March 18, 2020 3:30 PM, EDT

DHL Highlights Top Trends for Packaging

Forklift at DHL warehouse A forklift operator moves tires in a DHL warehouse. (DHL Express)

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The biggest emerging trends in packaging are stemming from e-commerce, customer interaction, the in-store experience and sustainability, according to DHL Supply Chain.

Alicemarie Geoffrion, vice president of packaging operations at DHL Supply Chain North America, discussed the trends March 17 during a company conference call.

“We continuously work with our customers to try and find the right solution to support their ecomm needs. I would say the next few months, there is going to be an increased focus on that as we see a rise in e-commerce,” Geoffrion said.

DHL worker packs a box

A DHL worker prepares the components for a subscriber’s monthly kit of cosmetics from Rodan + Fields. (DHL Supply Chain)

DHL Supply Chain is a global contract logistics provider that combines management services with traditional fulfillment and distribution. It is a unit of Deutsche Post DHL, based in Bonn, Germany, and ranks No. 3 on the Transport Topics Top 50 list of the logistics companies in North America.

Geoffrion discussed how e-commerce is driving other trends, pushing DHL to search for ways to come up with unique packaging solutions like sustainability.

“Another thing we are seeing a lot with our customers is the voice of the customers themselves,” Geoffrion said. “With the growth of social media and the usage of all kinds of online platforms, we know that if customers are not happy with the product, they’re not happy with the packaging, they’re not happy with what they’re seeing out there, they are going to make that known on social media.”

Geoffrion said DHL consumers are using social media to push for smaller, more convenient and easier-to-open packages. They are also pushing for more sustainable products. They are also trying to help their customers manage the conversations in the market around these types of issues.

“This is not something that’s going away,” Geoffrion said. “This is something that the more time goes on, the more the voice of the customer becomes more relevant to our end customers. It’s certainly affected the way we look at packaging and affects how we look at the operations around that.”

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Seemingly contradictory, the in-store experience is still very important to customers despite the rise of e-commerce and the drive to be more sustainable. It has led to increased requests around packaging.

“At one point in time, I think people may have predicted we’re not going to have a lot of displays and a lot of packaging because everyone is thinking about going green,” Geoffrion said. “But we never quite found that trend; in fact, we actually see an increase in in-store employees and in-store marketing abilities that our customers want to put out there.”

Geoffrion said having creative and innovative designs around retail displays has become even more relevant and often a top priority of customers’ marketing agenda.

“The last trend I really want to talk about is sustainability,” Geoffrion said. “We need more recyclable products, more sustainable products, but it’s also about the process of packaging.”

Geoffrion said a huge part of that is minimizing the transportation of the products and materials so they can get out into the market without any waste. DHL Supply Chain has deployed solutions such as smaller packages to reduce truckloads, and reusable packaging.

“Deutsche Post DHL, obviously like most companies, is committed to reducing its logistics-related emissions to net zero by 2050,” said Larry Worth, the senior director of operations for the consumer sector at DHL Supply Chain North America. “This is a very ambitious target, so we’ve also set some shorter-term targets.”

Worth said one goal the company has is it wants to perform 70% of first- and last-mile deliveries with green vehicles.

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