While ecommerce had been seeing a surge prior to COVID-19, in the current and post-pandemic environment — and particularly heading into the holiday season — ecommerce sales are expected to garner a greater share of total retail sales globally. Consumers are increasingly looking to purchase products online to practice social distancing with more convenient direct-to-consumer online shopping options, and retailers should be prepared to meet that demand.

This holiday season, Deloitte forecasts that ecommerce sales will grow by 25% to 35% and overall, ecommerce holiday sales are expected to generate between $182 billion and $196 billion.

As retailers and brand owners prepare their packaging strategies for the upcoming holiday season, here are three ways to prepare:

  1. Seek protective packaging that is flexible and versatile, such as void fill and wrapping products, and ensure you have access to a consistent supply of these products. For example, Ranpak’s Void Fill and Ready Roll products fill the free space in your shipping box and lock products in place, especially important for breakable holiday gifts such as wine, jarred food products and more.

When items are prevented from moving during transit, the chances of breakage go down significantly, which dramatically improves customer satisfaction. Paper-based fillers and wrapping products offer excellent physical properties in terms of absorbing shocks and protecting sensitive products, and is more sustainable than plastic alternatives. What’s more, right sizing your packaging will more important as you work to ensure products arrive safely, without putting excess waste for the consumer to dispose of.

  1. Ensure your machines and processes increase productivity. Automation should be part of your fulfillment strategy to increase efficiency and improve worker safety. Not only does automating your packaging ensure you are reducing waste in the packaging process, automated tools also help you to analyze and improve consumables costs, seasonal volume peaks, pallet filling rates and freight optimization. Automation also helps reduce warehouse space: Since the pandemic, retailers have been crunched to upgrade their warehouses, or do more with the same amount of space. The packaging process needs to be increasingly quick, ergonomic and cost efficient, as warehouse space is becoming rarer and more costly. A key decision criterion when selecting automation solutions is a detailed Return on Investment and Payback Analysis.
  1. Keep sustainability top of mind. Ecommerce companies today need to think of their packaging not just as something to protect against damage but also serving as a brand enhancer. Dotcom Distribution’s 2019 ecommerce survey found 62% of online shoppers — and, more specifically, 72% of consumers age 18-29 — are more likely to purchase from brands that use sustainable packaging materials. During the coming holiday season and amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, an increase in ecommerce waste does not need to be at odds with sustainability.

Ensure you are offsetting your waste generation by using truly recyclable materials such as paper. Paper is one of the most sustainable products, made from renewable resources. It is biodegradable, and easily cycled back or used for renewable energy. Paper also offers a viable solution to reducing plastic waste. In the United States, plastic packaging alone accounts for 47% of the estimated 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste generated from 1950 to 2015, of which only about 9% was recycled and 12% incinerated, with fully 79% left to occupy landfills or pollute the natural environment for hundreds of years.

By following these three tips, retailers and brand owners should be on their way to a lucrative ecommerce holiday season.