First it was offering a wide range of products, then it was all about which ecommerce company provides the best product shipping or delivery options. Now, believe it or not, the ecommerce industry has turned its focus towards the packaging of its products. In fact, with online marketplaces diversifying the types of products they offer, this was simply inevitable.
When the online shopping bug had just arrived in India, everyone was talking about how Flipkart’s books or CDs would arrive in the most tamper-proof packaging. In fact, their impeccable packaging had become Flipkart’s signature for some time. Now, with several other ecommerce players in the market, it seems like everyone wants to leave no stone unturned to better the other. The ‘packaging’ industry is now preparing itself for an impending boom as a side-effect from competitive ecommerce.
Along with the more seasoned companies, smaller ecommerce companies are focusing on good packaging as it can give them a special USP and also an identity and edge over other ecommerce players. “Packaging can be a great branding tool when used well. As a result, LimeRoad innovated on packaging by using colour effectively on very lightweight packaging. The colour reflects the lime in our brand, and is instantaneously recognisable, while meeting safety and quality packaging requirements,” said Suchi Mukherjee, founder and CEO of online apparel portal LimeRoad.
According to a Pricewaterhouse Coopers report, about 25,000 people are currently employed in online retail warehousing and logistics, including packaging and delivery. The report also predicts that the demand for packaging staff would triple by 2017, with an additional demand of about 75,000 people in packaging and delivery functions in the ecommerce. It is no wonder that youngsters are opting to complete educational courses training them in packaging skills. About 200 students graduate each year from The Indian Institute of Packaging (IIP), an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Commerce. Ecommerce companies are willing to snap these graduates up, as the packaging of a product is now entering the limelight. “Flipkart has so far hired five of our students and we have enquiries from other ecommerce companies for the placement season,” said NC Saha, IIP’s director.
It seems like packaging can be used as a handy tool to increase customer loyalty and brand recognition. With several packaging players entering the market as well, it is possible for online sellers to compare various companies and strike better and more profitable deals for packaging.
“Every ecommerce company wants packaging that will prevent damage, breakage and theft of its products, between the warehouse and the last mile customer. Along with this, aesthetics too is playing an important role in packaging. While big companies design in-house and outsource manufacturing, smaller startups outsource both designing and manufacturing to us with requirements,” said Vaibhav Sheth, founder of Ahmedabad-based Securement Packaging.
However, we think that the packaging industry at the moment focuses only on non-perishable and largely unbreakable items. There is still the unexplored area of packaging for online grocery/ food orders as well as fool-proof packaging for liquids or perfumes in breakable bottles. If packaging companies can find a trustworthy way to ensure proper packaging of these products, we could probably be a step closer towards further diversifying the types of products sold through ecommerce in India.