Whether you’re an e-commerce store, a distributor or an independent creator, shipping products is an essential part of your business. Your customers expect their products to arrive on time and in good condition. On your end, that means you must package your products correctly to protect them during transit. Besides adding protection, packaging can add value to your brand and make receiving a package more fun with graphic designs or even a handwritten note.
It’s also essential to prepare your products for shipment to customers. Using the proper labeling and working with the right carrier can help you save on your shipping costs and make sure everything arrives as expected. Check out our shipping guide for tips and advice on all your packing and shipping activities.
How to Package Products
Knowing how to protect items when shipping requires thorough knowledge of product packaging. It involves designing and producing a visually appealing and protective container for your products, encompassing three parts. The product packaging contains the product itself and is usually branded. For example, if your product is perfume, the glass bottle with the branded label is the product packaging. The outer packaging protects the product during shipment. It’s often a rectangular cardboard box, flat shipping envelope or mailer bag.
The inner packaging is everything that goes inside the outer packaging. You might ship a bundle of three perfumes in a decorative box branded to your company. The internal packaging also includes the packing materials, whether shredded paper, packing peanuts or bubble wrap. If you ship a business card or promotional coupon with the order, that is also part of the inner packaging.
Before you package your products, it’s essential to evaluate them on three characteristics:
- Weight: You’ll need packaging strong enough to hold whatever’s inside. Heavier items often need multilayered corrugation, while light items can ship in bags.
- Size and shape: When packaging any product, the edges should not touch the outer packaging. Consider your product’s size and shape, and choose a box or mailer that is large enough for both the product and cushioning material.
- Value and fragility: Valuables and breakables need extra protection in transit. The box should also have a label that says “fragile” and possibly an arrow pointing out which way to stow and handle the container.
How to Package Small to Medium-Sized Products
Most small businesses packing and shipping supplies and products have parcels that are considered small or medium. From candles to cosmetics to smartphones, many everyday consumer goods are easy to pack. Smaller products require fewer logistical considerations. Still, it’s critical to know how to protect small products during shipping. If your product can be considered small or even medium, follow these packaging tips for product containment and distribution:
1. Choose Your Packaging Type
Your package may pass through many different hands and pieces of equipment en route to its final destination. It’s crucial to select a packaging material that will protect your product and hold up during transport. For small products, you typically have three options:
- Corrugated cardboard boxes: Cardboard is sturdy and lightweight, meaning it can protect your product without adding to your shipping weight. Out of all the products that get shipped, 90% are packed in cardboard because it’s considered safe.
- Padded mailers: Padded mailers are generally for small, flat or delicate items. They’re excellent for jewelry, handmade items, books and electronics. They come with some built-in padding, which you can add to with some recycled paper or bubble wrap.
- Shipping bags or envelopes: A polyurethane bag or plastic envelope is strong and lightweight. They’re also self-sealing, which can streamline packaging operations. Like mailers, they’re best for smaller items.
2. Decide Whether to Customize
For a budding e-commerce store or an independent crafter, custom packaging can differentiate your brand and give your products a boutique-like experience. A beautiful package can also give you some free advertising, as customers will enjoy posting unboxing videos on their social media feeds. Plus, 55% of online shoppers will come back to a website if their order arrives in customized packaging.
If you choose to brand your packaging, you’ll need to work with a designer and packaging supplier. If you can’t customize your entire box, consider adding a few affordable packaging products to spruce up your deliveries. Other ways to brand your packaging might include a branded sticker, a handwritten note, a promotional insert, branded packing tape or even a free gift.
3. Add Protective Filler
When your products need to hold up during shipping, you need to know how to pack boxes for shipping with the appropriate type and amount of padding. The protective cushioning is crucial to protecting your small items during shipping. Wrap each item separately so they will not bump into one another inside the box.
If the product is susceptible to moisture or dirt, put it inside a plastic bag for protection. Use at least 2 inches of cushioning around every side, and leave no empty space within the container. At the same time, avoid overstuffing it. Adding too much filler could cause the box or bag to burst during shipping. You can choose from both traditional and eco-friendly package fillers, including:
- Tissue paper
- Foam or cornstarch packing peanuts
- Cardboard inserts
- Crumpled, crinkle-cut or shredded paper
- Polyurethane foam inserts
- Air pillows
- Bubble wrap
4. Seal the Package
If you’re using a polyurethane bag, it should come with an adhesive strip. Ensure your bag is completely sealed to prevent it from opening in transit. If your packaging doesn’t self-seal, use packing tape at least 2 inches wide and strong enough to contain whatever’s in your parcel. If sealing a box, use the H-taping method. This technique involves first sealing down the flaps and then the edges, so the tape creates an H pattern. Tape both the bottom and top seams of the box, and make sure the tape can adequately support any heavy items.
5. Consider the Box-in-Box Method
After wrapping up and sealing your small package, you might want to place it inside a larger box with more filler material. While most shipments won’t need this added protection, a fragile or valuable product will benefit from the extra layer.
To use this method, first prepare your inner box. Your outer box should be large enough to contain the inner box plus a 2-inch buffer of filler. Next, fill the base of the outer box with filler material, like packing peanuts. Place your inner container inside, and then add the rest of the filler material until the internal packaging is surrounded. Then, seal up the outer box as you did the inner box.
