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1 in 4 UK consumers would stop ordering from a brand due to overpackaging

4 in 5 prefer to receive a product in paper or cardboard packaging, while 1 in 5 (21%) willing to pay more to go plastic-free

19th September 2023, LONDON – Brands risk losing business if they fail to meet consumer demand for more sustainable packaging, according to new research by DS Smith.

1 in 4 (26%) online shoppers would stop ordering from a company if they experienced too much unnecessary packaging, and over a fifth (22%) would do the same if the packaging was not recyclable or difficult to recycle.

In a survey of UK online shoppers, consumers indicated a strong preference for sustainable and recyclable packaging.

  • 4 in 5 say they would prefer to receive a product in paper or cardboard packaging.
  • This preference was so strong that 1 in 5 (21%) said they would be willing to pay more for plastic-free packaging.

The findings highlight that sustainability is now front of mind for UK consumers, and most associate packaging with a brand’s wider sustainability efforts.  Over two-thirds (68%) said they have a better perception of a company’s sustainability commitments if they received their product in paper or cardboard packaging rather than plastic.

E-commerce shoppers claim they will stop ordering if they receive their parcel in unsustainable packaging
E-commerce shoppers claim they will stop ordering if they receive their parcel in unsustainable packaging

A key concern for consumers when it comes to packaging was recyclability. 7 in 10 (69%) cited this as a priority, while 1 in 4 (25%) would consider paying more for easy to recycle packaging. When asked which features were most important, packaging being made out of paper/cardboard material only (63%) and easy to collapse or flatten (58%) came out on top.

A dislike for overpackaging was also notable, with over two-fifths (45%) of online shoppers citing minimal packaging as important to them. Sentiment towards reuse was also positive – 3 in 4 (75%) online shoppers would be happy to receive a new product in a previously used package, while 7 in 10 (69%) would reuse old packaging for something else.

Anne Curtis, E-Commerce Business Unit Lead for UK Packaging at DS Smith said: “The pandemic was a moment of truth for many e-commerce brands, as the trend of online shopping grew in parallel with increasingly sophisticated expectations for how shoppers receive their products. Now, sustainability is clearly top of their list of priorities. This means high-quality packaging that is either recyclable or reusable, while also reducing any unnecessary waste.

“At a time when consumers are keeping an eye on their spending and competition for customers is fierce, brands risk losing business if their packaging fails to meet online shoppers’ increased sustainability standards.”

The report highlights the wider importance of packaging in helping to ensure a positive brand experience for shoppers. Aside from sustainability concerns, 1 in 3 (32%) have experienced damaged packaging in the last year, and 3 in 5 (58%) people would stop ordering from a company if they received a damaged product repeatedly.

The returns process was also a point of issue for many, with 3 in 10 (29%) saying they find the process frustrating.

Overall, the report warns against neglecting the importance of packaging, which can lead to a decrease in repeat business and may tarnish a brand's image. E-commerce brands should remember that packaging is a customer's first interaction with their purchase. It's therefore an opportunity not just to meet expectations but to exceed them and leave an impression.

What do your e-shoppers really want from their packaging?

Do you run an e-commerce business? Then you should know that your customers will turn away from excess packaging, unnecessary plastic, packaging that is not recyclable or packaging that does not sufficiently protect a product. This is according to a survey we conducted among consumers in the UK.

Key findings:

  • Over half (57%) of online shoppers have shared a review of the packaging they received from online orders, rising to over three in four (78%) younger shoppers.
  • We found that 31% of UK online shoppers who have received damaged packaging from online deliveries say they shopped less often online from that retailer as a result.