The role of packaging is now more important than ever. Not only does it preserve and protect a product, but it also needs to connect with customers emotionally and leave a lasting brand impression in their minds.
That’s why it’s super important for eCommerce business owners to be able to select the right packaging materials for the products on offer in their stores.
In this article, we’ll discuss why your choice of packaging material matters so much and look at some of the most common kinds of packaging materials you should consider using.
Let’s get started.
Why your choice of packaging material matters
As an eCommerce business owner, packaging comes with certain additional challenges that may seem irrelevant to someone that sells via brick-and-mortar stores. Not only do you have to pick the right containers that will get your products safely to your customers, but you must also consider the message they will convey as well as their environmental impact.
Sellers having only a virtual storefront don’t have the luxury of having a physical store that may influence buyer perception of your brand. So your packaging needs to be able to communicate effectively all that your brand stands for.
All this can make selecting the right packaging materials seem somewhat overwhelming. Worry not, it can be much easier if you ask yourself the following questions.
1. What is the best way to store and transport the product?
Ultimately, the chief purpose of packaging is to ensure the safety of the product contained within it. So you’ll need to identify the unique traits of your products and how such features may influence the type of packaging materials required. A fragile product will require a sturdy container while a heavy product will need a durable packaging material.
It’s also important to consider how a product will be transported through your supply chain. Consider the conditions necessary to preserve your product before it gets to the customer and choose a material that can provide them. For example, perishable food products may have special packaging needs.
2. What is the ideal container size and shape for the product?
After figuring out the traits of your packaging material, you also need to consider how the size and shape of your product will affect your final choice. Your packaging must be big enough to protect your products and flexible enough to adopt a shape that aligns with that of your products. Some packaging materials can be easily mass-produced in multiple shapes and sizes while others are not so flexible.
3. Will your customers prefer generic or premium packaging?
Your choice of packaging should reflect your brand and appeal to the tastes of your customers. Many customers judge a product by the quality of its packaging. The quality of the product may be overlooked if a buyer finds the packaging unappealing.
Simple packaging made with good — but not top-quality — materials may be ideal if your product doesn’t need to generate excitement in the customer. For example, a business that sells machine tools.
However, if you need your packaging to elicit an emotional response from the customer and encourage brand loyalty, you must not only pay attention to the quality of your packaging but also to the unboxing experience.
Apple is an excellent example of a brand that pays as much attention to the quality of its packaging materials as to creating memorable unboxing experiences for its customers.
4. What are your brand values?
If your brand has sustainability as one of its goals, you should definitely make sure it reflects in your packaging. Customers increasingly screen the brands they patronize based on how sincere they are towards reducing their environmental footprint.
If your brand identity champions sustainability, then the types of packaging you adopt must be eco-friendly.
5. How much are you willing to spend?
Your packaging budget will have the most decisive impact on your final choice. It's good to want to adopt attractive, eco-friendly packaging, but it won’t be feasible if your funds are not adequate.
Make sure you consider the costs of the most appropriate packaging materials for your product, as well as their designs. Ultimately, the packaging material that best meets the standards of your brand and is well within your price range will be the right option for your business.
9 common types of packaging materials to consider
Now that we’ve talked about why your choice of packaging material is so important, let’s take a look at some of the most common ones you should consider for your eCommerce business. This list below largely focuses on eco-friendly packaging options along with information on how to select the most suitable materials for your products.
Paper is arguably the most popular packaging material in the manufacturing and distribution sector. Paper is so attractive because it is eco-friendly, functional, flexible, and can be easily designed to portray brand information and colors. Paper packaging may include SBS (solid bleached sulfate) paperboard, kraft paper, or rigid boxes.
SBS paperboard is made from paper pulp and is stronger than ordinary paper but thinner than cardboard. It can be used to package frozen foods, medicine, juice, cosmetics, and more.
Kraft paper is made using the sulfate pulping process and is meant for users looking for paper packaging that’s made using more sustainable processes. It’s notable for its durability, but is much less resistant to moisture compared to SBS paperboard.
This makes it unsuitable for packaging frozen foods and many other types of food products. It is, however, perfect for boxing every other type of product and is also excellent for wrapping items.
Rigid boxes are made from highly condensed paperboard which gives them a premium look and feel. They are generally used to package luxury items.
Paper can be used to create anything from bags to boxes and envelopes. noissue offers a range of eco-friendly, paper-based packaging products including:
- Custom Tissue Paper
- Custom Kraft Tissue Paper
- Custom Kraft Mailers
- Custom Stickers
- Custom Food Wrapping Paper
- Custom Wax Paper
- Custom Hangtags
- Custom Cards
Cardboard boxes are the same as corrugated boxes. They are made of multi-layered paper that gives them excellent structural stability.
Cardboard has three layers; the inner layer, the corrugated layer, and the outer layer. The corrugated layer (also known as the fluted medium) provides the rigidity, insulation, and strength that makes cardboard such a perfect packaging material.
Plus, cardboard is flexible and can be molded into any shape and size. It can also be strengthened to carry heavier items by adding more flutes to its composition.
