Ken Chrisman | Predictions for 2018

The president of Sealed Air’s product care division, Ken Chrisman, looks at what the next year will likely hold for retail, e-commerce, and shipping professionals.

Rapid innovation and change have become constants for the retail, e-commerce, and transport industries over the past few years and 2018 will be no different. In fact, Sealed Air expects five key trends to dominate the retail and fulfilment marketplace over the next 12 months. 

More makers will need to become movers

As the needle moves ever higher on the consumer instant gratification meter, the expectations among online shoppers for speedy, precise, damage-free deliveries have never been greater. In response, retailers are applying pressure throughout the supply chain to deliver products faster and more efficiently.

Manufacturers (or makers) are feeling the added pressure of having to make direct deliveries to customers to help reduce retailers’ inventories.  This will only accelerate in 2018. Retailers want to avoid pallets and ensure that products are ready to be shipped at a moment’s notice – and by manufacturers ideally. This will require a wholesale re-working of manufacturers’ business models.

More “brand experience” in every box

With more products being sent directly to homes, the visual and tactile impacts inside a delivery can be a powerful selling point for brands. Logos, photos, and illustrations can be printed on the protective packaging materials or directly on the shipping box or mailer, which can help deliver a brand experience that connects with consumers and further communicates how that brand value is enhancing their lives.

In this way, custom packaging design can reinforce the mission and lifestyle of a company, as well as the lifetime customer value. As companies discover more about their customers, both their shopping and unboxing experiences will become more personalised.

Deeper adoption of having fresh goods delivered to the doorstep

The sweet spot for fresh goods delivery packaging is difficult to hit. How much packaging does it take to maintain proper temperatures, and how much wiggle room (i.e. hours spent in the back of a delivery truck from processor to retailer, or unprotected from the elements at a front door) can any box, bag, or cooler handle?  How can processors and retailers keep material and shipping costs low without letting temperatures rise? As food manufacturers and retailers test the waters of food e-commerce operations, commercial validity is paramount.  To help assure this, a combined primary and secondary packaging operation is fundamental.

As a result, more stringent industry standards and regulations will be required to help ensure food freshness and protect consumers. It will be vitally important that businesses track these updates and proactively look for solutions that can help with the transport of fresh goods.

Sustainable and protective from the start

In 2018, retailers will take a more holistic approach to sustainability, moving beyond the optimisation of internal processes and resource usage and taking a system-wide approach that includes manufacturers, packaging, carriers, and customers. For many companies, sustainability efforts will become less about recycling and more about achieving a circular economy.

As e-commerce continues to flourish, resulting in more products shipped to consumers at faster rates, retailers will exert more pressure on manufacturers to use packaging that delivers operationally while also reducing damage rates and environmental impact.

Consumers will become more aware of waste

Consumers will expect their order to arrive in a day or less, wrapped in easy-to-open packaging, without messy waste that is hard to dispose.  And the package will need to be easy to return as well. They will also want sustainability by default and one of the most effective ways to do this is by using less packaging.

Businesses are increasingly being criticised publically for delivering products with excessive packaging, and consumers will be more empowered to continue taking them to task in 2018. This public scrutiny has the potential to damage brand reputations and negatively affect sales if manufacturers and retailers are not more vigilant moving forward.

Ken Chrisman is president of Sealed Air’s product care division