At first glance, all cardboard boxes might look the same. Apart from obvious differences – size or colour, for example – you could be forgiven for thinking that not much separates one from another.
After all, it’s what’s in a package that’s exciting, right, not the actual box?
Well, we beg to differ.
However, in order to fully appreciate the difference between postal boxes and ecommerce packaging, it helps to understand exactly what we’re dealing with.
Postal boxes are just that: a box sent through the post. They can be small or large, shallow or deep, short or long and they certainly fulfil a purpose, as we all know. Supplied flat, which is good if storage space is limited, postal boxes usually need assembling and most often require packing tape to seal them shut.
They may also require void fill or some sort of retention material to protect whatever’s inside and this can not only be time consuming to sort out but wasteful. Still, in spite of the necessity for void fill, postal boxes are highly practical and environmentally friendly.
Unfortunately, they’re not tamper-proof or tamper evident and can be very easy to break into. However, there are many situations where postal boxes get the job done for very little money and in a sustainable fashion even if they can’t always be squeezed undamaged through a letterbox.
Ecommerce packaging is not just packaging; it’s a whole concept. It’s the strategy a company might use not only to ship their products, but also to establish brand identity and foster repeat custom.
On the whole, products sent via ecommerce packaging are far less likely to be undelivered or damaged and so both returns and shipping costs can be kept in check more easily. But this is just one benefit. Due to the nature of the packaging – sometimes integral and with company branding - ecommerce packaging can also be a successful way to simultaneously increase customer loyalty and advertise.
Though sometimes more expensive to produce than postal boxes, ecommerce packaging is available with pop-up construction, hinged lids, quick seals and anti-theft tabs which combined to reduce cost elsewhere in your business and, if done correctly, can save you millions in packaging spend.
Like postal boxes, ecommerce packaging can still be stored flat, but it’s the assembly that requires far less effort. What’s more, much of the packaging has been specifically designed to fit neatly and conveniently through standard UK letterboxes.
Efficiency, speed, delivery and the unboxing experience therefore: these are the four main differences that put ecommerce packaging a cut above postal boxes.
Let’s take a closer look at these differences and explain in doing so, why it might be an idea to consider ecommerce packaging for your business whether you’re a small, independent retailer getting a foothold in the market or an established supplier with a loyal customer base.
Even if your business has a packaging strategy that has worked well up to now, it’s always worth a periodic re-evaluation. A change that can seem small, will – over time – add up incrementally to become a big difference.
Being able, for example, to dispense with the use of tape because your boxes pop into shape and then self seal could mean the difference between spending an hour packaging products or simply a matter of minutes.
Efficiency is often defined as a way to achieve an end goal with minimum energy and little to no waste. Trying to be as efficient as possible in every area of your business, including packaging, will pay off, because, in the long run, it means that processes can be optimised and you can get the most out of your business’s precious and finite resources.
A by-product of better efficiency is speed. The quicker you can dispatch your packages, the faster they will reach your customers and the happier your customers will be. Nine out of ten on-line customer reviews mention speed of delivery as being one of the chief reasons customers report being satisfied with a company and its products.
Customers who click on that ‘process order’ icon expect there to be a reasonable interval between paying for the item and actually having it delivered through their front door. However, no one likes their patience tested too much when they’re anticipating a package; slow shipping will deter a customer from placing a repeat order.
Delivery is the final frontier as far as the supplier and customer are concerned; it’s the last hurdle in the supply chain, so to speak. Make sure this isn’t where your company falls down. There’s nothing so frustrating for a customer than arriving home and realising that a package they’ve been waiting for couldn’t fit through the letterbox and has either been left with a neighbour who’s gone out or worse, requires collection.
Ensuring you use packaging that fits comfortably through every standard letterbox in the U.K. without being squashed, ripped or damaged means less worry for you and far more convenience for your customer. It also shows your customer that you don’t just want to make a quick sale, but that you care about your product, even once it’s left your company. With ecommerce packaging it’s far easier to have this peace of mind at the same time as minimising the volume and cost of returns.
The amount of attention you pay to your packaging customisation and branding is almost as important as the attention you pay to your products. It shows your customers that you believe in the value of your product and that you’re committed to them as purchasers. It’s been proved beyond any doubt that a significant number of customers are more likely to buy from a company again if they feel that time and care has also been taken over something as ‘simple’ as packaging.
Whatever the product, it will be coveted far more if its packaging is of high quality. Partly, this is psychological, but it’s also down to the phenomenon known as the ‘unboxing experience’ where people take the time to film themselves as they unwrap their parcels.
With a steep rise in the number of unboxing experiences being viewed online and the growth of ecommerce in general, your company’s packaging is representative of your brand more than ever and could score you many potential future customers. It’s also worth considering that the actual packaging might be the only physical interaction your customers have with your company and as such, it really matters.
It wouldn’t be fair to postal boxes if we didn’t mention that a downside to ecommerce packaging can be the unit cost, however this is (in most cases) recuperated in savings on void-fill, storage, tape consumption, reduced returns and labour saving. Not to mention the tertiary metrics of increased customer loyalty, more sales through social proof (people showcasing their amazing unboxing experiences on Instagram) and, of course, reduced returns due to failed deliveries and goods damaged in transit.
For some companies, whatever the benefits, the expense of some types of boxing can be prohibitive and even unnecessary. That said, it pays to weigh up all the pros and cons; what may seem like a large outlay upfront could bring financial benefits further down the line.
Remember too, that ecommerce packaging comes in many different forms and there are ways to get round the issue of higher costs. Some products might not need the protection of an actual box; a compostable mail bag might better suit.
Nor does ecommerce packaging need to be highly individualised to increase brand loyalty; smaller elements of customisation can be just as effective as well. Before you dismiss ecommerce packaging entirely, consider the numerous options out there by reading this article here.
For more information on postal boxes or ecommerce packaging and everything in between, contact us here and find out how The Packaging Club can help your business think outside the box about boxes.
Main photo by Karolina Grabowska