SalesTech Star

DS Smith Survey: Online Shoppers Frustrated by Excessive Packaging This Holiday Season

  • Too much filler, tape and room in the boxes are biggest pain points

  • Many consumers say they would pay more for sustainable packaging

Online shoppers are fed up with a glut of packages arriving too big for the products being shipped, too flimsy, covered with too much tape or not being waterproof or recyclable.

Those are among the main findings of a newly released national survey by packaging leader DS Smith, which tracked the frustrations amid a jump in e-commerce over the past two years that is continuing into the holiday season.

Consumers in the survey (81%) overwhelmingly say sustainability of packaging matters to them, so much so that about 40% would pay more for that. A third say they would pay up to 24% more, and nearly another third would pay at least 25% or more.

DS Smith said the results underscore its efforts to provide environmentally friendly products that replace problem plastics, remove carbon from supply chains and provide innovative recycling solutions.

“Online shopping remains popular so the onus is on business to design out waste and make sure materials can stay in use for as long as possible,” said DS Smith’s Melanie Galloway, vice president sales marketing and innovation. “That is why DS Smith’s mission is to be a leader in the sustainable packaging space, working to offer innovative solutions to these problems to make consumers’ sustainability goals easier to achieve.”

The poll also showed widespread support among consumers to recycle. More than 40% say their recycling has increased since the onset of the COVID pandemic in March 2020, and nearly 70% say they recycle cardboard packaging from online deliveries always or most of the time.

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That embrace of recycling matches the spike in e-commerce, with two thirds saying their frequency of buying online has increased, and more than half saying they expect that to continue to grow.

Still, consumers expressed frustrations. Citing boxes with too much extra space, 38% say about half of their deliveries were filled with air and 39% say it was a quarter of air. Among other problems with their packages:

  • Too big for the products being shipped, 41%
  • Uses too much filler, 29%
  • Not waterproof, 27%
  • Is flimsy and easily damaged, 25%
  • Uses too much plastic tape, 24%
  • Difficult to open, 21%
  • Not recyclable, 12%

In a signal of their push for sustainable products, two thirds of consumers (64%) surveyed say they would be more likely to purchase products either packaged in or using paper and cardboard so it can be reused or recycled.

Oversized boxes containing excess packing material take up more space during transit, so the potential ripple effect is unnecessary delivery trips which can have an impact on the amount of carbon emissions being produced.

“The idea of oversized boxes, containing excess packing material, that in turn overly fill delivery trucks, is not something any of us should perpetuate – consumers don’t want it, businesses can’t afford it, and ultimately the planet won’t thank us for it,” Galloway said.

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DS Smith has a circular business focused on sustainable packaging in which designs are based on a circular economy approach. This is an alternative solution for the current linear economy that is based on a ‘take, make, consume and dispose’ mindset. It is a model that is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.

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