount of packaging used with many thinking more about the journey of their deliveries.

While receiving damaged products could lead to consumers using a rival ecommerce business next time, so too could getting a delivery with excessive packaging for certain customers. If they don’t believe the ecommerce business is committed to reducing packaging and creating a sustainable method, then they may not use the service again.

There are ways ecommerce companies can reduce their packaging, wasted space and create a more sustainable model.

Reduce Wasted Space

Simply stop using oversized boxes for deliveries. One of the largest online retailers guilty of this was Amazon, who recently took action to optimise packaging design to create right-sized and tailor made packaging. This packaging has had a better environmental impact, reduced costs and minimised damages by remaining effective and improved customer satisfaction.

For delicate products you may still need to use a larger box and pad it out for safety purposes. Stick to just one cardboard box though, and instead of filling this space with plastic packaging chips use biodegradable packing chips (such as starch-based versions).

Benefits of Sustainable Packaging

For the main cardboard boxes and envelopes used, there are a wide range of recycled and sustainable options available. Sourcing materials from recycled materials to use for packaging is ideal and will significantly cut down on the negative effect on the environment. Plus, in some cases it can be cheaper to use while providing just as much safety for protecting the products inside.

Cutting down oversized packaging will not only make deliveries cheaper but also free up space in warehouses and distribution centres. When customers buy more than one item at a time, consider placing their orders together in one package where possible too.

Get started with Whistl if you frequently send out parcels and mail, to discover the most efficient option for arranging delivery.

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