BEING A BUSY EMPTY-NEST COUPLE, MY WIFE AND I OFTEN
grab dinner late and on the run. That’s especially likely to be the case on
those days when she stays late at the elementary school where she teaches.
On one such night recently, she stopped at the grocery store and picked
up a frozen cheese pizza.
The pizza had a smiling World War I ace on the box, so you know
it had to be good. I often wondered how the Red Baron would feel if
he knew his reputation had earned him a spot as a pizza pitchman.
Regardless, she opened the box to find a pizza that was somewhat smaller than the carton size would suggest. She told me she picked that pizza
over another because she thought it was larger.
Most consumer packages are designed for their eye
appeal. Over the years, market research has shown that
we’re drawn to bright attractive graphics and we will
buy the bigger package if we have a choice, thinking
we’re getting better value. Would anyone buy a thumb
drive if the package were only as big as the thumb drive
itself? How often have you bought a bag of potato
chips to find it half filled with air? (I know manufacturers claim that’s simply from the chips settling
during shipment, but we know better.) Consumers
have been taught to go for the eye candy rather than
the simple, efficient packaging.
While that approach does work well for attracting
attention on a store shelf, it’s less than ideal from a
supply chain perspective. The bigger-than-needed package consumes
valuable storage space within the distribution facility as well as on store
shelves. It also inflates shipping costs.
Size does matter, and that differential is especially important when it
comes to e-commerce. When we buy an item online, we don’t even see
the package—just the product’s image on our computer or smartphone
screen. Putting products in oversized packages only adds to supply chain
expense and creates supply chain waste. It’s time to reconsider how we
This problem was not as critical just a few short months ago. But as of
January, both FedEx and UPS have shifted to dimensional weight pricing
for nearly all parcel packages, including the vast majority of e-commerce
orders. Shipping oversized packages is now quite costly and consumes
valuable parcel capacity needed for meeting increasing demand.
While I am not advocating separate packaging for items displayed in
stores and those sold online (that just adds complexity and inflates the
stock-keeping-unit count), it is time to consider scaling down the packaging. Maybe what should sell the product is the quality of the product
itself—and not the stuff that gets thrown away.
It’s time to change how products
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