“Before bringing new specifications to vendors we have reached out to the packaging industry,” Kim Houchens revealed. “It takes time to bring through packaging upgrades, particularly things like updating tooling, so early stage engagement with the industry is essential. I came to Amazon in 2015 with a background in rigid packaging and one of the first initiatives I worked on was dealing with the problem of leaks in products such as shampoo and detergent bottles. One of my first calls after joining was to reach out to lots of my contacts across the industry, invite them in and help them understand the pressures causing leaks.”
These engagements prompted innovation projects among leading players in caps and closures, including a collaboration between Rieke and Amcor that resulted in the creation of a new pump (the Ultimate-E trigger sprayer) that is certified by Amazon as prep-free. The wider upshot is that vendors have a catalogue of suitable, leak-free packaging to choose from, enabling them to send liquids through the supply chain without requiring additional prep charges and additional layers of plastic wrap.
“That was a first step in the consumables segment, and following the work with packaging manufacturers big brand owners were among the first to run the leak testing we put forth,” Kim Houchens said. “Once that initiative got rolling our team began to focus on the Frustration-Free Packaging program for the larger items – obviously, changes in corrugated packaging specifications don’t have quite the same timelines and costs as replacing steel tooling.”
Judging by these examples, it seems certain that Amazon will continue to exert a gravitational pull on the development of future e-commerce packaging. But could the influence extend further than we envisage? It’s a scarcely guarded secret that Amazon has ambitions for the grocery market. Inevitably, Kim Houchens declined to speculate on this market, which is outside her remit, but she did offer a general insight into the culture of a trillion-dollar company that thinks deeply about packaging. “What Amazon does in the future one can best guess by looking at what they have done in the past,” she concluded. “Our approach has been to experiment with things with the aim of ‘failing fast’ – making sure that we try multiple paths to insure we can deliver innovation for our customers.”
Amazon has provided the industry with help in making packaging design changes by providing examples, test methods and instructional videos on the following national portals: