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7 E-commerce Packaging Trends for 2024

No Comments    |        |    December 20, 2023    |    Reading time 7 minutes
Image of a start a small business Young Asian woman working with ecommerce packaging and laptop computer at her office. Online marketing and shipping packaging boxes.

In recent times the e-commerce industry has experienced meteoric growth, fuelled by the convenience and accessibility it offers to consumers. With this rapid increase in online shopping, the demand for both efficient and sustainable e-commerce packaging solutions has also grown.

As we head into 2024, we can expect to see some exciting trends emerging in the world of e-commerce packaging, driven by a blend of consumer demand and upcoming policy changes from world leaders.

Here’s our take on what the future might hold for e-commerce packaging:

Table of Contents

Image of a infinity icon design, embedded in a forest canopy - representing the sustainable benefits of adopting a circular economy

1. Reusable E-commerce Packaging

Easily one of the most significant trends we can expect to see in e-commerce packaging is the shift towards reusable solutions. As global economic leaders prioritise sustainability, companies are being encouraged to adopt a circular approach as their core business model. This means focusing on reusable materials and designs that can be used multiple times, reducing waste and environmental impact.

Not only does reusable packaging help reduce the amount of waste generated by the e-commerce industry, but it also presents an opportunity for businesses to strengthen their brand image and engage with environmentally-conscious consumers. By opting for reusable packaging, companies can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and attract a loyal customer base.

Reusable packaging is designed to withstand multiple uses, ensuring that products are protected during transit with the end consumer being able to easily return the package back to its destination. This approach not only reduces waste but also saves costs in the long run, as businesses can avoid the need to constantly purchase new packaging materials.

Reusable e-commerce packaging also promotes a more sustainable supply chain. By implementing a circular approach, businesses can reduce their reliance on single-use packaging, which often ends up in landfills or contributes to pollution. Instead, reusable packaging can be returned, sanitised, and reused, creating a closed-loop system that minimises resource consumption and waste generation.

It is worth noting that the shift towards reusable e-commerce packaging is not limited to small businesses or niche markets. Global economic leaders, such as the European Union, USA and China, are actively promoting the adoption of circular packaging solutions. They are implementing policies and regulations that encourage businesses to transition towards reusable packaging, recognising its potential to reduce waste and contribute to a more sustainable future.

The move towards reusable e-commerce packaging is gaining momentum as global economic leaders prioritise sustainability. The economic thought leaders at the WEF state that the circular economy is a business imperative, and businesses not adopting circular systems within their model may not be viable in the future.

By adopting a circular approach e-commerce businesses is more than a trend for 2024, it's a paradigm shift borne from a fundamental change in the way consumers access products and services in the coming years.

Clean factory, manufacturing with bio resources to improve sustainability

2. Widespread adoption of sustainability driving down cost

Consumer demand for eco-friendly products continues to rise, and manufacturers are exploring innovative materials and designs that offer a viable alternative to traditional packaging options.

Substances such as bio-based plastics derived from waste material from agriculture and renewable sources is one area that growing rapidly and receiving funding from governmental bodies. These plastics are designed to break down into natural elements over time, reducing their impact on the environment without compromising on functionality. They can be used for a wide range of packaging applications, from food containers to shipping materials for e-commerce. Being quite robust, they could very well play a key role in the development of circular packaging solutions.

In addition to consumer demand, regulations aimed at reducing plastic waste are also driving the adoption of sustainable alternatives. Governments around the world are implementing policies to limit the use of single-use plastics, offering subsidies for sustainable alternatives and promote the use of environmentally-friendly materials. This regulatory push is encouraging businesses to explore sustainable packaging options and invest in the necessary infrastructure to support their adoption.

While sustainable packaging has traditionally been associated with higher costs, the increasing demand and advancements in technology are driving down prices. As economies of scale come into play, the cost of producing sustainable packaging is expected to decrease. This shift towards affordability will make sustainable packaging a more accessible choice for businesses of all sizes, enabling them to align with consumer expectations and help contribute to a greener future.

Augmented reality shopping with a smart phone, using it to try on a pair of trainers before purchase online.

3. Packaging Digital interactivity through QR Codes and Augmented Reality

In an increasingly digital world, where smartphones have become an integral part of our lives, it's no surprise that packaging is evolving to incorporate interactive elements. In 2024, we can expect to see a sharp rise in the use of QR codes and augmented reality to enhance the consumer's online shopping and unboxing experience.

By scanning QR codes on packaging, shoppers can easily access product information, reviews, and even exclusive offers. This interactive element bridges the gap between physical packaging and online platforms, creating a seamless and engaging shopping experience. Through a quick scan via their smart phone, customers can be presented with detailed information, customer reviews, re-ordering information, loyalty offers and even a video showcasing the product's production process highlighting sustainability.

But QR codes are just the beginning. The future of packaging interactivity lies in augmented reality (AR). With AR technology, consumers can go beyond reading about a product and actually experience it virtually in their own environment. Unboxing experiences can be multi-layered and highly interactive with rich media.

Not only does AR technology enhance the customer's unboxing experience, but it also reduces the likelihood of returns for e-commerce. With the ability to virtually try on clothes or visualise say a lamp in their own space, consumers can make more informed choices, avoiding the disappointment of receiving a product that doesn't meet their expectations.

As technology continues to advance with inventions such as the XREAL AR Glasses, and all major smart phones featuring LiDAR sensors designed for AR, we can expect packaging to become even more interactive and engaging. From personalised product recommendations based on individual preferences delivered at the unboxing experience, through to virtual shopping assistants guiding us through the aisles from the comfort of our own home, the possibilities are endless.

The future of packaging is here, and it's bringing the online and physical worlds together in exciting new ways.

AI generated mesh structure, representing innovate materials and 3D production techniques generated through machine learning

4. Artificial Intelligence (AI) to make E-commerce Packaging more accessible and efficient

The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into e-commerce packaging is set to revolutionise the industry. AI-powered technologies can help streamline the packaging process, making it more efficient and cost-effective.

One of the key areas where AI can make a significant impact is in inventory management. With AI algorithms analysing data in real-time, businesses can accurately predict demand and optimise their packaging inventory levels. This means that they can avoid stockouts and overstocking, leading to more efficient packaging operations.

In addition to inventory management, AI can also automate packaging systems. By using computer vision technology such as RoboVision, AI can identify products and determine the most suitable packaging for each item.

But AI's capabilities don't stop there. It can also enhance the overall customer experience through personalised packaging. By analysing customer preferences and purchase history, AI algorithms can suggest customised packaging options that align with each individual's tastes and preferences.

With AI-powered e-commerce packaging, businesses can not only improve their operational efficiency but also enhance the overall customer experience.

5. E-commerce Packaging as a tool for consolidation

In an effort to reduce waste and optimise shipping, e-commerce packaging designs come with integrated features such as retention systems and variable capacity for consolidation.

Retention systems ensure that products remain secure and well-protected during transit. This not only reduces the risk of damage but also minimises the need for excess packaging materials.

Variable capacity packaging takes the concept of efficient shipping and retention to the next level by customising the size and shape of packaging based on the items being shipped. E-commerce businesses can optimise space utilisation and reduce overall packaging material usage.

As the e-commerce industry continues to grow and evolve, it is crucial to embrace packaging solutions that prioritise sustainability, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. By investing in innovative packaging designs, companies can enhance their brand image, reduce waste, and contribute to a more sustainable future.

References - left chart, right chart

6. Raw material prices could stabilise due to weakened economic demand

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on various industries, including e-commerce packaging. As online shopping surged during lockdowns, the demand for packaging materials, especially paper-based options, increased. This led to a rise in raw material prices due to an excess 20% over capacity.

However, as we move into 2024 and with some hoping the global economy starts a slow recovery to stabilisation, we can expect to see raw material prices stabilise as well. Weakened economic demand and the gradual decline in pandemic-related e-commerce growth will contribute to a more balanced market, so we reserve some optimism for stable pricing for essential packaging materials like paper - but as always, time will tell.

7. UK Government Legislation drives investment in plastic-free solutions

The UK government has been at the forefront of multiple environmental initiatives, particularly in the realm of reducing plastic waste. In 2024, we can expect to see further legislation aimed at driving investment in plastic-free e-commerce packaging solutions.

These regulations will push businesses to find innovative alternatives to plastic-based packaging and encourage the adoption of sustainable materials that can be easily recycled or composted. As a result, we can anticipate a surge in research and development efforts to create environmentally-friendly packaging options that meet these stringent guidelines.

As announced at Autumn Statement, the government will legislate in the Autumn Finance Bill 2023 to increase the rate of Plastic Packaging Tax in line with Consumer Price Index ( CPI ). The change will take effect from 1 April 2024.

Reference

As you navigate the dynamic landscape of e-commerce packaging trends for 2024, The Packaging Club is your premier partner for bespoke e-commerce packaging solutions that will not only meet the evolving market demands but also elevate your brand's presence.

Space NK custom printed packaging

Our expertise in custom printed packaging and commitment to sustainability positions us to help you create an unforgettable unboxing experience that resonates with your customers and aligns with your environmental values. With access to the UK's leading packaging manufacturers, The Packaging Club offers unparalleled print quality, from high-definition flexographic printing to premium lithographic and digital printing options, ensuring your packaging stands out in a crowded marketplace.

Learn more about bespoke packaging and join the ranks of businesses who are saving money while enhancing their brand image with The Packaging Club.

This article was written by...

Nathan Calvert

Nathan is Head of Digital at The Packaging Club. He has worked in the packaging sector for over 15 years across food, consumer electronics, FMCG ecommerce and more, both directly in-house or as a freelance consultant.

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