Still room for improvement in online retail packaging

By Hannah Jordan, Tuesday 05 September 2017

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There is still scope for better packaging presentation from online retailers, despite improvements in functionality, a survey from Macfarlane Packaging has found.

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Functionality is better but presentation needs work, the survey found.

In its 2017 annual ‘unboxing’ survey, first launched last year, Macfarlane examined the overall experience of opening packages from online retailers. As part of the survey, which involved 165 different retailers, shoppers were asked to assess the appropriateness of the outer packaging size, the durability of packaging, the ease of opening and the amount of packaging materials used.

“We wanted to understand how the products are arriving so our research looks at the condition of the packaging, whether they use too much or too little infill, but particularly important for us is the experience,” said Macfarlane Packaging marketing director Laurel Granville.  

She said that while many areas had seen vast improvements on last year’s findings, appearance still fell down with only 35% customers describing the packaging as consistent with the brand image of the product inside while 38% said their packaging had no branding at all.

“We want the package to reflect the image of the brand and that is the area with the most opportunity. Retailers are paying more attention to packaging from a functional perspective but the room for improvement is the wow factor,” Granville explained.

“Many didn’t have branding and although you could say you don’t want people to know what’s inside the package, there is an opportunity there to print inside to give more of a whole brand experience."

Granville added: “There are certainly more creative ways to pack products now with different materials to add textures or new and innovative printing technologies. There is lots of opportunity there."

In the survey 20% of the packages were described as unfit for purpose, an improvement on 30% last year, while reports of packages being difficult to open dropped from 24% last year to 5% this year, with much of the improvement attributed to new features such as tear strips.

Meanwhile 10% of package contents were damaged on arrival (2016: 7%) and excessive use of infill within boxes was only 15% this year (2016: 41%).

Granville said there was still considerable opportunity for retailers to capitalise on packaging as “a real stand-out” feature for their brand and that while there was clear improvement in all areas since last year, she would like to see next year’s survey show more than the 12% this year that were “truly delighted” with their packaging. 

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