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Why you should audit product packaging to solve the new challenges of 3PL fulfilment

There’s a long marketing tradition of what works and what doesn’t in packaging design. But things are changing quickly; some brands are speeding ahead with a successful online proposition that makes efficiencies and creates opportunities. And they do this simply by changing the way they package, co-pack and fulfil their online sales.

Now is a good time to audit your packaging – starting from product development and following its route to market through 3PL e-commerce fulfilment. As e-commerce comes closer to taking the lion’s share of retail spending, the million-dollar question has to be: how can you create a frictionless delivery experience?

Don’t limit your e-commerce potential

Your packaging engineers and designers pushed the boat out to create an eye-catching asset that makes the product look and feel like a high-end, desirable purchase. It looks good on a thumbnail image gallery too.

However, designing just to achieve the sale is a limited – and limiting – approach. Customers expect to be delighted at every stage of the purchase. If we can rethink our approach, we will reap the benefits too.

A quick audit for 3PL e-commerce fulfilment

  • Is the packaging strong enough to survive delivery?
  • Can your packaging fit through a letterbox? Could it be made to fit?
  • Does an unusual product shape mean you’re shipping ‘fresh air’?
  • Does the packaging create waste and can this be recycled or reused?
  • How many replacements do you have to issue when delivery has gone wrong?

An example of efficient packaging in 3PL fulfilment

Take a look at Yoppie, which makes a big noise about letterbox delivery. Because tampons are an essential item, Yoppie wants customers to feel confident that their parcels will get delivered on time and really thought about how their products were going to reach their customers.

Tampons are a fairly standard size and shape and this parameter is unlikely to change. However, reorienting the product within its packaging makes a significant difference to how it can be despatched. The new shape and size means customers can take receipt of their order even if they weren’t at home. It also means they themselves can utilise the most cost-effective way of delivery.

How to create a frictionless delivery experience

  • If your product could conceivably be posted through the letterbox, start there.
  • Investigate ways you could make savings by changing its shape – honestly, even a difference of 10mm depth can be the difference between viability for e-commerce or not.
  • Could you gain anything from changing your product’s shape from a circle to a flatter, narrower oblong?
  • If your product is too large to post through a letterbox, you might also be able to make 3PL delivery savings by changing its shape so you’re not ‘shipping fresh air’. By changing its shape so something sleeker and more space-aware, you could cut the number of pallets you need, the amount of 3PL warehouse space required for storage, and delivery costs (Royal Mail charges using volumetrics).
  • For cosmetics or other consumables, can you move to a model that uses refill pouches? Not only could this save on costs, it’s beneficial for the environment and your brand’s eco credentials.
  • Bring your product designers closer to your marketeers – and even your packing partner – and watch the creative magic happen – changing your product will open up new ways to market it, while marketing opportunities could guide whole new products.

Rethink your marketing

All this is so important right now – and it’s a very exciting time.

Think about the transition of customer behaviours from high street to online. We are in a liminal space with the potential to be market leaders, trailblazing new ideas. Nothing is certain and we need to be prepared to experiment.

We also need to be aware that customers might need to be led with care. For example, they still love packaging: it still has to look good as well as being functional. We need to continue to meet these needs as well as recognising how open they are to new ideas.

In three or five years, customers will expect much different things from their packaging and be willing to compromise if they understand why – for example, if it makes delivery easier or the product cheaper, or if it benefits the environment.

So, in the future, we will have moved towards being able to reuse packaging, rather than recycling it; or we might have the opportunity to emphasise the quality of the product rather than what the outside of the packet looks like.

You’ll find more about these challenges in our guide to best practices in packaging or please get in touch if you’d like us to help.

Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

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