As such, cardboard is the defacto packaging material for shipping products and noissue offers an entire range of cardboard boxes including:
- Custom Mailer Boxes
- Custom Straight Tuck End Boxes
- Custom Reverse Tuck End Boxes
- Custom Candle Boxes
- Custom Container Shipping Boxes
Glass has been used as a packaging medium for centuries because of its superior ability to preserve the flavor and freshness of the items contained within it. Glass is also beautiful and gives your packaging a premium look. Plus, it’s easy to recycle and is completely eco-friendly.
Glass is great for packaging food and beverages. The shape of your containers will depend on the type of food product you are shipping. Glass bottles are generally used for beverages, while glass jars are used for food packaging. Keep in mind however, that glass can be quite heavy and fragile to ship.
Plastic packaging is everywhere and for good reason. It’s durable, flexible, lightweight, airtight, and can be mass-produced cheaply. In fact, more than 350 million tonnes of the material are produced each year. Its transparent nature also means the customer can see the product without opening the packaging.
However, most plastics are not eco-friendly, especially, plastics made from fossil fuels. They contribute to the degradation of our environment, which is the reason why many businesses are now moving towards circular packaging, which include recycled materials from plastics that were previously in circulation or byproduct. We'll touch on recycled plastics shortly!
Soft plastics can be used to create different types of plastic packaging including plastic bags, bubble wrap, bottles, and more. There are also rigid plastics that can be used to package liquids like milk and juice, or to protect fragile products like laptops, phones, and other electronic devices. The main issue with rigid plastics is that they are harder to recycle than soft plastics.
Bioplastics are an eco-friendly alternative to polyethylene-based packaging and traditional plastics. They are made from plant-based materials like corn, sugarcane, beets, etc. This makes them biodegradable and they will break down naturally at landfills unlike plastics made from oil and natural gas.
Another added advantage is that bioplastics retain all the desirable qualities of regular plastic. They are also flexible, lightweight, and airtight. However, not all bioplastics break down rapidly. Many of them require extremely high temperatures to be broken down.
Instead of opting for a bioplastic packaging material, you are better off using compostable mailers. The noissue Compostable Mailer is a far superior alternative to plastic packaging bags. It breaks down easily in compost — within 90 to 180 days. It comes in a variety of sizes and includes a second adhesive strip that makes sure it can be reused.
6. Recycled plastic
Recycled plastic is much better for the environment than virgin plastic. Recycling plastic prevents it from joining the pile of plastic waste that pollutes our oceans. Ideally, recycled plastic should be made from 100% recycled materials.
noissue offers several packaging products made from recycled plastic including:
Both of the above are made using recycled plastics in circulation and come with a second adhesive strip so they can be reused. Available in a variety of sizes, they are both durable and weather-proof. The Custom Poly Mailers can be customized on both sides with your brand logo or designs as well.
Cotton is a natural fiber that is predominantly used to make clothing but can also be used for packaging. Its soft texture and customizability make it more suitable for luxury goods. As such, cotton is typically used to package shoes, jewelry, watches, and other premium items.
noissue Tote Bags and Drawstring Bags are both made from 100% organic cotton and designed to be reused over and over again. The Tote Bags are perfect for packaging as well as for use as branded merch, while the Drawstring Bags are perfect for packaging delicate jewelry and cosmetics.
Aluminum is light, durable, and highly resistant to corrosion. The material is abundant which makes it one of the cheapest packaging materials on the market. It is also very versatile and 100% recyclable.
Aluminum or (aluminum foil) can be used to package a wide range of products including food, beverages, cosmetics, candy, toothpaste, soaps, and more.
9. Plant-based packaging
These types of packing materials are most commonly made from polylactic acid derived from plant sources like corn, sugarcane, straw, and others. They are biodegradable and compostable.
Popular plant-based packaging includes:
Bagasse is made using the pulpy residue from sugarcane stalks. Different types of bagasse plastic packaging include takeout containers, plates, bowls, trays, etc.
The noissue Clamshell Takeout Container is an example of a bagasse-based packaging product. It is oil-resistant and great for both hot and cold foods. It is also microwavable and freezer-safe.
Seaweed is an excellent packaging material because it is readily available all over the world and very cheap. It can be consumed as food or fermented to create bio-plastic packaging. It is another versatile and sustainable alternative to traditional plastic.
Mushroom is still a novel plant-based packaging material, but with enormous potential. Not only can it be used to replace petroleum-based plastic, but it can also substitute paper packaging like cartons and cardboard boxes. It is made from mycelium and it is easy to produce.
Biodegradable packing peanuts
These are a sustainable alternative to polystyrene-based packing peanuts used for cushioning. They are made from starchy plants like wheat and corn and are completely biodegradable. They come in multiple colors and are a good option if you have the budget.
🎁 Wrapping it up
Now that you are familiar with all the different types of packaging materials available, you should be in a better position to select the right one for your eCommerce business.
Make sure you consider your unique business needs before identifying the most suitable packaging solutions for your business.
And don’t forget to check out our complete range of sustainable and customizable packaging solutions for eCommerce businesses!