By Sujan Shah, CEO Rocaba Packaging Limited and Carrier Bag Shop
Over the last 12 months, most brands, whether UK-focused or global, have been forced to look at new ways of selling, retaining customers, keeping afloat, and making back money lost during numerous national lockdowns. At the end of 2020, when many retailers and other sectors needed to maximise revenue to make up for quieter sales quarters, they were faced with further shutdowns, uncertainty and, again, the need to adapt the way they interact with customers. Needless to say, all are competing online more than ever before?
In this environment, all businesses, from small local shops to major corporations, have had to rethink their packaging. Indeed, we have almost uniformly seen both the need to boost eCommerce packaging options as customer demand moved entirely online.
Not only this, but buyers were also forced to rethink their supply chain strategy with closed borders forcing many to not only look for regional options but also select providers based on their warehouse capacity with which to hold stock and have it available when needed. As eCommerce packaging steps up the priority list for many, we expect brands to form even closer partnerships within these supply chains, not just in terms of volume but also marketing value.
A new approach to eCommerce branding
2020 was the year of the eCommerce boost – not something many predicted, but a consequence of COVID-19 – but has this prompted long-term thinking and planning by both independent and larger businesses?
Unsurprisingly, our team has seen a substantial increase in demand for courier boxes, pouches and packaging materials as business owners accepted the need to pivot to, in many cases, 100 per cent online sales. Not only this, but customer preferences have moved toward online shopping in a bid to avoid both busy shops where social distancing is difficult, and multiple staff members handling goods which creates opportunities for the virus to spread.
High-end branding that was once marketed as an in-store or in-person experience, now must move online. As an example, one organisation we work with wanted to continue their afternoon tea service and requested the design of a luxury box to ensure that the brand value and experience was replicated within its customers’ homes. In this case, aligning the online to the in-store brand experience is crucial to ensuring both customer retention and, ultimately the return of physical visits when time and the vaccine rollout allows.
And what about a brand’s ESG credentials? These have been brought into sharp focus in an online world with many customers preferring to buy into ethical and sustainable brands, even if it means spending a little more. In an eCommerce world, eco-friendly packaging must play its part in any ESG strategy. Many retailers we work with have embarked on this route in 2020 because of the increase in online sales, and to ensure they are using renewable or recycled materials.
With many countries’ throw-away culture already evident pre-COVID-19, the need for packaging to be both recyclable and sustainable is gaining more importance in a post-Covid environment. Thankfully, many retailers have not paused on their efforts to enhance their eco-friendly packaging, but in fact have increased the use of branding on their packaging to market the good work they are doing in this area.
The food and drinks industry will see these long-term effects more than others; whether customers are ordering more take away and delivery options or looking for sustainable alternatives to reusable cutlery and crockery, this trade will not only develop exciting branding opportunities, but developments in the style of packaging itself.
The future – 2021 and beyond
One thing we can take away from the pandemic is that packaging will never be the same again, much like our lives. The high street has been dying for many years, and now, more than ever, eCommerce and packaging solutions are at the forefront of the retail world.
From eco-friendly to ethical, hygienic to minimalist; businesses will have a whole years’ worth of data analysis to learn from and ensure that in 2021 and beyond, their online customer experience continues to showcase the best brand marketing that packaging can offer.