Without a doubt, the impacts of the COVID-19 virus have been devastating. At the time of this writing, the disease has claimed over 1.75 million lives worldwide, 330,000 of them in the U.S. alone. However, as we look back on this past year with respect and grief for the many lives lost, we can also reflect on a few small positives that resulted from the pandemic. Many industries were able to alter their manufacturing and distribution practices in ways that will benefit our world for decades to come, and packaging is chief among them. Below are 5 ways the Coronavirus changed the packaging industry for the better.
It created an Ecommerce boom
As brick-and-mortar stores began to shutter their doors in response to the pandemic, consumers turned in droves to Ecommerce alternatives to satisfy their needs. The leap from brick-and-mortar to online retail was significant; according to data from the US Census Department of Commerce, Ecommerce spending leapt by 42.2% from the first quarter of 2020 to the second, a period of about 6 months. The packaging industry, in turn, benefited from the surge in Ecommerce sales, particularly pharmaceutical packaging and plastics. According to market research by Reportlinker.com, the global packaging market is projected to grow to $1.6 billion by 2021.
It changed the way we package and prepare food
Perhaps no other sector was impacted by COVID as much as the food industry. In just a few short months, restaurants, grocery stores, and other food suppliers had to adjust to meet new safety standards and assuage the fears of anxious customers. Salad bars, food steam tables, and “bulk bins” of products like beans and nuts were converted into display areas for prepackaged foodstuffs. And everyone in the food distribution chain became more conscious of the way we handle and prepare food. Already, food manufacturers are exploring ways to make their wares more hygienic and tamper-resistant while remaining easy for consumers to open and use. While the future is never certain, it seems likely that the COVID-19 pandemic may have shifted the way we buy and consume prepackaged food forever.
It expedited a technological transformation
Even though, as noted above, the effects of the pandemic were mostly negative, it did have the silver lining of speeding up business adoptions of new technologies—not by just one or two years, but several. For instance, in the 2020 McKinsey Global Survey, executives across several major industries reported that the pandemic accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions, as well as internal operations, by as many as four years. Company leaders also reported a big shift to digital offerings—a change that may have otherwise taken five to seven years.
According to Keith Higgins, VP of digital transformation for Rockwell Automation, the tech revamp will continue long after 2020. In an interview with Digital Journal, he stated, “The pandemic has demonstrated the need to adopt digital tools to automate processes, obtain real-time information, and create agile supply chains that comply with new restrictions.” He went on to say that flexible adaptation to new technology will be a must for companies that wish to thrive in a post-COVID world.
It brought awareness to longstanding distribution issues
The U.S. has long been reliant on other countries, especially China, to supply pharmaceutical products like acetaminophen, antibiotics, and blood pressure medication, but it was not until the pandemic that the issue was brought to the forefront of public awareness. Leading news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times ran articles about the chaos the US would face should it suddenly lose access to China—which supplies over 80% of crucial medications—due to war, trade disagreements, natural disaster, or another pandemic. While, again, the future remains to be seen, it seems far more likely, post-COVID, that lawmakers will push for American-made pharmaceuticals, and that their constituents will demand it.
It brought DIY-ers together
As the nation’s biggest manufacturing and distribution centers struggled to execute their gigantic pivot, everyday Americans stepped in to create badly-needed PPE equipment for healthcare workers and first responders. Individuals and small “mom-and-pop” companies used their own 3D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, and other fabrication equipment to create face shields, masks, and more for their local communities. In a year characterized by loss and anxiety, it stood as a stark reminder that, even in the darkest times, total strangers will come together to fulfill a cause bigger than themselves.
Need Packaging Supplies in Richmond, Virginia?
During this tough time in our nation’s history, SSI Packaging is proud to provide packaging products to small local businesses and individuals. Our product catalogue includes everything you need to package your products, including bubble wrap, envelopes, and cardboard boxes. To place an order, check out our online store here.
With so many people celebrating the holidays at home due to the Coronavirus, there’s little doubt that a lot of gifts will be sent through the mail this year—more, perhaps, than ever before. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably wondering whether it’s possible to ship a relative a nice bottle of whiskey, or send perfume to a special lady in your life. Get all of the answers to these holiday shipping questions, and more, below.
