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Delivery Experience

How Direct-to-Consumer Brands Can Improve Their Online Delivery Experience With Packaging


October 18, 2021


In the direct-to-consumer market, brand reputation is everything. Compared to traditional retail models, online brand owners are responsible for 100% of the purchasing experience. From new customer acquisition to fulfilling or managing returns, every step of the journey is either an opportunity to delight or disappoint your customers.

In 2021, direct-to-consumer (D2C) e-commerce sales in the United States are projected to surpass $129 billion according to Statista. In 2022, that number is projected to reach $151 billion. Reduced access to stores during the pandemic has prompted over half of 25-34 year olds to buy direct from international online brands they normally would have purchased in-store. 

With so many online options available today, D2C brands need to deliver a positive experience that stands out from the crowd to keep consumers coming back for more.


Rightsize Packaging to Reduce Waste

A recent Sealed Air consumer e-commerce experience study showed that at 62%, corrugated boxes are the most frequently used packaging type, compared to mailers or shipping bags at 37%. Even though they’re more common for consumers to receive, boxes pose a bigger risk to your brand if done incorrectly. Why? Your consumers know waste when they see it. 

Our study showed that corrugated boxes were most commonly shipped without any void fill or blocking and bracing materials, leaving consumers confused and even frustrated. Consumers believe 75% to 90% of the package, including bags and boxes, should be filled with the product ordered. They believe non-breakable products, like apparel and other soft goods, should be delivered in shipping bags or mailers versus wasteful boxes.  

75% to 90% of the package should be filled with product

Consumers believe 75% to 90% of the package, including bags and boxes, should be filled with the product ordered.

In addition to a higher risk of damage, products shipped in oversized boxes are also hard for your consumers to dispose of. Yes, corrugated boxes are recyclable, but they can also be a headache if you receive these orders frequently. Imagine a mountain of boxes that you then must break down, place into a recycling bin — if it has room available — and wait until recycling day to get rid of the waste once a week. One Sealed Air study participant even cited the need to gradually place deconstructed boxes into the recycling bin each week because the local recycling facility said it was “so much waste and too heavy” to take all at once.

80% of consumers are satisfied receiving their product in a mailer.

80% of consumers are satisfied receiving their product in a mailer.

Throughout the course of the study, 70% of mailers that consumers received were single-item shipments, resulting in 80% consumer satisfaction with the packaging. When shipping single, non-fragile products in particular, appeal to your consumers by opting for rightsized mailers or shipping bags instead of boxes. Mailers are smaller, require fewer packaging materials, and are easy to dispose of. And as a bonus, it will even improve your bottom line by reducing shipping costs. 


Improve the Unbagging Experience

E-commerce packaging has replaced the brick-and-mortar shopping experience and is the first impression of your brand and your products when it arrives at your consumer’s doorstep. 

Online consumers want immediate satisfaction and deliveries they can taste with their eyes. Data shows 49% of online shoppers ages 18 to 29 said branded or gift-like packaging gets them excited about receiving and opening a package, compared to 37% of shoppers 30 to 44, 29% of shoppers 45 to 60, and just 15% of shoppers over 60. Printed mailers help build brand recognition and create a positive unbagging experience for your consumer. But at the same time, consumers are worried about package theft. Sealed Air study participants admitted that the more premium a product, the more they would prefer simpler packaging on the outside and more elaborate packaging on the inside. And specifically within the context of gifting, our research shows one in five consumers are willing to pay a premium for highly customized printing applications. 

20% of consumers are willing to pay a premium for highly customized printing applications when gifting.

1 in 5 consumers are willing to pay a premium for highly customized printing applications when gifting.

Many brands have chosen QR codes as the way to deliver information and offers to consumers. Our study shows two-thirds of all heavy e-commerce shoppers use QR codes for special offers and coupons and of those using QR codes, 70% are utilizing them on at least a monthly basis. We also asked where online consumers wanted these offers physically on their delivery. Not surprisingly, they feel the exterior of the package is best for non-personalized offers, like coupons or special offers, for fear of theft and the interior of the package is best for complimentary products, additional product information, and return or warranty information. 

Lastly, elevate your brand with packaging that makes unbagging easier for your consumers and gives your product a luxury appearance. You can bring the storefront shopping experience to your consumer’s home by opting for shipping bags with handles that make it easier to carry. And shipping bags with zippers make it easy to open, reuse, or return the product in the same package.


Focus on Easy Returns

According to Shopify data, a quarter of all e-commerce consumers return between 5% to 15% of the items bought online. Specifically for e-tailers in the apparel space, consumers return around 12% of their online orders driven by preferences like size, fit, and style. Planning for reverse logistics and making it easy for your consumers can set your brand apart. 

Easy returns can take many forms. Research shows that consumers want packing slips and pre-paid return labels included in their online order packages more than any other inner packaging components. The most important and convenient thing you can do for your customers — and your operation — is to package products in a mailer with an easy return strip and return labels inside the order. It will even make these orders easier to process once they arrive back at your facility. 

Packaging is an extension of your product and small changes can go a long way to meet growing consumer expectations. As the leader in protective packaging solutions, Sealed Air combines customized, easy-to-return, protective shipping mailers with high-quality, fast, and efficient packaging equipment to improve order fulfillment, cut down on the overall cost of delivery, and elevate your brand in the marketplace.