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How to Choose the Right Bespoke Packaging Supplier

No Comments    |    ,     |    March 7, 2024    |    Reading time 9 minutes
Image of bespoke packaging being manufactured and printed

Selecting the right bespoke packaging supplier is a crucial decision for any e-commerce business. It's not just about finding a supplier that can meet your packaging needs; it's also about ensuring they align with your company's values, sustainability goals, and expectations for reliability and quality.

Without further ado, here are twelve key points to consider when choosing a bespoke packaging supplier for e-commerce packaging (or any other type of packaging):

Table of Contents

1. Look at the bigger picture

Choosing a bespoke packaging supplier involves evaluating their ability to deliver high-quality products reliably. Consider their track record for on-time deliveries, the quality of their materials, their sustainability practices, and their capability to meet your bespoke needs.

A supplier that scores well across these areas can significantly enhance your brand's packaging experience. Don't be afraid to ask searching questions, and ask them for evidence to back up any claims that they make.

Bespoke postal and E-commerce Packaging manufacture

2. Assessing Reliability Through OTIF Figures

OTIF (On Time In Full) is a critical metric for assessing a supplier's reliability. It measures the supplier's ability to deliver orders on time and in full, especially during peak seasons. Suppliers who maintained 100% OTIF figures for notable clients during peak times demonstrate exceptional reliability and capacity to uphold supplier agreements without shortages or stock issues.

Verifying OTIF Figures

OTIF figures can be objectively verified by requesting customer references from the supplier. These references serve as firsthand testimonials to the supplier's performance, providing insight into their reliability from those who have directly experienced their service. When a supplier shares these references willingly, it demonstrates transparency and confidence in their ability to meet client expectations. Prospective clients are encouraged to reach out to these references, inquiring about their experiences, especially regarding the supplier's performance during critical periods.

The Packaging Club: A Case Study in Reliability

The Packaging Club maintained 100% OTIF figures during peak season, delivering over 1 million units to high-profile clients such as Sky, Three Mobile, and Space NK. This was achieved thanks to the skills and capabilities of our manufacturing partners, as well as our supply chain network and a tight-knit team of account managers who work closely in daily contact with our customers.

For e-commerce businesses, partnering with a supplier that has a proven track record of reliability, as evidenced by impeccable OTIF figures and positive customer references, can significantly mitigate supply chain risks. This assurance of dependability is invaluable, especially during peak seasons when the cost of delays or shortages can be particularly detrimental.

Forest canopy shot from above

3. Origin of Packaging Materials

Understanding the origin of packaging materials is not just about knowing where they come from; it's about grasping the full extent of their environmental impact and how they align with your company's sustainability goals. Packaging sustainability starts with your supply chain, and the materials chosen for packaging play a pivotal role in the overall sustainability of a product.

Ethical and Sustainable Sourcing

Ethical and sustainable sourcing of packaging materials is a critical consideration for businesses committed to environmental responsibility. This involves evaluating the environmental footprint of materials, from how they are harvested or produced to their end-of-life disposal or recyclability.

For instance, sourcing materials that are renewable, such as sustainably managed or containing post consumer recycled content, can significantly reduce the environmental impact of packaging.

Transparency in the Supply Chain

It is vital for businesses to have a clear understanding of where their packaging materials originate and the practices involved in their production. Suppliers that provide full transparency about their sourcing and manufacturing processes make it easier for businesses to assess the sustainability of their packaging solutions.

This level of transparency is crucial for verifying that materials used do not contribute negatively to environmental degradation or exploit labor.

Benefits of Supply Chain Transparency

Supply chain transparency offers significant advantages to your business, including customer assurance, fostering brand loyalty, creating stronger partnerships, and providing a competitive edge while promoting industry-wide improvements.

These benefits highlight the importance of clear, transparent communication about a company's supply chain operations, enhancing trust among consumers, partners, and within the broader industry ecosystem.

For a full summary - click here for 4 benefits of Supply Chain Transparency.

The Role of Certifications

Certifications play a significant role in validating the sustainability claims of packaging materials as well as achieving supply chain transparency.

Certifications such as FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) for paper products or similar endorsements for other materials can provide assurance that the materials are sourced in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible manner.

Engaging with suppliers that prioritise certified materials demonstrates a commitment to sustainability and ethical practices.

