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Smurfit Kappa Visit: Exploring the world of ecommerce packaging


At eDelivery we love the real and the practical and so we’re visiting leading facilities around the UK and Europe to explore how the ecommerce supply chain is evolving. Last week we visited Yate near Bristol for a guided tour of one of Smurfit Kappa’s largest UK factories. Our aim was to find out what the paper-based packaging giant considers to be the latest thinking in ecommerce packaging. We discovered that e-packaging is at an exciting stage of development.
Each year from Smurfit Kappa’s plant in Yate, thousands of tons of corrugated cardboard packaging are manufactured, printed, and sent out to leading FMCG brands, retailers and ecommerce companies. Big name clients rely on Smurfit Kappa to design packaging that will tick a lot of boxes (excuse the pun). This is also home to one of Smurfit Kappa’s Experience Centres – where brand owners can brainstorm with structural packaging designers, and get hands-on, real-time insights into how to meet their business needs through packaging innovations.

Smurfit Kappa innovation centre

What can packaging achieve in the ecommerce space?

Protection of the product has long been the core purpose for packaging, but there are other considerations. These include optimising packaging for use in the supply chain, easy handling in the warehouse, easy handling by the end consumer, sustainability and cost efficiency. Increasingly, branding is becoming an important consideration in the world of ecommerce packaging too. This is because retailers are realising that customers who order shoes, books, underwear, chocolates, jewellery – pretty much anything online – aren’t too impressed when these longed-for items turn up on their doorstep in a plain, oversized box.

Being one of the world’s largest providers of paper-based packaging, Smurfit Kappa has plenty of experience of what’s needed to protect products in the supply chain, and how to engineer packaging to be cost efficient, sustainable, and attractive to online shoppers. They’re learning fast about the power of bespoke packaging in the ecommerce channel, seeing client demand for inside print massively on the up, and a thirst for inspiration and innovation in ecommerce packaging design.

Smurfit Kappa corrugated cardboard ecommerce delivery

Corrugated packaging production

So last week myself and colleague Amanda McCreddie – sales manager for – were taken on a guided tour of the vast production halls at Yate. Fiona McMillan, UK Marketing Manager at Smurfit Kappa, kindly provided hair nets, sturdy boots and high visibility jackets, before showing us the precision cutting and printing in action, and explaining exactly what’s required to fulfill bulk orders of cardboard packaging. The issue of innovation kept coming up.

“Ecommerce clients are now telling us that packaging must reflect their brand equity, and provide customers with an experience in line with the brand’s wider values and tone of voice,” said McMillan. “There’s a realisation among retailers and consumer brands that ecommerce packaging is now a vital marketing tool. It must tell a meaningful brand story at the same time as performing a host of practical functions.”

We also spoke to Chris Stuart, an Market Sector Innovations Manager for Smurfit Kappa who is involved with running the UK’s Experience Centres, and managing design workshops and innovation projects for customers. “Companies like Selfridges and Apple were the first to invest in bespoke packaging to engage more directly with online shoppers, and now the industry is playing catch up,” said Stuart. “There have been comments in the press recently about items ordered online being over-packaged or uninspiring. At Smurfit Kappa, we’re using our expertise to provide customers with an experience in line with their desired brand perception, while keeping costs under control and ensuring packaging is easy to store, handle in the supply chain, and dispose of. There are many practical issues to overcome, alongside the big new challenge of providing a brand experience on the doorstep.”

Smurfit Kappa boxes

How sophisticated is ecommerce packaging today?

We’re interested in finding out how retailers and brands selling direct are differentiating themselves and driving customer loyalty through innovative packaging in the ecommerce space. Which companies are delighting their customers with clever, engineered, bespoke packaging while maintaining control over cost and sustainability? What are the challenges? Where are the opportunities? What advice do the leaders in packaging give?

In partnership with Smurfit Kappa, we will be conducting a survey on packaging over the coming weeks . Please do take the time to complete this if you are involved in packaging decision-making for your company, and help us build knowledge around the latest thinking in the field.

The findings of the survey will be published in a White Paper to be made available at the eDelivery Conference 2016 on October 11 in London.

The eDelivery team is planning more site visits, so if you’ve got somewhere or something to show, then drop us a note at editor@edelivery,net.

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