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An experience we can all buy into

We've all been there. Even the most reluctant of shoppers find themselves swayed by the convenience of clicking the "buy" button and ordering something online, often from the other side of the globe. But the rise and rise of online shopping naturally means packaging volumes are on the up too, meaning more to transport and more to recycle. So what are we doing to make this trend more sustainable?

An experience we can all buy into

In 2017 an estimated 1.66 billion of us made an online purchase, with global sales amounting to 2.3 trillion U.S. dollars. No surprise given the convenience of being able to make purchases using a computer, tablet, or, as is increasingly the case, our smartphones.

In 2017

1.6

billion online shoppers [1]

Global online sales

2.3

trillion US dollars in 2017 [1]

In SE Asia alone

200M+

people now shop online [2]

One of the biggest growth regions for e-commerce is South East Asia. With events such as the long-awaited arrival of the online retail giant Amazon in the region last year, the online consumer base has grown by a staggering 50% and now totals over 200 million individuals. And the way those individuals shop reflects the new trend of mobile purchasing, which now accounts for 72% of all of e-commerce-related web traffic in South East Asia.

Convenience is king

The writing is on the wall: the traditional bricks-and-mortar shopping experience is becoming a thing of the past. Online retailers know that if they make the experience as convenient and hassle free as possible, then their customers will return. For example, credit cards are not widely used in South East Asia so cash on delivery is offered by more than 80% of the retailers in Vietnam and Philippines [3].

But it is not just in South East Asia where consumers’ heads are being turned. The Canadian postal service, Canada Post, has introduced changing rooms in their Vancouver store where people can try on their online purchases, and return them immediately if necessary [4]. There are also apps that let you try clothes on at home before you buy (meaning no more maxed-out credit cards or prolonged waits for a refund) as well as delivery companies whose drivers will wait while you try something on [5, 6].

The Canadian postal service, Canada Post, has introduced changing rooms in their Vancouver store where people can try on their online purchases, and return them immediately if necessary.

Lightening the load

One obvious consequence of the online commerce boom is the increased demand for packaging materials. “These days, packages not only need to be as strong and attractive as ever, but they also need to be lighter too,” explains Reetta Strengell, Director, R&D at Kemira.

For retailers, perhaps the main benefit of lighter weight packaging comes from reduced transport costs.

The reasons for this demand may not be immediately obvious, but for online retailers and consumers alike the benefits are plentiful. “For retailers, perhaps the main benefit of lighter weight packaging comes from reduced transport costs. If you’re shipping millions of packages a day, as the big players are, reducing package weights by just a few grams literally means tons less to ship each and every day,” says Strengell. This is good news for environmentally aware consumers, too, as each package has a smaller carbon footprint.

Sustainable packaging for sustainable shopping

Chemistry, namely strength polymers, makes board stronger. This enables also use of less fibres and means lighter packages. But it doesn’t end there. Recyclability is increasingly important too – think how many packages those 1.66 billion online shoppers generate. This is why lightweighting and recyclability go hand in hand.

In order to be recyclable, the strength polymers used must not be so effective as to prevent the package from being repulped and kept in the loop. Kemira’s unique end-to-end expertise in finding the right synergies between the chemistries improves the sustainability of the packages that help keep the online shopping boom booming.

 

1. https://www.statista.com/topics/871/online-shopping/
2. http://www.bain.com/infographics/sea-ecommerce/
3. https://medium.com/swlh/the-state-of-ecommerce-in-southeast-asia-in-2017-5a779f962623
4. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/canada-post-vending-machines-concept-stores-1.3863244
5. https://www.forbes.com/sites/celiashatzman/2017/12/11/new-app-try-lets-online-shoppers-try-clothes-at-home-before-they-buy/#13c3a4fd2c93
6. https://www.builtinchicago.org/2016/09/06/deliverit-ecommerce-home-try

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