The Packaging Club's Approach

Incorporating sustainable practices into the supply chain, at The Packaging Club we carefully select packaging materials and practices that meet high standards of sustainability and ethical sourcing. To achieve this we prioritise:

  • The use of materials with a lower environmental impact (FSC certified, bio-based polymers, end-to-end circular supply chain recycling and more)
  • Designing solutions (such as our FlyPak) that are more efficient to manufacture, vastly reduce packaging waste through consolidation, and use less resources to recycle.
  • Ensuring transparency in the sourcing process, everything from printer ink to board supply and the forest it's sourced from is traceable.

This approach not only enhances the sustainability of our packaging solutions but also supports the broader goal of reducing the environmental footprint of e-commerce.

Packaging biodegrading inside some soil, with a seedling plant growing through it

4. Ethical Standards Compliance

Suppliers should meet your business's ethical standards, encompassing fair labour practices, responsible sourcing, and environmental stewardship. Partnering with suppliers who prioritise these ethical practices ensures your packaging aligns with your brand's values and customer expectations.

In the realm of e-commerce, the compliance of packaging suppliers with ethical standards transcends basic regulatory adherence, evolving into a cornerstone of brand identity and consumer trust.

The Sustainable Packaging News article on the role of ethical packaging offers a compelling overview of how ethical considerations in packaging are becoming increasingly paramount for businesses aiming to align with consumer expectations for responsibility and sustainability.

Understanding Ethical Packaging

Ethical packaging encompasses a broad spectrum of practices, including the use of sustainably sourced materials, ensuring fair labor practices in the manufacturing process, and minimising the environmental impact of packaging through recyclability and reduction of waste.

As consumers become increasingly environmentally conscious, their preferences lean more towards brands that demonstrate a commitment to ethical and sustainable practices.

The Significance of Ethical Standards

The adoption of ethical standards in packaging not only reflects a brand's dedication to sustainability but also signals its commitment to social responsibility. This includes ensuring that all aspects of the packaging supply chain, from material sourcing to production, adhere to ethical labor practices and environmental stewardship. By prioritising ethical standards, companies can contribute to a positive impact on global sustainability goals, enhance their brand image, and build stronger connections with their customers.

Compliance and Consumer Trust

Compliance with ethical standards in packaging is intricately linked to building consumer trust. Transparent and ethical packaging practices are essential for communicating a brand’s values to consumers. This transparency allows consumers to make informed choices, fostering a sense of trust and loyalty towards brands that align with their ethical and environmental values.

The Packaging Club's Ethical Initiatives

In line with the principles outlined in the SP News article, The Packaging Club places a strong emphasis on ethical compliance in all aspects of its packaging solutions.

From sourcing materials responsibly to ensuring that manufacturing processes are fair and sustainable, The Packaging Club is committed to upholding the highest ethical standards. This commitment not only supports environmental sustainability but also reinforces the trust and loyalty of their customers, showcasing the integral role of ethical packaging in today’s e-commerce landscape.

After moving home recycling items

5. Recycling Practices

Inquiring about a supplier's recycling practices and use of recycled materials is crucial for businesses committed to reducing their environmental impact. Suppliers that emphasise recycling contribute to a more sustainable packaging ecosystem and help your business achieve its environmental goals.

End-to-end supply chain recycling

Expanding on recycling practices can also involve considering end-to-end supply chain recycling, repurposing, and longer term the circular economy. By integrating these practices, businesses can significantly reduce waste and resource consumption.

End-to-end recycling looks at the entire lifecycle of packaging, from production to post-consumer use, ensuring materials are recyclable or reusable. Embracing circular economy principles, where products are designed and used in a way that promotes recycling and reuse, is essential for sustainable future practices.

Offset lithographic printing press in action

6. Print Capabilities

Understanding a supplier's printing capabilities, including the range of available colours, any limitations, and the eco-friendliness of the inks, is essential for creating vibrant and sustainable packaging.

This information is particularly important for brands looking to make a strong visual impact while maintaining their commitment to sustainability.

Flexographic Printing

Flexographic printing on corrugated boxes, offered by our packaging manufacturing partners at The Packaging Club, leverages modern printing advancements and flexible photopolymer plates for high-volume packaging production.

This method is efficient for various box types, such as mailers and shipping boxes, due to its high speed and quality output at lower costs. The flexibility of flexographic printing allows for a wide range of applications, which offers suitability for long runs, diverse material compatibility, and cost-effectiveness. Flexographic printers are comparatively simple and some manufacturers are able to print, cut and glue in-line - vastly improving output and lower costs.

