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5 lessons from the IMRG Woodway Packaging Forum 2017

The IMRG-Woodway Packaging Best Practice Forum took place in September 2017, and tackled the conflicting challenges and increasing opportunities of online retail packaging.

Here are five things we learned.

 

1. How to approach the returns dilemma

Returns are the unfortunate inevitability of ecommerce, at least from the retailer’s perspective. From a commercial point of view, they eat into margin and tie up stock. But they are also a point of competitive differentiation, and packaging can provide a customer experience that encourages repeat purchases, loyalty, and perhaps even customer evangelism.

The retailer needs to apply the cost-benefit analysis of something like two-way packaging, or general returns solutions. Will customer satisfaction with the ease of returns justify or exceed the cost of providing them?

Will a returns label suffice, or do you need to provide an additional package for the return? A range of factors will inform such questions, including the nature of your product, demographics of your customer base, and your own business priorities.

2. How packaging influences demand and behaviour

Innovative packaging can delight a customer. It may seem like something so dull and commonplace that it has no chance of thrilling anyone, but the truth is that is has far more potential and power than one might assume.

Consider the phenomenon of ‘unboxing’ videos and their online popularity. People actively seek the experience of watching people unpackage products. It’s not a product video — it’s a packaging removal video. There’s obviously something about the packaging experience that’s deeply attractive.

At our Fashion Connect event in February 2017, Paddy Earnshaw, CCO at Doddle, discussed the chemical response of shoppers to their delivery, and the oxytocin rush that comes with opening the package.

This presents another opportunity for retailers to delight shoppers. A particularly innovative package that offers efficient protection and ease of access, or presents the product in an exciting or particularly agreeable way, can make the online shopping experience especially pleasing, and drive repeat purchases.

3. The vital importance of reliability

On the other side of that coin, reliability plays another vital role in the inspiration to repeat purchases. Online retailers need to get their packaging right the ‘first time’. A poor first experience could be more likely than not to discourage any repeat custom from the recipient.

Especially now, in this era of online reviews, social media, and transparency, shoppers can very publicly express their disappointment, which imperils the chances of purchases from other prospective customers.

With that in mind, it pays to make sure your packaging can withstand the rigours of transit and protects the product, but doesn’t come with excessive padding and remains easy to open. Not easy, granted. But well worth it.

4. How to approach peak(s)

At times when volumes spike, one challenge is to ensure you have enough packaging to meet the demand, while preventing any excess during trading ‘troughs’. Fortunately, businesses know their own peaks, and defined events like Black Friday can help retailers anticipate greater volumes.

Of course, when orders come thick and fast, and logistics face greater pressure, there’s always a danger of a decline in standards. When it comes to the Christmas peak, bear in mind that customers’ tolerance can be even lower than normal. Anything that delays the completion of Christmas shopping, especially when it’s last minute, can frustrate if not infuriate shoppers.

5. How to gather feedback

Asking directly for your customers’ impressions of the packaging is the most direct way to find out how you can improve it.

If it’s possible, gather packaging feedback in real time, or as close to it as you can. This will ensure that your customer isn’t trying to remember a package that has long since been thrown into the recycling.

Consider incentivising that feedback straight away, perhaps with an insert in the delivery parcel, to make sure that shopper tell you exactly what their experience was like, and how you can make it better for them.

 

Further reading

We recently published a report on this subject – the IMRG Packaging Best Practice Review 2017, supported by Woodway UK – which delves into some of these themes in greater detail.

 

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The percentage of orders using next day service options has increased over the past year or so, as more retailers promote it as standard and shopper demand rises accordingly. How is industry coping with the shift toward immediate fulfilment and faster delivery and what are the issues it poses?

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