Shipping Supplies: Envelopes, Boxes, Packing Materials, & More
No matter how great your technology and service providers, your packages need proper packaging to make it to their destinations. Let’s look at the key points to consider when thinking about packaging and supplies.
When to use envelopes
Envelopes are your least expensive option when it comes to package-shipping. They are cheaper to purchase than boxes, they require less material to pack (including packing materials and tape), and they are lighter. Therefore, if it is safe to use an envelope – based on the nature of the product being shipped – you will save on both packing and weight-based shipping costs. A lot of eCommerce sellers favor poly mailers providing additional flexibility regardless of shape.
When to use boxes
Choose a box to ship all fragile items, or items that are too large to fit in an envelope. Free boxes from major carriers are typically medium to large in size and generic in shape; USPS tries to combat the lack of smaller-box options by offering unique free boxes like the Priority Shoe Box and the Priority Game Board Box. Use free boxes if their capacity, dimensions, durability, and protective properties are sufficient for the items you ship.
If free boxes don’t work for you, consider custom boxes, which are typically needed for very small, very large, and uniquely shaped items, as these box needs are not as well-supported by carriers’ free supply inventory. Dimensional weight is the factor that typically drives the decision to go with custom boxes. If you ship UPS or FedEx, having wasted space inside of your box can lead to huge cost increases across the board. If you find that dimensional weight rules are inflating the cost of shipping your packages beyond what you’d pay based on weight alone, it’s time to look into custom boxes and weigh their cost vs. what you can save on dimensional weight charges. Packing materials
Basic packing material you’ll want to have on hand include two-inch box tape, packing peanuts, bubble wrap and envelopes, poly mailers and boxes. While poly mailers and boxes comprise the outer packaging of your shipments, packing peanuts and bubble wrap are recommended inside to secure any item(s) that may have room to move and thus are at risk of being damaged.
Having your products arrive intact can save you replacement costs and may help you avoid negative reviews on your selling site. If the packaged item is fragile, then it should follow the usual fragile-package guidelines, including proper protection and labeling.
Here are the basic steps to follow to ensure the safe arrival of your more fragile packages:
- Wrap each item individually and securely in bubble wrap.
- Tape closed any open seam of the bubble wrap.
- If you have more than one item, stack the items and wrap the entire stack in another layer of bubble wrap.
- Again tape closed any open seams.
- Fill an appropriate-sized box with enough packing peanuts to completely cover the bottom of the box.
- Place item(s) inside and fill with packing peanuts until the item is secure but not smashed.
- Close the box and secure all seams with two layers of tape.
- Write or rubber stamp “FRAGILE” on the box on all sides.
If you or your customers are concerned about sustainability, consider “green” packing materials that combine one or more of the following features: (1) they’re made of recycled materials; (2) they’re recyclable in standard residential recycling streams; (3) they’re biodegradable. Of course, these materials typically cost more and can drive up your shipping costs, so if sustainability isn’t so important to your customers that they are willing to pay more, you will likely either have to accept lower profits to keep your shipping costs competitive or accept lower demand due to higher shipping costs you pass through to your customer.