Is the future of small package shipping box-less?

Earlier this year, Amazon surprised a lot of people when it announced it was planning on fulfilling some of its shipments without its classic brown box packaging. This obviously raises a lot of questions for vendors, shippers, and consumers; what does small package shipping without boxes look like, and is it safe? In this article we look at this potential trend.  

Why ship without boxes? 

It might sound a little crazy, especially when the image of a box on your front stoop is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of deliveries, but there are significant upsides: 

  • More items per truckload, making deliveries more efficient. 
  • Generates less shipping-related waste. 
  • Less costs transferred to the customer.  
  • Reducing materials and labor costs for shippers. 

If handled well, box-free shipping could be a huge win for all parties involved in package fulfilment. However, it’s not without its challenges. 

Is box-less shipping even a realistic option? 

Right now, about 11% of Amazon packages are shipped without additional boxing. The company calls this “ship in own container” and offers it as an option for select vendors. Customers can select box-less shopping at checkout when shopping from these vendors. So far, these are mostly items that already arrive in the manufacturer’s box, like a television or toaster.  Brita, the water filter company, selected to participate in Amazon’s “ship in own container” program, and even changed its packaging design to be eligible.  

For some items, like those mentioned above, it’s an easy solution. But that doesn’t mean it works for everything. Vendors offering box-free shipping must come up with alternatives to ensure that the items they ship are sturdy enough for individual shipping without needing extra materials.  

Another difficulty with box-less shipping is where to label packages. Some items’ dimensions and shape would make it hard to place a label, potentially leading to shipping delays or even unfulfillments.  

Privacy is a concern.  

Those opposed to box-free shipping have raised the concern that without boxes, packages being shipped to homes will potentially be visible to potential onlookers, eliminating privacy and increasing the risk of theft. This puts the onus on the manufacturer to potentially change their packaging of items to be more discreet, or on the customer to provide a more concealed or secure delivery location.  

What if you’re not shipping with Amazon? 

The discussion about box-free shipping took off this year because of Amazon, but that doesn’t mean every shipper can immediately hop on the trend. Logistically, going box-less will be harder for some companies than others, especially considering who their shipping provider is and what solutions they offer.  

There are alternative solutions being developed.  

While some companies are going box-free, others are investing in new packaging solutions. For example, Seegene, a business that specializes in molecular diagnostic kits, developed an eco-friendly shipping box which is 100% recyclable and more efficient than the conventional Styrofoam shipping boxes used for these kinds of products. So, while packaging hasn’t been eliminated, it is more cost effective and environmentally friendly.  

In conclusion… 

Box-less packaging might be the future of shipping, or it might be just a fad, but either way, there are many benefits and drawbacks to keep in mind when implementing this kind of change. While it could positively reshape your shipping processes, there are many situational requirements to consider when making it a reality.