According to The Impact of E-Commerce on Packaging: Long-term Forecasts to 2029
, a market report from Smithers, double-digit growth in e-commerce is creating explosive e-commerce packaging market growth. Now worth $35 billion, e-commerce has averaged just over 20% growth over the last few years driven by market leaders such as Amazon, JD.com and Alibaba. This boom is elevating the role of e-commerce-specific packaging.
The e-commerce packaging market, which includes corrugated, flexible, and protective and transit packaging, is largely driven by convenience, transparency and price. It’s crucial that packaging is created with e-commerce in mind from the beginning, according to the new Smithers report, since technical, legislative and business environment changes are happening at the same time.
In the home, packaging design now plays a more significant role since unboxing the product is part of the experience. It sets the tone for how the consumer feels about the product and its maker.
E-commerce takes packaging to new levels with a fast-developing digital infrastructure and falling prices for the enabling technology. Current imperatives for e-commerce packaging are lightweight designs that save energy, protect the contents, save space and are easily recycled.
The new e-commerce supply chain
The future value chain will become more complex, supported by larger volumes and technology, and influenced by the need for more suitable and sustainable packaging. Packaging must survive the e-commerce supply chain with many more points of handling. In particular, the last mile is a packaging solution testing experience that is driving new technology and creative solutions.
Primary and secondary packaging are challenged with practical solutions because products aren’t always shipped separately. With an average of 30% of shipped online orders returned, the packaging must be adapted to go both back and forth.
Data and product traceability
Technology brings new opportunities for communicating with and tracing products. Tracing technology improves the shopping experience for the customer and provides security during shipment. More access to information makes customers more loyal, creating trust within the supply chain. Businesses using these technologies will be better informed and have a competitive advantage.
Packaging can be made smart with electronic sensors added, RFID (radio frequency identification) or NFC (near-field communication) or using bar and QR codes. These technologies, together with blockchain, can track and trace deliveries throughout the supply chain.
Sustainability is taking place in the form of right-size packaging and avoiding air shipping. Leading packaging suppliers are introducing packaging that is flexible and adjustable to address this problem.
Reusable packaging is a growing part of the sustainable packaging strategy. Today, plastics, particularly single-use, are facing heavy criticism, with other materials likely to be questioned and replaced in the future. Amazon is transitioning to using more flexible plastic. New materials are developed to replace less sustainable options, and we will likely see more use of bioplastics and EPS alternatives in the future.