Packaging Insights

How brand-focused packaging can reduce eCommerce returns.

January 11, 2022
An excited woman opening an eCommerce package wrapped with custom tissue paper

For the first quarter of 2021, U.S. eCommerce sales grew 39% year-over-year to $199 billion. As digital shopping sales continue to break pre-pandemic growth predictions, savvy retailers will want to pounce on this unprecedented opportunity to optimize their eCommerce business. Researchers expect US consumers will spend $1.045 trillion through digital retail channels in 2022. Before the pandemic, eCommerce was not expected to reach this milestone until 2024.


While online sales are through the roof, what’s equally on the rise is the rate of online returns. The value of eCommerce item returns is expected to reach $348 billion by 2023 – a figure that requires deep consideration. 


When you look at the industry’s average eCommerce return rates, we can see that up to 41%  of all online purchases end up returned.

  • Clothing and accessories: 41.4%
  • Jewelry and luxury products: 30.7%
  • Groceries and household products: 26%
  • Electronics: 23.5%
  • Health and beauty: 17.9%
  • Sports and outdoors equipment: 14.8%


We must ask ourselves how we can reduce these return rates? How can we ensure our customers have a positive experience and grow an emotional attachment to our brand that keeps them coming back for more? With this wave of competition and demand in mind, the current retail landscape requires an elevated eCommerce experience for brands looking to make a lasting impact and reduce online return rates.


Consumers are demanding transparency and ease of eCommerce returns.

More products and services than ever are now a click or tap away. Despite having incredible ease and speed at their disposal when it comes to making an online purchase, a potential buyer still seeks value for their money and isn’t interested in wasting precious time and money dealing with the hassle of product returns. Even before a purchase is made, over 60% of consumers scrutinize the company’s return policy. More lenient return policies increase the likelihood of a purchase, and in fact, 92% of shoppers say they will buy again if the returns process was an easy one.


Some flexibility in the return process can go a long way, but it isn’t always an option for every business. Our sights are set on preventing the return altogether for the benefit of everyone involved.

light pink tissue paper custom printed with colorful organic blobs in an eCommerce box


The effect of custom branded packaging

Custom branded packaging is more than enhanced aesthetic appeal; it’s also a matter of brand messaging resulting in customer retention. The gift-like appearance of branded tissue paper in an eCommerce package communicates care to a discerning shopper and adds perceived value. Brands that take the time to deliver “doorstep branding” develop an emotional connection with their customer and reduce return probability by 6.6% by simply enhancing their packaging (nearly $230 million based on the expected value of 2023 returns).


“A recent study reveals that premium packaging reduces return probability by 6.6%.”

Source: J Bus Logist


While many eCommerce brands have caught on to the importance of improving presentation at the point of sale – such as improving product images and descriptions, customer reviews, and the overall website user experience – the presentation of the final moment of unboxing is often overlooked. And with countless companies seeking attention and sales, those that make an effort to provide customers with thoughtful, branded packaging stand out from the competition.

Delivering an omnichannel experience improves customer satisfaction. 

Consumers expect companies to put their best foot forward even when the in-store experience is absent. Packaging is the first sensory experience of a product that a buyer encounters from an online purchase – so a positive first impression is vital. 64% of marketers say their top priority for 2021 is to improve their customer experience, which makes sense when you know that consumers want an emotional attachment with the brands they love.


“When consumers have a positive experience they become likely to spend 140% more than customers with a negative experience.”

Source: Harvard Business Review


Premium, brand-focused packaging goes beyond the box or the bag; enhanced interior packaging serves to protect products, and in fact, the number one reason for eCommerce returns is due to items being broken or damaged. Enhancing your inner packaging becomes a means to protect products and create a higher standard of presentation, which signals higher quality, ultimately improving coveted customer satisfaction and retention.


The cost of upgrading your packaging is far less than the cost of the average return cost. 

The average return cost can result in over $15 in shipping and handling expenses. To make matters more complicated, customers who have returned items in the past are much more likely to return items again. The good news is, upgrading to premium packaging can add up to less than 10¢ per package when you use custom printed tissue paper such as SatinWrap. Avoid costly returns later by investing a little now.


“Packaging is potentially one of the better value-for-money last-mile improvements for online retailers. The added cost to the retailer of premium packaging to the retailer was less than 10¢ per shipment.”

Source: J Bus Logist


When it comes to the billions (nearly trillions) of dollars expected to stem from eCommerce this year, making the switch to custom tissue paper packaging is an exciting opportunity to grow your business in this challenging and competitive online shopping market.

Consumers are demanding eco-friendly options.

Primary packaging is also a view into the sustainability focus of a brand – another important data point that customers take into account. 72% of global consumers want brands to use sustainable packaging and furthermore, 71% say they are more likely to buy from brands that package their products in paper or cardboard than in other materials. In both cases, tissue paper packaging is the perfect choice.


Tissue paper is curbside recyclable and has the added benefit of being tailored to fit your brand identity. Using our automated FanFold is a recyclable and eye-catching alternative to non-recyclable and unbranded bubblewrap. It’s an ideal void-fill solution, especially in a world where 82% of consumers prefer boxes over poly mailers


We can custom print your brand’s logo or artwork using sustainable water-based inks on fully curbside recyclable tissue paper. We also offer 100% recycled and FSC® certified tissue paper to match your specific needs; You don’t have to sacrifice sustainability for effective branding and outstanding visual appeal. 

Closeup of a young woman recording opening an eCommerce box with a shirt wrapped in light pink tissue paper printed with bright and colorful organic shapes


Start branding your packaging today. 

In this article, we learned how the probability of returns for products shipped with premium packaging is lower than those delivered in ordinary packaging. Product presentation in-store and online play a large role in influencing a customers buying decision, and in turn, product presentation at that initial unboxing experience is vital to continuing that positive customer experience. 


While online shopping brings convenience, consumers want to spend their money wisely and invest in brands that consider their customers and the environment. A company that delivers on a high-quality, sustainable experience decreases costly returns and satisfies customers – keeping them coming back for more.


Learn more about how Seaman Paper can elevate your eCommerce packaging today.


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