Adapting to Consumer Expectations Maximizes Profitability

A recent report published by Xerox projects that the retail business will reach 2.68B by 2025. While this is obviously welcomed news for retailers and shoppers, printers are equally excited as the corresponding demand for folding cartons opens the door to significant growth potential.

But this wave brings with it some very serious challenges as competition, changing purchasing habits and heightened consumer expectations are redefining the shopping experience. As a result, brands of all types and sizes are battling for buyers’ attention (and dollars) and are leaning on their packaging converters to help win the war.

Printers are being asked to become even more agile and responsive to shifting customer requirements while anticipating next trends. More and more this means adapting processes and adopting technologies to support short production, personalized packaging, high-quality graphics, and helping customers quickly collect, quantify, and incorporate market feedback into new packaging.

Placed squarely in the lap of suppliers, these requirements will have a measurable influence on folding carton production, winning contracts, customer/supplier relationships, and ultimately profitability.

And so, the question is: How effectively will you manage these things from a production standpoint?

Short runs are becoming the norm

Fast, convenience, and bolstered by the recent pandemic, on-line shopping is quickly becoming standard procedure for a growing number of consumers. Last year alone we saw a 5% increase in e-commerce sales and that trend will only continue. But what’s good for some is devastating for others as brick-and-mortar stores are feeling the effects of this shift. By the year 2025 nearly 100,000 of these stores are expected to close.

Consequently, those that weather the storm are under severe pressure to attract and convert shoppers. This means carrying a wider variety of SKUs and catering to the diverse needs of in-store buyers. And for printers supporting these stores with packaging and displays this means responding to the need for increased product versioning, time-sensitive promotions, and multiple brand-specific customizations.

And these requirements hold true for on-line retailers as well. Regardless of where or how an item was purchased, product packaging is taking on the highest level of importance for retailers, marketers, and advertisers.

For example, 40% of surveyed shoppers said that they would share an image of their purchase on social media if it came in attractive, branded packaging. How significant is this? Look no further than your computer screen to understand the effects of social media marketing as each month nearly 100,000 YouTubers view “unboxing” videos.

While they hold advantages as being agile and cost-effective, short runs can create problems for printers. Challenges with condensed delivery schedules and chaos within pre-press production and layout are just a couple of examples.

To meet customer demands, and remain profitable, a growing number of folding carton suppliers are arming themselves with digital printing capabilities. Unlike the high minimums associated with traditional processes, digital printing is ideal for on-demand short run production.

Today 33% of print jobs are in quantities of 5,000 or less. Considering that the demand for folding cartons is expected to triple in the next three years printers are embracing ways to streamline estimating and workflows to keep up with their digital printing capabilities.

Digital printing supports better and faster decisions

The window for capturing and maintaining market share is always opening and closing; and time to market is critical to achieving a fast and optimum return on investment. Packaging plays a key role to successful product launches. Digital printing empowers companies to fully support packaging market studies with a variety of folding carton concepts created faster and at less cost than traditional printing. All of this leads to collecting better consumer data, making more informed decisions, and getting the right product packaging in front of prospective buyers faster.

Although important, speed is just part of the equation. Folding carton production must also protect brand integrity with perfect registration. With more files going through pre-press and layout, digital printing allows printers to generate short run samples while ensuring the tightest quality control.

Automation leads to maximizing profitability

For any manufacturer a healthy bottom line is rooted in streamlining production process, controlling costs, and boosting efficiency; and folding carton production is no exception. The production floor is where profits are made or lost and simply keeping up is a losing proposition. Workflow decisions must be in anticipation of trends allowing the company to increase workload, output, and ultimately revenue.

From estimating through planning and production, automation is finding its way onto the production floor of most printers and converters. Throughout the competitive printing industry, the first quote in often wins the job.  But because many companies are operating on thin profit margins quotes must be both fast and accurate. Automating the quoting process helps to ensure profitability while speeding the process exponentially. Automation reduces time spent manually laying out a job or relying on the tribal knowledge of a senior estimator to calculate run time and material costs. Quotes must be both fast and competitive.

From tight nesting to lights-out production, automation is helping printers to win more jobs, increase throughput and maximize profitability.

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