Four months after the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first forced lockdown in response to the need to maintain social distancing, consumers are asking one question: “how do we continue to have access to the goods that we need from the convenience and protection of our homes?” The search for a relevant response to the question has necessitated consumer goods enterprises to introspect their readiness for contactless deliveries and packaging, the point where their products and brands come into contact with end consumers.
How is the COVID-19 Pandemic Proving to be a Major Inflection Point in E-Commerce?
The need to stay indoors has triggered a higher consumer focus on safety first that demands the need for contactless deliveries and new packaging design. The combined effect of these factors has led to the emergence of last-mile delivery of products as an enabler of add-on value and has sharply brought e-commerce enterprises into focus as one-stop solutions providers of consumer goods.
How Packaging Design Can Drive E-Commerce and Contactless Deliveries?
Amidst the new realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, three touchpoints have become critical to providing the right consumer experience: digital commerce platforms, the shipper, and e-commerce packaging.
- Ensuring that the Virus is Minimally Viable on the Packaging Surface
Of these three touchpoints, the one that bears significance from the standpoint of health risks arising from human touch is the packaging surface. There is enough medical literature now to substantiate the direct impact of the packaging surface on the life span and activism of the virus. Correspondingly, packaging companies need to provide material substrates that offer minimal longevity to the virus so that manufacturers and e-commerce companies can partner in keeping the supply chains of consumer goods moving forward while mitigating health risks.
- Leverage Primary Packaging to Address Trust Erosion and Educate Consumers
The need to stay indoors and maintain social behavior that is congenial to guidelines on public health has led to a trust deficit and created splitting gaps between brands and consumers. Amidst the new realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, packaging companies have an additional responsibility to educate consumers about hygiene and safety practices and ways to verify that the internal contents of the product have not been tampered with, is within the bounds of expiry and fit for use. Tamper-proof primary packaging can enable brands to zero down this gap by illustrating important product-related content and usage guidelines.
- Smart Packaging to Address the Need for Greater Visibility into the Supply Chain
The COVID19 pandemic has seen a major transformation in the consumer’s perception of the supply chain journey. Consumers are not shipper-agnostic anymore and want greater clarity on the shipper handling their goods as it moves from one point to another in the supply chain. Technology integration that allows asset tracking of consumer goods is redefining e-commerce packaging solutions. Packaging companies are partnering with manufacturers of consumer goods to make their brands “e-commerce ready” through smart packaging design by enabling better track and trace of SKUs.
- Frugal Innovation in Packaging to Pass-Through Cost Benefits to Consumers
The pandemic has altered buying patterns. While one segment of consumers has been panic buying in bulk quantities fearing stock outages, another segment has been trying to tighten their spending by replacing large packs with small ones. This calls for packaging companies to collaborate with manufacturers and e-commerce companies to facilitate granularity and flexibility in consumer purchases through frugal innovation in packaging. From a packaging design perspective, it calls for packaging companies to design small and light-weight packs and further, replace expensive design aesthetics with features that enhance the robustness.
- Redesign Tertiary Packaging for Multi-Regional Supply Chains and Multimodal Logistics
As localized lockdowns replace holistic ones, the availability of logistics for the supply chain journey is increasingly becoming a challenge. Alternate logistics route planning is re-shaping the distribution of goods across warehouses and PUDO centers before making way to end consumers. This calls for manufacturers to reimagine the geographical spread of their product matrices and correspondingly for packaging solutions providers to redesign tertiary packaging to support multi-regional supply chains and multimodal logistics and make it endure the rigors of the transit journey of goods.
What Will Packaging Look Like Coming Out of the Pandemic?
The lessons emerging from the pandemic are likely to stay with us for a long time after the worst is over. Safety will emerge as the sacrosanct first-principle of packaging overpowering gloss and optics. Manufacturers should assume all their product categories need to be e-commerce ready at all times. While traditional metrics of cost, performance, and convenience will continue to be guiding principles, additional metrics of mobility, hygiene, and visibility will be relevant to assessing the e-commerce readiness of packaged products.
About the Author
Shobhit Goel, VP, Packaging Solutions at Moglix is an astute business leader with accomplishments across the functions of the supply chain, sales, operations, and M&A. Shobhit has pursued his B.Tech (Electrical) from IIT Delhi and his MBA from the Indian School of Business.
During his illustrious career, Shobhit has held diverse leadership roles with industry-leading companies including a supply chain leadership role in Amazon, Head, Supply Chain, Ester Industries and Schneider Electric wherein he successfully led the INR 2000 crores acquisition of Luminous and 10 other large manufacturing units. In his previous role, he was in a supply chain leadership role with Amazon.