ECommerce packaging is the closest your business will come to giving your customers a personal touch. If you want to deliver the optimal unboxing experience, the packaging and infill you choose are crucial. These are the small details that will distinguish your brand from the competition.
Weight and costs are also important considerations. Your eCommerce packaging choices will affect your production and shipping costs. Packaging and infill can impact your bottom line in another way: returns. A well-packed order will arrive in perfect condition. ECommerce packaging that can’t survive the delivery process will lead to damaged goods and disappointed customers.
Your eCommerce packaging can enhance your customer’s experience and improve your profitability. It’s important to understand your options so you can make the best choice for your business. Here is your ultimate guide to eCommerce packaging and infill (and don’t forget the tape).
To Box or Not To Box?
First on the list is the box or bag all your products will be packed in. It’s what your customer will see first when they look in their mailbox. As the number and types of products shipped via eCommerce has grown, so have the choices for outer packaging.
The type of eCommerce packaging that best suits your products depends on several factors. The first is weight. For heavier items, a sturdy box is needed to ensure safe delivery. The second is breakability. A fragile product, even if it’s lightweight, needs protection during shipping. The final factor is the value of the product. When you ship high-value items, spending a bit extra on protective packaging can be a good investment.
The cost of packing materials can vary greatly, depending on type and quantity. If you outsource your shipping, you’ll pay for your eCommerce packaging through your 3PL services provider. Your fulfillment warehouse is a volume purchaser of cardboard boxes. Even with a markup, you’ll probably pay less for packing supplies through your fulfillment center.
Corrugated cardboard boxes are still the eCommerce packaging of choice for much of the industry. Cardboard is sturdy, doesn’t add much to the weight of your package, and it’s recyclable.
For very heavy or very fragile products, double-walled cardboard provides an extra layer of protection and strength. In some cases, a product comes in its own box that is suitable for shipping. However, in some cases, it makes sense to add a plain brown cardboard box on top. If you’re shipping a high-value item or a highly desired item, such as a flat-screen TV or an X-box, an outer box that obscures what’s inside is a good security measure.
One of the most common eCommerce packaging mistakes is using boxes that are too big for the products inside. Customers don’t like to deal with boxes that are too large. In addition, oversized boxes require more infill, increasing the weight of the box and raising the cost of shipping. The DIM weight pricing models used by UPS, FedEx, and USPS penalize shippers for sending products in oversized boxes. With DIM weight, the shipping charge is calculated using the greater of the weight of the package or a formula based on the dimensions of the box.
The cost of cardboard boxes depends on several factors. If you can use a standard size and buy in quantity, your price will go down. If you need a custom size or want your logo printed on the box, that will be an added cost. Double-walled cardboard is pricier than standard cardboard boxes.
Bags and Envelopes
If you sell something that is light and not fragile, a plastic mailing bag or a Tyvek envelope can be a great choice. Bags and envelopes are lightweight, strong, easy to store, and self-sealing. They work well for shipping small clothing orders. You can also place a small boxed item inside an envelope or bag instead of over-boxing it.
As an added benefit, these mailers are waterproof. On the downside, neither plastic bags nor Tyvek envelopes are recyclable.
For shipping small or flat items that need a bit of extra protection, a padded envelope is a good option. This is a great way to ship CDs, jewelry, or other flat but delicate items. Some mailers are padded with shredded paper, so they’re easy to recycle. Padded envelopes filled with bubble wrap are very protective but a less green choice.
Creating a custom box can elevate your brand beyond the simple cardboard box. You can create an experience that your customer will enjoy, appreciate, and remember. They might even share it with their followers on Instagram. A custom box can have the added benefit of fitting your products more precisely than standard-sized boxes. This ensures your orders will ship snug and secure.
A custom box can go beyond a logo or design on the outside. There are experts who can help your business achieve a one-of-a-kind experience for your customer. FastKit is a great example of a high-end company that will deliver a high-end custom masterpiece. It’s worked with some big names (Domino’s, Swiffer, and Marvel to name a few).
The best part about these custom options is that they’re more accessible than ever before. You don’t have to break your first million before you invest in custom packaging. You can give your customers a high-end experience without a high-end cost.
Services like Packhelp or Lumi let you design your own packaging elements. These companies allow you to view a 3D image of what the final product will look like. Websites like Cratejoy are an excellent place for packaging for subscription box-based businesses. A custom package may be even more important if you’re selling a monthly subscription box.
Choosing the Right Tape for Your ECommerce Packaging
Tape may seem like the most boring part of eCommerce packaging but it’s a key to packaging success. If you ship your orders in boxes, packing tape is literally the glue that holds it all together.
Basic clear acrylic tape is fine for boxes holding up to about 15 pounds. It’s inexpensive and, with a good tape dispenser, easy to use.
For a more professional look, water-activated tape is a better option. Reinforced, water-activated kraft tape provides a strong seal that will hold together packages of 25 pounds or more. You’ll need a dispenser to wet the tape if you choose this option.
Infill is the Key to Successful ECommerce Packaging
When you ship products in a box, in most cases you need to add infill to keep them from moving around during shipping. Infill adds extra padding and stability to ensure your orders arrive undamaged.
