Transit Packaging

All types of transit packaging – call them shipping boxes, outer cartons, transport outers or anything else – are generally made of cardboard and corrugated board and designed so that goods reach the recipient undamaged. The structural design of transit packaging is primarily determined by product protection, but is also influenced by size and logistical efficiencies. STI Group has a constantly evolving portfolio of intelligently designed transit packaging.

For products purchased online, the unboxing experience is crucial and the shipping box is often the consumer’s first touchpoint with the product. For most consumers, the branded product and its outer packaging represent one unit; the marketing power of transit packaging should never be underestimated. Alongside premium sales packaging, transit packaging plays a key part in the unboxing ritual and in shaping the consumer’s overall brand experience. Special inlays, inside print, and other creative shipping box ideas can really enhance the perception of a product or brand. That’s not to say shipping cartons are only important for online retail; they are also the mainstay of B2B commerce. Whether used to carry spare parts, accessories or ingredients for wholesalers, many industries would come to a grinding halt without transit packaging. The same applies to the order picking process; products bulk-delivered to distribution centres will continue their journey in shipping boxes specially designed for them.

Product References

Product protection comes first

The absolute priority for any shipping box is that goods reach the recipient undamaged. STI Group packaging experts choose the right material – cardboard or corrugated board – for each shipping box with the help of a material configurator. Material stability, in combination with the box’s structural design, is a major factor of this choice.

Customers want less packaging volume

'As much as necessary, as little as possible' is STI Group’s mantra for packaging design. A shipping box should in theory be tailored to each product, conform to the most cost-effective packaging dimensions and take into account logistical factors. Return rates of 50 percent or more are not uncommon for clothes and shoes bought online. Not only does this eat into online retailer profits, but it can also dampen shopper spirits. Over half the respondents of a consumer survey conducted by STI Group wanted to be able to return unwanted items in an appropriately sized shipping box.

Second generation shipping boxes reduce delivery volume

STI Group’s latest generation of transit cartons use intelligent design allows the original outer packaging to be reduced in size by as much as 50 per cent – in a few simple steps – for improved product returns. Flexible shipping solutions also make attractive options for online retailers. Online retail has been one of the fastest growing markets globally in recent years, but consumers, retailers and logistics companies all have different expectations from transit packaging. STI Group designs shipping boxes that take into account all their requirements. A perfect example is DualPack, a two-part shipping carton whose size can be reduced by half for returning goods. For example, a customer ordering two different-sized pairs of shoes for trial can use the DualPack lid, folded down the middle, to create a new half-size box for returning just one pair. As well as consumers adjusting the box size to match the size of their returns, online retailers can take a single packaging item (DualPack tray or lid) and use it for two different parcel sizes – reducing procurement and warehousing costs, while minimising shipment sizes and their associated carbon footprint too.

Transit Packaging Consumer Survey

In February 2016, STI Group surveyed 1000 German online shoppers aged 16 – 70 about their expectations of transit packaging for online purchases. 99 per cent of respondents in this comprehensive survey stated that transit packaging was important to them, emphasizing its central role in their shopping experience. The survey results paint a clear picture of consumer expectations. First and foremost, transit packaging should protect the products; be tailored to the size of the contents; and be reusable for return shipping. Their biggest irritant? Oversized boxes with excessive padding.

Shipping boxes reflect retailer environmental awareness

One in two respondents believes that transit packaging demonstrates how environmentally conscious an online retailer is. Online retailers can potentially enhance their image by using appropriately-sized packaging with minimal padding. Two thirds of consumers surveyed stated that they would be willing to accept an additional charge of up to 50 cents to offset the carbon footprint of shipping purchases to their door.

Ready-to-Ship blurs line between sales packaging and transit packaging

The idea behind Ready-to-Ship was to combine attractive sales packaging with a pre-applied shipping label so the item can be directly delivered without needing an additional shipping carton. This feature not only makes it a very appealing option for consumers, it also received positive ratings from online retailers in a survey conducted by the European Retail Institute (EHI) in 2015. However, for Ready-to-Ship to work in practice, transit requirements need to be factored in at the sales packaging design stage. Particularly for fragile products, it’s crucial that the sales packaging has a well thought out internal structure.


Cardboard or Corrugated Board – which material works best for shipping boxes?

The choice of transit packaging material depends on the product and its size. Shipping boxes must be robust to provide the best possible product protection given the high loads they can experience during the delivery process. Because of these high loads, transit packaging is generally made from recyclable corrugated board. STI Group’s customer advisory services include guidance on choosing the right corrugated flute profile and base paper material.

Do shipping boxes undermine the importance of the product’s sales packaging?

No. Customised packaging for branded products still plays a really important role in online retail. It captures the brand promise, is perceived as 'made exclusively for me' by the customer, and upon arriving intact provides instant visible proof that the product inside is undamaged. Ready-to-Ship is one of the latest trends in retail, with gift packs now frequently doubling up as shipping boxes.

Is it possible to save costs by using bespoke shipping boxes?

Experts believe that, in future, volume-based charges similar to the American pricing model will be introduced in Germany because of the ever-increasing volume of road freight. In the USA, shipping charges are not based on package weight plus three to four standard size bands, but on actual shipping volume (calculated dimensional weight). Under this system, right-sizing a shipping box can translate into real cost savings.

Do you supply flexible shipping boxes that can be adapted to different products?

Combining corrugated board with film opens up a whole new world of design possibilities for shipping cartons. Plastic film eliminates the need for additional padding as it can be stretched directly around the product to hold it securely in place. In collaboration with Sealed Air, STI Group has designed packaging variants for a range of industries and products.  

What kind of shipping box works best for order picking?

Multifill is an adjustable-size box in which a corrugated board blank helps to hold the products securely in place. The blank has a flexible but tear-resistant stretch film that adapts to fit the shape of any product, eliminating the need for any padding. 

What special requirements are there for dangerous goods transit packaging?

Dangerous goods packaging must meet specific requirements according to the degree of hazard it presents; low, medium or high. STI Group tests all packaging intended for use in dangerous goods transport, and additional in-house laboratory tests are used to inform our packaging design and approval. This pre-testing speeds up the external approval process by BAM (German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing). STI Corrugated GmbH, in Alsfeld, is a BAM-approved manufacturer of dangerous goods packaging.

What is 'Click & Collect'?

'Click & Collect' allows customers to buy online and then to collect their order in person from a physical store. This is very attractive for bricks-and-mortar retailers, as shoppers are likely to purchase additional items when they arrive to collect their order.