Packaging 101: What you need to know

4 minute read

You cannot understate the importance of well-chosen packaging for an e-commerce business. From the moment a customer clicks the “buy” button on your site, your packaging choices greatly impact the journey of that shipment to their door.

There are many things to consider when it comes to choosing the right packaging mix. We’ve put together a high-level overview of some of the most important areas of packaging to consider and how they can affect your business.

Let’s start with the basics:

Picking the right packaging types

No packaging type is perfect. What you choose to use for your shipments will depend largely on the product(s) being shipped, how many of them there are and what you can afford to buy. Each type of packaging has its own benefits and drawbacks and will most likely fit into one of these three overarching categories:

  1. Canada Post polybags and protective mailer envelopes, surrounded by packing material.Boxes are versatile, recyclable, durable, easy to stack, and come in many styles. They’re also expensive, heavy and often require filler to stop their contents from shifting around in transit. Boxes are the ideal choice when you have to ship anything heavy that requires a fair amount of protection. For example, boxes are well suited to appliances.
  2. Protective/bubble mailers are basically padded envelopes. They provide an extra layer of protection for flat items that need more care in transit. They don’t provide the level of protection that a well-packed box can, so avoid using them to ship fragile items like glass. Books are a good example of a product that works well with protective/bubble mailers because they’re flat, need protection and, in many cases, can slide right into the package.
  3. Polybags are inexpensive and highly-flexible bags made out of plastic. They don’t take up much space in your fulfillment area, are durable, lightweight and available in recyclable varieties. The drawback of polybags is that they provide very little protection for your items. When using them, it’s important to ensure that what you pack inside is lightweight and not very fragile. Polybags work well when it comes to shipping clothing items like shirts, dresses and pants. This is because clothing can move around freely throughout the shipping process without incurring any damage.

Using void fillers

To ensure your products are properly protected in transit, you need to choose and use the right void filler. If your items will potentially move around in their package, or are vulnerable to damage, then including void fillers will help reduce that risk. Some popular choices include:

  • Packaging paper
  • Tissue paper
  • Bubble wrap
  • Crinkled and shredded paper
  • Foam peanuts
  • Inflatables

You’re off to a great start, but there’s so much more to this story. Read our packaging guide now.

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Properly placing your shipping labels

The placement of your shipping label matters greatly. A well-placed label will ensure that the vital information about your package is processed properly. Follow these guidelines when preparing and adhering your shipping label:

  • Print it on white paper. No colours.
  • Make sure there is nothing obstructing the label.
  • Affix the label to the largest side of the package.
  • Ensure there are no wrinkles in the label.
  • Avoid putting the label over an edge or seam.
  • Don’t put tape over the barcode.

Choosing the best package size for an order

There’s no perfect package size for any order. The size to use depends on a lot of factors like what you’re shipping, what your costs are, seasonality, etc. Essentially you want to use the smallest package available that has enough room for void fillers and your product(s). If your package is too big, your shipping charges could be higher than they need to be.

The package size you choose should also depend on how many items you’re planning to ship. If you’re shipping multiple items, it can be a real cost-saver to consolidate them into one large box – instead of dividing the order across several smaller boxes. This is one of the reasons why it can be a good idea to stock packaging of more than one size. Having options gives you the flexibility to pack your orders more efficiently.

If you’re shipping multiple items, it can be a real cost-saver to consolidate them into one large box – instead of dividing the order across several smaller boxes.

Packaging with the planet in mind

There’s a growing sustainability trend among consumers today. More and more online shoppers want the packaging they receive to be easily recyclable and want the retailers they shop from to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint. For instance, 51 per cent of respondents in a recent Canada Post consumer survey indicated that their packages contained too much packing material that seemed unnecessary and wasteful.1

The sustainability of your packaging can greatly influence environmentally-minded consumers to shop with you. It’s important to keep environmentally-conscious customers in mind because they’re leading the pack on an issue that will only pick up steam in the years to come.

There are many effective ways that retailers can reduce their impact on the environment. You can do your part by:

  • Using recyclable packaging
  • Using optimally-sized packaging
  • Consulting suppliers on sustainable packaging
  • Communicating to your customers about how they can help

Improving the customer experience

Once delivered, your packaging is the first part of the order that your customer experiences. They see it, touch it, and open it – all before they even get to the main event. That may seem like a somewhat inconsequential interaction, but it’s actually a great (and often untapped) opportunity to really connect with your customer.

Here are some examples of ways your packaging can be used to engage your customers:

  • Branded boxes add flare to your shipments. You can include your logo, brand colours, and imagery and/or wording that aligns with your brand to transform your packaging into a great advertisement for your company.
  • Many retailers are starting to include product samples or special offers inside their shipments to encourage customers to make additional purchases.
  • Including handwritten notes in your shipments adds a personal touch and can help differentiate your business from your competitors and larger companies.

No matter how you look at it, your packaging is essential to your company’s e-commerce operations. It’s the most important item used to protect the orders you ship, but it can be so much more than that. Great packaging can be used to promote your company, increase brand loyalty and even make a positive impact on the environment. Is your packaging living up to its full potential?

1 Canada Post. A New Narrative – Connecting to Canada Post, 2018.

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