All Things Shipping
May 7, 2020

DOA: Damaged on Arrival—A Refresher For Preventing Mail Damage

Shippo Snippets:

  • Estimates say that up to 10% of packages in the U.S. arrive damaged 
  • Businesses have to factor in the cost of returns, replacements and additional shipping costs incurred as a result of shipping damages
  • 58% of consumers say that damaged packaging would deter them from buying a product
  • As more and more consumers turn to online businesses for essentials during this time, secure packaging is more important than ever

The Story:

We’ve all been there, anticipating the arrival of a package. But when it finally shows up a few days later… it’s a shell of its former state. It’s one of those things that stirs a spectrum of emotions, ranging from mild disappointment to extreme anger. But, either way, it’s a serious bummer, and in many cases, may have been completely preventable.

And, it can sting even more if you’re paying good money for shipping, or for an annual membership. Case in point, nothing ruins the ease of using a Prime membership quite like an Amazon damaged package. In this hypothetical case, the culprit is leaking laundry detergent, which in addition to seeping out of the package, is ruining some of the other necessities you’ve ordered.

Some estimates suggest that up to 10% of packages in the U.S. arrive damaged. Sometimes a damaged package is out of the sender’s control. But other times, it can be entirely avoidable, which you need to think about, especially when it comes to unboxing.

The unboxing experience is one of the first—and most exciting—introductions a consumer will have with your brand, so it’s imperative that you do all you can to ensure it goes smoothly. (Think of it as an almost quasi-religious experience.)

Damaged packages, while often out of your control, can severely impact the mood of your customers at the time of delivery—and ultimately, your bottom line.

First off, your business will have to factor in the cost of returns, replacements, and additional shipping costs that may be incurred as a result of damages sustained during the shipping process. Your customer will inevitably return the damaged goods, for which you’ll pay for at least one extra shipment. Or, be prepared for two more shipments if they opt for an exchange. 

But even beyond the financial costs, damaged packages can impact a brand’s reputation and consumer retention. According to a study conducted by Smithers, 58% of consumers said that damaged packaging “would deter them from buying a product.” Damaged packages as a result of poor packing choices could dissuade someone from reordering or recommending the brand to a friend. Encouraging consumer retention is critical for most brands, especially considering that repeat customers have been shown to spend up to 67% more than first time customers

And as we navigate the effects of COVID-19, and more and more businesses and consumers are going online, it’s important to keep in mind the importance of secure packaging.

Why Packages Get Damaged

Accidents happen. Even the most experienced carriers incur issues; we’ve all had something arrive damaged at one time or another. There are a wide variety of reasons that a package might be damaged by the time it arrives to the consumer. The shipping process involves lots of twists, turns, and movement, so it’s important that packages can withstand the impact of shipping, this all in addition to the damages that could occur as a result of human error. For example, if packages are stacked on pallets inappropriately, this could lead to damage during the warehousing or fulfillment process. Or, if the delivery professional accidentally drops the item, it may not withstand the impact. 

While so much of the shipping process is in the hands of the mail carrier, how’s a business to ensure its customers get what they ordered, in the condition they ordered it in? Here are a few suggestions for improving the packaging process so that you can limit the amount of mail damage your products incur.

Improving the Packing Process

Damaged packaging can reflect poorly on a business, particularly if the packaging looks cheap. Flimsy packaging could indicate to the consumer that the damage was as a result of the packaging material, not the handling. 

Regardless, it’s important to do as much as possible to limit the damage to a product. While not everything is in the sender’s control, there are a few steps businesses can take to prevent damaged packages from ruining their brand name. 

Don’t Cut Corners on Packing Costs

Packing items appropriately is the first step to ensuring a product is delivered without any damage. The actual packaging is often the most inexpensive portion in the supply chain process and investing a bit of money to make sure the product is shipped securely is usually worth the extra expense. Damages to product due to improper packaging can be costly, and could potentially wipe out any savings made by choosing less expensive packaging that’s less reliable

Understand the Needs of the Product

Each product will have different needs. When shipping fragile items, additional care in selecting packaging is required. For example, when shipping vinyl records, vendors should consider picking boxes specially designed to accommodate the delicate disks. The most popular option for shipping vinyl records is a crumple zone box. These boxes are specifically designed to withstand impact during shipping. Thanks to the crumple zones around the perimeter, retailers can ship LPs to consumers without the added worry of dented corners or seam splits on the cover. 

Another example of a category that can require very specific packaging considerations is art. For paintings, artwork or framed works over a certain size, using a wooden crate to ensure there is enough support to protect the masterpiece within is the recommended method. For smaller pieces, using a double-walled corrugated box is key. This packaging will minimize the art’s movement and give you enough space to add a layer of padding for even more protection. These are all examples of ways you can prevent disaster from the outset. 

Pay Attention to Package Labeling

Another aspect of shipping that is wholly in a vendor’s control is ensuring that each package is appropriately labeled. While this isn’t a fail-safe, appropriate labeling can help prevent issues. For example, when shipping delicate items, adding a sticker that indicates the package is fragile could prevent mishandling. Another effective sticker? “This side up.”

Consider Temperature Sensitivity

When products are being shipped, they might be subject to both extremely hot or cold temperatures. When shipping temperature-sensitive items, be sure to select packaging that can maintain a stable temperature. When shipping temperature sensitive products it can also help to select an expedited shipping method to limit the amount of time the product is in transit.

Changes in temperature and humidity might also cause condensation—which can be particularly detrimental in long-distance shipping. If you are shipping moisture-sensitive products, consider adding desiccants like a silica gel pack, that can absorb excess moisture and prevent condensation from impacting the products. 

Review Storage Conditions

While you’re at it, consider reviewing the warehouse conditions. Things like excessive moisture could lead to a degradation in packing materials, resulting in more damages down the line. Also, review the length of time packages spend in storage. Cardboard can lose nearly half of its strength overtime. Mailing out already weakened boxes could lead to an increase in damage. 

Adding the Appropriate Reinforcements

When needed, use double-walled boxes and crates that will effectively protect the packaged items. Another key packing step is protecting the items within the boxes, too. This could be as simple as bubble wrapping delicate items or adding airbags, foam spacers, packing peanuts, corrugated inserts or even spray foam. 

Reinforcing the package with this extra cushion will help prevent unnecessary movement within the package. Keeping the item stable so there is limited jostling can go a long way in ensuring the package is secure during shipping. 

Consider Using Tilt, Shock, or Impact Indicators

These indicators can be added to packages easily, and provide valuable data on packages to allow businesses to better understand how packages are treated during shipping. This includes things like jostling, impacts, and even the angle at which a package is loaded and shipped. 

These insights can help businesses better understand where packages are being damaged and new packaging requirements and shipping guidelines in place to prevent damage in the future.

Focus on Sealing the Package

An effectively sealed package can prevent moisture from entering a package and affecting delicate products. Consider using high-quality, pressure-sensitive tape to create a secure seal that will prevent moisture from ruining the packaging.

Supporting Your Customers During COVID-19

As consumers rely more and more upon e-commerce businesses for daily essentials, think of this as an opportunity to not only support your customers when the going gets tough, but as a way to instill extra confidence and loyalty in your brand. When all of this passes, consumers will remember the companies that supported them. With that, ensuring their packages arrive safely will help secure your place at the top of their lists.

Learn more about how Shippo can simplify your shipping needs today.

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