First impressions matter when it comes to the customer experience, and a company's secondary packaging plays an important role. Before a customer uses a product they’ve ordered online, there is the unboxing moment that will make an immediate and lasting impression. Even if the customer is satisfied with the product, right-sized shipping packaging has the potential to enhance the customer experience by making the moment memorable.

    What customers expect from the companies they purchase from is continually evolving. The average customer today wants right-sized, environmentally friendly packaging that arrives quickly and can be used for returns easily. Shippers that fail to give in to these demands may fall behind their competitors who are already integrating this into their shipping packaging.

    Right-Size Packaging

    Oversized boxes filled with excess void-fill have caused shoppers to want guilt- and frustration-free packaging from the companies they purchase from. There’s significant proof of this in unboxing videos — a growing trend in the United States and abroad. These videos can heavily influence someone’s decision to buy a product. Seeing an influencer complain about poorly sized, unrecyclable shipping packaging can turn potential customers off. Creating right-sized boxes will eliminate the distress customers feel over wasteful packaging practices.

    Fast and Reliable Shipping

    Due to options such as same-day and two-day shipping, the average consumer expects their orders to arrive faster and cheaper than ever before. As such, fast delivery has become a necessary part of the shopping experience. Fast delivery, however, is not easy. Given the unpredictability of labor, you may not always have enough hands to get your product out fast enough. Even if you could get the product out on time, the cost to do so may make it not worth it once DIM weight charges are factored in. Automated packaging solutions can make up to 1,100 boxes per hour of single- and multi-item orders. This reduces your dependence on labor and cuts down on parcel volume, improving speed and lowering shipping costs.

    Branded Corrugate

    Because first impressions matter, adding appealing branded packaging could go a long way. Online shopping has created fewer opportunities to connect and engage with customers in person and, as a result, shipping packaging is now so much more than just the container that transports your product – it’s the touchpoint customers associate with a brand and valuable advertising real estate.

    Environmentally Friendly

    To consumers, secondary packaging is the most outward testament of a brand and what it stands for. In fact, 77% of consumers say the packaging a company uses for e-commerce is reflective of their environmental values. When a company delivers a package that contains an exorbitant amount of plastic, they send a signal to the customer that the environment is not a primary concern for them. Customers want to feel their personal values reflected in the companies and products they purchase from. It’s important for brands to consider the amount of waste their shipping packaging produces as protecting the environment continues to be a top priority for consumers today.

    Returnable Packaging

    One way to tarnish the customer experience is by failing to make the return process as easy as possible. One-third of all online orders are returned. Of those returns, customers who experienced a difficult return process were much less likely to do business with that company again. When shipping items, companies need to make sure that their boxes open easily enough to prevent being destroyed while also being reliable enough to reuse. Many parcels shipped today will need to make a round trip without being damaged. The formula for success is striking the perfect balance between reusability and recyclability.

    The Case for Auto-Boxing

    While secondary packaging has the potential to create a customer experience that leaves a lasting positive impression, it isn’t easy to get right. These benefits are much more difficult to achieve with manual packing but become exponentially easier when the process is automated. Automated right-sized packaging will allow you to create parcels that fit your variable order sizes perfectly, reducing or eliminating the need for void fill. This positions your company as socially responsible while making your process more efficient.

    Furthermore, large but lightweight parcels incur unnecessarily high shipping costs. Right-sized automated packaging can reduce the overall size of the package and has the potential to reduce freight costs by an average of 32%. These savings can be passed down to the customer, enhancing their experience.

    Today’s customers expect shopping online to be an easy and pleasant experience from beginning to end, and the shipping packaging process can seal the deal. Implementing automated right-sized packaging will allow your company to show they can exceed customers’ expectations without sacrificing cost or productivity, leaving them satisfied and looking forward to coming back.

    Sean Webb is the director of automated packaging solutions, North America at Sparck Technologies, a leading provider of automated packaging solutions. For more information, visit

    This article originally appeared in the January/February, 2023 issue of PARCEL.