Packing Your Shipment

Anthony Spallone -

Packing Your Shipment

Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution for packing your shipments, each shipping provider offers comprehensive resources to help. Whether your items are perishable, fragile, large, small or heavy, your provider can get you started off on the right foot.

Here are some answers to common packaging questions:

How do I know the best packaging for my products?

Your shipping provider will most likely have answers to your specific business needs. You should also take a look at how your competitors are already solving packaging. If you haven’t done so already, purchase one of your competitor’s products and get a firsthand look at their packaging. This can help you set yourself apart by showing you what they do well and where you can capitalize on their weaknesses.

Where can I find shipping containers?

From boxes, to bubble envelopes, to tubes, to crates, the options are nearly endless when it comes to shipping containers. The same goes for how you can source them. Not only can you purchase containers from your shipping provider, but some even offer free containers. USPS provides several free boxes and will even deliver them to you at no cost. FedEx offers several free packaging options as well.

Uline is also a popular source for packaging materials, with over 1,300 options. Even if you don’t plan to purchase anything from them, check out their free resources.

What should I use to pad my items?

Using proper packing material is one of the most important parts of shipping. You need to do everything you can to make sure your products arrive intact in order to offer a great experience for your customers and cut down on returns.

Packing materials come in all shapes and sizes. Although you’ll want to work towards branding them if possible (see “Branding Your Package” section), to start you can use generic materials like newspaper, foam peanuts, bubble wrap and so on.

If your item warrants it, make sure to mark the outside of the package as “fragile” or “perishable” for extra precaution. Once you pack up an order, the “shake test” is a surefire way to ensure your items won’t shift in the box and risk damage.

How should I label my package?

Many new ecommerce merchants start off writing the shipping and return addresses by hand. This tends to be time consuming and tedious, and won’t scale as you grow your orders. In time, you’ll likely want to print labels (you can print USPS labels from Bigcommerce with Endicia). Investing in a label printer can help save you time and streamline your shipping process. Check with your shipping provider, as some of them provide label printers for free if you have an account with them.

As you grow, there are a variety of shipping apps and tools that can help streamline your processes. For instance, you can use apps to generate and print:

  • Invoices
  • Labels
  • Receipts
  • Packing slips

As an added bonus, you may be able to integrate with your shipping provider to print postage and have it automatically charged to your account.

How do I get my package shipped?

Each provider offers different options and restrictions. Some of the most common methods are:

  • Drop off packages under a certain weight in a receptacle
  • Get free or paid daily pickup from your home or place of business
  • Offer local pickup to shoppers

How can I streamline my process and save time?

You can create your own shipping station to save time and effort. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Shipping containers: Boxes, envelopes, tubes
  • Tools: Scissors, tape gun, box cutter, scale, measuring tape
  • Packing materials: Tissue paper, bubble wrap, ribbons.
  • Organizational bins: Thank-you cards, marketing inserts, logo stickers or stamps, pens, permanent markers
  • Paperwork and forms: Customs forms, tracking confirmation, signature confirmation, etc.
  • Out box(s): A single place to keep your orders organized based on when they need to be delivered (e.g., overnight, 3 day, 5 day, etc.)
  • Whiteboard and/or bulletin board: Calendar, notes and reminders, production schedules
  • Computer and printer: This can be as simple as reserving a place for your laptop so you can be logged into your Bigcommerce control panel, and a printer to produce invoices, packing slips and labels

Depending on your level of organization, it may be helpful to write and post the steps it takes to complete and ship an order. This can also help keep things consistent and efficient if you have multiple people fulfilling orders.

 

Considering a fulfillment service?

Although it may not be an option for online merchants who are just starting out, a fulfillment service can make your life easier by storing your products and handling shipping for you. There are a number of advantages:

  • Cheaper rates: Fulfillment services receive cheaper rates because of their high shipping volumes. And their partnerships with major shipping logistics companies give you access to a wide range of shipping options.
  • Faster delivery times: By strategically selecting a fulfillment center, you can store your inventory closer to the majority of your customers.
  • Less time and effort: Your fulfillment partner will completely take the responsibilities of shipping off your hands.
  • No need to store inventory: Because your partner takes care of warehousing, you won’t need to worry about finding or paying for space.

There are several disadvantages as well:

  • Lack of branding: Fulfillment services don’t typically provide the same level of customization and branding that you would. Make sure to ask about this when vetting your options.
  • Additional cost: Although you’ll likely receive better shipping rates, “pick and pack” fees and storage fees can add up quickly.
  • Finding a partner you trust: You’re relying on your fulfillment partner for a key part of your business. If you need recommendations, there are several services that integrate with Bigcommerce.
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