DS Smith design expert, Gavin Mounce, explores the important role packaging solutions play and how they can make a significant difference to sales capacity and profitability during one of the busiest e-commerce periods of the year.
Research recently commissioned by DS Smith shows that Europeans are planning to buy an extra 224 million presents online this year. With the total number of e-commerce parcels going over four billion this Christmas, companies will need to be looking to reduce the complexity of their e-commerce supply chains.
Mounce argues that DS Smith’s ‘the Five Easys’ end-to-end approach ensures a granular analysis of these five critical areas and provides performance packaging solutions to reduce the stress of fulfilment during this peak period.
1) Easy to Source
In a recent e-commerce webinar, 36% of retailers reported that they had never carried out a packaging audit, and 23% responded that “inbound” was a pain point for them. These figures highlight the large opportunities for savings and improvements before packaging is delivered.
The first step is to ask yourself what your company’s pain points or priorities are for peak season.
If you need to increase storage or your packing area during this peak, a flat blank design could provide you with a greater quantity per pallet than a multi-point folded and glued design. This would result in less inbound pallets and increased storage of products, or additional space for pack benches to fulfil customer orders.
However, if you are not able to fulfil orders fast enough and space is not an issue, then the opposite may apply. A multi-point glued solution could be quicker for your packers to erect and can help increase fulfilment capacity.
2) Easy to Pack
During Peak period, companies can experience a shortage of available packers, so temporary staff might be required to fulfil the increase in orders. Should you create an induction program to train packers? Should your packaging supplier provide best practice training videos for new solutions to packers?
Problems like an incorrect box choice can result in the use of excess materials, greatly increased costs, and complaints about overpacking or the lack of a sustainable solution. Even the time taken to choose a box can add labour costs and lost time in order fulfilment.
However, this is sometimes alleviated by using pack bench templates to support the correct choice, whilst also being a very easy and cost-effective way of speeding-up box selection.
Having a large box suite can also contribute to slow pack selection and may limit box stock on the pack bench - a small box suite ensures minimal movements and more efficient restocking.
A lack of training or experience is not only restricted to these issues, but can also result in poor packing methods. An example of this is fragile items placed on the outer edge of the pack, close to direct impacts, or even excessive void fill – all of which can increase the risk of damages and customer complaints.
Speak to your packaging supplier and see how they can help you with best practice advice in this area and invest time in training your packers because no matter how good your packaging solution is, they really are the key to a great customer experience.
3) Easy to Ship
Figures of up to 50% volumetric waste have been linked in the past with e-commerce shipments. Not only will removing this unnecessary air or void fill result in fewer vehicle movements, but it will also lead to a reduction in labour costs.
How can we optimize our companies’ box ranges for e-commerce shipments? Your box suite is a great starting point, and tools like DS Smith’s eBRO use a custom algorithm to provide the most optimised and efficient box range, ensuring as little air is shipped as possible.
If your range of products or orders is still in its infancy, then other options like variable height cases or right-sized solutions can help to reduce wasted volumetric space. Even your choice of design can make a large difference during shipping; adapted industry-standard designs can underperform e-commerce channel-specific solutions by up to 50%, resulting in a greater number of damages, especially when supply chain handling may be more destructive during this busy period.
4) Easy for the Customer
With the increased number of orders during peak season, there is the possibility of an increased number of returns.
Could packaging make the return process easier? Making it easy for your customers to return items with a second glue strip already applied to the pack, ensures that your products are protected in their original packaging during return shipping. This consistent return solution will also make it is easy for your teams to unpack and restock items, saving time and money for you, whilst also providing a positive experience for your customer.
5) Easy for Circularity
By completing an end to end supply chain audit, you allow your supplier to provide performance E-commerce packaging solutions personalised to you and your customer needs.
Is there a way we can facilitate our customers’ and consumers’ recycling? These performance solutions will use just the right amount of material to create a great customer experience, whilst also eliminating complaints about overpacking. This personalised packaging solution may even be able to reduce the number of components sent to the customer, increasing your sustainability and ensuring less material has to be recycled or disposed of.
As you have read above, there are a number of areas that can be investigated to reduce movements and costs, but this is where a packaging audit is critical, as each retailer will have their own unique individual requirements and one solution certainly does not fit all. Peak season can be an incredibly stressful time of year for e-commerce retailers, so why not make packaging one less thing to think about during this busy period?