E-commerce Packaging Essentials: Tips, Choices & Strategies
Learning more about shipping costs, choice of outer packaging, packing material, labels, and the delivery network
Packaging is indispensable to e-commerce: it protects the products, impacts the shipping costs, speed of delivery, and the business image.
We recently published a piece demonstrating how the inner packaging can act as an effective marketing tool, one you should not neglect.
Today, we focus our attention on the functionality of the outer packaging, that is, protecting the product. Which format to choose? How to minimize its environmental footprint? Let’s make sense of it all.
Some companies – such as Uline – are specialized in packaging options. They can certainly help you decide on a packaging strategy, based on your needs and budget.
For the moment, let’s sort it all out to have a clear picture of the issue.
1. WHAT DETERMINES SHIPPING COSTS
Obviously, shipping comes at a cost and the cost of packaging must also be included in the total product cost.
Here is what determines the shipping cost:
- size and volume of package,
- weight of package,
- destination of package,
- speed at which package must be delivered.
In short, shipping costs will increase as the volume and weight of the package increases. Your objective should therefore be to pack your products in the most compact way possible while ensuring they are as well protected as can be.
If you ship an item in a box too large, the fees will be calculated based on the size of the box, so it would be better to choose the smallest box or mailer size possible to save on shipping fees.
Be careful though as some carriers also calculate the volumetric weight. They figure a box with a volume of X will weigh Y grams, even if the actual weight is different – more or less. With this type of calculation, shipping a pillow would cost more than shipping a rock. Again, take the time to find out the rate for the specific volume and weight of your package in order to make the best shipping choice.
2. CHOOSING THE PACKAGING
There are three types of containers to protect your product. You should choose based on your budget, the image you want to project as a business, and of course, the protection your product needs:
- cardboard boxes
- bubble mailers
- poly bags
As for the cosmetics aspect, the main advantage of boxes is that they are fully customizable with your business logo and colours. In short, in terms of protection and brand image, the box is a must.
Cardboard boxes can also be reused, but only under certain conditions. They must not have any marks, old barcodes and labels, and must still be in working condition.
However, a box costs more than a bubble mailer, in part because of:
Their many advantage over cardboard boxes is how light-weight and less bulky they are, which saves you storage space.
Most bubble mailers are not recyclable, however.
To make sure products don’t move around though, they must be filled properly. There is a variety of sizes and colours. You may want to get a smooth finish so they don’t get stuck going through machines in the delivery process.
Some poly bag are recyclable.
3. THE IMPORTANCE OF PACKING MATERIAL
Regardless of what packaging type you go for, your products must be well protected, and to do so, you may need packing material. Packages go through many hands, are exposed to the elements, go through sorting machines. In the end, if you want your customer to receive his product in perfect condition, you need to make sure it hasn’t moved around, no matter the packaging type.
If you must use packing material and your product doesn’t require to be carefully packed, why not take advantage to customize your product rather than standard bubble pack, air cushions, or shredded paper?
Whereas the outside packaging is primarily to protect your product, the inner packaging should appeal to your customer.
So, go ahead, add colour and make yourself stand out!
How can you ensure your package is well protected? One meter from the ground, drop your package on a hard surface (concrete, asphalt). If the product is undamaged, it should be good to get through the delivery process too!
If your packages are insufficiently protected though, they will likely come back to you and will end up costing you a lot more than the little you saved.
Lastly, if you ship more than one product in the same envelope or box (which is more cost-effective), just make sure each product is wrapped individually so as to avoid contact between products.
4. SHIPPING LABELS
The barcode on the shipping label is extremely important. It contains all the information on the destination and delivery time. The barcodes are automatically read by the machines. Should a label be incorrectly applied or not applied in the correct position, it may interfere in the processing and handling, delay the delivery or even make the delivery impossible.
Therefore, apply the label where there is the most space on the packaging and on a flat surface so that the barcode is fully readable. Always print your labels on white paper.
If your package is delivered late because the label was not readable, your carrier will not be liable and you will not be entitled to claim the delivery fees.
5. KEEP THE DELIVERY NETWORK IN MIND
If you are shipping a product in a standard format, take some time to inquire with your carrier to choose a packaging that fits best in the postal box where it is to be delivered. That way, your package will be placed directly in your customer’s postal box rather than making him travel to the post office to claim his package.
Now you know more about the importance of choosing the appropriate inner packaging and the outer packaging. To find out more about managing your packaging material inventory and optimizing the cost efficiency of your shipments, read this article.
Remember, your carrier is the delivery expert! Your adviser is there to help you make the best choices. Don’t hesitate to call on him when in doubt.