A Guide to E-commerce Packaging and Printers

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Delivering a Great Brand Experience

Whether you’re just starting out, or expanding your business online, your packaging choices—along with your shipping program—will be a pivotal piece of the overall brand experience you offer. 

Think about it, you’ve put a lot of time and effort into developing your business and the products you sell, so why stop there? 

By choosing the packaging that works best for your products and your brand, you’ll be able to help ensure a seamless and consistent customer experience all the way through. 

 

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Principles of Packaging

Understanding which e-commerce packaging options work best for the products you sell will both benefit your customers and ultimately save you money. 

It can all be summed up in two simple words: “size” and “weight.” Yep, it’s all about making it as small and lightweight as possible

  • Box dimensions are a big factor in minimizing costs—try to utilize the smallest packaging options available (still allowing for the item to be packed securely)
  • Minimizing the weight—using packing materials that are both light and protective is the optimal way to go

Another major factor in the overall shipping cost is the distance traveled. So, ensuring that your packages are packed efficiently will seriously help in keeping costs down.

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Popular Types of E-Commerce Packaging Varieties

Shipping Boxes

E-commerce shipping boxes come in a variety of types, shapes, and sizes. Generally constructed of inexpensive but durable corrugated cardboard, common types for e-commerce packaging include:

  • Standard packing boxes, aka Regular Slotted Container (RSC): This is a very common type of e-commerce shipping box. The box’s flaps meet in the middle and are sealed with tape or staples.
  • Mailers: Also referred to as “tuck-top mailers,” these boxes are generally smaller than RSC boxes and have a top flap that tucks into the other end of the box. This shape minimizes the need for extra tape.
  • Other options include, but are not limited to full overlap boxes, boxes with auto-locking bottoms, roll-end boxes with fronts that lock, and more.

 

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Poly Mailers and Envelopes

  • Poly Mailers: Constructed of polyethylene plastic, poly mailers can be a great option for lightweight items that are not fragile. They come in a variety of sizes—even with green options—and can be a highly economical choice.
  • Bubble Mailers: Similar to poly mailers, bubble mailers come outfitted with an internal layer of bubble wrap to add extra support and protection to the contents. While sturdier than many other standard mailers and envelopes, it’s best to not ship super-fragile items in a bubble mailer. Bubble mailers are available in both plastic and paper varieties.
  • Paper Envelopes: Available in a wide variety of sizes and variations, paper envelopes are one of the most common and versatile types of e-commerce shipping containers. You can choose the thickness, padding, stiffness, and sealing options.

Three Basic Categories of E-commerce Packaging:

Free Packaging

Some major shipping carriers such as USPS offer free packaging in several different sizes that can even be delivered to your address free of charge.

Standard Unbranded packaging

This is the route a majority of e-commerce companies follow: unbranded packaging that does the job, without any fancy bells and whistles.

Custom or Branded packaging

To fully maximize your brand-building efforts, creating your own custom or branded packaging is the way to go.
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It’s What’s on the Inside That (Also) Counts

Internal Protective Packaging

There’s almost nothing more disappointing than receiving that highly anticipated order and finding the contents damaged inside. While ultimately, you want to try and keep your packages as light as possible, skimping on packaging materials will most definitely cost you more in the long run—in time, returns, and replacements. 

The protective packaging inside should be tailored to the specific items you ship. If you sell lightweight, somewhat sturdy items, then tissue and peanuts may be just fine. For more delicate items, consider materials such as:

  • Airbags
  • Foam Spacers
  • Corrugated Inserts
  • Spray Foam
  • Double-walled boxes

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Wrapping Your Items

Once you’ve chosen your external packaging and protective inserts, it’s time to think about how you plan on actually wrapping your items (hint: this is a key element in extending your brand experience even further). 

For an amazing unboxing experience, consider tissue to match your brand color scheme, craft paper tied with ribbon, or even branded stickers or special seals with your logo.

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Scan-Based Return Labels

To help solidify the best possible customer experience, we recommend including a scan-based return label. This way, if your customer needs to return an item, they can easily utilize the label and box to send it back. 

Best of all, you only get charged if the label gets used.

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Adding a Personal Touch

If you really want to go the extra mile in showing your customers how much you value them, consider enclosing a handwritten note or card. And for repeat shoppers, including an unexpected token or gift is a extra-nice touch.

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Exploring Your Printer Options

Printers for e-commerce shipping tend to fall into three main categories. Depending upon your shipping volume, you’ll want to take cost and maintenance into account.

Printer categories include:

 

Inkjet printers 

Inkjets offer inexpensive printing onto standard 8.5 “x11” paper or label sheets. 

Laser printers 

Laser printers offer printing options similar to inkjet printers, but with significant quality upgrades. The print quality is noticeably better, but you’ll pay a lot more for the printer, plus toner/ink refills. Like inkjets, laser printers most often utilize 8.5″x11” paper and label sheets.

Thermal printers (Top recommendation!) 

Thermal printers are a very convenient option as they print directly onto 4″x6” shipping labels that come available on rolls. If you ship in higher volumes, thermal printers are a great option as they allow you to print high quantities of labels quickly and don’t need toner refills. And, thermal printers take up very little space. 

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