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Packaging for a Product

When discussing e-commerce, many people talk about logistics – stock, transportation costs, order quantity, and delivery time. However, an often overlooked aspect of e-commerce success is the packaging. This refers to how products are protected throughout their journey from manufacturer to end customer.

This page discusses what e-commerce packaging is, its benefits, and the various packaging types used.

What is E-commerce Packaging?

Types of packaging

E-commerce packaging refers to products that store and protect items bought online until they reach the customer. This includes a range of packaging materials, types, and styles. All e-commerce packaging should take into consideration product protection from the primary packaging in direct contact with the product to the external packaging.

Additional considerations for e-commerce packaging may include shipping large items, liquids, powders, and tamper-evident packaging to name a few. Did you know the e-commerce packaging market was valued at $27.40 billion in 2020 alone? With e-commerce volume expected to grow throughout the next decade, packaging should be considered to reduce damage and product loss.

What are the Benefits of E-commerce Packaging?

When distributing stock from e-commerce warehouses to customers, it’s essential to consider how it is packaged. Effective e-commerce packaging offers a range of benefits, including:

  • Safe and Secure in Transit – Choosing an appropriate material and product type to protect e-commerce items in transit is vital in ensuring customers receive their goods precisely as advertised. Not only does this improve brand reputation by avoiding selling damaged goods, but it also saves e-commerce retailers on the costs associated with returns and refunds.
  • An Improved Unboxing Experience – The unboxing experience of your product must represent your brand in a positive light, and part of that comes from adequate packaging. Safety and security are the first factors to consider when deciding on materials and product type, followed by creating a memorable experience. Does it open effortlessly and allow the contents to be presented well?.
  • Reducing Costs by Choosing the Right Material – Unnecessary and costly packaging can represent a financial sink for e-commerce businesses. Choosing the suitable material to protect your products without compromising on form or function can help reduce costs in the packaging process. Companies may even be able to pass these savings on to customers in their pricing – remaining competitive in the market.
  • Increased Retention of Customers – With high customer satisfaction from efficient and engaging packaging, customers are more likely to return for additional purchases. This is especially true of products that align with consumer attitudes, for example, minimizing waste, prioritizing sustainability, or a shared, dedicated cause.
  • A Unified Brand Identity – Effective and standardized packaging also offers marketing benefits in establishing a recognizable brand identity. One of the goals of an e-commerce business is for customers to instantly recognize their brand before the product has even been taken out of its packaging.

What are Common Types of E-commerce Packaging?

There are several common types of e-commerce packaging, each with unique uses and benefits. The product and primary packaging should be the first consideration when determining e-commerce packaging. From there, suitable materials can be considered to protect and secure products during transport and delivery. Some of the most popular types of product packaging are described below:

  • Corrugated Boxes

    Corrugated boxing is one of the most widely used packaging products by e-commerce retailers, and it’s not uncommon for a customer to find one of these sitting on their doorstep the day after ordering a package.

    Corrugated boxes are popular as they’re affordable, recyclable, and provide adequate protection when used in conjunction with additional packaging layers such as kraft paper packaging filler or packaging tape. Their slotted design makes them easy to build at a moment’s notice. Boxes are also stackable, helping save space during transport; the edge crush test will detail the maximum weight a box can handle before crushing.

    These items also come in a ‘roll end top tuck’ (RETT) style, which increases the security and strength of the package due to its unique sliding design. There’s also ample opportunity to add your brand flair to the product with different surface printing options or by combining it with unique branded shipping tape used to keep the package sealed.

  • Bubble Mailers

    These packages are envelopes with malleable but relatively impact-resistant outer packaging, with a layer of bubble wrap on the inside. Bubble mailers can come in various sizes from A5 to A3 and even larger but are mainly suited to protecting smaller, more delicate items like jewelry or technological devices.

    Bubble mailers are perfect for protecting packages from physical damage during transit and, to some extent, the rigors of harsher environments, like dampness, heat, or cold. Kraft bubble mailers are more affordable, but poly mailers can provide better protection from moisture if packages may be caught in the rain. Bubble mailers are also popular for expedited shipping of small parts and needed electronic or mechanical components.

  • Biodegradable

    Biodegradable packaging refers to a set of materials and qualities rather than a packaging product type. However, biodegradable material in packaging is essential for eco-friendly e-commerce businesses.

    Did you know 55% of consumers are concerned about the environmental impact of packaging, while 70% of buyers claim they’re prepared to pay more for sustainable packaging types?

    Fortunately, some recycled and repurposed materials can be less expensive than packaging products from virgin materials. Boxes and paper packaging are prime examples of this. Organic and sustainable fabrics make up other forms of biodegradable packaging. Materials like hemp, tapioca, and palm leaves take up to 100 days to decompose inside or outside the landfill; these products will not be traceable. Any chance to purchase and use recycled or renewable resources will send a positive message to customers. Sustainable packaging is a goal every business should be working toward if they’re financially capable of doing so, as it both reduces waste in landfill and offers reputational benefits.

  • Poly Bags

    These bags are given their names due to the poly-plastic material they’re made from (polyethylene). As a packaging option, poly bags are thin, flexible, and relatively affordable, making them viable for sturdier products that only need protection from the elements, not rough transport.

