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Packaging Design for Marketplaces: What is efficient packaging?

 1. Efficient packaging protects your product.

Have you ever had the dubious pleasure of receiving an oversized package with your ordered product in smithereens, flopping around inside? Or maybe you bought aromatic coffee but received a swollen bag of beans without any scent whatsoever?

Packaging’s role is to create a protective barrier for a product, preserving its integrity and intended features.

Packaging Design for Marketplaces: What is efficient packaging?

2. Efficient packaging is convenient.

A plastic pouch with the so-called “easy-open” feature that rips midway through. A paper bag that tears apart when you hold it because it has no handle. Any of these ring a bell?

In contrast, efficient packaging boasts a thought-through design, where every feature serves as a quality enhancer for your product.

convenient can packaging with handle

3. Efficient packaging is sustainable.

Redundant layers of cardboard, unrecyclable bits, toxic material, oversized boxes with almost nothing but air inside – these are some of nature’s worst packaging nightmares.

individually wrapped screws
Plastic for every single screw?!

You don’t want that. Why?

Sustainability promotes trust. If packaging from your marketplace causes harm to the environment, it causes trouble for customers who are getting more and more eco-oriented every year. 

According to the 2023 Buying Green Report, 82% of consumers would be willing to pay more for sustainable packaging.

So, how does efficient packaging help?

With smart solutions and a thoughtful design, your packaging efficiency can skyrocket in a matter of weeks. Why should you invest in it?

Thanks to efficient packaging, your marketplace will generate:

  • Less product waste.

During storage, products need just the right conditions or they will go bad or become unusable faster than expected.

It’s not just the temperature, humidity and sun exposure in your warehouse – the products need sturdy external packaging that will secure them during the long months they might spend there.

Packaging Design for Marketplaces: What is efficient packaging?

Efficient packaging minimises the strain they will have to endure.

  • Less packaging waste. 

As you’re aware, less plastic, bubble wrap or foam means a smaller environmental footprint. And without redundant materials, there is less waste that must undergo processing and recycling. 

You can also consider minimising the number of offcuts, achieved by optimising packaging created from one sheet.

When it comes to packaging materials, paper and cardboard are always a better choice than plastic.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s data, while paper and cardboard constitute about a quarter of municipal waste, they account for 2/3 of recycled materials. Conversely, plastic makes up 12% of generated waste and only 4% of the total recycled tonnage.

The difference is striking.

  • Lower costs. 

It all comes down to right-sizing and customisation.

For example, by replacing packaging filler with tailor-made inserts, a significant part of packaging expenses goes down. By utilising smart package design, material usage decreases. This, in turn, means less money spent on shipping. 

Another way to cut costs is to choose recycled materials like RPET or lightweight materials like low-grammage cardboard. More on that later. 

  • Less workload for the packing team. 

Your warehouse staff packs thousands of products for shipping daily. Mistakes happen – and if they do and the product arrives damaged, your customers will blame your platform.

How to prevent that from happening?

Well-designed packaging is easier and faster to assemble, improving your staff’s efficiency and leading to fewer errors in assembly. This further minimises waste and associated costs. Not to mention employee satisfaction.

A worker standing in a supply chain packaging production facility.

That’s all great, but how can you improve your packaging design?

Efficient packaging design: tips for optimisation

The 3 main elements you should consider when looking for efficient packaging are materials, shape & size, and weight.

1. Packaging materials

There’s a world of resources that will help you achieve supreme efficiency. But how to classify them?

You can divide materials into lightweight & heavy, clear and non-transparent, and cheap and expensive, but all that is very basic knowledge that needs little to no research. These categories are also easy to assess through trying out samples of a particular material.

Packhelp’s Sample PacksEco properties are a less obvious and, arguably, more useful way to find out which packaging material will be best for your product.

Recyclable & reusable materials

You’ve heard of the most popular recyclable materials – kraft paper and heavy-duty cardboard. But obviously, you can also recycle plastic. 

PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is your tried and trusted, durable, waterproof plastic that is not only 100% recyclable but also reusable. 

