Packaging plays a hefty role in shipping — it’s more than
just a box holding an order, and the materials you use
impact more than just your bottom line. And, like everything
else related to shipping, it can get a tad complicated, even
if it’s only a matter of boxes and envelopes.
The way you package an order revolves around two important
factors that influence the cost to ship: how to best protect it
and how to efficiently transport it.
Protection ensures a safe and undamaged delivery — no retailer
wants to deal with a
returned order, much less a
product that must be trashed because it’s damaged. And efficient
transportation focuses on minimizing how large your order is, as
shipping carriers may decide to charge rates based on how much
space an order takes up.
The end goal of packaging is to satisfy both of those criteria,
to keep the package as safe as possible as cost-effectively as
possible. To accomplish that, there are plenty of packaging
supplies out there to fit and protect every product out there,
large and small.
Your quintessential packaging material, cardboard boxes come in
all sizes to protect and contain all of an order’s products.
Whether you’re looking to buy them in bulk or hunting for
certain-sized ones, check out these box-selling resources:
Because they offer plenty of real estate, boxes are also fair
game for a little branding, and some merchants are keen to brand
their boxes for a variety of reasons. Here are a few services
that sell unique boxes, from sellers of colorful boxes to
services that customize them for you:
For smaller, easy-to-package items like jewelry or apparel,
envelopes are often the go-to packaging option. They can come in
your standard manilla, they can be turned into pseudo-boxes
through thicker material, they can include internal padding, and
they can be branded as well.
To find and buy envelopes of all sizes, check out these
businesses — many of them offer customization services as well:
Once again, packaging is all about protecting items and reducing
space. But some products are expensive or might be shaped
differently, making it a little more difficult to efficiently
and sufficiently pack them. Fortunately, there are other
packaging methods out there to solve that.
Most shipping carriers carry this type of packaging
for tube-shaped goods. Whether it’s a roll of
fabric, some sort of chart, or just a tube of
toothpaste, they’re designed to efficiently
safeguard and ship tubular orders.
- Protective Options
Some packages — boxes or otherwise — are inherently
designed with protection in mind. No additional
materials to support the product — like tissue paper
or peanuts — are required, as the unit itself is
built with such support. These options are aimed at
expensive, fragile, or sensitive items like
electronic devices or picture frames.
Of course, where there’s a shipping box, there’s going to be
some packing tape to keep it together. Usually, merchants are
perfectly fine with using transparent tape, but branded packing
tape (think of that Prime-emblazoned tape Amazon uses) is always
an option for greater brand awareness.
If you’re interested in including your brand on your tape,
whether it’s simply your logo or company colors, feel free to
check out these resources:
What’s on the inside of the package counts as well. Although it
should fit snugly to avoid any wasted space, there should always
be a bit of a buffer between the order and its packaging — and
that buffer needs to be filled with packing supplies to prevent
any sliding around that could damage the product.
Pillows or a bunch of air bubbles, inserting air packaging does
a solid job at maintaining a comfortable safeguard between an
order and its container. Drop in some air pillows to fill in
empty space or line your shipment with bubble wrap for some
Check out these businesses in the business of selling air
Add some texture and color to your packaging by lining the
shipment with tissue paper. Like packing tape, it can also be
branded, and — although it’s a little more fuss — it’s a little
more of a branded experience.
If you’re interested in buying some tissue paper, branded or
not, visit these websites:
Typically reserved for larger or heavier shipments that require
a stronger cushion, styrofoam peanuts are an option. They can be
a little more irksome for consumers, but they’re especially
useful for fragile orders. Sometimes they’re also combined with
bubble wrap for double the protection — bubble wrap to safeguard
the product, peanuts to support it.
To buy some of those peanuts, check out these guys:
Sometimes an order’s contents aren’t your average product.
Sometimes the product is a perishable good, an item that will
deteriorate over time if exposed to certain conditions like
humidity or high heat.
Usually, these are products that are frozen. One of the more
common ways of protecting them is dry ice. Other solutions exist
like gel freezer packs or climate-controlled shipping boxes.
Because protecting perishable goods often means using materials
that carriers judge as hazardous — dry ice being one of them —
you’ll need to check with the shipping carrier you’re using to
ensure that the shipment is packaged both correctly and safely.
Failure to do so can definitely result in additional fees and
Although they’re simply slapped onto shipments and don’t protect
them, shipping labels are
a pivotal part of an order’s packaging. While packing helps
carry the product, labels carry all of the information a
shipping carrier needs to accurately ship the order, like the
shipping method and customer’s address.
The shipping carrier you
ship through will have some rules about where and how a shipping
label ought to be placed. For the most part, though, they prefer
them laid on the top, flat part of an order and away from any
seams or closures.
