ISTA Views

OCTOBER | 2016

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3 ista views • October 2016 • Is your Packaging Really "Retail Ready"? > CONTINUED FROM FRONT COVER picks the order and has it ready for you when you drive up in your car. Other customer convenient pick methods and locations are being explored such as lockers at bus and train stations as well as the utilization of ride share services like Lyft and Uber for home delivery of goods. In thinking about this potential evolution of consumer interactions with retail packaged-products and the journey to the customer, the question arises, "What does retail or shelf ready packaging really mean these days?". To explore this we need to start at the beginning of the package design process. Typically new or revised designs are created and then validated through a series of tests. This information enables go/no go decisions; however as the market evolves and hazards change, are the packaging designs being vetted against test methods which replicate real world hazards? Probing even deeper, where did these original retail tests come from? Traditionally Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies use test methods that are internally developed based upon their experience. While some level of testing is better than no testing, these tests could be missing the mark. This holds especially true as the packaged-products "retail journey" takes on new hazards. A preferred approach to utilizing internal legacy test methods based upon hearsay of what "could happen" as a worst case scenario would be to conduct a study of multiple retailers, consumer's shopping habits, etc. yielding data that is statically analyzed to establish a normalized account of what happens. Aside from the additional hazards these new delivery methods will introduce, what about the current hazards to which a package is exposed? A package continues its journey as it moves from the back of the store to the shelf. Current distribution testing methods typically simulate a package's journey up to the point of receiving at the retail storefront and don't include elements of handling during unload; put away, storage in the stock room, stocking on a shelf, etc. Through this journey, the retail package experiences multiple orientations, compression from other products on mixed commodity pallets (in DC or on shelf stocking carts), drops from the stocking pallet or cart to the floor. All of these events carry the potential to damage a package and blemish the consumers' perception of a product. The curb side pick model extends the package's journey and delays the consumer's first physical encounter with the packaged-product. This initial encounter traditionally happens when a consumer places the product in their cart, after which, if damage were to occur, the consumer will likely have a tolerance for that damage. This "acceptability" for the packaged-product condition is occurring after that retail package has now been picked by a store clerk, combined with other goods and brought to the customers' vehicle. All of these factors should be considered during the design and development of a packaging system. This begs the question, does there need to be a full suite of standardized test procedures that CPG companies can use to validate "retail" packaging? This suite of testing could establish performance thresholds for common hazards found across all retailers creating general simulation tests. The emergence of Ecommerce is forcing retailers reliant on their traditional store fronts to develop new models that improve customer convenience. As more and more retailers roll out curbside pick-up options and utilize ride-sharing services for home-delivery the dynamics and hazards we consider for the sale of products through traditional store fronts will need to change. As such, the tools used to evaluate packaging performance for this environment, often times internally developed "legacy tests", will need to change too. In addition, as urgency throughout the industry rises to optimize packaging for the ecommerce supply chain and brand owners struggle with decisions of whether or not to make an ecommerce specific sku; give consideration to the thought that there may be room to optimize your retail packaging as well. The need for protective packaging is paramount and having a tool that evaluates a packaging design's ability to withstand the rigors of the real world is just as critical. There is a need to establish performance thresholds for retail packaging within the traditional market as well as the forthcoming "modern" retail experience. If you have interest in this topic I encourage you to reach out to me so we can further this discussion and pursue industry developed solutions for retail packaging in the evolving store front environment. "As more and more retailers roll out curbside pick-up options and utilize ride-sharing services for home-delivery, the dynamics and hazards we consider for the sale of products through traditional store fronts will need to change."

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