# SPEAK by Sainsbury Design Vol 7 – Ecommerce and Packaging


Online retail sales are currently growing at around 20 – 35% per year, and ecommerce now accounts for around R37 billion in sales per annum, or approximately 2% of all retail sales in the country.

The continued increase in the popularity of online shopping has created a growth opportunity for the logistics (warehousing and delivery) and packaging industries. With many ecommerce companies choosing not to use the South African Post Office (due to capacity and security concerns), private courier firms have benefitted from the surge in deliveries.

In 2017, the South African Express Parcel Association (SAEPA) estimated that the express parcel industry in SA was worth some R20 billion – of which a significant portion was due to online sales.

Why packaging matters

With online purchases, the customer’s first tangible encounter with the brand will be the moment of delivery. Online, it’s easy to make products look perfect – but this is much harder in real life. It’s vital that every aspect of the consumer experience is aligned to the brand values – a damaged or poor-quality package can greatly detract from this experience and dent the recipient’s faith in the brand and the products they have purchased.

Receiving a delivery and opening it – the crucial “unboxing” moment – are opportunities for brands to really connect with their fans and make a lasting impression. As the last stage on the consumer journey, packaging should definitely not be overlooked.

What makes the perfect package?

Ecommerce packaging has multiple roles to play:

  • It must protect the products inside and ensure they reach the consumer intact
  • It must be secure, but also easy and safe to open
  • It should provide shoppers with a positive “first impression” of the brand
  • It should offer advertising opportunities
  • It should contribute to a premium experience that builds brand loyalty

It’s no longer enough to use merely functional packaging. Of course, this is important – damaged goods are expensive for online retailers due to the loss of reputation and the cost of managing returns.

Creative, imaginative packaging is an opportunity for brands to stand out (although the rising incidence of “doorstep theft” shows that caution must be taken here). With contemporary consumers becoming more environmentally conscious, brands can gain extra kudos by using packaging that can be easily recycled or repurposed.

Same time next month

Curated subscription services (such as the well-known Dollar Shave Club) offer even stronger relationship-building opportunities. Personalised deliveries of items chosen especially for a specific consumer take personalisation (a key ecommerce advantage) to the next level.

The anticipation involved in waiting for a regular delivery heightens the enjoyment when it arrives, and each delivery provides a new opportunity to communicate with fans, including updating them on promotions and specials.

Message on a box

Digital printing and other innovations mean that personalised marketing messages can be printed on ecommerce delivery packaging. This can help replace the human interaction that characterises “brick and mortar” retail. In comparison, online shopping is a more detached activity. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fun – gamification trends in ecommerce can be extended to both packaging and the delivery process.

Recognising the importance of packaging and delivery as key consumer touchpoints on the consumer journey is vital to ensuring repeat purchases and boosting awareness and positive perceptions of brands.

The humble plain brown box has the potential to be a vital brand messaging tool, and to bridge the gap between the virtual and actual worlds.

Packaging and COVID-19

Deliveries of goods ordered online can help people to maintain social distancing. By having essential products delivered, consumers can reduce the number of visits they make to the shops and the number of other people they encounter.

Many registered courier companies (of which there are an estimated 300 in South Africa) have adopted strict health and safety protocols, including contactless delivery options for shoppers. However, concerns remain about the possibility of the coronavirus being transmitted by contaminated surfaces.

Despite this, deliveries remain a much safer option than visits to crowded shops, which only further underlines the opportunities for ecommerce sites, courier companies and packaging manufacturers during and beyond the lockdown.

For packaging that sets the right impression, contact us: michelle.brown@sainsbury.co.za

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