Bespoke E-Commerce Packaging for Three Mobile

7. Scaling and Volume Discounts

A supplier's ability to scale operations and offer volume discounts is critical for growing businesses. Suppliers that can adapt to your changing needs and offer competitive pricing as your order volume increases can be valuable long-term partners.

Ways to Leverage Economies of scale

E-commerce businesses can leverage economies of scale to reduce packaging costs by purchasing in bulk, which lowers the per-unit price. Three strategies include:

  • Buying a year's worth of packaging to store in a warehouse.
  • Participating in group buys with other businesses to share costs and increase order size.
  • Opting for lower material specifications or unprinted boxes to further reduce expenses.

These approaches can significantly cut packaging expenses while meeting operational needs, allowing businesses to allocate resources more efficiently elsewhere.

8. Setup Costs and MOQs

The setup costs and minimum order quantities (MOQs) can significantly affect your budget. Suppliers with transparent and flexible MOQs and setup costs can accommodate businesses of different sizes, helping them manage costs effectively while meeting their bespoke packaging needs.

Understanding setup costs and MOQs involves considering various expenses, such as design fees, tooling costs for custom shapes or sizes, and initial production run MOQs. These costs can be substantial but are essential for creating bespoke packaging at volume.

9. Sustainability and Environmental Impact

FSC certification logo surround by hand drawn abstract prints of evergreen trees

Suppliers with a strong commitment to sustainability, through eco-friendly materials and sustainable manufacturing processes, can help your business meet its environmental objectives.

This commitment should extend beyond the materials to include the entire production process, ensuring minimal environmental impact.

10. Innovation and Customisation

A supplier's ability to provide innovative and customised packaging solutions allows your brand to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Look for suppliers who are willing to collaborate closely with you to develop packaging that truly reflects your brand's unique identity and values.

The Packaging Club specialises in create bespoke solutions made to fit our customers' needs. From tamper evident seals that reduce theft by over 70%, through to purpose made dual capacity envelopes that streamline reverse logistics, talk to us about how we can solve your packaging problems.

The latest in e-commerce packaging innovations

FlyPak is a unique e-commerce box that has been specifically designed to address internet retailers' most common packaging pain points.

Features include built in retention, single material production, integrated sealing, 100% recyclability, cheaper to manufacture, lower cost per unit as well as reinventing branded unboxing experiences.

You can learn more about FlyPak here.

Integrated retention features of FlyPak, a new type of e-commerce packaging

11. Customer Service and Support

High-quality customer service and support are indispensable for resolving issues efficiently and maintaining a smooth supply chain.

Always evaluate a supplier's responsiveness, their willingness to provide assistance, and their proactive approach to customer service.

This article by ZenDesk highlight 10 ways to deliver excellent customer service, but it also helps understand exactly what to expect from a company that genuinely cares about its customers.

The guide highlights essential strategies for superior customer service: offering support across preferred channels, demonstrating empathy, putting customers at the heart of business decisions, providing proactive assistance, tailoring experiences to individual needs, ensuring swift response times, and encouraging self-service for straightforward inquiries.

12. Testimonials and Case Studies

illustration of a man smiling whilst holding a product delivered in eco-friendly e-commerce packaging. 5 gold stars floating in the foreground representing a positive experience.

Testimonials and case studies from existing clients, especially those with similar needs and scales to your business, offer valuable insights into a supplier's reliability, quality, and customer satisfaction levels.

They can serve as a testament to the supplier's capability to meet and exceed client expectations. Be sure to search for keywords, and filter reviews by "most recent" to find reviews that are more relevant to you.

Related content: Learn more about how to improve customer experience with e-commerce packaging.

By thoroughly researching and considering these twelve areas, e-commerce businesses can make an informed decision when choosing a bespoke packaging supplier.

The right supplier not only meets your current packaging needs but also aligns with your brand's long-term values and goals.

Custom printed packaging unboxing experience for Space NK - bespoke crash lock cardboard boxes for cosmetic and fashion retailers.

Looking for packaging that perfectly aligns with your brand's ethos and sustainability goals? Consider exploring our range of bespoke e-commerce packaging options. With a focus on eco-friendly materials and custom designs, our bespoke solutions ensure that your products not only arrive safely, but also leave a lasting impression on your customers.

Discover how you can elevate your packaging strategy and contribute to a greener planet by visiting our bespoke e-commerce packaging page.

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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