Online Toy Purchases Packaging Perceptions
Below is an overview of how customers perceive FFP (frustration-free packaging) in how it relates to products shipped from Amazon. Additionally, trends in consumer and company beliefs as it relates to recyclable and sustainable packaging are included. Through extensive research, there is no concrete customer preference on cardboard vs. polybag packaging, as public knowledge and understanding of the effects of each material on the environment is still unknown and up for debate. These details are explained in full later in the write-up, as reported by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).
FFP (Amazon) is designed to protect the contents within, without adding in unnecessary layers of plastic bags or fillers within the product. FFP is made from 100% recyclable materials, and aims to use less waste in packaging. Consumers are able to easily recognize an Amazon box, and report appreciating simple cardboard box packaging.
In November 2017, Amazon celebrated their 10th anniversary of utilizing FFP, and reported they’ve eliminated 181K tons of packaging material, and saved over 307 million shipping boxes. Yet, Amazon is still facing challenges in optimizing and implementing their FFP in the best way possible, as there is still room to cut down on unnecessary waste. One consumer reported frustration when an Amazon package they receive, with one wall calendar within the box, was wrapped in 45 feet of paper. Further, consumers have voiced their annoyances with difficulties hiding the contents of FFP for gifts or surprises. Amazon suggests marking the "gift" check mark box during the payment process, and/or requesting the box be shipped in an Amazon branded box (as some products may ship in their original packaging).
CONSUMER AND INDUSTRY TRENDS
Individuals with extensive (10 years +) in development, corporate management, design, engineering, production, logistics, and sales and marketing were included in a survey done as part of the 2018 State of Packaging Industry Report. 84% said that packaging has begun to affect brand building within the last two years, up from 69% of respondents in 2017. 36% said that they plan to allocate more resources towards sustainability and recyclability in 2018, while 51% are allocating more resources towards materials, and 58% towards creative and design-related services. 57% of respondents said that the latest trend they are seeing in packaging is a move towards sustainable and/or recyclable packaging
Yet, there are numerous challenges companies are facing regarding their current and future packaging capabilities. 47% reported their biggest challenge was not only a rise in material costs for raw packaging, but struggles “developing innovative package designs to connect emotionally with the end-customer.” 33% reported finding skilled workers as a big challenge, while 27% said trying to reduce waste in packaging was their largest obstacle.
In a global consumer survey from 2016, 65% of consumers reported “always or mostly” recycling their packaging products, while 53% said they “always or mostly avoid excessively packaged grocery products.” Moving into an updated look at global consumer behaviors in 2017, the most crucial factor to consumers in packaging capabilities is the need to be recyclable. There is a shift towards a want in environmentally friendly packaging that can not only be recycled, but also helps to reduce unnecessary packaging materials.
In 2017, Disney adopted the “How2Recycle” label, which is placed on all packaging to educate the consumer (mainly, the child opening the product) on the importance of recycling, and how to recycle that packaging. Disney said that they are connecting with consumers so they can align on a common goal of recycling, and are “demonstrating a commitment to empowering the next generation of recyclers.”
As of 2017, “one in five online consumers” reported purchasing a product due to an online review that specifically mentioned the product’s packaging. Consumers have an increasing desire for packaging that enhances the product within, or is considered sustainable or recyclable. The recent trend of “unboxing” (watching someone open a package from beginning to end) has begun to grow in recent months, with YouTube channels featuring kids opening toys providing their review. Unboxing isn’t exclusive to children — numerous adults will post their review of a product online. In 2016, unboxing videos were the 10th most popular kind of video on YouTube. 2015 saw over 51 million searches for “unboxing.”
In a global online consumer study from 2016, spanning over 60 countries, 55% reported a willingness to spend more on services and products produced by companies that are committed to a positive environmental impact. Asia-Pacific is most concerned with responsible brands (64%), followed by Latin America (63%), Middle East/Africa (63%), North America (42%), and Europe (40%). Further, these reported desires for sustainable products and packaging is translating to real-life sales, with the average annual sale of products in sustainable packaging increasing 2% since 2014.
Plastic vs. cardboard
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is trying to make consumers more aware of the environmental impact of the products they purchase and their subsequent packaging. Tips from the EPA include avoiding packages with unnecessary fillers (plastic seals, bubble packs), mixed material packaging (e.g. plastic and foil), and trying to choose packages that are done as simply as possible, using materials that can be recycled. The EPA encourages consumers to limit the number of plastic bags they use in a grocery store (e.g. purchase fresh produce with no packaging), and reusing any paper bags or cardboard boxes.
In terms of whether consumers prefer boxes vs. polybags in their online packaging choices, there isn’t a clear answer. Whether plastic or cardboard is better for the environment is still up for debate, since while cardboard or paper packaging may decompose faster than plastic, they generate “50X more water pollutants and 70% more air pollutants during product than plastic packaging.” An official recommendation from the EPA states that whatever packaging you choose, make sure to reuse it in any way you can, e.g. cardboard boxes utilized as a holder for recycled cans and bottles.
FFP packaging is proving to be successful in the online packaging industry, with customers appreciating the use of simple cardboard packages with minimal filler products. 58% of companies are reporting seeing a move towards sustainable and recyclable packaging as the largest trend in 2018, and 65% of consumers report "always or mostly" recycling their packaging products. Plastic vs. cardboard packaging does not influence consumer purchase behaviors or preferences, as the EPA reports both products have positive and negative effects on the environment.