Macrotrends affecting FEPE members' industry sectors
These are exceptional times for the envelope and related businesses. We are in the middle of a transition period, which creates both challenges and new opportunities for all of us. Two macrotrends in particular are transforming the world, and having major impacts on the sectors in which FEPE members operate: digitalisation and ecommerce.
In the shorter term the Covid-19 pandemic has had a marked effect on our industry.
These trends affect the demand for envelopes, light packaging and ecommerce packaging. They are also generating new business operations, which our members are addressing through innovative products and services.
The envelope industry traditionally has three cornerstones: transactional mail, office supply and direct mail. All three are affected by these trends.
Main trends affecting the sector
Digitalisation of information has resulted in a steady drop in the demand for envelopes in the transactional mail and office supply segments over the past two decades. Invoicing, banking and administration, for example, have switched largely to digital communication.
However, there are indications that volumes are starting to stabilise. The factors that have led to decline in the past two decades are now well established. Digitalisation of communication has, largely, already happened and the postal communication that remains seems likely to continue at a similar level.
The Covid-19 pandemic led to both a decrease and an increase in the demand for envelopes. As businesses slowed down and/or operated remotely, more communication was done digitally. Direct mail practically stopped in many countries, and office supply demand was low with so many people working from home. But as governments reached out to citizens for vaccination programmes, communication was both digital and by mail to ensure widespread access and compliance.
Whether or not working from home will become significantly more widespread in the long term, and what – if any – will be the impact on the office supply segment, is unknown.
See also: Paper-based communication
Ecommerce has been a strong growth area in the past few years and the pandemic accelerated it even further. This provides new opportunities for our industry. Smaller and lighter items are increasingly mailed in envelope pockets, gussets and similar products manufactured by our industry.
This development is expected to continue in the years to come. According to recent market studies, even though consumers did indeed return to physical stores after the Covid-19 lockdowns, ecommerce is now a part of normal life. Consumers have come to appreciate the ease of buying online and will continue to do.
Furthermore, easy recyclability and responsibly sourced materials are high on the list of consumer demands: two-thirds* of consumers prefer their ecommerce deliveries to arrive in paper-based packaging.
* Two Sides survey on European packaging preferences.
See also: Ecommerce
DIRECT MAIL: from quantity to quality
While transactional and office supply are largely volume businesses, direct mail’s value goes beyond just volume. The trend is towards fewer campaigns targeting general messages to a mass audience, and more campaigns sending highly-targeted messages to selected audience segments, including customers who have voluntarily opted in to receive them. Such targeted and personalised mailings have a much higher success rate, so businesses invest more in each message. What they save in mass distribution costs can be channelled into higher-quality, more visible and appealing messages.
This is a healthy business segment for many FEPE members, especially those with the know-how and facilities to create personalised solutions.
See also: Direct mail
The changes in the envelope market lead to increased demand for innovative envelope and light packaging solutions.
SUSTAINABILITY – Sales of board-back envelopes, full-board envelopes and other similar products have soared in recent years. With increasing pressure to reduce the use of plastics, and to provide a wide range of light, sustainable packaging, there are massive opportunities for ecommerce-related growth and product development within our industry.
See also: Sustainability
COST-EFFICIENCY – Small packages that will fit in a mailbox are particularly sought after, to save on logistics costs and decrease the reliance on consumers being at home to receive deliveries.
Both legislation and consumer preference mean that envelope producers are seeing a higher demand for envelopes made from sustainable materials, like paper. However, while they see a high demand for sustainable solutions, their customers are often not ready to pay more. (Note: readiness to pay more for a more sustainable product varies by country.) There is therefore pressure on producers to provide solutions that are more sustainable without costing more. An innovative approach is required to deliver satisfactorily on both counts!
IMPACT – Particularly in the direct mail segment, retailers and advertisers are continually searching for impactful solutions. Envelope producers are increasingly required to offer highly personalised and unique products that can be changed with each new campaign.have soared
Envelopes for the future
Change = new opportunities
Despite the market trends that have reduced the demand for standard envelopes, the envelope is not dead! It’s just changing.
Many people will continue to rely on getting important information delivered to their homes, whether it’s a medical result or a wedding invitation. Businesses will continue to communicate with customers by mail, including direct mail. And the rising reliance on ecommerce guarantees that people will increasingly get products delivered too. Products that will come in all sorts of packaging, from small simple envelopes to pouches to cardboard boxes, and other yet-to-be-invented solutions.
All of this is good news for innovative producers of envelopes and light packaging for deliveries.