The future of corrugated packaging is here

Corrugated packaging has been a mainstay of storage, shipping, display and promotion across many industries for decades. Today, as e-commerce is rapidly ascending to become the primary means of trade across the world, corrugated cardboard containers are still the go-to for most wholesalers and retailers. Lightweight, relatively inexpensive and kind to the environment, corrugated boxes are more in demand than they have ever been. NPP, Ireland’s leading packaging supplier, runs you through everything you need to know about corrugated packaging and its benefits.

What does corrugated mean? 

Corrugated fibreboard is so ubiquitous and familiar that most companies and consumers barely give it a second thought. Whatever you buy in the online space usually arrives in a corrugated fibreboard box. What is this material and what makes it such a popular material for packing and shipping?

Corrugated board – what many people mistakenly refer to as cardboard – consists of three layers: two layers of what we call linerboard, and between them, one layer of ‘medium.’ Linerboard is flat, while medium is folded into arches or flutes and glued between the linerboard layers. This structure makes the corrugated board strong and light, which means that they protect their contents while being easy to transport. These are its two main functional benefits. The material is also easily customisable and can be cut to size to create a variety of package shapes and volumes. Another primary benefit is the fact that corrugated fibreboard is easily recyclable and reusable, cutting packaging costs and reducing environmental impact.

Corrugated cardboard boxes have been used to ship all kinds of products for well over a century. Today, they are more critical than ever in the world of e-commerce, where they have become an essential part of online retailers’ branding.

E-commerce packaging is an important part of brand identity  

The main benefit of corrugated packaging has always been purely functional: for the most part, it comes in the form of non-descript brown boxes that are not meant to act as brand ambassadors in any way. This situation is rapidly changing in the world of e-commerce. Branding on the side of corrugated fibreboard boxes is nothing new, but online retailers are pushing several steps further than merely printing their logos on their containers. 

The emphasis now is on creating packaging that is distinctive and attractive. With so much competition out there, it is difficult to grab and hold the attention of consumers. As a result, brands are working hard to turn all their packaging into branded material. It appears that giving considerable attention to packaging design and branding can pay off handsomely.  Online retailers report an average 30% increase in consumer interest when they make a focused effort to incorporate their corrugated packaging into their branding strategy. Also, 52% of consumers say they are more likely to return to retailers that send their orders in unique, customised packaging. 

E-commerce packaging needs to be an extension of your brand, playing a significant role in making your products stand out and encapsulating your business’s culture and identity.  

E-commerce packaging is more than a box  

Considering what we have said regarding the role of packaging in your branding strategy, it should be clear that e-commerce packaging is much, much more than just a box. Well-designed packaging can have a huge impact on your success. It can get your branding in front of more people in an attractive and unforgettable way. It can even help to reduce the volume of returns through a combination of effective, protective packing and increased brand engagement. It is best to approach packaging as a multipurpose item: yes, it needs to fulfil its primary purpose of carrying your products to your customers, but it also offers remarkable benefits as a central part of your marketing campaign.  

The packaging journey in an e-commerce world   

E-commerce businesses understand that, between the moment when the customer completes an order and the day their items arrive at their door, the packaging journey includes several intermediate steps. The total of e-commerce transactions taking place around the world amounts to trillions of euros annually and produces tons of waste, including 5.8 millions tons of paper used in packaging. Companies are, therefore assessing the packaging journey in e-commerce to find opportunities to optimise throughout their supply chains. Here are five ways in which packaging can be optimised for lower costs and waste throughout the supply chain:

  • Design: Savings on packaging starts at the design stage, where, for example, products can be fitted into more compact packages to ensure less waste (oversized packages have been a running joke in e-commerce since its early days).
  • Picking and packing: Speaking of oversized packaging, you can avoid this through more stringent operation standards in warehouses and fulfilment centres. The right size packaging can be on hand for any size or shape of product, and picking staff can be trained not to use oversized boxes in a bid to keep the product from being damaged.
  • In transit: When a shipment is on the road or in the air, both the shipper and the customer lose control of it. While transport companies have their own strict handling protocols, retailers try to provide extra safety through protective packaging. These efforts should be balanced with environmental consciousness and the need to reduce waste. Companies can do this by using strong, durable packaging that is also appropriately sized.
  • Delivery: Unboxing has become an essential part of the e-commerce experience. You want your package to arrive safely at your customer’s door, but you also want them to open the box to find it thoughtfully, economically packed, and not have to dig through a mountain of foam and polystyrene to find the item they’ve been waiting for.
  • After the sale: Once the unboxing is done, what do customers do with your packaging? They either dispose of it, keep it for reuse, or send it back to you if they want to return their items. Whichever option they choose, the packaging should be easily adaptable to that purpose. 

