Online growth and packaging reconsidered

A new and purpose-made design can involve minimising size and weight, leading to concentrates and container reuse.

2019 looks like another big step forward for e-commerce, across categories. The final statistics might not quite in yet and the growth rates might not be as huge as a few years ago but the share of all retail is definitely growing, with consequences for the entire value chain.

One estimation is that, globally, the total growth of e-commerce in 2019 was 21% taking the online share of total retail sales up to a staggering 14%. The numbers vary strongly between categories and we are looking forward for the dust to settle and to get the final numbers for 2019.

As brand owner you respond to this shift in purchase patterns and adjust the offer, products and packaging to online shopping. One main consequence from a packaging/logistics point of view is that products are no longer shipped neatly stacked on pallets protected by secondary packaging.

Online shopping means the opposite for a shipped product. It could be sent alone to be delivered at a doorstep or be dispatched together with random products to a pick-up point, probably both. In any case the product will need more protection than the standard primary packaging can provide.

The situation is improved either by adding more and protective packaging, changing material from glass to plastic or why not design the packaging and product for e-commerce, or omnichannel, from the beginning.

A new and purpose-made design can involve minimising size and weight, leading to concentrates and container reuse.

Unilever has decided to make all their plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. To get there they are, among other things, offering shoppers refillable containers. This also works well for online shopping where the smaller sized refill units are saving weight and cost.
Cif household cleaning products are offered as concentrated refill capsules for the original spray bottle. Just add water and hey presto the product is ready for use. Unilever is also part of the Loop initiative where a whole range of products are offered online in refillable containers.


Another similar product concept from a leading brand owner is Pepsico’s Drinkfinity, also an example of a concentrated product sold in shipping friendly containers. The concept consists of juice-based pods and a reusable water bottle. Just add some H2O. This is probably also a move to meet a shift in consumer demand for more healthy products. Nevertheless Drinkfinity was launched online where the product has an e-commerce site of its own, just like any other direct-to-consumer brand.


Perso is a L’Oreal concept that takes this a step further. Perso is a device that actually makes personalised skincare products for you, in your home, and is powered by Artificial Intelligence. From the three cartridges contained in the machine it makes unique skincare, lipstick and foundation products, just for you. All personalised as you have fed the thing with pictures of yourself, location and your preferences. This is what you can call reusable and smart packaging.

The concept of concentrated, space saving, light weight products has many positive sides. It saves cost, it is a great way to streamline online sales logistics and maybe it even gives the consumer the satisfaction of a “homemade” product.

The power of packaging

Packaging Design

CigI am thinking of the idea of using legislation to control consumer packaging decoration. The power of packaging design has to be restrained to make a product less attractive and hold the consumers back. I am of course referring to tobacco and the ongoing discussions about neutralising the design of the entire category. This says a lot about the power of packaging and of and how graphical design communicates. Australia was first out and this is at present also discussed in Europe.

Packaging PatentsPod

Tread carefully when making packaging design decisions. Nestlé is in court meeting a producer of coffee capsules made to work with Nespresso machines. The argument is about the design of the capsules and the functionality of the machines. Without going into details, it’s again about the inherent power of packaging to make or break. This time a little bit of diplomacy probably would have smoothed things a bit. Playing with packaging is playing with fire.

Packaging Changes

GladPeople apparently care and react to what they think is not quite right, also when it comes to packaging. Glad Wrap has been forced to rework their new packaging design after an uproar of public backlash from unhappy customers. Their mistake was to move the cutter from the base of the box to inside the lid. Shock horror. The consumers didn’t like the change and let Glad know, they got the message and changed things back to “normal”.

Packaging matters and design is over again proving to be a powerful tool.

Innovative brand extensions

There are loads of textbook examples describing successful brand extensions. I would say that the Virgin enterprises of today will serve as a good example of a successful branching out from the original Virgin branded vinyl recordings. Coca-Cola famously extended the brand to include also Diet Coke in 1982 and IKEA is also the number one Swedish exporter of food products.Peddy2

Artist and designer Peddy Mergui takes the concept of brand extension further than this and to a new level. In an amazing, challenging and also made up series of cleverly designed packaging solutions for famous brands. Famous brands that today are active far away from the here suggested categories.Peddy1

In a design museum in San Francisco the entire line of exciting and thought provoking packaging was displayed. Peddy gives us his view of what milk from Apple would look like, or a salami from Louis Vuitton and how yogurt from Tiffany could be packed. If you ever wondered what pickles by Gucci would look like, go to the exhibition web site.

A brand is expressed through its packaging and this artist will support us thinking out of the box and straight into the container.

