The growth of ecommerce has been exponential and along with it comes a different set of packaging challenges. What started off primarily as a platform to get durable goods—ranging from consumer electronics to air conditioner filters—to the consumer within a few days, is now starting to move into “consumable” product categories which were formerly the exclusive domain of retail stores.
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And that’s when things get complicated.
Let’s take for example a liquid soap bottle with a pump dispenser. In order for it to survive traditional distribution channels and “perform” in every sense of the word on a retail shelf, it needs to have multiple attributes. These include:
• An appropriate amount of resin so that the container is rigid enough to handle the top load of multiple cases stacked on a pallet.
• A dispensing device—such as a pump—that functions until all of the liquid has been evacuated.
• Panels that can accommodate branding, ingredients, weight, UPC bar code and other mandatory messaging.
• Differentiation, whether that be color, shape, embossing, or other visual features that are critical for drawing consumer attention.
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Today, taking that retail bottle and distributing it through ecommerce channels typically means that it will be placed into a corrugated shipper, with some protective packaging material (usually air pillows). Frequently, it will arrive at the consumer’s doorstep in a box much larger than the bottle it contains, prompting the consumer to get irritated at the amount of wasted packaging material. Not to mention, putting consumers in a position to dispose of it in what is likely an already overflowing recycling garbage bin.
Undoubtedly, the fastest way to market via the ecommerce channel is by using the already existing retail package. But, ultimately, is this the best way? Let’s take another look at the liquid soap package. What if a container was designed specifically for ecommerce distribution?
Because the ecommerce container no longer has to withstand top load, or razzle dazzle consumers as they march down the aisle with their cart, the amount of resin in the container can be significantly reduced. Continuing with this thought, if the container was designed as a refill that could quickly be snapped into a multi-use holder, then the base no longer needs to be flat. These attributes promote better material distribution and increased strength throughout the container, truly optimizing it for the rigors of e-commerce. Potentially, this design option could eliminate 75% of the resin used in traditional bottles.
Lastly, what if a secondary packaging system such as a shrink wrap or other economical use of padded material was selected? Now you truly have a package that has been designed from the ground up for ecommerce.
Sound a little bit farfetched? Not at all. Savvy brand owners are already looking at ways to really embrace the ecommerce channel (see Pack Expo 2018: 5 breakthrough plastic packaging innovations, published October 2018). Hold on to your hats. We are about to enter an exciting period of packaging innovation.
Author: Thierry Fabozzi, president of PTI, is responsible for the company’s global operations. Fabozzi has a 30-year track record of significant packaging technology and business development achievements. Before joining PTI, he held positions at Nestlé, Milacron and Tetra Pak.
About PTI Global
PTI Global is recognized worldwide as a leading source for preform and package design, package development, rapid prototyping, pre-production prototyping, and material evaluation engineering for the plastic packaging industry. For more information: www.pti-usa.com.