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.

I need to go down to the store for some bread and milk. But I can’t find my Google glasses…

Or, are we finally technology mature enough?

Interpreting the results from a new IGD study the answer to the question is probably to be understood as “we are getting there”. We are not quite there but I am really impressed to hear the 43% of the respondents could see themselves using wearable technology when shopping for food and groceries. The respondents are in this case representing the UK but I would like to think of this as an indication.

This is good news for the digital technology industry. But it’s great news for all interested in smart and intelligent packaging. There are many interesting solutions available to get food packaging to communicate with the consumer. But the obstacle and main requirement for this to actually start happen is to have a receiver. That is somebody who is willing to listen to the communicating milk bottle on the shelf.

We can imagine that the shopper today has a smart phone which can be used for communication with smart packaging. The downside is that it involves an active and engaged operator. You cannot expect the average consumer to scrutinize every item using their phone in the supermarket aisles. This is a completely different thing when you have devices like smart glasses, smart watches or similar.

The interviewed consumers say that they are interested in finding better deals using the Google glasses. But printed electronics on packaging will also inform them about best before dates, product content, suggested usage and much more.

Consumers better informed at point of sale will also be good for the food waste problem.

smart glasses

Making stupid packaging smart…?

A bar code reader is not quite breaking news but it can still be used in interesting ways. I think that already in the early 90-ies that Electrolux had a concept fridge where bar codes were scanned and the fridge content was updated and made available. The result could be used for inventory (first in, still here?), cooking or shopping lists.

HikuHiku wants to support your supermarket experience by making the tedious preparing of the shopping list a bit more swift. Now this is an app that reads the bar codes of your empties at home and translates to product names to add to your list. This doesn’t make the packaging smarter but it makes smart use of packaging. This must be second best and is not a bad idea when you think of it. There are so many brilliant concepts and ideas for smart and intelligent packaging out there. Very few of them actually happen. There are many obstacles, cost is one. Then this could prove to be an example of a way to smarten up packaging by introducing and using parallel tools that adds functionality to products. It could even be that you empty the content from a pack into a jar or similar with a built in function. It can be an actual best-before-use time/temperature indicator or anything really. You would avoid the unit cost aspect as you can use my imaginary jar over and over again.

Another app using the barcode in an interesting way is recently introduced by EWG under Ewgthe name Food Scores. This is a bit more controversial as they have rated 80,000 food and beverage products according to what’s inside the stuff. You can with the app scan a product and get, via a very neat interface, a rather detailed analysis of the content and a number between 1 and 10. This might sound all good but is in my view a highly debatable approach. I think you risk over simplifying and worrying people for no reason. There are many ingredients that might sound more harmful than they actually are and then there are several ingredients that are uncertain and hard to classify.

Always remember that in an apple you will naturally find 9 E-numbers, all “added” by nature…

 

 

 

See through Carton

Elopak is together with Sainsbury’s launching a see through Pure Pak carton for juice. Four transparent windows placed on one side of the 1 litre package gives the consumer control over dosing the desired portion. The consumer can also easily visually see when it’s
time for replenishment of the home stock. Plus the more subconscious satisfaction
you get when actually seeing what’s in the package you are buying. http://bit.ly/qnrpUS

Now there is only the beverage can left to have a hole drilled for us to steal a look at the brew.

Beer on the loose…

Whole Foods Market in London is a great place to visit to pick up some quality organic food and beverages. It is also a place for spotting new trendy products and also innovative packaging solutions.

This is an however an example of the opposite. Beer sold “loose”… A variety of the Bring Your Own concept but in this case, bring your own keg. This is not a trend but more an interesting fact and a way for a micro brewery to get a bit of attention.

It might give the consumer a nice brew, but the one who washes up the keg is you.

Crafty canners

According to The Beer Institute 52% of all beer was in 2010 sold in cans in the US but only
3% of the craft beer segment came in cans. Craft brewers or microbrewers prefer bottles and kegs, or has preferred. According to an article in Packaging Digest we can now distinguish a shift towards the use of beverage cans.

More craft brewers than ever are now filling beer in beverage cans for several reasons. The distribution of canned beers opens up new channels like convenience stores and arenas. Also financial and logistical aspects are weighed in.

Still the consumers of craft beers are traditionalists and have gotten used to the idea of drinking from bottles. Using bottles is often an obvious choice for the small brewer with a challenging cash-flow looking for a used filling line. The use of co-packers opens up for alternative packaging solutions. Is this a trend or will the scepticism from consumers hold the can back.