We have been a provider of eco-friendly packaging for the DTC market since the eco-friendly trend started to take off around 2010. During that time, we have seen many direct to consumer (DTC) companies try to recreate the retail experience at the consumer’s home by delivering a positive and memorable unboxing experience.

Year after year, the increasing e-commerce-over-retail numbers tell us that this dramatic shift in how consumers shop and buy is here to stay. The pandemic we are all working through has only served to accelerate those numbers. So whatever support business you are in, you must get on board or you will certainly be left behind. Whether you do package mailing, total fulfillment, or sell labeling equipment, this market is different than others before it in significant ways.

The Decision-makers/Owners Are Young Professionals

Most e-commerce and online business startups are owned by men and women in their twenties or thirties. They are very tech-savvy and want to be informed, not sold. They seek brevity in detail and honesty above all. These young entrepreneurs tend to communicate through short, succinct email exchanges, with the occasional phone call or Zoom/video chat serving as a brief “check-in” when necessary. The best approach is often to educate them on the facts, make their options clear, and then give them the freedom to come to their own decisions/conclusions.

These Customers Quickly Determine What They Do in House and What They Want to Outsource

Most of these young business owners are brilliant marketers. They understand e-commerce and excel at search engine optimization (SEO). They may also know product sourcing, domestic or overseas, better than the old fashioned “purchasing agent” of yesteryear, yet are far less familiar with logistics, shipping costs, or packaging design. Often, they are earnest in seeking guidance for these areas where they are lacking in expertise. They believe in “outsourcing” key jobs to experienced people who know what they are doing. Earn their trust and they will love you forever. Misinform them and the relationship will be brief because you are the expert they are counting on.

What Is an Ops Manager?

If there is an Achilles’ heel for the typical e-commerce start up, it is the fact they usually start their business without an operations manager. Usually these start-ups include some very experienced people with a variety of backgrounds, but rarely do they have anyone able or willing to assume responsibility for operations. They are probably not familiar with production schedules, logistics, shipping requirements, inventory costs, etc. The more you can contribute in these critical areas, the more valuable you become. As you become a member of the “team,” they will include you in collaborating sessions so you will become aware of new developments and opportunities.

Remember to teach rather than preach. They are eager to learn and will be grateful for your help and willingness to share from your area of expertise. Transparency is a two-way street.

Many, if Not Most, of These Companies Are Extremely Green Minded

When you consider the age of the key players in these businesses, it is not a surprise to learn they are most interested in solutions that are ecofriendly. That is not just referring to consumable products like boxes or mailer envelopes, but it also applies to services and internal processes. For example: if you get the product to the consumer quickly and at a low cost, that is good. Get it there on a fleet that is 75% electric, even better. Make them aware of your in-house sustainability initiatives such as solar energy use and you may score big points. It could be the difference maker between you and your competitor.

After 40 years in the packaging industry, it seems we are still constantly learning. Some of those revelations are product related, but the most important ones are about people, their needs, and expectations.

These are trying times, but not without opportunity. We launched our business in March of 2007, before we realized a terrible recession would soon be impacting all businesses. We have survived and thrived by recognizing market changes and adapting our business to those changes, rather than resisting them.

Dennis Salazar is CEO and co-founder of Salazar Packaging, which he and his wife/partner Lenora started together in 2007. He writes regularly for three different blogs, as well as magazines and they have been featured in many news articles, interviews and books. You can contact Dennis or learn more about his business at www.SalazarPackaging.com