And that’s a great benefit – packaging made from PET can be repurposed by customers or just thrown into the recycling bin to become RPET – recycled plastic. Its features after recycling stay almost unchanged.

Biodegradable & compostable materials

Does biodegradability mean that the material has to be plastic-free? That’s a common misconception.

Cardboard and paper are simultaneously plastic-free and biodegradable. However, a material group called bio-based plastics (bioplastics) belongs only to the latter category. 

Packaging Design for Marketplaces: What is efficient packaging?

One of them is PLA (polylactic acid), a polyester derived from fermented plant pulp, usually corn. 100% biodegradable and even compostable in the right conditions. 

PLA is perfect as a substitute for traditional plastic, especially when it comes to waterproofing or greaseproofing cardboard and paper. A kraft mailer covered in a PLA barrier stays biodegradable, while paper covered in PE (polyethylene) becomes non-biodegradable and even non-recyclable.

Some of the more modern packaging materials are grease- and waterproof sugarcane (bagasse), bamboo, coconut shell, or even mushroom mycelium. Each of them is 100% biodegradable and compostable.

Eco boxes
All the aforementioned eco properties are a must-have for sustainable marketplaces. Easy to find in Packhelp’s offer.
Unsustainable materials
If that was it when it comes to categorising packaging materials, the world would be a more beautiful place.
Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, marketplaces often settle on using unsustainable packaging materials – which are what, exactly?
Unsustainable packaging is every type of packaging that you cannot recycle, biodegrade or compost, like Styrofoam, expanded polystyrene, cling film, and inseparable combinations of materials, such as PE-coated paper.

Unrecyclable packing peanuts & tape

A different approach states that unsustainable packaging materials come from non-renewable resources like fossil fuels. PET is one of them, which is why RPET is always a better choice.

All in all, when balancing your packaging costs and efficiency, try to evaluate – is hurting the planet (and your platforms’s credibility) worth spending less on materials?

2. Packaging shape & size

Boosting your packaging efficiency through shape optimisation is worth considering next. A more streamlined shape often aids in cost reduction.

Wakuli boxes - coffee packaging
Make sure you choose a box or bag size that’s not a waste of space but wraps around the product perfectly.
For example, a non-standard idea that’s great for very specific products is a tube.
It’s round, so it’s more efficient and economical for bottles and posters than a rectangle box with unnecessary corners that waste packaging material. Made from cardboard and sealed with a metal lid, the tube also efficiently protects your shipment from damage.
And what if your product is sturdy in and of itself and does not require a tough exterior to shield it? Products like books, tools, decorative stones or boards will be just fine wrapped in durable paper – the ultimate shape-shifter.
Paper is also very lightweight.
3. Packaging weight
There’s more than one reason to decrease the weight and dimensions of your packaging: easier handling, streamlined storage, more safety for your product during a fall, and, last but not least, shipping prices.
If a product weighs little but is shipped in a large box, the carrier company will charge you more, since the parcel occupies more of its precious cargo space. 

While the use of materials which don’t require fillers reduces costs by itself, lightweight packaging materials can further help bring down shipping prices. Often, besides reduced physical weight, they’re also more flexible, which proves useful in limiting the DIM weight.

Some unobvious lightweight materials to consider:

Tissue paper

Packaging Design for Marketplaces: What is efficient packaging?

A popular lightweight material, tissue paper is a silky-feel wrapping that adds an exquisite touch to products from the luxury industry, as well as for jewellery, timepieces, or kitchenware. 

It’s not only a wrapper, but also a light and airy packaging filler.

The best-quality tissue paper is biodegradable, compostable, and plastic-free – which is an important factor for an increasingly large segment of customers.


Packaging Design for Marketplaces: What is efficient packaging?

An oldie but goldie, probably as old as weaving itself.


But make sure to stay away from toxic and unsustainable fabrics like acrylic, nylon or rayon. Choose organic cotton, hemp and linen instead.

Among textile packaging, perhaps the most universal choice are muslin bags, loved by all sellers – lightweight, easily foldable, and reusable, they’re perfect for small jewellery, soaps, and other handmade items.

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