Air must be removed from the package

For Uwe Streiber, Head of Packaging Management at Zalando SE, good packaging is more than just a box that goes to the customer.

When Sascha Lobo says he wants to be welcomed by his package, can you understand what he means by that?

I think the sentence is aimed at different levels  In the truest sense of the word – the customer opens his parcel and is addressed personally. We have also experimented with this in the past. The parcels were then accompanied by greeting cards for the recipient. The other level is certainly that when the customer picks up his consignment, or when it is delivered to his front door, he immediately recognizes that his consignment has arrived. He sees at a glance who it is from, and can thus look forward to unpacking it. Especially in the fashion segment, in which we work, younger consumers want to have something special. And of course we are interested in setting ourselves apart from the masses of brown cardboard boxes. Our striking white packaging really stands out.

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What significance does packaging have at Zalando in addition to the marketing aspect?

In the overall context of a company, packaging holds more of a niche status by comparison with warehousing or logistics processes. For us, however, packagings are an important topic, especially in connection with customer satisfaction. We see ourselves as an extremely customer-focused company. And so we naturally also regularly determine the satisfaction of our customers with order processing. If we were now only interested in saving costs or increasing our profits, we could make it easy for ourselves and do without our elaborately designed and produced packaging. But we deliberately do not do that. Customer satisfaction can be seen particularly in smaller details. Customers should be able to open packaging without scissors or knives. Or think of returns. Our customers should be able to try out the ordered articles in peace, so it is important for us that the packaging can also be closed without aids in order to find the way back to us. Our strategy cannot be that wrong. We hear from the market that other companies and start-ups are specifically asking packaging manufacturers whether they can use our packaging.

Speaking of manufacturers: What demands does a digital commerce company like Zalando make of its packaging service providers? What does a producer have to contribute if he wants to play a part here?

We are operating in a classic triangle here, consisting of time, costs and quality. The packaging must not only please the customer, but first and foremost must arrive there clean, i.e. it must survive all the processes – storage, handling and transport. Keyword “Box Compression Test”. So we need manufacturers who have high standards, especially in production and materials, and who can provide us with consistent quality. And, of course, at attractive costs for us. To give you an idea – last year, we needed an amount of corrugated cardboard equivalent to the surface area of 10,000 football pitches. And we want to continue growing, so our demand for this will continue to grow. The cost of raw materials is an important aspect for us, and we have to ensure that this is reflected clearly in our contracts with our partners.

Time plays an important role in our business model. If the customer orders on Thursday, the goods should be there already on Saturday. And we want this ourselves too when we place our orders. Short delivery times and short delivery periods are enormously important for us. That’s why we prefer regional sourcing. However, the industry in Germany is well positioned in this respect. Companies planning to work more closely with digital commerce traders should definitely take a close look at their processes and ask themselves whether their services can grow together with the dealer should the need arise. This is especially the case if traders have such high demands regarding the feature set of the packaging as we do.

How do you see the future of packaging?

That will clearly move in the direction of automation. No matter where you look. You currently still see a high manual input in all fulfillment centers, for example in unfolding the cartons and applying adhesives. Here all the players will be looking for ways to reduce the effort. One of the major challenges and questions to be clarified in the near future will be how to reduce the amount of air in the parcels, i.e. how to reduce shipments to the size of the products actually shipped. This is because the current situation is pushing carriers ever closer to the limit. In the USA, some of them are already taking defensive action by billing on the basis of volume weight. That would put many traders on a slippery slope.

Packaging Congress 360°, 21./22.11. in Frankfurt
Uwe Streiber,
is responsible for packaging management at Zalando SE and, as Business Lead Buyer, for the procurement of consumables and packaging materials too. As Project Manager he is also responsible for the development of future packaging strategies. He will be talking about the eCommerce requirements made by the retail industry in dealings with the packaging industry,
Further speakers include: 
Dr. Christian Detrois, 
Corporate Packaging Manager at Nestlé Deutschland, 
Kerstin Erbe, 
Managing Director Product Management at dm-drogerie markt GmbH + Co.KG, 
Michael Atug, 
Managing Director, mymaw.de und eCommerce-Rockstar,
Matthias Haubeneißer, 
Senior Consultant, GS1-Germany,
Thomas Reiner,
CEO, Berndt & Partner.

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