In 2018 alone, Australians spent a grand total of $28.6 billion ($20.3 billion USD) while shopping online. As of January of this year, this amounts to 9% of Australia's total retail sales. All of this online shopping means that the amount of packaging is also on the rise.
Further predictions by Statista show that Australia is on track for a huge leap in total revenue growth online, possibly by as much as 15.1%, which creates more and more packaging for you to deal with.
While online shopping grows, so does its impact on the environment
The number of packages and parcels each Australian receives per year is increasing. On average, Australian shoppers get 2.3 packages every year (and I know full well that I get more than this in books alone). This creates a unique problem that we have to deal with.
How do you meet the consumer demand for "what I want, when I want it, and where I want it", without a massively detrimental impact on the environment?
The overall goal is to meet this demand with minimal environmental impact, especially in terms of excess cardboard and plastic packaging and CO2 emissions. Adding to this problem is the fact that most retailers and eCommerce platforms haven't been able to master the art of packaging in a way that maximises customer convenience and sustainability.
Taking, for example, China's record-setting Singles' Day sales; in the two minutes, five seconds after midnight on Singles' Day, Chinese buyers spent a collective ¥10 billion yuan ($2.07 billion AUD) through e-commerce giant Alibaba's various platforms. By the time the clock hit 1:47, sales were 10 times this amount.
Alibaba closed Singles' Day with a sales total of ¥213.5 billion yuan ($42.5 billion AUD).
While both Alibaba and competitor JD.com have pledged to use biodegradable packaging to cut down on waste, research conducted by Greenpeace East Asia said many plastics marked "biodegradable" and used by Chinese e-retailers could break down only under high temperatures in facilities that are limited in number across the country.
Greenpeace estimated that by 2020, "biodegradable" packaging could produce roughly 721 truckloads of rubbish in China every day.
As Australians are fast adopting international shopping behaviours, retailers here need to address and have a strategy in place to minimise the environmental impact.
What packaging solutions are on the horizon?
A key section of your product's journey is the "last mile" of the delivery process.
This is the point where the package meets the buyer's doorstep; the most expensive part of the shipping process and for the customer, it is the often frustrating "out for delivery" stage that seems to go on for eternity.
New technology is helping companies to explore a crowdsourcing approach to optimise the delivery process. Online retailers can partner with non-professional couriers to help them complete their deliveries. While this looks like it will speed up deliveries in urban areas, it requires refining to improve cost efficiencies.
Drone tech is another exciting development that has been trialled in Canberra. It could help enhance the delivery process and potentially reducing the amount of packaging waste. However, an increase in drones will make our skies more crowded, contribute to noise pollution, and the results of the trials have raised concerns with citizens who relate that the noise has been invasive.
The short clip showing the drones in action didn't look like it was reducing packaging but instead, increasing the amount of waste we're creating.
Pre-cycling is another approach to packaging reduction.
This involves removing a lot of the packaging waste, by selling products without any packaging, or, with a significantly reduced amount. This way, you won't have to worry about disposing of the packing correctly when you open your item. Less thinking about how to recycle it but a bit more effort in terms of remembering to take those empty containers to the store.
What other ideas are there to reduce packaging whilst not compromising on the convenience of online shopping?
We're thrilled to work with retailers who want to create seamless experiences for customers. 6R Retail has already had the pleasure of working with forward-thinking retailers on their omnichannel projects.
This is an exciting time for both consumers and retailers, and we invite you along for the ride (drone and the driver-less car not included).
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