The numbers tell the story of the potential of e-commerce. In 2019, online sales reached over $601 billion, accounting for 14.9% of retail sales. That figure is forecast to top $709 billion in 2020 to a staggering 18% of purchases in light of current events.

    The importance of packaging, therefore, cannot be overestimated.

    It’s essential to understand the consumer’s expectations for shipping and the power it has for influencing customer retention and loyalty.

    The Balancing Act

    Retailers face the challenge of keeping costs down and pleasing buyers. Consider these facts.

    Sixty-two percent of online shoppers rate free shipping as a deciding factor in the e-commerce sites they choose.

    Eighty percent of buyers want fast shipping, too.

    Forty-six percent are buying items like TVs and electronics, which require special packaging.

    You can see the dilemma that online retailers face. However, e-commerce adds another vital issue to the mix…


    The New Role of Packaging

    Cardboard is the materials of choice for shipping, with only 1.1 percent of the manufactured corrugated boxes used for something besides packaging.

    Cardboard is inexpensive.

    It’s recyclable.

    It can hold a lot of stuff.

    It’s relatively lightweight.

    The problem is that it’s also boring. Consider this unintended consequence of the rise of e-commerce sales. Many individuals may never visit a brick-and-mortar store of the company they do business with online. Some retailers may only have an online presence. That ups the ante on the importance of packaging as part of the e-commerce experience.

    Not only must cardboard or other shipping materials adequately protect the product, but it also must function as a marketing or branding tool.

    Think about it. The box a buyer receives is your first—and maybe only—impression. The outside of the packaging is now your company's billboard. It's an opportunity to create awareness that critical first stage in your sales funnels.

    It’s imperative that you make the most out of it. stands out as an online retailer who has done just that. Their iconic but straightforward logo is recognizable and an integral part of their brand. That should also be the goal of all e-commerce retailers.

    Setting the Right Tone

    Sturdy packaging that ensures the safe delivery of the product is paramount. It must arrive undamaged, despite the known-unknown factor of the carrier. There are several things you can do to make the first impression count inside of the box, too.

    Things to refine in your packaging process include:

    The Right Size Box: One that is too large signals waste, increases your costs, and runs the risk of damaging the product. And it’s crucial to know the exact dimensional weight of the product so you can use the perfect size for it.

    Packing Material: Adequate filler shows that you care about the buyer and their purchase. Using things like air pillows or bubble wrap is preferable to peanuts, which are messy.

    Gifts: Who doesn’t like getting something for free? Your customers think the same thing. And it doesn’t have to be something large or expensive to make an impact.

    However, there is one more item you must check off when it comes to packaging…


    The Other Part of the Balancing Act

    No matter how well you described a product and shipped it, the fact remains that up to one-third may come back to you. Those are the unknown unknowns that you can’t account for because they are outside of your wheelhouse.

    For packaging, that means you must consider the fact that the box you shipped the product might see a round trip.

    The box, therefore, has to be sturdy enough to be reusable.

    It must include a return shipping label.

    It can’t be packaged in a way that the buyer has to destroy it to get to the contents.

    While it sounds tedious, the fact is that up to 80 percent of buyers will go elsewhere online if they had a negative shopping experience. This is why you should consider outsourcing logistics services to reduce the possible liabilities, lessen your back-office works, and maintain customer satisfaction rates.

    Final Thoughts

    Packaging might not rank the highest on your list for e-commerce sales. However, it’s much more than a shipping container; it’s a testament to the quality of your customer service and a representation of your brand.

    Use it wisely.

    Jake Rheude is the Vice President of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an order fulfillment company for online retailers and ecommerce businesses specializing in heavy and large products. He brings a highly motivate approach to learning and sharing all aspects of order fulfillment and business management, alongside traditional marketing, SEO, and brand positioning. Marketing plays a pivotal role in the ability to attract and audience and build loyalty, and Jake’s goal is to show companies how shipping is essential to that relationship by creating a promise you must meet with every purchase. Visit