Cost Vs Quality: The case against soft-bag delivery packaging…

Sep 22, 2015 Packaging Geekery

In 2014, Jiffy-style bags became 50 years old. That’s quite an achievement for a product design that revolutionised delivery packaging back in the 1960’s. Like other forms of soft packaging, these bags relied on the premise that products could be insulated from damage during delivery and transit by ‘cushioning’ the item against impact and interference. Logic will tell you that light impacts, grazes and rough surfaces are all frustrated by good quality Jiffy Bags and other similar products. But anything more than a small drop, or a light impact or graze can often damage the product inside – and a soft bag with a low strength tape adhesive to seal it is no challenge to a committed thief, as the tape can usually be peeled back and resealed with no one being any wiser about what has happened.

These are some strident criticisms of a classic product-group I’m making here. But these opinions are derived from customers’ experiences.

One of the biggest e-commerce retailers on the internet managed to reduce their returns rate (because of damaged products) by 63% on key product groups – a HUGE change saving them millions of pounds – by using solid-board envelopes instead of Jiffy bags. If it’s remotely fragile it probably isn’t secure in a soft-bag package. This retailer understood that customer satisfaction came from a good ‘unboxing experience’ preceded by a successful, safe and secure delivery.

In short, the harsh environment of delivery and logistics that exists in the UK currently means that delivery packaging is subjected to a wide-range of impacts, bumps, scrapes, grazes, prying hands and illicit acquisitions. With the flow of delivery packaging being used for e-commerce and other reasons increasing hugely, more than ever packages are going to need to be durable, and survive the journey intact.

One of the main attractions to dispatchers of the soft-bag style packaging options is their size. A large cost faced by e-commerce practitioners is that of postage. In the UK, the largest carrier of e-commerce parcels is the Royal Mail. Ensuring that small packages fit within the ‘large-letter’ category used by the Royal Mail is a major concern, as it entails a large cost-saving. There is a ‘myth’ that using soft-bag packaging safeguards relevant products fitting into this price-bracket. There are many situations showing why this is a costly myth to believe in…

For example, a MAJOR retailer in the media-shipping market attempted to cut postal costs by stopping using solid-board envelopes, and switching back to the old-style soft-bag 1960’s option. Here’s what happened:

“We are switching back to using your slightly more expensive Lil A2 envelopes which guarantee we get two DVD’s through the Royal Mail’s ‘large letter’ mail-size threshold. For the past six months we have been try to use a cheaper Jiffy bag but we have been fined for a third time by Royal Mail using the Jiffy. Each time this has cost us around a £40,000 penalty.”

The problem is that when Royal Mail spot check a truck-load of our large-letter size dispatches, if they find five packages which are ‘fatter’ than their maximum 25mm, they penalise us by charging the entire truck load at the more expensive small-parcel rate. This equates to approximately the £40,000 fine.

Every time we have been fined, it is because the 17mm DVD’s overlap each other within the Jiffy bag because they are too loose. We can’t afford to keep taking risks so we are switching back to the Lil A2 to avoid future costly penalties.”

The game has changed from the 1960’s. A lack of innovation in the delivery packaging industry has meant that too many organisations still see an old innovation as viable in today’s marketplace which requires better, more appropriate solutions to be developed. Packaging needs to be solid, well-sealed, pilfer-proof, consistently-deliverable, and be able to enhance the customers ‘unboxing experience’ rather than detract from it. No longer can packaging be seen as a choice where the ‘lowest cost’ option will suffice – more complex thinking needs to be applied, with considerations beyond simple monetary cost becoming paramount.

About Deborah Lill