Manifests: What They Are And How E-Commerce Merchants Use Them

Many e-commerce merchants will tell you, “more packages, more problems”. But, while shipping more can create more logistical challenges, there is one step in the delivery process that can become extremely convenient and efficient. Enter manifests.

Manifests are also known as Shipment Manifests, Scan Forms, Order Summaries, Shipment Confirmations, and End of Day forms depending on the carrier you’re using.

However, no matter the terminology, manifests act to streamline the pickup process for the carrier of your choice.

What Are Manifests?

Quite simply, a manifest is a one page document that often includes a barcode that a carrier can scan when they come to pick up your packages. This bypasses the need for them to scan each individual parcel and allows them to start the delivery process faster.

As your e-commerce business grows, you’ll find that you’ll often be shipping multiple products with a single carrier in a single day. All of these products will be going to the same place. A manifest contains all of that information within a single document.

How Do Manifest Forms Work?

Manifests can work in different ways depending on the carrier you’re creating them for and where you’re creating them from.

For example, Shippo users can generate and print USPS manifest forms directly from Shippo’s web application or API. Shippo users also have their UPS and FedEx manifest forms automatically sent digitally to the carriers at the end of the day.

However, there are certain rules that are commonplace for manifest forms to work.

Chief among those rules is that you’ll have to make sure that the manifest you create falls within the same date that you create your shipping labels. You can not create a manifest the next day for packages with shipping labels dated for the day before. You’ll want to make sure you create them at the end of day.

It’s important to note you can create multiple manifests within a single day.

For example, let’s say you get a surge in orders in the morning and then another surge in the evening. You can create a manifest in the afternoon for the morning orders and another at night for the evening orders. But, the morning orders won’t be included on the manifest you create that night.

Each carrier will have their own manifest process, so be sure to contact them and ask before scheduling pickups.

When Should E-Commerce Businesses Use Manifests?

E-commerce businesses should use manifests anytime they are planning on shipping multiple orders with a single carrier. The rule of thumb is that if you’re shipping five or more products at once, you’ll want to include a manifest.

If your business is shipping dozens of products at once, it can be time consuming to scan each individual item. Some carriers will refuse to pick up orders in this case without a manifest.

Is There A Difference Between Manifests And Scan Forms?

Quite simply, no. A Shipment Confirmation Acceptance Notice, also called a SCAN Form, is a manifest specifically for shipping with USPS.

One of the key aspects to note about SCAN Forms is that the end of the day is counted as 10:00 p.m. PST. This can be tricky for e-commerce sites shipping out from the West Coast.

For example, if labels are created at 11:15 p.m. the submission date put on the SCAN Form should be for the following day.

Carriers That Require A Manifest

Carriers differ when it comes to whether or not they require a manifest. National carriers, regional carriers, and international carriers also have different rules as to how you submit a manifest.

When it comes to USPS, UPS, and FedEx, you’re technically not required to create a manifest for your shipments. However, it is strongly recommended that you do so if you’re shipping multiple packages with them.

For Shippo customers shipping out with UPS and FedEx specifically, you do not have to manually create one because a report is automatically reported to the carriers as soon as you create a shipping label with them. Labels are pre-scanned and don’t require the driver to scan them.

When it comes to international carriers such as Australia Post, you’ll have to have a manifest no matter how many packages you’re planning to send them. Others like Canada Post don’t require it, but similar to USPS strongly recommend that you do.

You’ll need to carefully review the policies of the international carrier’s you plan on using before sending multiple packages their way.

How Shippo Users Can Create Manifests

There are two ways for Shippo users to create manifests. The first way is through the Shippo web app, and the second way is through the Shippo API.

For Web app users, you’ll need to go to Shipments in the left hand column of your dashboard. From there at the top right of the screen you’ll see a button that reads “Create Manifest.”

Once you click that, you’ll see options to choose which carrier you’re creating a manifest for, choose the submission date for your manifest, choose the address from where your packages are being delivered from, and view your manifest history.

For an in depth tutorial on how to create manifest from the Shippo web app, click here. For users of the Shippo API looking to create a manifest, click here.

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