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Packaging Trends for Online Retailers That Will Shine


A lot has been written about e-commerce, especially in light of the development of virtual reality and artificial intelligence (AI). This is in line with the global expansion of web-based and internet-related businesses. However, for those aiming to succeed in this booming industry, it’s worth exploring the peripheral opportunities associated with it. One such opportunity is packaging catering to online retailers’ needs.

This article will explore this expanding niche, highlighting the market potential, as well as the latest packaging trends for online retailers.

Table of Contents
Online retail market overview
Hot packaging trends for online retailers
Wrapping up

Online retail market overview

In line with the growth in ecommerce, the number of global online shoppers has been rising significantly too. It was estimated that there were around 2.05 billion online buyers in 2020, with an increase to around 2.14 billion buyers in 2021.

In fact, the actual numbers of worldwide online shoppers up to 2022 appears to have increased at a much higher rate than the above estimation according to a report by Oberlo. Based on that report, the total number of online shoppers in the whole world is expected to jump to 2.64 billion–a number that signifies that one out of every three people on Earth shops online!

With online shopping growing at such a remarkable rate, it is not only becoming the norm but is expected to overtake brick-and-mortar stores by 2040, with predictions that up to 95% of all purchases will be made online by then. This demonstrates a rosy outlook for the online retail sector, which is why wholesalers who are looking to break into the online retail market can consider zeroing in on the related e-commerce packaging trends now.

Hot packaging trends for online retailers

Flexible packaging

As the name implies, flexible packaging refers to packaging that is made of easily moldable, foldable, or shapeable materials. These include those made from plastic, paper, film, and foil, all of which enable retailers to prepare packages of different sizes, shapes, and setups.

A metallic bubble mailer that can serve as a pouch with protective packaging or simply as a padded envelope is one such great example of flexible packaging. Its adaptability is reflected not only in the vast assortment of products it can support but also in terms of branding and packaging design customization.

The fact that most flexible packaging materials exhibit excellent barrier properties, helping to protect the packaged contents from moisture, oxygen, and other gasses, also makes it an outstanding choice for food and beverage packaging to help ensure product freshness and longevity. This food-grade flexible film packaging pouch, for instance, allows flexible-size packaging for multiple food-related products such as protein powders, candy, and other instant beverage sachets.

Meanwhile, flexible packaging made of aluminum foil is capable of offering user-friendly easy-open tear notches and resealable zippers for closures, thereby enhancing customer experience and contributing to the overall appeal of the product.

Aluminum foil is a typical material for flexible packaging

For wholesalers who are looking to save on shipping charges and improve shipping efficiency, flexible packaging also provides an excellent solution in lowering transportation costs given their thin, lightweight nature that is designed to fit snugly around different products. It is also worth noting that on top of sealable zippers, aluminum foils are capable of supporting other additional food-freshness features such as this nitrogen-fillable flexible aluminum foil packaging.

Personalized packaging

The speed and convenience of online shopping signify a much more efficient and interactive shopping experience between shoppers and online retailers. This fosters an encouraging atmosphere for personalized packaging, with retailers now having the ability to easily customize and update their desired personalized message and packaging directly with any businesses that offer such services.

In fact, personalization offered by the big, international players including Starbucks and Sephora is nothing new but rather an ongoing, growing trend that is well-received by consumers. While these renowned brands primarily implement personalization by taking into account the personal preferences, past actions, and personalized messages of their consumers, online retailers mostly relied on personalized packaging to provide a unique unboxing experience for their customers.

Personalized packing solutions for online retailers are commonly achieved through the utilization of stickers or labels, which is now made possible at a lower cost even for small quantities thanks to digital printing. Customizable boxes with transparent lids or even some bespoke pet transportation boxes are some great examples that support digital prints.

Additionally, digital printing personalization offers a wide selection of possibilities beyond just boxes or specific packaging types. For example, it also covers standing pouches or zipper bags as well as assorted beverage and liquid product packaging such as those depicted in the picture below:

Assorted digital printing supported shrink sleeves for customized packaging purposes

Sustainable packaging

With most end-users becoming more and more conscious about the environmental impact that their packaging waste has on the surroundings, sustainable packaging has been discussed extensively over the past few years across the packaging industry for almost all types of products. This is especially true when it comes to online shopping as ecommerce drives a significant increase in packaging waste due to online shopping typically necessitating the use of much more packaging material for product protection during delivery.

In fact, in a study by ecommerce fulfillment company PFS, more than 60% of consumers among the 4,000 respondents (divided equally between the US and UK) voiced their expectation to have sustainable packaging available as an option when shopping online. With all this data in mind, it is therefore getting more important for online retailers to take environmental considerations into account and choose the most sustainable packaging solutions available to match consumers’ expectations.

Fortunately for online retailers, sustainable packaging is a realistic and accessible solution. As featured in the image below, biodegradable mailer bags and envelope-style mailers made of sustainable materials like Kraft paper with bubble linings are obvious examples of eco-friendly packaging options well-suited for online retailers who handle a full range of products, including small and miniature-sized items.

Biodegradable mailer bags suitable for small online retail items

On the other hand, a corrugated mailer box made from corrugated board is another sustainable packaging option that is highly recommended for online retailers due to its sturdy structure and foldable and collapsible features. In the same vein, but with a slight twist, foldable paper boxes offer a lighter, more versatile, and equally environmentally conscious alternative to corrugated boxes, for example, this minimalist style simple paper-made foldable gift box.

Kraft paper tube is an eco-friendly packaging option for ecommerce

For items that are not suitable for boxes or small mailer bags, a Kraft paper tube is a highly recommended packaging option for e-commerce companies. These paper tubes provide a unique and eco-friendly way to package products, especially for those with cylindrical shapes, as shown in the picture above.

Wrapping up

The extensive adoption of online shopping by consumers, coupled with the advancements in virtual reality and artificial intelligence, suggests a significant expansion of internet-based businesses and related peripheral industries, such as packaging that caters to online retailers’ needs.

Looking ahead, flexible packaging, personalized packaging, and sustainable packaging will no doubt shape the overall packaging direction for online stores. For wholesalers aiming to expand their e-commerce businesses, exploring these trends to offer online retailers exceptional packaging solutions is the key to tapping into this growth. Explore multiple sections on Alibaba Reads that offer sourcing guidance and insights across different industries to stay ahead of the latest trends.

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