DS Smith Survey: Manufacturers Need to Brace for Online Holiday Shopping Boom, Consumer Demand for Sustainable Packaging

With the pandemic upending holiday trends, DS Smith released a new survey that shows retailers and supply chains need to be prepared for a rush of online shopping and high consumer demand for effective packaging.

The results – paced by 75 percent of consumers saying they plan to do at least half of their holiday shopping online – offer fresh guidance to help manufacturers, suppliers and others in mapping out their business strategies amid a health care crisis.

“The rapid growth of eCommerce that has occurred during the pandemic, combined with the busy holiday shopping season, is putting unparalleled pressure on the behind-the-scenes logistics operations. Poorly designed packaging that doesn’t perform in this rigorous supply chain can create additional issues, like shipping delays or gifts arriving damaged,” said Mark Ushpol, managing director of packaging at DS Smith.

Two-thirds of those surveyed (66 percent) say they are anxious about in-store visits this holiday season because of COVID-19, and about the same (62 percent) expect to shop more online this year than in 2019 – and manufacturers have to be ready to respond with efficient and sustainable options.

“It’s never been more important that gifts arrive safely and securely,” Ushpol said. “With our high-performance packaging solutions, we can provide a strong box, able to withstand the many touchpoints along the delivery journey, while optimizing package size to reduce empty space, therefore contributing positively to sustainability principles.”

For online shoppers, most (68 percent) will rely on home deliveries. And they have high expectations for that, with more than a third (36 percent) saying they won’t buy again from a brand online if a package arrives damaged or if it arrives late. Taking a step further, nearly 9 in 10 consumers (88 percent) expect companies to replace damaged gifts at no expense.

While shoppers don’t want damaged gifts, a DS Smith survey from August proved that wasted space in packaging also is a pain point. Nearly all consumers (93 percent) reported they have received packages with wasted space, and nearly three-fourths (73%) have received packages that were twice the size or more than needed. All this wasted space has left a bad impression, as 54 percent reported they would think twice before ordering again from a company that had excessive space in their packaging.

Sustainable options also are important, with 25 percent of consumers in the latest survey saying they are more likely to purchase gifts from companies that use sustainable packaging options and 19 percent more likely to purchase gifts from companies that use less packaging.

In getting the gifts outs to friends and families, consumers chiefly plan to turn to the Postal Service (30 percent), followed by 27 percent using a private shipping service, such as UPS or FedEx. To help this, DS Smith’s packaging experts have shared a series of tips for packing correctly to reduce wasted space and avoid breakage:

  • Re-use newspapers and magazines as cushioning – lightly/tightly scrunched works most effectively.
  • Try to find boxes that snuggly fit your present. Take note of the dimensions of any gifts – either by checking when you buy online or using an app on your phone to measure.
  • Use at least one inch of cushioning around the item—top, bottom and all four sides — to fill in any air spaces. Then, shake the box. There should be very little movement when you shake it.
  • Put a label on a package to indicate if it’s heavy or fragile to help reduce damages.