The basic shipper is reimagined as an ecommerce-enabled plastic box that’s durable, reusable many hundreds of times and a whole lot smarter.
Back in the day, phones were bulky, intended for wired communications only and hung on walls or placed on tables. Now they’re sleek, sophisticated and portable do-everything, go-anywhere interactive devices personally customized for the user.
Creative minds would likewise turn the stodgy corrugated shipper into something a lot more functionally optimized for the exploding ecommerce market. And of course, they must be highly sustainable for reuse.
Say hello to The Box, a dramatic reimagining of the shipping case for the ecommerce supply chain. Made of plastic and durable for reuse—it’s ruggedized for 1,000 trips, the maker says—and after that it can be reconditioned and recycled.
The Box is supplied with changeable, data-carrying electronic ink labels that only uses power to change the information, not to maintain it, which allows for low power consumption in distribution.
Inside is even more smart tech including integrated sensors that continuously measure temperature, humidity and shocks. All data can be accessed at any time via the built-in Internet connection and smartphone app.
Also inside, a configurable interior customizable for every shipment eliminates the need for one-way plastic protective wraps and packing material.
Selected as an Honoree for the 2020 CES Innovation Awards, The Box is the product of the forward-thinking minds of E Ink and LivingPackets. CEO Alexander Cotte of the latter responds to Packaging Digest’s questions.
What are the advantages?
Cotte: We see The Box as the foundation for a circular ecosystem, which means a dramatic shift from one-way deliveries to a more sustainable model. To achieve our goal, we are partnering with companies that become nodes in our network and can benefit from a convenient delivery experience for end consumers or donors.
What’s important for us is that it isn’t designed to simply go back and forth between a single ecommerce company and its customers. Of course, returning goods are a major part of the global ecommerce experience, and with The Box they just take a few moments: Customers just decide if they want to return an item and The Box automatically updates the shipping label on the display with the push of a button.
But returns are just one way of using The Box in the future. People will be able to send goods that they no longer need to good causes which will benefit from their donation. Examples include old electronics or clothes that they no longer need but that can be used by someone else.
We are also exploring and working on more and new ways how to leverage the system, but they are too early to be announced.
Is it purchased or leased?
Cotte: The Box is service, so it’s packaging-as-a-service. This means that ecommerce companies don’t buy our boxes directly, but that they only pay for using them. We have designed our offer around the requirements of the ecommerce market in a way so that ecommerce companies don’t have to pay more compared to their deliveries with traditional cardboard boxes in the basic service package. And companies are able to book additional services on top of the basic delivery experience.
LivingPackets offers The Box as packaging as a service, so we don’t sell The Box directly, but we offer it to companies who want to use it. E Ink provides us with the E Ink display which helps us to bring a new level of convenience to consumers and companies in the global ecommerce industry. With the integrated display from E Ink we can offer services that haven’t been possible in the history of the delivery industry before.
There are multiple patents associated with The Box. Over 35 patents have been granted or are currently pending for approval related to The Box and our ecosystem.
What are the dimensions?
Cotte: It’s foldable and can be shipped in two sizes. The unfolded dimensions are 588mm x 400mm x 248mm/23 inches x 15.7 inches x 9.8 inches, folded it’s 800x400x93mm/31.5 inches x 23 inches x 3.7 inches. Roughly speaking, the volume can accommodate approximately two shoe boxes when unfolded and one when folded.
It currently weights around 2kg, but we will launch a new version for our commercial launch this year which will be lighter.
What’s the construction?
Cotte: The main material is expanded polypropylene, EPP. The EPP is mixed with classic polypropylene-injected parts for reinforcements, and the combined material remains pure enough to facilitate recycling with EPP.
What products are center-of-target for this?
Cotte: We see The Box as the replacement for everyday shipments in ecommerce. Based on our collaboration with large ecommerce companies, The Box is currently able to handle roughly 80% of all online deliveries.
The Box appears to have applicability beyond ecommerce for business-to-business and closed-loop distribution for sensitive goods, is that an option?
Cotte: We've been approached by a lot of interesting B2B companies for exactly these cases and we are in talks with many of them. We just can’t mention anything specifically yet.
What’s the status?
Cotte: We have run successful pilots with Cdiscount and Orange and we have been approached by many of the major ecommerce companies across Europe and in the US, which we are currently in discussions with. We will announce the next partnerships in the near future.