Out of the Box: Q&A with Netrush Packaging Manager Colby Grantz

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Packaging at Netrush is more than a logo on a box and stuffing products inside. It has the ability to create exciting interactions and drive profits. It also can emphasize pain points with ever-changing Amazon compliance regulations. Our master wrangler and expert for all things packaging is Colby Grantz. We recently cornered him with questions. And here’s what he told us.

How did you get into packaging?

By accident, really. I love identifying problems and creatively solving them. My family owned a printing company, so I became a self-taught graphic designer. Eventually, some of our very loyal and trusting customers let me work on their packaging projects. One of my first big projects was for a high-end headphone company, and while I questioned every move I made, the project was ultimately successful and led to additional business. Packaging is a really rewarding fit for me.

What’s exciting about packaging?

Packaging requires right and left brain skills. An analyst’s mind with a creative spirit. We use data to tell us what’s needed to protect the product or how to optimize ordering, while graphics create an emotional connection with the consumer. Since buying in a store is a completely different experience than on e-commerce, new challenges come up. Understanding and executing on both fronts is very rewarding.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Everywhere, whether it’s negative or positive – you just have to be ready for it. I find that when I allow my mind to drift and wander and take in what is around me I come up with the best ideas. Walking and hiking and shower thoughts are always common places, but doing something unexpected can also lead to great inspiration.

We worked on a primary packaging project last year that had a laundry list of challenges. I was at Safeway in the produce section when I had that “aha” moment. Not the most inspirational place, but hey, when it comes to you – go with it. I also like to stay current on industry innovations, things like unique/variable manufacturing techniques, compostability, and new materials used in packaging like mushrooms, recycled money, and reclaimed ocean materials just to name a few. There is so much passion in this industry!

What materials make sense to use?

I would say let your customers guide your choices. I would love to package everything in this amazing packaging that offers a unique unboxing experience wrapped in graphics that speak directly to that customer on an individual level, while the actual packaging can be reused or recycled with minimal effort.

What I’ve learned is that some people like plastic, some like corrugate, and some just don’t care…but no matter who you are, you will definitely care when your product is broken. Pick what’s most impactful to your customers whether that is experience, sustainability, or something else. Once you know that, you can look to scale where it supports profit.

What challenges do brands have with packaging?

E-commerce has been a big disruptor in the packaging industry and has forced brands and manufacturers to think differently. The biggest challenge for brands is understanding that brick and mortar and e-commerce have completely different needs.

To show this, I like to do an exercise showing the difference in the number of times human hands touch the product between brick and mortar and e-commerce. Brick and mortar average five while e-commerce can be up to 45 with returns. It’s always fun to think of shipping nice, soft hammocks all day, but in reality, what if it’s an iPhone or that Patek Philippe watch you just ordered? Are you confident it can withstand the damage of e-commerce? What kind of experience does this customer channel demand?

Amazon Shipping and Packaging rules are always changing. What’s the latest?

Amazon has taken a big step by announcing 1P sellers must ship products meeting specific criteria in Ships In Own Container (SIOC) certified packaging. Many brands have been appalled by this announcement, but Amazon is finally getting tough on how products should have always been packaged for e-commerce. The announcement was made in September 2018 with the effects going into place on September 2019. Compliant items will receive a one-time credit while non-compliance results in an on-going $1.99 per item fee.

This timeline is beneficial for early adopters but could prove difficult for products with long manufacturer lead times or that require additional testing, like consumables.
Overall this is a huge benefit for e-commerce. This currently only affects 1P but similar changes are anticipated in 2020 for 3P sellers. Brands must be ready to adapt and comply or take a hit to their profit margin. Netrush has put a lot of effort into understanding the changes and devising strategies to transition products into SIOC packaging. Our insights have allowed us to develop strategies to help mitigate potential risks and avoid costly mistakes.