Packaging in the age of e-commerce


According to the German E-Commerce and Mail Order Association (Bundesverband E-Commerce und Versandhandel – bevh), e-commerce sales in Germany rose to 58.5 billion euros in 2017. For 2018, the association expected further growth of 9.3% to around 63.9 billion euros.

The strongest growth rates were recorded in the household goods/appliances, food, computers and accessories segments. The traditional mail-order sectors, such as clothing and books, are showing only low growth rates or are even declining.

It is not surprising that food is a strong growth segment. According to a survey by the Kantar World Panel, e-commerce only accounts for 1.7% of FMCG sales in Germany. The situation is similar in the other European countries. Asia is already a little further along. In South Korea the share is 19.7 %.

With the growing importance of e-commerce, the importance of shipping packaging is also increasing considerably. Monotonous was yesterday. Dispatch packaging is becoming an important communication tool, because the shopping experience in stationary retail is shifting towards unboxing in online trading. Unboxing has become a happening and an important emotional moment.

The packaging industry reacts to this. Almost 90 % of the shipping packaging consists of corrugated board. Flexible plastic films are also used as packaging material, especially for clothing. Finishing by printing is of particular importance. Creatively printed not only on the outside, but also on the inside, the packaging attracts attention. Digital printing technology also makes personal messages and a high degree of individualisation possible.

The simple handling by the consumer is an important requirement for the shipping packaging – easy opening of the packaging as well as simple resealing. This is particularly important for returns processing, as the return rates vary depending on the industry. In the fashion sector, in some cases more than 50 %.

The size adjustment of the packaging to the goods is also becoming increasingly important. The aim is to minimise packaging waste and reduce empty spaces. Packaging blanks that can be flexibly adapted to the size of the goods also help the online retailer to avoid having to stock a wide range of different packaging sizes. In addition, they fulfil the consumer’s wish for environmental friendliness and convenient disposal.

With the increased demands on shipping packaging, which also entail an increase in added value, new suppliers are also coming into play. Classic traders of shipping packaging are now competing with manufacturers of cardboard packaging, as they also offer finishing services.

And the spectrum of users of shipping packaging is also expanding. In addition to pure online retailers such as Amazon and Co, more and more branded companies are relying on e-commerce. Brands such as L’Oreal Paris and Maybelline generate around 35 % of their annual e-commerce sales in China. Procter&Gamble has developed the “Tide Eco-Box” for the liquid detergent Tide, a packaging specially designed for online delivery. The example shows that e-commerce also leads to changes at the level of primary packaging and not only in shipping packaging. In the USA, 70% of brand owners are already thinking about changing the primary packaging to meet the requirements of e-commerce.

So it remains exciting and e-commerce packaging still has a lot of untapped potential.