Times Raconteur Q&A

Last month, Isabel Rocher, Head of E-commerce Solutions at DS Smith spoke to The Times about the future of the packaging industry and specifically the future of e-commerce. Here’s what she outlined:

  1. What are the priorities today for e-commerce packaging development? 

In some ways e-retailers have the same priorities as traditional retailers: 1) protection 2) brand 3) sustainability. But ‘how’ these priorities are addressed can be very different.

In traditional retail the packaging is about enticing the customer to buy the product on shelf – in e-commerce it is about having an ‘unboxing’ experience at home to maximise the first time the consumer physically interacts with the product and brand.

For sustainability, many e-commerce packages are 50% air meaning more fibre in the box but also reduced efficiency in terms of logistics and use of warehouse space. There is huge room for improvement here. Our Made2fit technology was designed to tackle this challenge of void space, creating right-sized packaging that significantly reduces produce movements and therefore helping to reduce damage.

          2. Have innovations in e-commerce packaging kept speed with evolutions in e-commerce in general?

No, packaging hasn’t kept pace but that’s changing fast. DS Smith works with e-tailers to show them that packaging isn’t a cost -it’s a competitive advantage in a world where online orders sometimes need to survive up to 50 touchpoints in a typical product journey. Our new DISCS technology is a key innovation - it accurately simulates the e-commerce supply chain by replicating each part of the product journey and provides assurance to retailers that packaging can withstand the stresses and strains of the supply chain.

       3. What are the biggest packaging sustainability issues for e-tailers?

Criticism of excess packaging remains an issue and it is a complex challenge for the industry to solve. The key is for e-retailers and packaging strategists to work in partnership to create packaging that is highly efficient in its use of space even when multiple, differing objects are delivered together.

      4. How is the increase in online convenience shopping likely to impact e-tailers’ sustainability efforts?

Being sustainable isn’t just about the packaging. Being efficient in transportation is vital too but this can be a challenge for e-retailers, whose customers expect 24-hour delivery services. Good packaging also impacts the overall supply cycle and the benefits of a more efficient supply cycle accumulate again and again.

      5. How did you see attitudes to packaging evolve at Amazon during your time working there?

Many e-commerce retailers, including Amazon, are turning to the packaging industry to help them review the complexities of the e-commerce supply chain and lessen their environmental impact.

The drive toward optimised packaging that can safely and securely ship products, lower transportation costs, improve environmental performance and reduce packaging waste, is key.

     6. Where are we at regarding the development of omnichannel packaging?

My vision is for optimised, omnichannel packaging to become a fundamental part of an integrated supply chain and omni-retail experience.

That vision enables e-retailers and brands to have a robust design solution that delivers on shelf, online and during general distribution.