Weight is a massive part of calculating the cost to ship, and
you’ll need a way to calculate it somehow. For that, digital
scales are always an option. Once the order is packaged and
ready to go, plop it onto a scale for a quick read of its
As mentioned earlier, sometimes an order’s weight is not based
on its actual weight in pounds or grams — instead, it’s based on
dimensional weight, a way of calculating weight based on the volume of a
shipment. For that, either break out a ruler to measure the
length, width, and height, or simply know the dimensions of the
Creating shipping labels can be done through a variety of
services, but you’ll need some hardware to print them out. There
are a couple options to choose from.
- Desktop Printing
Like printing any other document, it’s perfectly
possible to print out shipping labels on a regular
8.5" x 11" sheet of paper through your standard
desktop printer. That said, it’s a bit manual —
printing, cutting out, and taping labels to packages
will require some handiwork.
- Thermal Printing
Some e-retailers choose to invest in a thermal
printer that allows them to print on adhesive — i.e.
sticker-like — paper. Both a thermal printer and the
adhesive paper used will be pricier, but you’re
paying for convenience. Instead of having to use
scissors and a tape dispenser, it’s only a matter of
printing, peeling off, and sticking 4" x 6" shipping
labels onto your orders quickly.
Packing Lists and Other Essentials
Last but not least, there are a few important slips you may want
to include inside your packaging, although some are readily
available in the email a customer receives upon purchase. You
can choose to drop in a receipt, a packing list that details
every ordered item in the shipment, or a return label in case
there’s a decent chance that the customer will send it back to
At the end of the day, an order’s packaging is mostly about
protection and keeping the cost to ship low. But (as you’ve
likely noticed by now) branding your brand onto packaging is a
possibility that takes what’s typically an overlooked part of
the customer’s experience and turns it into an expo in brand
In fact, branded packaging — and unboxing in general —
can heighten the customer’s experience and justify higher
prices. Here are some options to supplement the boxes, envelopes, and
tape we’ve already mentioned.
Often overlooked, stickers present plenty of branded benefits to
your packaging. For starters, they can be slapped onto any
surface, helping convey a branded, premium experience. And
instead of paying for more expensive branded materials like
boxes or tissue paper to get the face of your business in the
customer’s face, stickers offer an affordable alternative.
Here are a few services that sell customized stickers:
Thank You Notes
The point of using branded materials boils down to making the
customer believe that some extra care went into whipping up
their order — enough to make it an experience. Notes do a
wondrous job accomplishing that, and there are a few options
that vary based on how personalized they are.
- Business cards
It’s not an explicit thank you, but you may want to
insert a basic business card with your logo,
website, and name into every order.
Write a template for a thank you message and either
print it out yourself or use a service to print them
out in bulk. Slip one in with every shipment, dust
your hands off, and done.
Template with handwritten signature
Bring a little more personalization into the note
and add a handwritten signature. The signature
doesn’t need to come from the CEO or anything like
that; it can be done by whoever packages the order.
So long as it’s a personal touch, it’s up to snuff.
- Handwritten note
To take the personalization further, create a
template with some sort of “thanks” and jot down a
quick hand-written message. It can be as lengthy as
a few sentences or as short as a quick remark
followed by a signature.
Check out these services for creating completely customized
And to build your own thank you note or purchase some generic
ones, take a look at these sites:
Logos on Labels
At first glance, a shipping label looks like a couple of
addresses surrounded by a bunch of gibberish that only carriers
care about. But even labels can be injected with a little
branding — depending on the carrier and label-creation service
they’re made through, an e-retailer has the option to print out
shipping labels that include their own business logo.
The Decision to Brand
Before deciding to brand your packaging, it’s critical to weigh
the costs. Branded material is more expensive than your
traditional brown cardboard box, and every material in a branded
order will take an even larger bite out of your revenue. To
cover the increased expenses, most e-retailers slightly raise
their price points, justifying it due to the premium experience
that branded packaging brings.
Once an order arrives and packaging has been selected, it’s time
for assembly — and there are some guidelines. Before we get to
those, though, you’re going to want to set up a shipping account
with the shipping carrier you plan to use.
Registering an account is always a win-win. It’s free for the
e-retailer and provides them with access to discounted rates and
other deals that the carrier usually provides. And the carrier,
of course, gets the user’s business.
Pick any of the shipping carriers here and set up your account
in a jiffy:
Note: Many of the shipping supplies mentioned
earlier — boxes, envelopes, and other packaging materials — are
available FREE through whatever shipping carrier you’re tapping
to move orders.
Now for those guidelines. In order to streamline their processes
and avoid any damages or liabilities, every shipping carrier has
some rules about how an order must be packaged. If the shipment
doesn’t meet them, they will either smack you with
or refuse to ship it.
Take a look at any of the links below to review the rules of
regulations of each specific carrier:
Once again, packaging is about reducing the cost to ship by
keeping the product safe and transporting it efficiently. Both
your bottom line and your shipping carrier will thank you. But
that begs the question — just which carrier should you use? How
you choose to ship your orders is what will account for much of
your shipping costs, and although they’re all similar, each
shipping carrier has unique shipping methods and services to
meet your specific needs.
To get acquainted with ecommere’s leading shipping carriers,
take a look at our
carrier guides →