How to Perfect Your Product Packaging

The fulfilment expert’s guide to sustainable, stand-out packaging

Impending legislation (coming in 2022) is forcing businesses to reconsider their choice of packaging. This presents an opportunity to investigate ways to improve your product delivery, as well as meeting your sustainability obligations. Could you raise the quality of your packaging? Might there be more economical despatch options?

At ILG we specialise in matching our clients’ packaging to their brand values, including some very high-quality packaging for our Fashion & Beauty clients. Over the years, we’ve worked closely with our packaging partner Lightning Packaging Supplies, together with its Bunzl stablemate Woodway UK, to bring exciting brands customised and perfected packaging solutions.

From our years of experience, we’ve subsequently come to identify a new way of thinking about packaging. This article will go through our primary findings, as well as the key considerations you should be making about your brand’s packaging.

  • Why you need to think carefully about your packaging
  • What the new 2022 packaging legislation will mean
  • Sustainable alternatives to plastic packaging
  • How to save cost without compromising quality
  • Key questions to consider when choosing your product packaging

Why now is the perfect time to think more carefully about your packaging

Now is the perfect time to consider how you could improve your product packaging, for three main reasons:

  1. The rules on acceptable packaging are changing – both in terms of consumer expectations and legislation. It’s impossible to have missed the bad publicity about single-use plastics – dubbed ‘the Attenborough effect’ after the TV naturalist’s influential campaigning against the dumping of plastic in the oceans. Public sentiment is now being backed up by official legislation, both in the UK and European Union, which will soon force businesses to find alternative ways to package their goods.
  2. The increasing possibility of finding sustainable cost efficiencies. A lot of businesses are pursuing false economies by choosing cheap, stock options that may be cheaper to buy but actually cost more to despatch because they are bigger than necessary. While sustainability may be the driver forcing businesses to reconsider their packaging, it is a good time to find out whether you could be packaging your goods more efficiently.
  3. Consumers expect more from the ‘delivery experience’. Especially in the wake of COVID-19 and the shift to more online (rather than in-person) sales, brands everywhere are having to up their game across all parts of the sales process. Seamless delivery, memorable packaging and considered aftercare play no small role in delighting your customers, so they return to buy from your brand time and again. If you want to learn more about this, check out our article on how Coronavirus has turned Europe into an online market.

What is the new packaging legislation?

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation will come into force in 2022, placing a financial responsibility on businesses, with a lump sum being charged for full net recovery of the waste they produce. The amount will vary depending on the material, percentage of recycled content, whether the packaging is functional, socially and environmentally acceptable/responsible and fit for use.

At the same time, the UK will introduce its pioneering Plastics Tax, with the aim of shifting demand towards the use of recycled material. While some plastics are less harmful and more recyclable than others, the Plastics Tax will not distinguish between different types of plastic. They will all be subject to the tax.

Whether or not the UK remains in the EU, the EU’s own Single Use Plastics Directive will inevitably affect businesses shipping goods to or from the EU. This directive will begin by focusing on the most common single use plastic items, like plastic straws and cutlery, but by 2025 the impact on all plastic items will be felt.

Sustainable alternatives to plastic packaging

The new legislation will have a major impact on the choice of packaging, such as bubble wrap and plastic containers. Products such as Geami are offering a sustainable replacement for bubble wrap. Geami is a latticed paper product, which provides a cushioned layer of protection inside the package.

In place of solid plastic containers we are seeing a return to glass, which is more recyclable. This is interesting because glass is not insurable as a packaging item and has been avoided as a result, but new solutions are making glass a viable option again. And efficient, made-to-measure packaging will offer better protection for the glass contents.

So there are alternatives to plastic in all packaging applications and they provide a more pleasing unboxing experience than plastic and bubble wrap.

How to save cost without compromising quality

Among the key drivers behind packaging choice, security is placed above all else, followed by brand. In other words, vendors want their goods to arrive intact and give a good impression of their brand to customers. A common tendency is to choose a stock packaging product and then to make it secure by packing it with an abundance of padding to stop the product rattling around and getting damaged. This might solve the security problem but does it represent your brand?

By spending a bit more on the box and choosing packaging that is made to measure, you can not only enhance your brand perception, you can cut down on the need for padding, which in turn will reduce the volume of the package. So for a slightly bigger outlay on the box, you save money on the overall packaging and on the delivery cost, improve the unboxing experience and cut down on all that bubble wrap.

Key questions when choosing your packaging

While the natural tendency is to approach packaging with cost in mind, there are some other key considerations that we recommend you prioritise. Start by asking yourself:

What message are you looking to present with your brand?

You will make a better choice if you shift your focus onto your company’s goals and the message you want to send to your customers. If you’re trying to give the impression of your brand as simple and no-nonsense, then the packaging should reflect that. If the message is ‘ultra luxury’, ‘fun and memorable’ or ‘homemade and quaint’, you’ll need to make very different choices.

What products are you distributing?

Your packaging preferences will no-doubt be influenced by what products you’re selling. How big are they? What do they weigh? How much protection do they need? This will determine the size of the package, the shape, the security (ie padding, waterproofing etc).

How much customisation will be required?

There is a significant trend in the e-commerce industry for the increase impact of personalised experiences. Gift labelling/wrapping, engraving, delivery notes, etc. are all becoming more and more common. If you know that your fulfilment requirements involve a level of personalisation, you may want to consider making the packaging simpler in other aspects, to cut down on time and costs.

By asking these questions, you will be able to specify your requirements much more accurately, which will enable a much more efficient solution. Your supplier will then be able to advise you on a selection of choices that fit your purpose and meet sustainability requirements. The final choice will then be easy.

Packaging serves a greater purpose than just protecting your products in transit. It contributes to your brand values, adds to your customer experience and conveys your approach to sustainability. So it deserves serious thought – and we are always here to help you come to your decision.

ILG can help you to determine and execute the perfect packaging solution for your e-commerce brand’s needs and values. If you would like time to discuss outsourcing your fulfilment or delivery, call ILG today on 020 8970 7120, or fill out our quick enquiry form on our contact page.

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