The season in the run up to Christmas can be a time of joy and celebration for many, but behind the scenes, it can be an intense period for those working in online retail. For online retailers, third-party logistics (3PLS) companies and the packaging industry, the last few months of the year represent the peak season of the year.
As retailers and 3PLs gear up for the whirlwind of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and beyond, packaging and packing processes become even more crucial than ever. The right packaging materials and an efficient process can make or break a peak season.
In this blog, we’ll dive into four essential packaging tips to help you flourish rather than flounder this peak season. By focusing on operational efficiency, packaging designs that stand up to the rigours of courier networks, and creating a positive unboxing experience, businesses can not only survive but thrive during these critical months.
4 packaging tips to help you survive peak
The significance of peak in the online retail and packaging industries
Peak season, spanning from October through December, is the time when online retail businesses witness a surge in parcel volumes due to the shopping frenzy triggered by Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas.
In the UK alone, there are billions of parcels shipped during this season every year. One year, courier Hermes reported delivering 72 million packages between Black Friday and Christmas Eve. And that’s just one courier! The time period also accounts for huge spikes in revenue. Therefore, it’s critical that online retailers capitalise upon these months while keeping up with the huge uptick in demand.
Talking of demand, in our own research, just over 30% of retailers and 3PLs reported that productivity was their biggest challenge during peak.
It’s a lot to contend with – trying to keep production going, getting orders out the door and keeping customers satisifed. The pressure all adds up. So, how can you avoid feeling frazzled during peak?
4 packaging tips to help you survive peak
With the significance of peak in mind, here are four packaging tips to help you survive the busiest season of the year:
1. Organise your packaging materials and make the most of the “power zone”
During peak, efficiency is the name of the game – and getting your packaging organised will help you pave a path to success.
- Make sure your packaging materials are close to packers – this reduces downtime and will help ensure throughput is maintained. Having the right materials in the right place on workstations will help reduce fatigue too. Keep everything at no higher than shoulder height – we call this the “power zone”.
- Think about how packaging will be replenished – realistically, you probably can’t keep entire pallets of packaging on your packing benches, so think about how you’ll replenish stock for your team. Yes, the packer could go and get it, but it may be more efficient to use a “water spider” system. This is when you have one (or more) member(s) of your team who is responsible for fetching packaging and replenishing stations so packers can keep on packing!
- Prioritise standardisation of materials – implementing standardised packaging sizes and materials will help simplify the packing process. This reduces the need for additional measuring, cutting or folding, enabling your team to get parcels packed quickly. If you sell bundled products, it might be worth considering pre-packing these to ensure quick dispatch.
2. Make sure you’ve got anti-fatigue matting installed
It’s hard work being on your feet all day. Especially on the hard concrete floors of warehouses.
Installing anti-fatigue matting in front of packing benches can help ease the pressure on the feet and legs of your team, as well as reduce fatigue from prolonged standing.
Providing gloves can also keep your team comfortable, minimising rubbing and chaffing on hands that are handling tape guns, boxes and bags all day, as well as moving stock around.
All of this will contribute to a more efficient and safe work environment.
3. Invest in durable packaging materials to withstand courier networks
The right packaging materials can pay dividends throughout peak.
We mentioned earlier that billions of parcels are being shipped during the busy season, combined with the potential for packing standards to drop due to demand, it can often lead to increased rates of damage. Our unboxing research showed that 7% of parcels arrive damaged throughout the year, factor in increased demand and this could shoot up.
The knock-on effect of this is an increase in reverse logistics adding further pressure to your team during an already intense period.
Properly designed packaging can minimise the risk of damage during transit and ensure a positive unboxing experience. If your products have the potential for damage, cardboard boxes offer the strength and ability to absorb shocks when teamed with the right void fill or cushioning. It’s important to remember, it’s about the solution that’s right for your business, operations and product – optimising packaging to meet these needs so you can deliver for your customers.
4. Keep the unboxing experience memorable with seasonal messaging
Keeping customers happy is important year-round, but peak offers a significant opportunity to use the unboxing experience to delight them.
Making the unboxing experience memorable with seasonal messaging and special offers will engage your customers and offer you an additional way to capitalise on the holiday demand.
This doesn’t have to be a complex process either. If you want to use your standard packaging, you could introduce seasonal tape, labels or inserts to make the most of the opportunity. These types of packaging are often available within short lead times and in lower minimum order quantities, making them ideal for shorter-notice promotions. Alternatively, you could opt for completely cutomised packaging, but this requires planning ahead.
Need help surviving peak?
As the peak season approaches, Macfarlane Packaging are here to get you through it. We can support you with packaging materials, as well as the expertise to keep your operation as efficient as possible.