Q: Box Curation Service for Small Online Retailers (2020)

ux design / design research

Mar 2020 - Jun 2020 (3 mos.)


Entire processes as this is an individual project.
Q is a service that provides curated cardboard boxes for small online retailers.

According to the e-commerce trend, we can buy almost everything in the online market. It’s fast and extremely convenient, leading to more efficiency and production.
I thought we definitely need a way to reduce e-commerce packaging material, which is where I got the idea for a new method, ‘Q’.

Key Idea

01. Personalized Box Curation for small online retailers 

After taking simple quizzes, Q will curate a total of 7 box types that fit with the retail items.

02. Subscribe Service 

The users also can set the subscription service and get some discounts.

03. Easy Reorder

04. Box Try-Out (Easy Refund)

The users can get a refund if unused boxes are in good condition.

05. Simple Access Homescreen

The users can access the main features such as, reorder, return, or subscription status from the homescreen.


One experience I am sure almost everyone has gone through is when you open a large box and upon looking inside, the product and other contents are extremely small in comparison to the actual box, leaving too much of a gap. When this happens, we call this ‘over-packaging’.

I believe this process wastes materials and energy, harms the environment, takes up more than necessary time to pack, and ultimately, makes it difficult for packaging items to be reused.

“Then what is the reason for

User Research

Expert Interviews & On-Site Observation 

Duration : 40-60min each interview
To look further into this problem, I conducted four expert interviews with small to mid-sized online retailers. The interviews were all either over the phone or in person, and then followed with an on-site observation.


1  “What materials do you use for shipping, and what is your priority of packaging features?”

2  “How do you decide the packaging size and how do you order the packages?”
3  “Have you ever received any feedback or reviews from customers that mention the over-packaging?”
4  “What is your process of sending to logistics after packing the products?”


What I confirmed was that their first priority is the price. They minimize box size options in order to reduce cost, and use a generous amount of bubble wrap to protect the product in a relatively large box, because they think it would be better for the box to be too big in comparison and overpackaged, than the customer receiving a faulty product. Since they use a bigger box, it takes time to pack and so they want to reduce packaging steps to reduce labor costs.
One surprising factor that I realized was that their packaging strategy was actually pretty well-organized as you can see in this image, so it’s not too difficult to find an appropriate box size for each product.
However, of course, there is no standard box size in the box industry. It depends on the box factory so many companies mention this as a concern when they start, as they are unsure what size boxes to purchase. I was informed that they are aware that using a lot of bubble wrap and a large box is a concerning problem, but unfortunately, there are no current alternatives in the industry. They mentioned, however, that they believe and take into consideration that customers will reuse the package, so they try and pack it as cleanly as possible.

“What about from the customers’ point of view?”

Finding Problems & Solutions 

01. Customer Diary Study 

4 participants
Date: Apr 25, 2020 - Apr 26, 2020


According to a diary study from the entire unboxing to discarding process, I can summarize that customers feel inconvenienced when dealing with packaging, since they don’t know how to handle it and find it easiest to just throw the whole thing away.

02. Survey

84 responses
Date: Apr 25, 2020 - Apr 27, 2020

1. Among your entire shipping experience, what is the likelihood of over-packaging?

2. Do you usually reuse packages (aircap, box, etc.)?


A survey was taken by 84 people, asking them how often they felt they saw overpackaging when they received products. The majority of the answers ranged from 50 to 80 percent of the time.

The follow up to that survey was in regards to the reusing, and the result was that 76 percent of people don’t reuse the package, the main reasons being that they don’t know where and when they would get a chance to reuse it, there’s no space to store a big box in their home or they just think it’s just useless and easier to discard.

Problem Space

The experts interview, survey, and diary studies gave me a lot of insights to find a problem space of over-packaging.

01. No Standard Box Sizes in Korea 

The main problem seems to be that there are no standard box sizes in South Korea. According to the image below, this list is from only one box factory, with various options for box sizes, meaning the size of the box is completely depending on the box factory.

02. Too Many Box Options in Market 

There are too many box options in the box market with set dimensions, so small online retailers have difficulty choosing boxes that fit correctly.

03. Minimize Box Types 

They also mentioned that they think it’s time-consuming to select different-sized boxes for every single item, so they minimize box size variety, by just choosing a few types that would be large enough for almost any item. Also, if they make a bulk purchase of just one type of box, they can get a discount, thus giving them incentive to minimize box selection.


Q’s Key Features

Through the 4 types of research I currently have, I was able to decide several possible directions.

Concept/Hypothesis Validation

Prototype Testing & Second Expert Interview 

I developed these concepts with a second expert interview who runs online retail. I made a prototype and interviewed the expert with this prototype to see if it works in the real industry.

Interviewee: CEO of Bulle d’Or / Duration: 60min. / Zoom Interview

Final Design

01. Personalized Box Curation



Once they answer the questions, they can get personalized results, such as box layers according to the weight. Since online retailers make a contract with logistics about the main shipping size, the app would be able to adjust the box size depending on the contract, or recommend other contracted shipping sizes when the item is too small or big.
All retailers would have to know the item weight to get a KC mark or barcode, as it is the easiest way to define whether the box requires a single wall or double walls.


The user has 7 box options total.
All they would have to do is provide the sizes of the smallest item, the most popular item and then the biggest item they have, by using the measuring tool within the Q app.
Q will then curate 4 additional box sizes automatically. Due to the possibility of soft product material or requiring more bubble wrap, Q can curate smaller and bigger boxes than the users have measured.


Q will curate the boxes accoding to the item size including the bubble wrap volume.
Also, it will provide information on the proper amount of bubble layer depending on the item's material.


Each of these boxes have a special code unique to Q, starting with either the letter C (for cube-shaped boxes), F (for flat boxes), or T (for tall boxes). These codes would make it clear the box is from Q and if the user would like to return it, they know to store it carefully.

02. Easy Re-Order & Box Try-Out


The user can also get a notification when it’s time for them to re-order the new boxes that they need, making it a completely personalized service that helps online retailers, without needing to worry about an extra task to remember.


Since users have 7 box options, they can try out appropriately fitting boxes. If they would like to use or add other size options, they can order new ones with simple steps.


If the user keeps the boxes clean and undamaged, they can return them within 6 months after trying them out.



01. Opens the Opportunity to Try Various Size Boxes 

Online retailers can find the best sized boxes, without having to rely on a generic box that intends to just cover all sizes.

02. Time Saving, Easily Accessible

In the current box market, there are too many box options, and it’s difficult to find the most appropriate sized box since websites usually only have dimensions without curating to the actual item. Therefore, online retailers find it a hassle to choose several boxes for each item.

But Q can make the experience personalized by finding the correct sized-box, and also curating suggested box sizes for the user’s convenience, all with a few simple steps.