The Challenge of Designing Wine Bottles for E-Commerce

Liquids are a CPG e-commerce packaging issue. It’s one thing to safely transport liquid products in bulk, where the end destination is a retail outlet, which will then unpack the utilitarian layers of shipping cladding and then display the items to feature the consumer-facing merchandising packaging. With e-commerce, the final shipping destination is the end user, for as small an order as a single unit.

The shipping challenge becomes getting those liquid products to customers without leakage, spillage or breakage, and still presenting consumer-friendly merchandising packaging. In fact, Amazon has a three-part guideline for shipping liquids via its platform: tightened caps and secured pump nozzles, double safety seals and passing a three-foot drop test.


Safety versus the unboxing experience

CPG firms must determine the trade-off between pure utility against the look-and-feel impact when the customer receives the package. The e-commerce unboxing phenomenon is very real for customers. People even share the experience on social media making unboxing a brand marketing opportunity. YouTube has an entire informal category of “unboxing” videos.

Within the beverage category, wine is an interesting study in e-commerce packaging. Wine bottles are relatively heavy (especially in volume such as cases), and, compared to most liquid products, wine can be quite expensive. Given these attributes, wine shippers must take into account the cost incurred by the increased weight, how to safely get the wine to the customer and still provide a satisfying unboxing experience for what is often viewed as a prestige product by the consumer.


The wine compromise

The package material industry has offered up solutions in the form of specialized cardboard boxes designed to securely hold one or more standard wine bottles. This option neatly solves the issue of getting wine safely to consumers since the shipping packaging is specifically created for that purpose. As for unboxing, it adds a layer of cardboard to the experience but a familiar bottle that would be just as at home on a store shelf waits at the end of the process. Weight is the only wine shipping challenge these containers don’t address. Packing supplier Korrvu has wine shipping boxes that use a minimum amount of extra material while still meeting the ISTA 2A Transit Test requirements.

Box wines already in cardboard packaging don’t have the same weight issue facing glass bottles, but since wine traditionally comes in glass bottles not all consumers are able to get past the idea of boxed wine. This hasn’t stopped some winemakers from experimenting with new options such as cardboard “bottles” that more closely mimic the look of a traditional wine bottle rather than the rectangular item typically associated with box wine. Bota Box is one brand offering a “Bota Mini” option that avoids the usual box shape in a cardboard container. Box wine packaging is still evolving. European packaging company Metsä Board has a box wine package that elevates the spigot so the box doesn’t have to be placed next the edge of a shelf or table to be accessed.

Fragility and weight aren’t the only issues facing wine in e-commerce. Garçon Wines took on the issue of bulk around shipping wine bottles by creating its “letterbox” bottle design with a shape that allows the bottle to be slipped through a UK letterbox opening. Taking the concept to wider market, M&H Plastics has released an entire series of packaging options for liquid and solid products designed to fit through European letterbox slots.

What makes wine a fascinating snapshot of e-commerce packaging is it hits a number of shipping challenges from simple logistics to the more ephemeral buyer perception during unboxing. Are wine buyers willing to accept lighter weight cardboard packaging for a product they are used to purchasing in heavy, breakable glass bottles? And what do consumers expect from e-commerce packaging overall? Do they expect something akin to an in-store experience inside the shipping box or are they willing to make concessions given the challenges in e-commerce shipping.

Because of the e-commerce shipping trade-offs winemakers face, how the wine category continues to evolve its e-commerce packaging strategy is worth tracking for CPG companies in any product sector.

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