Small is great

Small scale production seems to always face the same challenge. What to do for packaging? The alternatives are expensive with inflexible conditions and hard to find. That is for starters.

anitas balm

Is 3D printing technology one of the answers? Yes, says Anita Redd who chose to 3D print a unique packaging solution for her product Anita’s Balm. She was having trouble finding a suitable jar and came up with the idea of making one herself. Using 3D technology and a biodegradable material she came up with a unique jar for her product. This gives her product an edge at POS and solves her problem to find a supplier of suitable packaging. As a small scale producer you simply don’t need as many units as the full scale producer.

It might not be for everyone but it will sure be helpful for some.There are no shortcuts for the small scale producer that only needs limited quantities of packaging material. 3D printing is a solution and digital printing is another useful technology for the scale challenged producer. It opens up for personalized packaging or at least unique labels at a reasonable cost.

Packaging isn’t just for Christmas…

Packaging should of course deliver value to all involved.  But there is obviously packaging with room for improvement. We are so used to rely on corkscrews, can openers and bottle openers that we hardly consider it to be a problem to get in to that kind of bottles and cans. There are “easy-open” solutions to all the above but not all producers use them. Consumers know how to handle the challenge.

orbitThen there are packaging that many find easy to handle but prove to be quite a job for someone with limited strength in hands and arms. Among people over 65 years of age apparently more than 50% have arthritis in some stage. This is definitely hampering a pensioner trying to open, close and pour in an orderly way. As we all know this is a growing cohort, and also one that we all are speeding towards… This fact is a strong driver for new packaging features and solutions to support daily life for OAP’s and others as well.

I think an inspiring example of a simple but great solution is the two-piece screw cap that enables almost anyone to open a glass jar of pickles. The zip-lock is another one that made packaging easy to open and close. And we should not forget to mention the milk carton with a screw cap. Packaging should be for everyone and you should really not need to use a tool to get in to the product.wishlist

UK based packaging supplier Essentra conducted last year a survey asking 500 consumers about their packaging experiences. The aim was to identify and understand consumers’ concerns with packaging. To make a long story short, you could say that this is the “Christmas wish list” that came out from the study. The list contains the top 10 packaging solutions that frustrated consumers the most. Or the top 10 packaging issues and opportunities for the industry to address to satisfy consumers and get a commercial edge. Something for Santa?

Is packaging less important for e-retailers?

E-commerce is showing double digit growth year out and year in. We are now on our way into the holiday seasons which will give the trade yet another boost. Clothing and electronics are still the two dominating categories. Food is not quite there, but coming strongly.plain-corrugated-box_10709490_250x250

Sealed Air recently made the results from an e-commerce study available, obviously with a packaging angle. The study was made in the US but there as here or anywhere the first physical encounter with the buyer/consumer is the packaging.

A staggering 66% of the interviewed also hold the view that “the packaging of their shipment shows them how much the retailer cares about them and their order”. I’m not surprised at all, you position your brand with packaging also in this business.

What is then irritating people the most when it comes to packaging and e-commerce? The top two items coming out of this study are concerning recycling and disposal of packaging. Here is room for improvement and a challenge for the innovative packaging industry.

My opinion is that packaging is just as important for the e-retailers. But today it seems forgotten and an opportunity missed by the e-commerce industry. I was at an e-commerce conference and trade show a few weeks ago. There was only one exhibitor who addressed the packaging issue. It was RePack who are offering a great reusable solution but this is a big and fast growing market and there must be space for more alternatives.

Can packaging persuade you to eat more insects, bugs and creepy-crawlers?

Now that’s an interesting question. I would say yes it can and if you throw in a better word for these creatures you will increase your chances to build a market.

In a FAO report from last year it’s made clear that we need to get used to the idea of getting protein and nutrition from insects. As a matter of fact crickets have more vitamins and minerals and as much protein as chicken. And that with a much smaller carbon footprint. Not bad.

This sounds great but is still in most consumers eyes, appalling. It is however estimated that as many as 2 billion people are already into the habit of eating insects. The challenge is to get a foothold with insect based food on the markets in the developed world.  There are a few brave suppliers but without a general distribution it’s hard. To build up the demand I think you need to leave the packaging design often used today. That is with illustrations of what’s inside. A picture is worth a thousand words… so be careful with the message.

creepies

 

I think that the best example I have seen so far, from a packaging point of view, is what they are doing at SexyFood i Paris. They are using the good old food can but smarting it up with a label that communicates luxury and gourmet food. Black is the colour and some gold added for effect. No illustrations of the worms, crickets and bugs you will find inside. They are even playing down the content by naming their products with numbers rather than names. Stewed worms with added cockroach or number 9. Which sounds better?

I don’t think their products yet has made a big difference but they do show the way when it comes to packaging design. Use the power of packaging, but aim before firing.

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