Overpackaging: How much is it costing you?

May 20, 2014

As we near the midpoint of the decade, the new consumer landscape of the ‘teens’ is now well established. Two substantial changes from the 2000s have already become clear.

Let’s take a look at how much your packaging is costing your business

First, consumers think nothing of ordering nearly any products via the internet for home delivery. Ten years ago, we would have thought it impossible, not to mention impractical, to order a four pack of toilet paper online. In 2014 we say ‘Is it any cheaper than Tesco’s?’

Second, the huge variety of online merchants, large and small, has produced a consumer that is more informed, opinionated, and empowered than ever before. Those in the market for home delivered toilet paper can think of four places they could order from without even searching Google, and won’t hesitate to switch suppliers over a 2p price difference, a single bad delivery, or an unconfirmed rumour of unsafe working conditions at the factory that turn out this increasingly apocryphal toilet paper.

So, how does this relate to packaging, and why do I keep bringing up bog roll?

It is actually related. I recently ordered four rolls of toilet paper and a kitchen roll online, I won’t say from who. The way it was delivered was rather surprising, and caused no small amount of actual anger from my significant other.

Both products arrived at the same time, and in excellent condition. The anger arose from the packaging, or rather the massive over-packaging of what have to be the two least breakable products I’ve ever had sent to me. The outer layer (yes, layers!) was a cardboard box approximately 2 feet square. From the weight, I did not immediately guess that it was my paper rolls. Feeling a little bit of the excitement of opening an unexpected package, I was further intrigued to find inside 2 smaller boxes and a half dozen cellophane packets of air the size of Capri Sun juice bags. I hadn’t ordered the pre-packaged air. I’ll buy bottled water from time to time, but that’s about as posh as I get. I opened the larger of the two boxes, and was rewarded with a large roll of paper towels… wrapped in bubble wrap! The contents of the second box weren’t a surprise, but at least there was no more unnecessary bubble wrap.

My better half is quite ecologically minded, and while I was most bothered by the wasted expense of the overpackaging – a simple polythene bag and a mailing label would have been plenty – he was actually angry about the waste. The extra carbon footprint this overpackaging represented was substantial. The final order was 2 or three times as heavy as it had to be, so took more fuel to deliver. The boxes and wrap and tape all had to be manufactured and delivered as well. He declared that he would never use this retailer again, even after I explained that they probably contracted out for order fulfilment. “It’s still their responsibility!”

So this retailer essentially paid more than they had to, and lost a customer in the process. That is the real cost of overpackaging, and one 3PLs and e-retailers alike have to be sure to avoid.

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