Can I Ship Alcohol?
For many people, the most thoughtful, grown-up Christmas gift is a fancy bottle of wine, whiskey, bourbon, or miscellaneous indulgence.
Unfortunately, if you’re socially distancing this holiday, you’ll have to come up with a different idea. No alcohol may be sent through the USPS, UPS, or FedEx, except in certain limited, extenuating circumstances. To be more specific, you can usually ship items with an alcohol content of .5% or less, like mouthwash and cooking wine. College kids beware: if you can’t find a regular box to pack your gift in, you won’t be able to grab a box from the liquor store.
Mail carriers will reject items that are shipped in an alcohol-branded box, regardless of what’s inside. (You’re better off just ordering some unbranded Richmond packing supplies.)
Can I Mail Cigars/Cigarettes?
Cigars are a classic gift for new and expectant fathers, and in some families, cigarettes aren’t an unusual addition to an adult’s stocking. If you want to include cigarettes in someone’s holiday gift box, you’re actually in luck, because while the USPS does forbids the mailing of tobacco products, it accepts “small-quantity, individual gift shipments” as an exception to the rule. It will also accept shipments to Alaska or Hawaii, shipments to military bases, and shipping of returns to a product manufacturer.
UPS and FedEx are a little stricter in their allowances, so if you’re planning on shipping a tobacco product, we recommend sticking with USPS. As for cigars, no worries there: all three major US carriers will ship cigars domestically.
Can I Ship Hand Sanitizer?
In any other year, hand sanitizer might not be a very exciting gift, but 2020’s pandemic has turned it into a much-appreciated necessity. However, since most hand sanitizers and sanitizing wipes contain alcohol, they are flammable, and therefore they are treated as hazardous materials by the top three major mail carriers. It is possible to ship hand sanitizer, however; you’ll just have to do a little extra paperwork: the Dangerous Goods Agreement for UPS; the Shipper's Declarations for Dangerous Goods for FedEx, and other, more specific instructions for the USPS. For all carriers, you’ll have to accept surface shipping as your only option.
Can I Mail Nail Polish & Perfume?
Regulations are similar for potentially-flammable cosmetics like nail polish and perfume. Both UPS and FedEx require that these items be mailed via ground only, provided they meet the specifications listed above. As for USPS, it will permit perfume or nail polish to be transported by air, as long as it has a flashpoint between 140° F 200° F. Cosmetics with a flashpoint between 100° F and 140° F can be shipped via surface transportation only.
Can I Ship Live Animals?
We’re mostly including this one for fun’s sake, although if you’re legitimately thinking of mailing a friend a carton of live worms this Christmas, don’t let us stop you. Yes, USPS will ship live earthworms, as long as certain conditions are met. It will also deliver certain types of birds; certain types of bees; what it describes as “harmless, cold-blooded animals”; and, for some reason, scorpions. We’re not sure exactly why the Postal Service decided that scorpions would be the only stinging, non-honey-producing animal it would handle, and though we could Google the answer as well as the next person, we don’t want to ruin the mystery. To return to our topic, since the regulations for shipping animals are numerous and specific, we’re not going to list them all here. Interested persons can view them here (for USPS), here (for UPS), or here (for FedEx).
Get Everything You Need This Christmas from SSI Packaging
Need packaging supplies in Richmond, VA, or in nearby areas? Stop by SSI Packaging for all your holiday packaging needs. We offer everything you need to keep your gifts safe and secure during transit, including cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, foam sheets, edge protectors, mailing tubes, and more. To learn more about our wide range of products, click here, and be sure to visit our blog for packaging-related tips and tricks, like how to safely package glassware!
Yes, It's Possible to Sell Art on Etsy. Here's How
Last year, Etsy's annual gross in merchandise sales reached $2.39 billion. And, while, yes, a lot of that income likely went to foreign resellers, we’re guessing that someone achieved that all-holy dream of artists everywhere: making a living through selling artwork, and nothing else. In fact, we’re confident that the Etsy dream is attainable, because as a Richmond shipping supply company, we often encounter people who do just that, and use our supplies to send their work all over the world. Below are some of the best tips we’ve heard on successfully selling artwork on Etsy.
