Consider this business proposition: how would you like to pay a significant amount of money every year to send your customers… absolutely nothing? Nada. Zilch. Zip. How does that sound to you?
If someone approached you with this plan, you’d dismiss it as a ridiculous scam and kick them out of your office. Yet that is exactly what businesses across industries are doing right now on a massive scale.
In a global survey, DS Smith Consulting and Forbes Insights found that approximately 24% of suppliers ship is actually empty space. That means the equivalent of close to 61 million TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit) containers are being shipped unnecessarily each year. A majority of executives surveyed (69%) put that estimate even higher, reporting that 25% or more of what they ship is empty space.
What causes this problem? Why is it so costly?
It helps to look at this empty space problem in two ways, zooming in and zooming out.
When you zoom in, you see an e-commerce company shipping a customer single package. It’s a small item, but the company does only have boxes in a limited size range. It packs the small item in a box that’s much too big, so it has to pack the empty space around it with void fill. This scenario is common for e-commerce businesses; those surveyed report sending 60% of packages more than a quarter empty.
When you zoom out, you see companies that haven’t figured out the balance between reducing empty space in their cartons and getting the right size to fill their shipping containers. So while a company may have cartons that fit the containers, each one contains a lot of empty space. And solving this problem, on a large scale, could result in up to $46 billion in global annual savings.
Beyond Cost Savings: Reduce your environmental impact and improve your customer experience
Environmental sustainability is an important global issue – one that an increasing number of consumers care about: 51% consider packaging waste an important environmental issue. The same percentage of people say that the sustainability of paper-based packaging is more important to them today than it was five years ago.
When you cut down on the empty space in your packaging, you show that your company cares about being environmentally friendly. Your actions contribute to the decrease in wasteful materials and in greenhouse gas emissions. Shipping empty space leads to the emission of at least 122 millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, from manufacturers to the receiving ports.
Reducing empty space in packaging also enhances the customer experience on an individual level and differentiates your company from the competition. Opening a huge box brimming with wasteful void fill isn’t a pleasant experience for your customers. They feel annoyed and guilty – not emotions you want to be associated with your brand. But opening a package that is sized just right for the items inside, without excess void fill, creates a positive unboxing experience.
How to Avoid Empty Space
The good news is that you have plenty of options when it comes to minimising the empty space in your packaging. Your main objective should be to size your packaging to fit, picking a box as close to the size of the product as possible. Try one of these solutions:
- Book mailers
Book wrap mailers aren’t just for books. They’re the perfect size for many smaller, flat products, fitting closely around them and keeping them secure without void fill during shipping. Book wrap mailers are available in multiple sizes and can adapt to various products, including magazines, CDs, DVDs and stationery.
- Adaptable boxes
Our Made2fit cardboard boxes are designed to solve the common challenge of finding packaging that is the exact right size for your products. Made2fit boxes come in two standard sizes, which you can customise and adjust to build 26 different-sized boxes. They are flexible and ideal for e-commerce businesses that carry a wide variety of products – but don’t have space to store a large selection of boxes in different dimensions.
- Bespoke boxes
If you are struggling to find a box that is just right for a hard-to-fit product, you can order a big batch of custom-sized boxes to suit your needs. Bespoke boxes are available for larger orders – a minimum of 1,000 boxes – because they have to be specially produced in a box plant.
Give the DS Smith ePack cardboard box finder a try, to find the best-sized cardboard box for your products:
Looking for more environmentally friendly packaging tips? Check out DS Smith’s recommendations for sustainable packaging for e-commerce businesses.