E-commerce is a competitive market. But if you get it right, you will partake in a $3.65 trillion business. That’s a huge enough pie with a big enough piece for everyone. No wonder why many find it worthwhile to give the industry a try.
However, not everyone with the guts to try their luck in e-commerce will prosper. Meanwhile, those who do so share one thing in common: a foolproof business strategy. In that regard, marketing proves crucial.
For a modern and effective marketing approach, it’s high time you go green via sustainable packaging. This initiative will not only give your business the kind of branding that’s desirable in its eco-consciousness but can also boost sales. Yes, consider it shooting two birds with one stone.
Keep in mind, though, that this shot requires utmost preparation. You can’t get into it blind. Here’s everything you need to know so that when you finally aim, no marketing bullets go to waste.
The Problem of Packaging Waste in E-commerce
E-commerce revolutionized consumer culture. Products of all kinds are now available to people from all backgrounds, regardless of location. Plus, online shopping is very convenient with a few taps or clicks. This is all well and good, except more consumption equates to more wastage. A major contributor to e-commerce waste is product packaging.
According to a report published on Statista, “In 2019, e-commerce plastic packaging waste was estimated at more than one billion kilograms worldwide.”
With the pandemic hitting the year after and consumers left at home ordering from e-commerce platforms, it’s easy to see how that figure likely increased in the following years. And that’s just plastic packaging in focus. Factor into the equation other materials used for packaging, and you get a drearier picture.
Of course, all these packaging wastes have to go somewhere. When they get reintroduced into the environment, they pose an array of hazards, including the following:
- Greenhouse gases, which are the major contributors to climate change
- A toxic liquid called leachate, which seeps from landfills and pollutes waterways
- Landfill-triggered eutrophication, which endangers aquatic life by increasing nitrate and decreasing water-based oxygen
- Disruption and contamination of ecosystems
These are no longer a secret. People have become aware of these environmental impacts caused by consumer-related wastes. As such, more and more shoppers have developed a bias toward businesses that brand themselves as eco-friendly and truly walk the talk.
A CGS survey found that almost half of its 1,000 respondents would pay 25% more for sustainable products. Meanwhile, about 70% of respondents agree that sustainability is “somewhat important.”
So, what’s the takeaway from these survey results for e-commerce brands? Put simply, eco-conscious customers are a market worth tapping. However, to maximize the efforts you expend to that end, the right strategies must be in place.
Sustainable Packaging Strategies for E-commerce Entrepreneurs
Here are tried and tested strategies to ensure that your sustainable packaging efforts yield the ROI you deserve.
Choosing Eco-friendly Materials
The first order of business is choosing the right eco-friendly materials. Here, you have two options. You can either go for biodegradable or compostable or recyclable or recycled options. For the former, choices run the gamut.
There’s mushroom, for instance. It’s low-cost and durable. You can also explore packaging made from cornstarch, which is also efficient price and strength-wise.
As for recycled or recyclable options, you can go the traditional route with recycled paper or plastic. Those are the most common materials found in landfills; hence, in choosing them, you’ll significantly contribute to the world’s collective sustainability efforts.
Sometimes, it’s easy to get tempted to get all elaborate with product packaging. That’s most true if you prioritize providing customers an exciting unboxing experience.
However, it also results in more packaging waste, especially if the package dimensions are too big for the product. With a little creativity and imagination, you can still make a compact packaging dynamic.
Also, remember that the heavier the packaging, the bigger the freight cost. That’s why plastic films, molded pulp, and jute are quite popular. They are cost-effective and can be sustainable via proper sourcing and manufacturing.
Designing for Reusability
The cost of recycling product packages, and waste in general, is often higher than the cost of letting them go into landfills. That’s one of the drawbacks of the system. One way to work around this challenge is by promoting reusable packaging.
For example, you can choose organic fabric and fashion them into reusable bags that are stylish enough to work as a shopping bag. Here, your green branding gains organic marketing whenever one of your loyal customers carries your tote or drawstring bag on grocery trips.
Using Minimalistic Packaging
Again, there’s always that sense of uncertainty between wanting to design packaging that’s interesting enough to warrant an unboxing video on the one hand and keeping things simple on the other hand.
The latter is obviously better for the environment. Less packaging equals less waste. It doesn’t have to be boring, either. In fact, it can be an experience unto itself. If you and your customers are on the same page in terms of your commitment to the great green cause, minimal product packaging will not deter your patrons from deriving excitement when opening your products.
Incorporating Sustainable Packaging into Branding and Marketing
This is not to be missed. All of your sustainable packaging efforts won’t mean anything if your target market isn’t in on the tea. As such, it’s crucial to look into your marketing and branding efforts; make sure they do not fail to send your message across.