There are many types of infill to choose from. Amazon, one of the largest shippers in the world, uses a combination of air-filled pillows and brown paper. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to infill. You’ll need to strategize based on your specific product and shipping. You may decide, like Amazon, that you want to use more than one type of infill to protect your products during shipping.
Brown kraft paper is one of the most versatile and flexible types of package infill. You can easily rip it into whatever size sheets you need or crumple it to fit any infill need. Kraft paper also has the benefit of being completely recyclable. It takes less chemical input to make kraft paper than to make bleached white paper products. As a bonus, you can source kraft made from recycled paper.
Air pillows are the air-filled plastic sacs that are an increasingly common type of infill. They are one of the lightest forms of infill for eCommerce packaging. If you’re concerned about the weight of your package and need a lot of infill, air pillows may be the cheapest choice. They can be recycled under some circumstances, but it’s a safe bet that most of them end up in the landfill.
Peanuts are the classic infill but can be messy and frustrating to work with or receive. The original Styrofoam peanuts are feather light – but that’s part of the problem. They have a tendency to escape the box and float away. This can cause problems on both the packing and receiving end. Styrofoam is not recyclable.
Packing peanuts made from cornstarch are much more ecologically friendly and easier to dispose of. They can even be composted or dissolved in water. However, the individual peanuts still tend to float around. Most customers consider either kind of packing peanuts a nuisance. Think carefully if you’re going to use them.
Bubble wrap is great for wrapping delicate items. It’s also fun to pop the bubbles. Your customers may consider bubble wrap infill a bonus treat and not just packaging.
Foam wrap is an alternative to bubble wrap for wrapping fragile products. The fact that it is thin, light, and easy to work with makes foam wrap appealing. Unfortunately, this product is not recyclable and can create environmental problems. Fortunately, innovations in infill give you excellent green alternatives.
Shredded cardboard infill is a great way to recycle and wrap at the same time. All you need is the machine that turns old cardboard into accordion-like sheets. These sheets can securely wrap around fragile items to protect them during shipping. This choice is the ultimate in eco-friendly packaging. On the receiving end, it’s easy for customers to remove and recycle.
Ecological ECommerce Packaging
Going for the green vibe is a sure win these days. Customers are getting more eco-conscious and want to support companies that they feel align with their values. Using eco-friendly packaging made of recycled, recyclable, or biodegradable materials will position your brand as environmentally conscious. Whatever you do, don’t use an infill like Styrofoam peanuts to pack a product marketed as green.
There are many places to source eco-friendly eCommerce packaging. EcoEnclose offers a full line of compostable, biodegradable, and sustainable boxes, mailers, and tape. The company is committed to being earth-friendly, down to the soy-based ink on their boxes. They’ll also work with you to come up with a packaging style that fits your product perfectly.
Extra Touches in ECommerce Packaging
ECommerce packaging isn’t just about the materials you use to get your orders safely to your customers. What you put inside the box in addition to the products can made a big impression. Think of it as the physical manifestation of your brand voice.
Here are some items to consider as you figure out what you want to ship with each order.
Include the Receipt
The receipt is a surprisingly important component of the packaging experience. Your customers expect an itemized receipt for the order but it often gets forgotten. Don’t just include a receipt; make the receipt memorable. Make sure it fits with and furthers your overall branding. Spend a little time to make sure that it doesn’t detract from the experience. With a little creativity, your receipt can complement your order.
The perfect place to further your branding efforts and encourage loyalty is in the box. Your next sale starts when your customer opens their order. Include a coupon with a unique discount code for additional purchases within a certain amount of time. Or add an invite to a loyalty-based rewards program or early access to an upcoming product launch.
Add Color with Tissue Paper
Tissue paper is delicate, and we associate it with gifts. Using it to wrap your products will impart that sense of luxury and fun to the customer. Tissue paper boosts the perception of quality.
Tissue paper can also help reinforce your branding. Use solid, on-brand colors or get custom-printed tissue. Companies like DigiWrap and NoIssue sell both options.
Probably one of the easiest and cheapest options for in-box branding is stickers. You can use them to secure tissue paper around the product, or to decorate the outside of the box or the carrier bag. You can include a few extra stickers as a free gift. That will give you free advertising in the process.
There’s a plethora of custom design tools and websites that allow you to print stickers in any color, shape, and size you want. Uprinting, VistaPrint, and Moo are good places to start. If you’ve never used custom packaging for your products, custom stickers are an inexpensive way to try it out.
What Does Your Packaging Say About Your Products?
Every aspect of your eCommerce packaging, from the box or envelope to the tape and infill, conveys a message. On the most basic level, a well-packed box tells your customers that you take the time to carefully ship their orders. The extra touches you add help build your brand and boost customer loyalty.
If you outsource your fulfillment, you can turn to your fulfillment company for expert advice about eCommerce packaging. Test your order fulfillment company by having orders shipped to yourself. That way, you can better understand your customer’s unboxing experience.
Don’t view your packaging and infill as static. Keep improving your packaging process and materials. As your business grows, you may want to upgrade the look and feel of your eCommerce orders. And, as packaging materials and techniques evolve, you will be able to choose from newer, greener, and more appealing packaging and infill options.
What sort of packaging and infill does your business use? Leave a comment and tell us what works for you.