Given that one in every ten retail purchases is now made online, it seems the UK has become a nation of e-shoppers. Worldwide, more and more people are spending time waiting for the post or a delivery van, with e-commerce sales up 20 per cent in 2014 to almost $840 billion, according to the Global Retail E-Commerce Index – and that’s a lot of big brown boxes.
For in-the-box packaging, this booming trend carries special implications, says Iwan Schmitz, director of marketing at Ranpak, the world leader in paper packaging solutions for e-commerce. “Product protection and cost in-the-box are obviously important, but there is a different driver for e-commerce packaging that is usually priority number one – the need for speed,” he says.
In a bid to meet customer expectations for rapid turnaround on product combinations and next-day delivery, leading parties are all looking to ship out as many packages as rapidly as possible. At the same time there is pressure to reduce the element of labour in the packaging operation to be more cost competitive.
Fast and flexible, the ability of Ranpak’s paper packaging systems to dispense solutions on the spot can help shippers work up to 30 per cent quicker, compared with competitive alternatives. The versatility of paper is also helpful, with a typical e-commerce requirement being to box up together a random mix of products, which just happened to be added into the online shopping cart at the same time.
Product protection and cost in-the-box are obviously important, but there is a different driver for e-commerce packaging that is usually priority number one – the need for speed
Since the individual products often already come pre-packaged, the priority of secondary packaging is as much to protect the brand packaging as the goods themselves.
Ultimately, if the quality of protection generates even a fraction of a percentage saving on returns due to breakages and damage, benefits can equate to significant payback. Plus, happy customers mean enhanced prospects for repeat purchases.
In contrast to the complexity of business-customer operations, at first glance the end-user perspective on packaging appears pretty uncomplicated, says Jeroen van Oosterhout, Ranpak marketing manager for e-commerce. “In essence, consumers are looking for a pleasant unpack experience, followed by straightforward disposal, or easy returns, with paper a winner on all counts,” he says.
As paper is easy to handle and keeps its shape well in transit, it is readily reused for sending products back. In addition, with domestic and kerbside collection common, paper is the most recycled product in Europe, at a rate of 72 per cent.
However, according to Mr van Oosterhout, a more sophisticated appreciation of the importance of the unpacking experience is now on the rise at e-commerce companies, not least as a result of the “unboxing” video phenomenon on YouTube. “Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of what they buy, where it is coming from and how it arrives, plus they are more critical publicly, online and on social media. Therefore, we are seeing e-commerce clients keen to differentiate their offering by providing a superior unpacking experience.
“For Ranpak, this is where our award-winning Geami WrapPak product is proving so popular,” says Mr van Oosterhout.
Geami WrapPak is a cost-effective, attractive, efficient and eco-friendly alternative to bubble wrap, plastic and foam sheets. In terms of the technical specification, it combines a die-cut kraft paper with a tissue interleaf paper. The patented converter expands the die-cut paper to a 3D honeycomb structure providing a unique wrapping product. By locking angled cells together, items are firmly wrapped and no tape is needed.
It is, therefore, the expertise at the design and manufacturing stage that makes the user experience with Geami so quick and easy. From Forest Stewardship Council-certified sources, Geami is green both in origin and disposal, so climate neutral, recyclable and renewable.
As marketing director Mr Schmitz concludes, it is this in-built sustainability of paper packaging that makes Ranpak so ready for the e-commerce revolution and the circular economy alike. “For 40 years, Ranpak has been protecting products for over 25,000 companies across more than 300 industries, from aerospace to cosmetics, from a 260lb window to a box of cookies. Paper can be used for cushioning, void-filling and wrapping. It is fast, flexible and affordable. It is also people and planet-friendly – perfect for the unboxing generation,” he says.
GOLD AWARD WIN FOR GEAMI
The packaging category gold award at the inaugural UK IntraLogistics Awards 2015 was won by Ranpak for Geami WrapPak, championed as one-of-a-kind packaging that combines both protection and in-the-box presentation.
What one of the judges, Jonathan Hardie, global head of manufacturing at Premier Farnell, had to say:
“Success for Ranpak was driven by a number of key features:
- Geami WrapPak offers a green environmentally friendly alternative to traditional bubble wrap and there have been few innovations in this area for many years
- It requires less packaging, leading to smaller packages, reduced storage and transport costs, plus consequently a shrinking of the carbon footprint
- It provides better presentation and makes it easier for consumers to dispose of packaging through traditional recycling routes
- Ranpak have taken an ‘unglamorous’, but important, area and come up with an innovative, cost-effective, green solution.”