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Plastics Today: Rethinking Packaging as Consumers Shift to E-Commerce

By: Craig Robinson, Global VP of Innovation and Business Development, PTI

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a plethora of challenges for both consumers and businesses. One area which has a spotlight on it is the ecommerce channel. With more people staying at home and ordering goods online, the ecommerce channel has experienced unprecedented growth from single-digit percentage sales pre-COVID, all the way up to an estimated 50% of goods being delivered to consumer doorsteps in the present environment.

What does this mean from a packaging perspective?

For the most part, containers have been designed for retail sales. In the traditional retail distribution channel, containers are somewhat “coddled” from the time they leave the production line, become palletized, loaded into trucks, reach a distribution center before finding their way to a retail store. There, they are gently placed on shelfs by store employees, before taking a ride in a shopping cart, placed in a trunk and then finally arriving home.

However, during an ecommerce journey, detergent containers, beverage bottles, household cleaners and the like, endure a more rigorous journey. This is when the ongoing trend or demand for lightweighted plastic containers may come back to haunt brand owners. Other material types are also not immune to these forces, for example aluminum cans can experience dents and glass bottles can break.

Adding to the misery is potential “chargebacks” by ecommerce companies such as Amazon.  If packaging such as bubble-film wraps have to be added to help minimize damage in transport, Amazon will likely charge back the cost to the brand owner.  With margins on some products — particularly food products — being “thin,” it’s conceivable that those additional charges could wipe out profits.

For many companies, designing packaging for ecommerce distribution was put on the back burner.  Although, the percentage of overall sales is likely to come down somewhat post-pandemic, the likelihood that there has been a permanent seismic shift in the way people purchase good is quite high.

So, if you haven’t already started, now is the time to look at your packaging and how it performs in the ecommerce channels.  Those that do not, are likely to be left behind.

Author: Craig Robinson is the global vice president of business development and innovation at PTI. He has decades of experience in integrated marketing, concept development and sales management in packaging and branding.

About: PTI is recognized worldwide as a major 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, visit www.pti-usa.com.