With retail’s busiest season fast approaching, what does it take for brands to stand online? And how can they make sure they arrive safe and sound in consumers’ homes?

Alan Potts, market & product development director, of DS Smith’s UK packaging division, explains:

E-retail is the fastest-growing retail market in Europe and it’s clear that it’s a channel that’s here to stay, with online sales in the UK set to increase by more than 18% this year.

As an industry we’ve responded early to this trend by innovating e-retail packs that match shopper expectation, and that protect products through the most rigorous and complex of supply cycles.

The real challenge is to ensure that the product arrives safe and secure, while also delivering brand values in each element of packaging. It is not unusual to have brand cues and messaging printed on the inside of the secondary packs to enhance the overall brand experience for the shopper. With this in mind, it’s important to recognise that secondary packaging plays a big part in the home shopping experience.

We recently helped natural skincare brand Dr Organic create a new suite of packaging to support its e-retail offer. As a brand built on a firm commitment of premium ingredients and ethical practices, it was really important for us to maintain these values when creating the perfect pack.

By using corrugated packaging, which is 100% recyclable, the packaging resonates with Dr Organic’s customers who are environmentally aware, and will understand the value of using just the right amount of fully-recyclable packaging. As cosmetics tend to be small and easily damaged, we worked closely with Dr Organic to build a range of packs that hold the product firmly in the centre, creating a small void around the pack for transit protection.

We have seen a huge rise in personalisation and with the increase of digital printing and further capability to be flexible and responsive, the option to personalise products quickly and relatively cheaply has become a reality. While this development has proven particularly popular with primary packaging, secondary packs can benefit from the trend as well.

The technology is really already here but over the next few years we would expect to see much more use of digital information within secondary packaging. This can dramatically enhance the way brands can package and present their products to reinforce the customer brand journey and reach customers at the very last point of purchase.

It’s vital for brands and retailers to work with packaging specialists from the very early stages of planning. With one of the busiest shopping periods of the year fast approaching, packaging suppliers should be well on the way to partnering with their customers to deliver solutions that are economical, quick to pack, protective and easily opened, returned or recycled in the home to maximise on the Christmas shopping flurry.

It’s easy to see why the battle for loyalty is increasingly in the home, rather than in store. Home shopping has created a cut-throat retail environment with brands battling it out to meet consumer demand efficiently and profitably. The benefits of getting it right are abundant, so the only question remaining is – do you maximise the results from your home delivery packaging?