Scope out the Competition
Let’s start with something rather obvious: there are a lot of shops on Etsy. Making yours successful lies in two key strategies: firstly, marketing the shop outside of Etsy itself—which we’ll discuss later in this post—and secondly, standing out from the crowd. The best way to accomplish that second one is taking a good look at the crowd in the first place. See if you can jot down a list of what tends to work, and what doesn’t. You will have to ultimately reach a sweet spot in-between “artwork that people want” and “artwork that no one else is offering.” Just as a stock investor tries to curate a diverse portfolio, you, too, will want to offer a nice mix of both popular items, and rare, niche items. If your eggs are distributed throughout multiple baskets, you’ll succeed no matter what the market “mood” tends to be.
Offer Different Sizes/Price Points
You’ll also want to mix up your sizes and price points, so that every type of shopper can support you, if they really want to: budget-stretched college students who can only afford a pair of earrings; and serious art buyers who want to add elaborate pieces to their collections. The great thing about art is that the college student in the first example can eventually turn into the collector in the second. In other words, if you offer smaller original pieces at lower price points, people who can’t afford the large or expensive pieces might return one day for more expensive, original work.
Leverage Tags and Keywords
Tags and keywords are the most important tools you can leverage on websites like Etsy. Without tags or keywords, your products will be buried in the Etsy ethos, without a way to be seen by potential customers. As you start to type in a keyword, you may notice that Etsy will suggest keywords. Don’t ignore these, either! This is Etsy’s way of helping you choose the terms people are actually using to search for items like yours. (Remember, since Etsy takes a cut of all proceeds, it has a vested interest in helping your site succeed).
In addition, try to use plenty of identifiers in the item description, like the item’s size; the medium; supplies used; and anything else that shoppers may have questions about. Add some personality to endear your shoppers to you—we’ll touch on this below—but don’t go overboard; descriptions that are long, meandering essays tend to chase potential buyers away.
Space out Your Listings
Setting up, photographing, uploading, and editing artwork tends to be tedious, so most artists tend to do it all in one day. That’s fine, but try to resist the urge to post it all on the same day; spacing out your listing helps you reach a much wider audience. That’s because Etsy features new listings at the top of each respective category for a short period of time after they are posted. If you upload everything all at once, you’ll only have front-page status for that brief moment—versus nabbing the spotlight over and over again, with every new upload.
Be as Socially Active as Possible
The extent to which you use social media, and how well you use it, will likely be what makes or breaks your efforts as an Etsy artist. This is because, to be frank, few people spend their time hanging out on Etsy, typing in various keywords and discovering new items. The majority of today’s art-buying audience spends its time on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit—so you should, too. On Instagram, try following pages which re-post artwork (with attribution), to reach a wider audience. Comment and react to other peoples’ artwork; as a popular quote by Dale Carnegie goes, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
Note, too, that you don’t always have to take on the persona of a salesperson; many forums on Reddit, for example, discourage our outright forbid solicitation. Instead, try simply posting your art and asking for feedback. This can help get more eyes on it, without irritating forum moderators.
Package Your Work with Care
As a professional artist, you will need to take a professional approach to everything you do, right down to the packaging and delivery of your work. Neat, professional packaging can help make a great first impression and subliminally justify the price, and quality, of your work. It also reduces the chance that the work will bend, chip or break in transit, prompting the buyer to demand a refund. Remember to pair prints and unframed drawings in a hard surface, like cardboard or chipboard, and wrap them in a clear sleeve. Consider building the cost of packing materials, like boxes, packing peanuts, and bubble wrap, into your shipping charges. Lastly, including a handwritten thank you note, sticker, or other unexpected goodie can boost the buying experience, and the likelihood of future sales!
Ship and Send Your Art Safely with SSI Packaging!
Looking for high-quality shipping supplies in Richmond, Virginia and the surrounding areas? SSI Packaging has everything you need to package, track, and deliver your work safely and securely! We are proud to serve our local artists at VCU School of the Arts and beyond.
To view our full selection of products, please click here.