The NY Times has an interesting article on Amazon’s attempt to reduce wrap rage among its customers. (“Packaging Is All the Rage, and Not in a Good Way”, September 2010)
Instead of describing what we (and they) mean by wrap rage, let’s have Larry David explain:
The article describes Amazon’s attempt to reduce this type of frustration:
For nearly two years, Amazon has been trying to get manufacturers to adopt “frustration-free packaging” that gets rid of plastic cases and air-bubble wrap — major irritants for consumers and one of Amazon’s biggest sources of customer complaints.
Beyond the significant impact on customer satisfaction (73% reduction in negative comments), I think it’s a nice example illustrating what some may refer to as the river analogy (… it’s an OPERATIONS room blog after all…).
As we usually mention, the main hindrance for improvement is inertia:
A lot of it is just the inertia of making changes,” said Stephen Lester, science director at the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, a nonprofit environmental group. “Whenever you have a system set up to run your business, making any change means time and money.” For brick and mortar retailers, traditional packaging remains popular because it can help deter theft. But in Web shopping, there is general agreement that the alternative packaging is a hit with consumers, and that it is simple for packaging companies to create.
The fact that everybody was using plastic packages and that many retailers try to have standard packaging for their brick and mortar and websites prevented both the retailers and the manufacturers from identifying the opportunity here. It was identifying the opportunity (or waste) that was difficult: once this was done; the solution was not too complex and resulted in improvements across the board.
Within three weeks, AllpakTrojan had designed the new container, tested it by dropping it from various heights and putting it on a vibration table and had it ready. The toothbrush’s travel case protected the brush head, and cardboard compartments held the charger and toothbrush base. Without the fancy printing, shiny cardboard backing and plastic, “it’s much less expensive,” Mr. Hoover said. And the environmental benefit was significant: the square footage of material used was much smaller, and the cardboard was recycled and recyclable.
Not only it improves customer satisfaction, it is also environmentally friendly, using recycled and recyclable cardboard rather than plastic and wire ties and also quicker to produce than the retail packaging and in many cases costs less.
The adoption is still slow and the solution may not fit every retailer and every manufacturer:
One of the biggest hurdles is to convince a company that it’s worthwhile, or the volume is there, to sell the same product in two different formats,” said Anne Johnson, director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. an industry working group operated by the nonprofit institute GreenBlue. And because retailers did not work together on a common standard, “you don’t end up with unified approaches to these issues, therefore you never solve these issues,” she said.
It’s such a win-win proposal,” said Nadia Shouraboura, vice president for global fulfillment at Amazon. “We don’t expect to make a miracle in a week, but I think over time it’s going to happen.”