    Poly bags are especially useful for smaller packages of awkward shapes, as they’re flexible and loose enough to accommodate many shapes and sizes. One of the most common uses for poly bags is clothing. For shipping, poly bags can be closed in many ways. Twist or zip ties can close smaller and lighter packages, while a heat sealer can also make a tamper-evident or spill-proof seal. Reclosable poly bags are popular for products that must be stored in a bag after delivery. They provide protection during transportation to the customer and convenience after arrival by allowing users to place products back into the bag and close it quickly.

  • Fillers

    Packaging filler is often used with other packaging types (usually corrugated boxes) to facilitate safe transit.

    Fillers come in all shapes, materials, and sizes, and choosing the suitable package filler should be based on the product or products being packaged and the company's preference. There are poly fillers, Styrofoam fillers, shredded kraft paper, straw, bamboo fillers, and more. Heavier products will need more rigid fillers for cushion and protection during movement. Custom styrofoam inserts can cost more but fit and protect heavy products very well.

    sustainable filler option for heavier products is kraft paper rolls in a heavier paper weight. Thicker paper crumpled can retain shape and provide better cushion than lighter options such as packaging peanuts and shredded paper. Another popular and effective method of using packaging filler is combining materials. Fragile items may be wrapped in bubble wrap, and placed in a small box, then packaging peanuts are used to keep the small box from excessive movement within the shipping box. This method provides multiple layers of protection to keep products safe during transport. Find out more about the different types of packaging in our guide.

Design Considerations for E-commerce Packaging

When choosing or designing e-commerce packaging, there are five primary considerations:

  • Means of Distribution – Depending on the e-commerce business, retailers may package and distribute items using internal resources or outsource distribution to a third party – either through a specialist packaging company or marketplaces with integrated fulfillment centers, like Amazon.
    While those that handle their own packaging and distribution may have fewer restrictions to follow, it may mean adopting even greater responsibility when choosing and reviewing materials and products. When working with third-party e-commerce platforms or retailers, it’s also important to remember each has its own set of regulations.
  • Materials – Materials are another consideration for any e-commerce business. This may include ethical and sustainable decisions, choosing materials that are easier to source, or better products for protecting more delicate items.
  • Graphic Design – How aligned with your brand identity is the graphics on your packaging? Recognizable branding may even have the power to drive return custom. If branded boxes are out of the budget, consider branded labels, tapes, and literature within each package.
  • Structural Design – How is the package itself designed? Companies must consider how protected their product will be during transit and how space-efficient that package is. Ideally, the minimal packaging, the better, while maintaining product protection. Effective package design can save on space, holding costs, material costs, and material wastage after the packaging has been opened. Perform real-life tests to determine if the packaging will suffice.
  • Cost of Packaging vs. Product Price – The cost of packaging always needs to balance against the product's price to ensure that the profit margin from each sale remains viable. When choosing an e-commerce packaging option, estimate the cost per package before deciding.

Amazon FBA Packaging Requirements

Amazon is the largest e-commerce marketplace in the world and has several packaging guidelines that must be followed if you’re considering selling through its platform. For FBA packaging, the requirements are even more strict.

  • Correct Labelling – Packages through Amazon must be correctly labeled with a product name, address and address of the packager, content quantity, and package weight and expiration date. This includes an FBA shipping label. Re-used boxes must be sturdy and free of old shipping labels. Multipacks must be labeled as such. This is all to avoid confusion and product damage or loss during delivery.
  • Organic Claims – Products claiming to be organic must comply with the USDA regulations on organic packaging. This is an essential step in ensuring consumers get what they pay for and are not deceived.
  • Box Requirements – All products in a box must be wrapped individually with at least two inches of cushioning between them and the box's interior, and products must all be housed within a secure six-sided box. This is to avoid damage during transit and help with ease of storage in Amazon delivery vehicles.
  • Packing Requirements – Only approved fillers like bubble wrap, polyethylene, sheets of paper, and air pillows may be used. Do not use shredded paper, foam strips, or packing peanuts. This is to avoid material wastage.
  • Drop Test – packages over 10 lbs must pass a 3ft drop test to assure that their transportation will be safe from damage by minor drops and accidents. This is to avoid product wastage and returns.

For more information about Amazon FBA packaging, check out our seller's guide to Amazon FBA packaging.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • What is the difference between e-commerce packaging and retail packaging? – The key difference between the two types of packaging is that retail packaging is designed to make the product look nice on a shelf, while e-commerce packaging is, first and foremost, designed to protect a product during transport.
  • Why is e-commerce packaging important? – Packaging in e-commerce is essential in ensuring a product arrives in one piece with all its functioning parts. It’s also important in furthering the aims and objectives of the brand and its image.
  • What is the most affordable e-commerce packaging? – Simple e-commerce packaging can consist of a box for exterior packaging, newspaper for filler, packaging tape to close the exterior box.
  • What is e-commerce ready packaging? – Packaging and products are tested, verified, and ready to be shipped with a common carrier.
  • What is the most popular e-commerce packaging material? – Paperboard packaging in the form of corrugated boxes, chipboard, and Kraft is the most popular e-commerce packaging material.
  • What are the e-commerce packaging guidelines? – The carrier and the platform products are sold will determine the e-commerce packaging guidelines.
  • What is the best e-commerce packaging? – Any combination of materials allowing products to reach customers unblemished with minimal waste while providing a positive brand appearance.
  • E-commerce Packaging with US Packaging & Wrapping – US Packaging & Wrapping offers a range of packing solutions perfect for e-commerce retailers - helping them to boost compliance and customer satisfaction by making sure products arrive safely and securely to the customer.

Browse our range of packaging solutions or contact our team to find out how we can support your packaging projects.

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