When your business requires shipping products all over the country, ensuring the right packaging is essential to avoid product loss and unhappy customers. After all, it will not matter which shipping carrier you use without packaging your products up securely and properly. Before you consider the many different types of packaging for shipping, you have to know what products are being shipped. Otherwise, the entire shipping process could be a disaster.
There are many different packaging and shipping options for all types of products. It involves more than just securing your items in a box and slapping some shipping tape on it. In fact, it starts as soon as you decide you’re going to ship your products and doesn’t end until you know that the products have been received by the customer unbroken and in good shape over the course of several months. Below are some details to consider when packaging and shipping your products.
Does Packaging Really Matter?
Whether your store is online or brick-and-mortar, safely getting products to your customers is crucial to your business’s success. But good packaging does far more than this. To keep customers, your products not only have to arrive unbroken and in one piece, but the packaging should also be easy to open and visually appealing to the customer.
Good packaging also saves money because fewer incidents require less replacement products to customers. Understanding how to get products to customers safely and on time enhances store reputations and keeps customers returning.
What Types of Packaging Materials Should I Use?
The answer to this question depends a lot on what you’re shipping, but here are a few packaging materials for different types of packages:
Outer/Exterior Packaging: For parcel shipping via Fed Ex, UPS, DHL, or USPS, the primary options are Boxes/cartons, Envelopes, or thick exterior flexible packaging. Each option has benefits. See below for a description of each.
Boxes/Cartons – By far the most popular exterior packaging for shipping parcels. Corrugated boxes can be recycled and easily broken down. Boxes come in multiple sizes and strengths. Lighter products can be shipped in a single-wall corrugated box. Heavier products over 15 to 20 pounds may need a double-wall corrugated box. Some products weighing more than 40 pounds may require a harder, more rigid carton to protect products during transport.
Be sure to pay careful attention to the box sizes needed. Boxes and cartons close to the shipped products’ size ensure less waste, reduce movement inside the box, and require less void fill.
Envelopes – By far the least expensive way to ship smaller and lighter products efficiently. Many large couriers have their own small package envelopes we would encourage looking into. Bubble lines lip seal bags are often provided by many carriers, if not, they can be purchased for minimal cost. The envelope itself does not provide much protection during shipping, but is an excellent option for shipping smaller items.
Thick Exterior Flexible Packaging – This option can be tricky and may not work with most products. If it does work, the savings on packaging costs could be tremendous. A thick polyethylene bag or shrink wrap can sometimes be wrapped around products and shipped, eliminating the need for exterior boxes/cartons. An example of products we have seen this shipping method work on was rigid outdoor slides. The slides were placed in a thick bag to protect from scuff and scrapes. A label is placed on the bag and the product is shipped. The two primary factors in this form of shipping is a material strong enough to remain on the product during shipping to not lose the label and a product that does not need cushioning or protection during shipping.
Secondary Packaging: When shipping liquids, powders, or any products that could burst and contaminate other items in the package, secondary packaging is highly recommended, and some major online retailers require it. Most secondary packaging will be a form of flexible packaging.
Common forms of secondary packaging are poly bags, shrink wrap and neckbands. Poly bags and a heat sealer can be purchased for minimal cost. The bag and sealer will help contain any spills that may happen. Shrink wrapping will offer an additional layer of protection but conform to the wrapped product for a cleaner look that requires less space. Neck bands are another heat shrink-wrapping option used to fit around the cap and neck of bottles and rigid containers. The banding helps provide a security seal and catch any drips from the cap/lid.
Void-Fill: The exterior container is a significant factor in the need for void fill. For instance, many books these days are shipped in exterior containers that limit the amount of movement within the package, making void fill unnecessary. Other, more fragile items will need something to help cushion products during transportation.
Popular void-fill options are Kraft paper, bubble wrap, packaging peanuts, and air pillows. Some products may need foam or custom molded inserts for additional protection if heavy and fragile.
Because void fill is disposable and rarely used again, we recommend a sustainable option if possible. Kraft paper is often made from recycled paper and can be recycled after use. Biodegradable packaging peanuts and air pillows are something to consider as well. Be sure whichever option you choose will provide the cushioning needed to protect products properly. Consider conducting drop testing to confirm the chosen option will work.
Closure: Most exterior containers will use tape for parcel shipping. Acrylic packaging tape has always been a favorite for companies box sealing for shipping. Lately, many reinforced kraft tapes have become popular for parcel shipping. Aside from tapes, lip seal bags are a popular way to ship lighter products. Many clothing retailers can use a lip-seal bag to send small apparel orders.
Reinforcement: Specifically for large or heavy products, reinforcing an exterior package can be done with additional tape, strapping, or even another box. Using additional tape can work but runs the risk of possibly coming undone during transport. It is also not recommended for packages over 25 pounds.
The use of strapping can be cost-effective and durable. Single-wall corrugated boxes handle more transportation stress with strapping and a strapping machine.
As you can see, your selections depend largely on the type of product you’re shipping. Not only protecting products while shipped but also protecting the individual items inside a box from breaking or shattering.
When Choosing Packaging Materials, What Should I Do First?
First, ascertain what is needed to keep your product safe and in one piece. Remember that the package has to go through several stages and locations, meaning the box has to be sturdy and strong. At each step of the process, the box can weaken a little due to what is happening to it, so it has to be a new, well-made exterior container for packaging.
When deciding on the proper packaging, you should consider four main things: the weight, the size and shape, the fragility, and the value of the product. Once these specifics are identified and determined, all the packaging mentioned above can be evaluated to make the proper decision. Our recommendation is to spend more time and energy on packaging and shipping fragile or heavy products. Something lightweight, such as clothes or shoes, will not have the same loss rate as something like a glass chandelier.
How Do I Make Sure I Am Cushioning the Product Enough?
The general rule of thumb when cushioning products is to never leave empty spaces in the box. Without enough cushioning, the products can bounce around during shipment and become damaged. This can also happen if the cushion or void fill is not stiff enough. Be sure the cushioning being used does not compact and become obsolete during shipping.
Once you’ve cushioned your products and before sealing the box, shake the box gently to make sure none of the items inside the box can move around. This is a simple way to test the packaging. Drop testing is also an easy way to confirm the right amount of cushion is being used. Cushioning such as bubble wrap, kraft paper, or air pillows around the products should withstand impact within the package. Drop a package from a set height on different sides of the box to simulate impact during shipping. When finished, inspect the contents to see if the fill absorbed impact and if the products have any damage.
Is it Necessary to Wrap All of the Items Inside the Box Individually?
For the most part, wrapping all products individually is a good idea, especially if they are breakable or fragile. When you wrap and cushion each item separately, the products will have less room to move. When they do not move around, damages are less likely to occur. If your products can be affected by dirt or wet conditions, consider placing them in secondary packaging within the box for additional protection. The items and the box need to be cushioned and taped up properly before they are shipped out.
When shipping products to customers, the end experience must be unforgettable. Many things can ruin your reputation and relationship with patrons. Packaging and shipping your products isn’t something that can be done correctly without planning ahead of time. Knowing how to package each item individually and ensure the box is secure can be a great first impression. After all, happy customers begin with an intact, working product upon arrival.
It also helps if you do a little research into what each carrier requires regarding packaging and shipping products. Every step of the packaging and shipping process must be done correctly so you don’t lose customers, but it’s easier to accomplish this if you know where to start.