Online shoppers’ damaged deliveries bill exceeds £8 bn in 2023

DS Smith has revealed the scale and cost of damaged deliveries ahead of the busiest e-commerce periods of the year; Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Research shows over 1 in 3 (34%) Brits are expected to participate in Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, and nearly half of consumers (47%) reported receiving damaged goods from online purchases in the past 12 months.

According to the research, the average value of damaged products was £115 each for UK shoppers in the past 12 months. On average, consumers opened around three damaged items each this year, meaning the total bill for damages amounts to a staggering £8 bn – the equivalent of 10m iPhone 15s.

As a major provider of e-commerce packaging and as we enter the busy winter retail period, DS Smith is expecting over 76m boxes will be returned during November.

Magnus Renman, Group R&D Director at DS Smith, said, “Damaged deliveries are a lose-lose for everyone involved – shoppers get frustrated and retailers have to deal with the difficulty of processing returns. Internet sales now account for over a quarter of total UK retail sales and as this research shows, returns come at a significant cost at a time when online shopping is crucial for retailers as we head into the busiest season.

“To help, we are working with impact-testing and tracking technologies to understand what actually happens to parcels on their journey to our front doors. We recreate those conditions in the lab so we can put packaging through its paces and then do everything we can to help protect the product inside. Our research and development teams have found that through clever design, there are ways to not only limit damage but use less material, and do it all without plastic.”

With its innovation and R&D teams, DS Smith is using advanced impact-testing technology to stress test the packaging that carries the most fragile items. The technology recreates the supply chain, and tests for Drop, Impact, Shake, Crush and Shock factors to understand what packaging can – and cannot – withstand, so that new designs can be created to better protect people’s products.

For fragile goods, such as glasses, bottles and ceramics, the drop test has proven a key measure to develop better packaging. Products need to withstand 17 drops in a row before they are considered protective enough to be used. Each drop allows experts to examine the points on the box that need strengthening to survive the journey to a customer’s doorstep.

As well as recreating the perils of the supply chain, DS Smith’s R&D team is attaching ‘accelerometers’ to packages to ascertain what levels of acceleration they are experiencing in transit.  DS Smith research has shown that a typical online parcel undergoes G-forces measuring up to an astronomical 50Gs. This is more than five times the level of G-forces that would cause an experienced astronaut to lose consciousness (at 9Gs) and 10 times more G-forces than are typically experienced on a rollercoaster (at 5Gs).

Join our Newsletter

Sign up to our weekly newsletters for updates on articles, interviews and events

Sign up