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e-commerce and boxes – a perfect match?

Not one week passes where we are not exposed to news about e-commerce developments. In 2017, an estimated 1.66 billion people worldwide purchased goods online and the trend is accelerating and expanding into new goods which till now mainly relied on traditional retail – e.g. frozen food and home decoration.

During 2017, global e-retail sales amounted to $2.3 trillion and projections show a growth of up to $4.48 trillion by 2021 (1). e-commerce market share in 2018, as a percentage of all retail sales, is expected to increase to 11.9% — up from 3.5% a decade ago (2).

Some say that it may not be too long until e-commerce is the default shopping method for the majority of people. For those in the corrugated industry, the changes are simply good news.

Is e-commerce and boxes a perfect match and what will it take for the corrugated industry to enjoy further growth? To cover this topic we asked Emilio Corti, Head of BOBST Sales, Business Unit Sheet-Fed his opinion and recommendations to packaging converters.

When you refer to e-commerce, the first words that come to mind are convenience and speed. What does it means for the corrugated industry?
The production of boxes for e-commerce channels is facing three main challenges. First, this is about being able to deliver boxes to the e-retailers quickly – they will never wait to pack and ship. The producers who can’t cope with fast running speeds will not be seen as reliable partners for e-commerce. Second challenge is about quality. The packaging for e-commerce must be strong. Many boxes travel long distances and change hands before they arrive in the consumer’s mailbox or on their doorstep. Quality control across the production line is a must to avoid defects and customer complaints. Last, the demand for boxes is changing quickly and is not easy to forecast. e-retailing is requiring a larger range of box format and types. This means that your production line must be flexible and modular to react to an on-going changing demand.

Is that all? Only speed, quality and flexibility?
These 3 challenges are the main ones today. I see new and major ones coming fast. Re-usable boxes for e-commerce are in growing demand. These boxes that ship goods back are more complex to manufacture with for example self-adhesive tape application and it requires advanced manufacturing capabilities. Another challenge relates to the “unboxing” experience. This one is very important for the brands as the consumers do not want to spend too much time unpacking and removing too many layers taking up space when recycling at a later stage. Packaging converters will face a growing demand for more sophisticated types of packaging without the ability to increase cost. Complicated designs will have to be produced in large quantities and high level of automations are required. Last, and accelerating with the amount of data collected by e-commerce players, new packaging printed inside are ramping up across various container choices, inclusion of a personalized card or gift based on purchasing patterns. It has driven box manufacturers to find new solutions.

If you have to give packaging converters a few tips – which ones would they be?
Do not look at the boxes you print today but the ones you will need to deliver tomorrow. With fast running speeds, fully automatic settings and extreme configurability, the MASTERFOLD is the fastest, most highly automated and versatile folder-gluer. And to be exhaustive and fair, add the modularity and productivity of the SPEEDPACK making it the perfect packer for any multi-point folding-gluing line.

And to wrap-up briefly?
The manufacturing for e-commerce is very demanding and this is just the beginning. BOBST’s experience is unmatched and the exceptional devices we manufacture will drive the creativity, productivity and efficiency to make boxes for e-commerce channels. In a market where competitiveness is key, the devices will provide a decisive competitive edge.
www.bobst.com

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