E-Commerce is the Key to Success For Today’s Suppliers
Five Ways Packaging Brands Can Stand Out From the Crowd Online
By Yoav Kutner, CEO and co-founder of Oro, Inc.
The packaging industry has never had it so good. The pandemic sent consumers online for everything from groceries to healthcare supplies to luxury items — leading to a surge in packaging purchases with e-commerce sales using about seven times more cardboard boxes per dollar than brick-and-mortar sales according to the U.S. Dept. of Commerce. In fact, Supply and Demand Chain Executive reports the industry is now growing at an annual rate of 3.5%, almost double the growth seen before COVID struck.
That trend won’t change as consumers pivot back to real-world shopping, either. Brands are increasingly embracing experience-driven omnichannel strategies that depend on both effective packaging for online orders, and distinctive and innovative packaging for in-store purchases. For today’s brands, in fact, packaging has never been more important.
That’s great news for packaging companies, of course. But it also creates challenges, and increased competition as suppliers scramble to win over brands that are rethinking their packaging needs. So, what will it take to help today’s packaging companies forge a successful path forward?
Big opportunities, big challenges
It’s important to acknowledge that the packaging boom brings big challenges for suppliers, especially as supply chain logjams create logistical headaches and raise the cost of raw materials. Some manufacturers of glass containers, for example, have seen raw material costs soar by 40% in recent months, forcing suppliers to raise prices even as they scramble to cut costs in other areas.
The surge in demand has also left many packaging companies wondering how best to promote their products and make their catalogs searchable for procurement teams looking for extremely specific types of packaging— when packagers often run thousands of SKUs. Even packaging companies with just a few products often serve a very diverse customer base, making it tricky for sales teams to offer the personalized attention needed to guide customers through the sales funnel.
Finally, packaging companies often struggle to support customers as they coordinate across multiple stakeholders — product researchers, developers, and brand teams, for instance — and figure out exactly what they need and get proper approval for large orders. Add in complex order and pricing structures, and it can be difficult for packaging companies’ sales teams to meet the needs of customers as demand surges.
Finding a new solution
To overcome these challenges, packaging companies are having to innovate not just the products they offer, but the processes they use to support their customers and their sales teams. Here are five ways that e-commerce tools can help packaging companies to level up their sales operations:
1. Workflow automation
Manufacturers already use automation to boost productivity and reduce costs on the factory floor. Now it’s time to bring that tech into the sales pipeline, and use digital platforms with customizable workflows to reduce errors and keep things moving.
With self-serve portals, you can outsource tasks ranging from sales and service to data entry to your customers, while simultaneously streamlining and improving their experience. Best of all, by automating workflows you can release your sales team to handle more complex queries and tasks, freeing up their valuable time and enabling them to provide even more value for your business.
2. Improving product visibility
Finding the right packaging can be tricky, but e-commerce tools make the search process far easier. Packaging companies can create personalized catalogs for returning customers, for example, leveraging the sales team’s insights to ensure that customers are automatically shown products that meet their specifications.
Guided and intelligent search tools also simplify the task of combing through thousands of SKUs. Buyers can search by product description, SKU, and other variables to eliminate friction and maximize conversions.
3. Improved customer experience
Digitally savvy Millennials are now moving into purchasing positions, and older business to business (B2B) buyers are also now used to shopping online for personal purchases. To deliver a great experience for these customers, packaging companies need to offer online tools that make B2B purchases just as easy and convenient as business to consumer (B2C) shopping.
It’s now possible to easily create chatbots that can offer support with product discovery, account and order queries, shipping options, and more. Bringing these and other B2C-style innovations into the B2B customer journey can be a great way to engage your customers and boost sales.
4. Unlimited personalization
Many packaging companies worry that moving into e-commerce will make it harder to offer a personalized sales experience. In fact, going digital can be a great way to offer personalization at scale, and to better-serve the needs of a diverse set of customers.
With digital tools, it’s possible to tailor product listings and prices to specific customers. But it’s also possible to create entire websites geared to the needs of specific industries. For instance, a single packaging company might offer one branded storefront for healthcare companies, another for food brands, and yet another for beverages — all powered by the same unified back-end platform.
5. Embrace complexity
Selling in today’s world is a complex business, but digital commerce platforms let packaging companies embrace that complexity. Rather than limiting your sales efforts based on available bandwidth, you can put scalable digital tools in place to serve an almost unlimited audience.
Because e-commerce platforms adapt to the needs of each customer, you can offer a bespoke experience to each and every customer, even as you’re serving a large and fast-growing customer-base. And because that complexity is managed with automation and self-serve tools, your back-end operations will remain streamlined and efficient no matter how big your business gets.
The common thread through these strategies is the understanding that embracing digital commerce doesn’t mean abandoning all the things that customers currently love about your company. Instead, it means leveraging smart technologies to help your sales team to reach new heights, and to deliver the same thoughtful, reliable, and personalized service your customers depend upon in a more streamlined and scalable way.
The bottom line is that the packaging industry is facing big challenges, but also big opportunities. By bringing new e-commerce technologies to bear on their sales processes, companies can ensure they capitalize on those opportunities — and turn today’s challenges into enduring differentiators that will help them to rise above the competition.
About the Author
Yoav Kutner is the CEO and co-founder of Oro, Inc, which has created OroCommerce, an open-source e-Commerce platform built for distributors, wholesalers, brands, and manufacturers. Yoav previously co-founded and served as the CTO of Magento.