Atlanta — Electronic commerce presents challenges to the traditional way of distribution. But there also are plenty of opportunities for plastics packaging as more goods are bypassing brick-and-mortar stores.
Plastics have been taking market share from other packaging substrates for years, and that trend continues as e-commerce becomes more popular.
The challenge is the continued use of existing packaging that originally was designed to be displayed on store shelves.
For Thierry Fabozzi, president of PET container design company Plastic Technologies Inc. of Holland, Ohio, a potential solution is a whole new category of plastic containers especially designed for direct-to-consumer shipment.
"We're all users of e-commerce," he said at the recent PETnology Americas 2018 conference in Atlanta. "How many times have you received a very large box with a very tiny package or a very tiny element inside?"
That's causing a need for change on how things have been done.
"E-commerce packaging was mainly focusing on finding a box to ship an existing package. And there was no true reflection on what could be a real e-commerce package," Fabozzi said.
But he sees a future where container makers and brand owners collaborate on e-commerce specific packaging that protects the contents, allows for efficient shipping and promotes company brands.
"It's a completely different approach to buy goods," he said. "With e-commerce, we have to really look at a different approach to sell a package. And now we have to really rethink the whole attributes of the packaging as well as everything that was need that is no longer required."
That includes the potential to create refill packaging that can fit directly into permanent dispensers in the home.
"For the brand owner, they could personalize their own dispenser to make it really valuable, showing what they really want to show," he said.
But would people really want to have all those permanent dispensers around their house? The answer is easy, Fabozzi said: Yes, because they now are using all sorts of different containers for various products.
PTI already has some designs in mind for e-commerce specific packaging.
Fabozzi championed the idea of using PET containers to handle replenishment orders as opposed to pouches that have been growing in popularity in recent years.
In promoting PET, his company's specialty, he said pouches can be messy to use and difficult to recycle.
"The old approach to selling a package is completely gone with e-commerce," he said as people make their decisions online. "It's not going to be the physical package that will be selling for itself."