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Guide to Discreet Shipping

Alex Selwitz

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A standard packaging method for ecommerce business is “discreet shipping,” where no one can look at the outside of the order you ship and determine what’s inside. Discreet shipping hides any idea of what the products inside could be and often removes information that could quickly identify the sender or store.

The goal of discreet shipping is for your customer to buy what they want and have you ship it to them without anyone outside of you two knowing about the product. 

A wide range of products can be shipped discreetly. While first inclinations may lead us to think about products meant exclusively for adults, many other products and companies choose to ship discreetly. In some cases, this is because a product is expensive and could be a target for theft, or it displays a political or other preference. Medicine and medical devices in plain boxes can help prevent embarrassment and theft, too.

Discreet shipping can be a smart practice for any company looking to respect the privacy of its customers. If you’re considering it, here are 6 things to consider:

Traditional discreet shipping

In most cases, discreet shipping refers to sending a package or product in a box and other materials that are vague or generic. Think brown cardboard boxes, single-color paper, and labels that don’t discuss what’s inside.

It’s also possible to use unmarked postal service boxes, especially flat-rate boxes, to conceal the contents. These are smart because you also get expedited options without raising any eyebrows.

Some companies will also ship through partners or alternative business names to further conceal what is inside.

You can do this with a 3PL and list the sender as that 3PL or something like “Knoxville Distribution Center.” Then, use their address instead of yours. This practice allows you to have a return label, making it easier for customers if there is an issue. (It also makes it much harder for someone to Google the name used and determine which store sent it.) 

One thing we recommend is that you have the box exterior be discreet, but brand the product packaging and filler materials to give someone a wonderful experience when they get their order. The joy of unboxing is still available to your business, even if the largest shipping box is nondescript.

A quick note: It’s much easier to ensure you can offer discreet shipping when you use a 3PL or a standard carrier compared to alternative sources like dropshipping.

Hiding in plain sight

One component of discreet shipping is trying not to look like you’re hiding things. The growth in ecommerce is an immense help here because many people are going to get boxes and packages regularly. You’ve got a good chance of blending in with many different boxes when this is done right.

If you want to ship discreetly, consider using materials that look like other standard packages. Amazon’s box sizes and color can be duplicated easily – without the company logo – and you can even match its broad tape’s color and size.

It might be something worth considering for your brand. Contact Red Stag Fulfillment to learn how we can ensure your packages look plain and like many others, while still guaranteeing accurate orders, safe packaging, and fast delivery.

Delivery signatures

In some cases, you might need the recipient to be available to sign for their package. You’ll need to set this up when you’re creating the order and getting to a carrier partner. Each carrier has its own rules and guidelines for such a signature. Often, an “adult signature” requirement means the recipient must be at least 21 years old. In other instances, customers can authorize delivery releases online.

It’s an innovative idea to provide signature information on your website and attach it to email confirmations. When you know the carrier for an order, attach their policy to help your customer.

If you’re going to require a signature, you can maintain the discreet nature by limiting information on the box, or even in the boxes you choose. Standard shipping sizes can make it difficult for anyone to guess what’s inside, or using a box that’s common for things like bottles of wine can lead others on the wrong track.

Red Stag Fulfillment can help identify any regulation that requires a signature for delivery of your products here in the U.S. We can also discuss when other companies have used this option or why it might not be necessary.

Ecommerce opportunity: Product categories and sales pages

Some companies will use the discreet shipping pages or tags for their adult products, allowing visitors to see adult materials in one location. So, if you’re trying to understand if a company provides discreet shipping but don’t necessarily want to see what’s inside those boxes, consider adding the word “service” to your searches to get the information you desire.

If you’re an ecommerce seller, however, this can be a creative way to get specific products noticed by your audience. For pages that explain your discreet shipping policies, consider adding sample product lists at the top or bottom. You can also add a brief description of your discreet shipping to those products’ pages, helping drive search traffic directly to sales opportunities.

Highlighting your discreet shipping and billing can build trust and answer essential questions that may prevent some sales from happening.

Ecommerce concern: Billing and notices

There’s one significant discreet purchase element to consider outside of where Red Stag Fulfillment can help. The billing information that you use can, unfortunately, give a hint as to what the purchase was. What you put on statements, labels, or elsewhere can be a giveaway for the products your customer’s order.

Help keep everything discreet by using discreet billing that has a company name or acronym that isn’t directly linked to your types of products. If you also sell benign or family-oriented products, consider adopting additional branding related to those products for billing and shipping.

Having a neutral name can make customers feel more comfortable about buying from you and reduce the worry that they may be judged.

A note on discreet international shipping

Goods can be shipped discreetly in terms of their packaging internationally, but there are some significant caveats. The biggest thing that online sellers need to be aware of is that you must declare what’s inside the package, its full value, and any other details relevant to products and customs requirements.

Sometimes, a buyer might request you ship a package and mark it as a gift or something else and then ship it in a discreet box. That could be a way for them to try and avoid customs concerns. So, it’s up to you to meet the customs and other shipping requirements.

You can use generic shipping and packaging materials for international orders. However, it’s never recommended to try and hide contents from governments.

Discreet Shipping FAQ

What Is The Meaning of Discreetly?

Discreetly simply means keeping something confidential, or when something is done in a careful, subtle way as to not attract attention. In shipping, discreetly is used as word describing when packaging is nondescriptive or done in a way that does not hint to what may be shipped inside of the package. 

What Is Discreet Shipping? 

Discreet shipping refers to when packages are shipped in a way that it is difficult or impossible to know what the package contains. This is achieved by vague, ambiguous, or generic packaging, which often takes the form of a plain brown box with no brand markings or product images. 

Does Spencer’s Have Discreet Packaging?

Spencer’s is a good example of a mainstream store that has offered discreet packaging. As of 2020, Spencer’s noted on Twitter that it uses plain packages to ship discreetly for certain items. 

Does Victoria’s Secret Deliver Discreetly?

Some stores such as Victoria’s Secret may ship items discreetly, yet still use their trademarked name on the packaging. For example, one discussion on Reddit in 2022 suggests that Victoria’s Secret does ship discreetly using a white plastic envelope but includes their brand name on the return address, which would hint at the type of product inside. 

Deliver what your customers want

If your customers are asking about discreet shipping, it’s a promising idea to consider the option for every package you send. This will help ensure that your products arrive, and customers stay happy, instead of you having to deal with anger, embarrassment, or theft and high-cost replacements.

You sell products that you want people to love. Shipping should be a part of that joy and not something that gets in the way, no matter what the product is.

Let’s talk and discuss discreet shipping and why it can be the right fit for your business.

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