Test Ecommerce Packaging to Mitigate Shipping Hazards

  • July 22, 2022
Boxes on automated scanning line for shipping

As the rise of online sales accelerates, the specialized role of ecommerce packaging becomes harder to ignore. Beyond presenting your product to the consumer, ecommerce packaging has an even more important job — protecting the product from the hazards of its journey.

Did you know that the ecommerce journey has triple the number of package touches between warehouse and delivery — and double the distance traveled — compared to traditional pallet shipping? Your packaging may be in great shape when it leaves your loading dock, but what counts is the condition it’s in when your customer receives it. It’s important that your packaging protects and presents your product well. Customer satisfaction and future orders depend on it.

The seven distribution hazards to minimize

Packages — and the products inside them — are subject to several common hazards during distribution. As the manufacturer, you can count on some mix of rough handling, improper warehouse stacking and storage, in-transit stacking, vehicle vibration, loose load vibration, rail switching and ambient temperature and humidity occurring in your supply chain, and you must take preventative measures with your packaging system.

Zeroing in on rough handling

By far, the most significant hazard for ecommerce packaging is rough handling. Because ecommerce shipments are subject to three times the touches along the way through the supply chain, there are more opportunities for rough handling — manual handling in particular — to become an issue. The small to midsize packages that make up the bulk of ecommerce deliveries are susceptible to inopportune shakes, drops, tosses and crushes as they make their way from their bin location in the fulfillment center to the buyer’s doorstep.

The other six hazards — especially warehouse stacking, storage accidents and in-transit stacking — still occur to one degree or another. So, while handling usually presents the most issues, your package optimization process must account for all the hazards in the path to the consumer. This is the only way to mitigate all the potential dangers a shipment may encounter.

Precise supply chain mapping is a must

You can determine where damage occurs in your supply chain with comprehensive supply chain measurement and mapping. Start by tracing your product’s entire journey, start to finish, from manufacturing to final delivery to gain a thorough understanding of the conditions experienced along the way.

To do this, you must clearly define the distribution and fulfillment environment. What facilities are involved? Which handling methods and transportation modes are in use throughout the product path? For the best results, perform onsite data capture at the facilities involved to get a complete picture of potential hazard conditions and their severity. Conduct detailed reviews of damage reports, samples of damage and associated financial data to assess the types and frequency of incidents and the resulting costs associated with them. Once you obtain this data, you can create a map of your supply chain to inform the testing process.

Create testing parameters for specific hazards and effects

Once you’ve mapped the complete ecommerce journey, leverage this data to develop a test protocol that simulates the actual conditions encountered. Quantifying the type and intensity of hazard events makes it possible to decide on the packaging tests needed to create the most appropriate package design. These tests also make it possible to save the effort, time and money required to protect the package from hazards it doesn’t encounter.

What an ideal ecommerce packaging system needs to accomplish

A well-designed ecommerce packaging system protects your products from the observed hazards in your specific supply chain. It ensures that your product arrives at its destination in the best possible condition and meets your customer’s expectations. Customer satisfaction with any product begins with timely delivery and a smooth unboxing experience. This satisfaction leads to future sales and positive reviews, which support ongoing marketing efforts and opportunities to satisfy new customers.

Every ecommerce product and package combination is ultimately tested. Whether you invest in testing proactively or let your end users provide their feedback to you, the performance of your packaging will be clear. And you’ll still need to address the distribution challenges (which may appear as customer complaints, increased returns with damaged merchandise or increasing packaging material costs) that’ll negatively affect your customer’s satisfaction and your product’s star rating. In the end, the choice is yours.

— By Kyle Ous

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