In short, maximising packaging throughout the supply chain involves a careful balancing of improving presentation, increasing the ability of packaging to protect its contents, and reducing waste.  

Need a corrugated box designed for your product? 

The increased importance of corrugated boxes as a marketing tool means that they have become an integral part of companies’ branding strategies. No company, especially one that trades in the e-commerce space, can afford to approach its procurement of corrugated boxes as simply buying packaging. Instead, you should look at it as you would any other aspect of your marketing, such as website design or advertising.  You should not be looking at off-the-shelf corrugated packaging that serves simply to carry your merchandise. You should be investing in a unique marketing and packaging solution that speaks directly to your brand and presents it attractively and unforgettably to your customers.

Custom-designed corrugated packaging

The total share of global retail trade that is held by the ecommerce sector is expected to grow by 15% annually. Since the sector is increasingly competitive, brands must find ways to stand out from the rest. Your boxes represent the only direct, hands-on contact your customers will have with your brand, so it is worthwhile investing in quality e-commerce packaging that is unique, distinctive and instantly recognisable. 

NPP has extended and strengthened its corrugated packaging to include a state-of-the-art, four-colour Casemaker and an advanced Digital Cutting table which are all integrated with the latest CAD design software. With these new additions, in the hands of our experienced, creative design team, we can produce corrugated packaging that perfectly suits and promotes your business and brand. Every product we supply is custom designed and manufactured in-house to your exact specification. Our team will work with you, always thinking out of the box, so to speak, to create packaging that carries and protects your products, while also being an unmistakable extension of your brand.

Where are corrugated boxes used?   

If one were to ask where corrugated boxes are not used, one would be able to get a shorter answer. Almost every industry in the world makes use of corrugated boxes in one form or another, usually as tertiary or transit packaging. These boxes are chosen for their strength and rigidity, as well as their versatility. They also offer unique benefits for specific sectors. In the food industry, for example, corrugated boxes have been found to help preserve freshness by keeping products dry and prevent contact with bacteria. Other key industries that make use extensive use of corrugated boxes include textiles, electronics, healthcare, household products, and, of course, e-commerce. 

Choose Corrugated for the Planet

Corrugated packaging is by far the best option if you are looking for a solution that is kind to the environment. Corrugated cardboard is made from wood pulp – usually birch or pine. The pulp usually contains a high percentage of recycled material. Since the fibreboard is made without dyes or bleaches, it is both highly recyclable and biodegradable, making it very easy to dispose or reuse. Birch and pine trees grow easily in many different types of environments and are harvested sustainably. These factors make corrugated cardboard an extremely sustainable and eco-friendly packaging solution, in addition to all its other benefits.  

Top tips to choose the right corrugated packaging solutions 

When looking for basic corrugated boxes to use for packing and shipping your products, there are at least nine factors you need to think about to make your choice:

  • Size 
  • Weight 
  • Shape 
  • Strength, durability
  • Protection 
  • Orientation of products within the box 
  • Filling requirements 
  • Pallet pattern 
  • Warehousing needs
  • Transport mode

NPP will be able to recommend the right corrugated boxes for you if you provide us with the details of your product and your specifications concerning these nine factors.

When it comes to selecting unique, branded corrugated packages for e-commerce, remember that your packaging is a vital part of your branding, so make your packaging design a priority. Do your research and compare your packaging to that of your competitors, but most importantly, think about what would be a good fit for your product. Be sure to keep it simple: your packaging is there to carry and promote your product and no more than that, so there’s no need to overdo it. 

Also, think carefully about your market and how you want to position your product within it. Ask yourself what your typical end-user would find appealing and let that inform your design. Remember to strike a good balance between the exterior and interior of your packing. It needs to be eyecatching and distinctive, but it also needs to protect your product.   

NPP can supply you with the corrugated packaging you need to strike the perfect balance between function for packing and transit and aesthetics for branding. We know that a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t work for many companies. Contact us to find out how we can tailor a custom corrugated packaging solution for you.