Start with the product design itself. Incorporate labels that explicitly champion your business’s green consciousness. Do not forget to conduct SEO efforts that will complement your in-product marketing. Use cohesive messaging that forwards your brand as sustainable on your official social media accounts, websites, and other online platforms.
Case Studies: Successful Implementation of Sustainable Packaging
Sure, it’s easy to get intimidated by the prospect of shifting to sustainable packaging. It’s not necessarily a walk in the park. Keep in mind, though, that it’s perfectly doable. Take inspiration from the following success stories.
This brand of vitamin supplements gives a health boost to its customers and Mother Earth. The company’s commitment to sustainability is evident in its mailers, which utilize recycled materials to reduce the demand for new paper production. In extension, their efforts also help divert waste from landfills.
Besides eco-friendly mailers, Ritual’s vitamin bottles and caps also consider sustainability. The bottles are from repurposed plastic that would otherwise go to waste. Meanwhile, the bottle caps are from post-industrial resin—plastic scraps from manufacturing. With these efforts, the company ensures it’s utilizing as much waste as possible.
It’s only fitting for a company that sells vegan, dairy-free, and organic food to package its products sustainably. That’s what FoodCraft is all about; it uses plant-based PLA, a bioplastic derived from renewable resources like cornstarch and sugarcane. Buyers can then use PLA packaging as compost to produce nutrient-rich soil for gardens and agriculture.
Additionally, PLA boxes have low carbon footprints. The production of these materials requires less energy and releases lower greenhouse gases than petroleum-based plastics. These efforts align with FoodCraft’s values of being one with nature, making its food products environmentally friendly in the packaging department.
The Tshirt Mill
The Tshirt Mill is an ecommerce retailer specializing in customized apparel and accessories. Likewise, the company relies on eco-friendly packaging for order fulfillment. Its 100% compostable mailers utilize bio-based polymer and plant materials like wheat and straw. In turn, buyers can dispose of packaging without damaging the environment.
Compostable mailers offer numerous benefits in terms of sustainability. For starters, they help reduce the amount of plastic from packaging materials. While conventional plastic mailers take decades to degrade, these eco-friendly alternatives break down more quickly, minimizing their impact on landfills. The use of bio-based polymers also reduces reliance on fossil fuel-based plastics.
Maison Tess. products have consumer approval due to their sustainability score. The home textile brand uses 100% compostable mailers that can naturally break down and return to the soil without leaving harmful residues.
The company also provides customers reusable packaging options, particularly cotton drawstring bags, instead of single-use packaging. Buyers may reuse them to store items, organize their belongings, or use them as eco-friendly gift bags. Ultimately, these efforts encourage a circular economy approach to packaging materials to reduce landfill waste.
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day
The cleaning industry is infamous as a massive contributor to the large amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the atmosphere. So, it was surprising to learn that a company selling cleaning products can also be environmentally friendly.
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day demonstrates its environmental commitment through its packaging choices. The first is via recyclable bottles that buyers and junkshops can reuse for other purposes. Some may even refill them with similar cleaning solutions to prevent containers from going to waste. The company also uses post-consumer plastic to reduce the demand for new plastic production.
Finally, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day encourages customers to recycle their bottles. They include reminders on product labels, a simple yet effective way to promote eco-friendly behavior among shoppers.
Overcoming Challenges and Considerations
To aptly prepare yourself for your business’s eventual shift to sustainable packaging, here are a few challenges and considerations to look into.
While you might invest significant capital in the shift to sustainable packaging, you should weigh the potential for long-term cost efficiency. Here, it’s crucial to do the whole process right. For instance, start by partnering with reliable stakeholders, from raw product suppliers to storage brokers and delivery partners.
Navigating Regulations and Certifications
Make sure to adhere to packaging compliance standards. It will be counterproductive to pursue sustainability efforts that overstep the bounds of the law.
Obtaining Relevant Certifications for Sustainable Packaging
The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC)‘s eight-point criteria aim to make packaging sustainable. Adhering to these standards will qualify you for relevant certificates that further legitimize your sustainability efforts.
Go Green for Red Hot Sales
Our planet is in great ecological turmoil. According to the World Meteorological Association, “There is a 98% likelihood that at least one of the next five years, and the five-year period as a whole, will be the warmest on record.”
That’s a scary scenario, one you have no direct control over. However, how you conduct business is your call. And all these environmental problems we face require a more ethical approach to entrepreneurship, such as getting behind sustainable packaging trends.
Pivoting to green packaging will not only make you feel better about the business you do. After all, you’re doing something in the service of the environment.
But on top of that, it will also improve your reputation among the burgeoning class of consumers that are becoming more and more partial to brands committed to sustainability. As such, you can expect sales to shoot up.