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Opinion: How to create packaging that protects product and reputation


Rob Carle, UK head of sales ecommerce at DS Smith, discusses how retailers can create packaging to protect products in transit and decrease the risk of customer disappointment.
For consumers, receiving a damaged parcel is understandably frustrating. With these stories often making the news headlines, its unsurprising that brands, couriers and retailers find themselves in the firing line. An ongoing industry-wide challenge, all three parties play a key role in solving the issue and helping ensure a positive customer experience.

The complexity of the e-commerce supply cycle means that damage in transit is far more prevalent than traditional bricks and mortar retail.

Research by DS Smith found that three quarters of online shoppers have received a damaged product in the last year. What’s more, a third of these products were in such a sorry state that they couldn’t be used. Upsetting and frustrating customers, this can negatively impact brand reputation beyond repair.

An average of up to 50 touchpoints mean that packages are dropped, crushed and shaken in transit – with each parcel couriered up to three times between the distribution centre and the customer’s address before the product is delivered.

Putting packaging to the test

For this reason, ecommerce brands, retailers and couriers are all looking for ways to offer customers a positive shopping experience with robust packaging that is able to withstand a variety of knocks and bumps.

DS Smith has responded to this industry challenge by developing its innovative testing process called DISCS. Available to all stakeholders within the e-commerce supply chain, the DISCS process is named after its five types of testing (drop, impact, shock, crush, shake), which replicate the product journey to provide real word testing.

The testing process allows the unique supply cycle requirements of each product to be uncovered and the optimum packaging protection solutions to be determined to protect it.

Doorstop wine

Laithwaites has been on this forward-thinking journey as it wanted to improve the protection performance of its packaging while also eradicating plastic from its portfolio. Working collaboratively with DS Smith, the company undertook an audit of its supply chain and the journey the product takes to the consumer.

Laithwaites was particularly mindful of the fragility of its wine bottles and how breakages would sometimes occur over the last mile. Based on this insight, DS Smith designed enhanced packaging that would offer protection from the jolts and impacts of the courier delivery network – in particular, drops. It trialled the effectiveness of the solution using the DISCS laboratory during the design process.

Andrew Hawker, head of logistics at Laithwaites said, “The drop test video footage is a great asset for us. Not only does it showcase the design expertise and performance of our packaging, but it also supports our conversations with couriers should our products arrive damaged or in a poor condition.

“Since using DISCS, we have seen a significant reduction in damaged customer orders which has had a direct and positive impact on our company’s bottom line.”

Problem plastic

In addition to providing crucial protection for its products, the heart of Laithwaites’ packaging philosophy is sustainability and recyclability. The company has always used recycled fibres for its corrugated board and boxes, continually striving to get the best possible quality from these materials.

Andrew Hawker explains, “Balancing the sustainability and protection needs of packaging can be a challenge, especially in the e-commerce sector where the unboxing experience is vital to engaging and establishing a connection with the customer.

“After Blue Planet unveiled the true impact of plastics on the environment and in response to direct consumer feedback on our packaging, we took a positive step to completely eradicate plastic from our supply chain with the support and insight of DS Smith.”

In its smaller cases of single, two or three bottles of wine, Laithwaites historically incorporated plastic air packs to provide added protection and cushioning for the wine’s journey to the consumer. An innovative cardboard wraparound was created by DS Smith to replace the plastic, which provides the protection required and ensures that the packaging is easily recyclable by consumers at the curb side.

In a time when negative consumer experiences are easily shared online and often hit the headlines, all parties in the supply chain are now able to access innovative testing technology to ensure that packaging can withstand its journey to the customer.

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