A shipping rate is
essentially how much you will pay for a ticket that sends
your order on its way, and that ticket is what’s called a
shipping label — a barcode-ridden slip stuck onto packages
that contains all the delivery information needed for a
shipping carrier to get an order to the customer’s door.
Before the days of the Internet, shipping an order meant heading
to a post office location that would weigh shipments, take
address information, and handle shipping labels. That’s not the
case anymore — you have a few options that do the work for you
online, spitting out rates automatically and providing the means
to print a label. They come in three flavors.
Directly Through Carrier
After creating an account through them, a shipping carrier will
allow you to create and print a shipping label through its own
online calculator. Take a look at these carriers’ tools:
While the tools are useful, especially for low-volume,
just-starting-out e-retailers, the process of plugging in
shipping information like addresses and weight can become
tedious and time-consuming.
Directly Through Platform
Sometimes it’s easier to create and print shipping labels
directly through the platform they’re made on. Whether it’s a
marketplace or a cart, many leading sales channels provide the
means to process and print shipping labels.
Because your sales channel already knows your ship-from
location, the customer’s address, and product information like
weight, they’re able to automatically populate such information
into the label. Plus, they’re typically integrated with a
variety of shipping carriers, helping calculate the rate for you
to begin with.
However, if you’re selling on multiple channels, logging into
each just to pay for, create, and ship orders can be just as
tedious as printing directly through a carrier.
This is where software providers like Ordoro come into play. To
keep it brief, shipping software providers integrate with
shipping carriers, sales channels, and other apps, allowing you
to you manage orders across your entire business, all in one
They offer additional benefits like heavily-discounted shipping
rates, tools for inventory management, and other features as
well. But feel free to check out the very website you’re on for
all of that!
From USPS to DHL, every shipping carrier out there has a unique
template for their labels that must be followed to the tee to
ensure successful delivery. Each barcode, number, and address
scattered on a label is a touch point in the delivery process,
and every odd-looking mark serves a purpose
Whether it’s via the post office, your sales channel, or a
shipping solution, whatever service you use to generate and
print shipping labels will fill out all of the required
information for you. But it doesn’t hurt to know what each part
of a label means during the delivery process.
Let’s look at USPS as an example:
Service Icon Block
This box at the upper left designates the shipping
method of the label. In this situation, it’s a P for
Priority Mail, one of USPS’ services. Other shipping
labels operate similarly, listing the service used
somewhere on the label for reference.
Plopped under the icon block is the service banner,
which specifies the exact type of service. Here, it’s
Priority Mail 1-Day, a subclass of Priority Mail.
Postage Payment Area
Stamp, online postage, or metered postage, USPS shipping
labels include evidence of postage payment. Some
carriers include this, some don’t.
Return Address Section
Pretty important in ecommerce, the address of a merchant
third-party logistics provider
(someone that ships orders for a merchant) is listed
here in case an order must be returned. All carriers,
whether they call it a return address or not, will
include the sender’s address.
This area lists out any additional service requested,
like returns, carrier release, or specific delivery
instructions made by the e-retailer. Other carriers
either highlight a section similar to this or use
numbers and icons to represent additional services.
Delivery Address Section
The most important part of the label, the customer’s
delivery address is centered here. All shipping carriers
list it, and it’s usually presented in a large font size
because of its importance.
Intelligent Mail Package Barcode Segment
Barcodes abound in all shipping labels because they
contain critical information for delivery. In USPS’
labels, the barcode includes shipping information like
the order’s tracking number. Other carriers goes as far
as using a MaxiCode that includes a ton of info, from
service and package weight to address and tracking
Additional Information and User Segment
Any information that’s not pertinent to the endorsement
section or any other section of the shipping label can
be included at the bottom. Usually, merchants will
decide to include some branding here like a message or
their company logo. Most carriers offer a section
similar to this somewhere on the label.
Inherent in a shipping label is tracking information. Shipping
carriers track every single package they send off, and customers
— now more than ever — want to know when their order is
delivered. Two parts of shipping, tracking numbers and delivery
confirmation, are important steps in every shipping workflow.
Do note that it doesn’t matter if you’re creating shipping
labels through a shipping solution, sales channel, or directly
through the carrier — every order you ship will have some sort
of tracking and delivery confirmation. But the service you use
will impact how that information gets to the customer.
Directly Through Carrier
If you create labels through a carrier’s own tool, you’ll pull
tracking info and delivery confirmation through it. The main
issue with creating orders directly through a carrier is the
fact that you must manually email that information back to your
customer for them to track it on their own end. The same goes
for delivery confirmation.
Directly Through Platform
Sales channels make this a bit easier. Since the platform an
order is made on already knows the customer’s email address,
it’s able to automatically store a processed order’s tracking
information that the customer can see on their own.
Either the customer can log onto their account and view the
status and tracking number of their orders there (think Amazon),
or an e-retailer can make it so that order tracking and
confirmation is emailed directly to the customer automatically
when an order is processed on the channel.
Shipping software adds just one step to how it works on sales
channels. Whenever an order is processed, the shipping software
will take tracking information and relay it back to the sales
channel that the order was made on. The same goes for delivery
The service you use to calculate rates and create labels will
most likely be the service you use to collect and relay tracking
information and delivery confirmation to the customer. However
you manage it is up to you, but it’s an important part of both
the label and your
shipping workflow — you need to
keep the customer in the loop.
Once generated, some e-retailers print shipping labels on
adhesive tape to easily stick them on an order, while others go
arts-and-crafts style, printing them on regular paper and taping
them to packages.
But the packaging you place those labels on is worth a look as
Unpack how packaging works →