How to Package Large Products
Whether you’re shipping a refrigerator, a mattress or something else, you’ll need to take some extra precautions when packaging heavy or oversized items. Your larger products need protection from vibrations, accidental drops and compression from stacking during storage.
1. Find the Right Materials
A bag, envelope or padded mailer will be too small for your larger products. Instead, you’ll need a heavy-duty corrugated cardboard box. Look for one with several layers and seams that have been stitched or stapled rather than glued. Do not reuse an old box for a bulky item since you cannot guarantee its strength.
2. Add Filler
As with smaller products, larger items also need filler. However, when shipping heavy items, crumpled paper and lightweight cushioning won’t hold up. Instead, use engineered polystyrene foam shaped to house the product. Corrugated cardboard inserts can also cradle your item. As with smaller packages, aim for at least 2 inches of space on every side, so the product will not touch the box’s walls.
The double box method is also recommended for larger, heavier items, whenever possible.
3. Seal the Box
As with smaller boxes, you’ll need to seal the box around every edge with tape. In this case, you’ll use a few layers of heavy-duty tape. A fiberglass-reinforced, water-activated tape can bond to the cardboard, ensuring your box stays sealed through the entire trip.
4. Palletize if Needed
Larger products often have additional shipping packaging, like a pallet. A shipping pallet lets your shipping carrier load and unload your product using material handling equipment such as forklifts. A large palletized product might be shrink-wrapped or stretch-wrapped, which provides cushioning during transit and holds everything together. A palletized product could also be strapped down or secured in another fashion.
How to Pack Your Products for Shipping and Distribution
When shipping products to a distributor and for placement in stores, you’ll need to consider different packaging requirements. If your customer is a distributor, they could have requirements specific to how they operate, industry regulations and minimum order requirements. As the packager, you’ll pack individual products into cases based on your distributor’s required weight and quantity. Then, you’ll pack cases into pallets.
Your distributor will likely require specific pallet sizes and types to ensure it will fit their equipment. They will also set a maximum pallet height. Consider whether the distributor will be keeping the products stored in their inventory and what their storage conditions are.
It’s crucial to understand your distribution network and how your product and outer packaging will be travel throughout the supply chain. To design safe containment systems that will last through handling, transport and storage, consider factors such as:
- The type and size of pallet.
- Pallet stacking or storage configuration.
- Specifications for maximum and minimum pallet heights and load weights.
- Whether pallet stacking will use slip sheets, layer sheets or caps.
- Whether a palletized load will be secured using stretch wrap, shrink wrap, corner posts or straps.
- What types of shipping containers will be used, such as trays, boxes, crates or bins.
- Required material properties, such as moisture resistance and break strength.
- What type of protective filler is needed.
Considering every step in the shipping and distribution process and meeting every specification ensures your products will be protected and arrive at their final destinations in one piece. It will also help you avoid bottlenecks in the supply chain with packaging that fits in with existing warehousing and material handling methods.
How to Ship Products
Before you prepare your products for shipment, make sure they’re packed with the right shipping container, filler and a packing slip. Once you’ve decided how to pack your products for shipping, you can prepare for shipment. The finer details of your shipping preparations will depend on your chosen carrier’s shipping requirements. In general, the process will follow a few simple steps.
How to Ship Small to Medium-Sized Items
Once you’ve packed your small or medium items, you can prepare them for shipment. Follow these five e-commerce shipping tips.
1. Measure and Weigh Your Package
Once your products are in their final layer of packaging, you can figure out your shipping dimensions and the total weight. First, measure the length, width and height of your package. Multiply the three dimensions, and divide the number by the dimensional cubic divisor requested by your chosen carrier. This figure represents your package’s dimensional weight, sometimes abbreviated to Dim weight.
Next, weigh your package in pounds or ounces. In the logistics industry, this number is known as the package’s dead weight or actual weight.
2. Calculate Your Shipping Rates and Compare Carriers
Some shipping carriers will charge you by a package’s dimensional weight, meaning how much space it takes up in their truck. Other carriers might use your package’s dead weight. Still, others may take the larger of the two. Work with your carrier or a group of carriers you’re considering to calculate your shipping costs. You’ll provide the dimensional and actual weight alongside the origin and destination.
While comparing costs is essential, remember to look at the level of service a carrier will provide. If you need to meet an aggressive delivery deadline, you need a carrier with a record for on-time performance and the flexibility to meet your needs.
If shipping a small item locally, you might even choose a courier service that can deliver your item via bicycle or car. This impresses your customers, who receive their package on time, from the hands of a uniformed, professional representative. You also won’t pay for space in a large delivery van when a bicycle messenger can get there faster and more affordably.
3. Book Your Carrier
Once you’ve settled on a carrier whose prices and shipping guarantees make sense for your business, work with them to confirm your shipment. They’ll schedule your pickup and delivery or tell you where to bring your package.
4. Label and Send Your Package
Print out the shipping labels your carrier provides, and attach them to your packages using clear packing tape. Attach any other labels and stickers needed to transport your items safely. For example, you may need a special sticker if your product has a lithium battery or any hazmat materials. Then, you’re ready to send off your shipment.
How to Ship Large, Heavy Items
In some ways, shipping a large item isn’t much different from sending a small product. In general, you’ll follow the same process for how to ship heavy items. It starts with packaging the product, measuring it, calculating and comparing rates, booking your shipment and finally preparing it for pickup. However, when working with larger packages, your carrier may impose some more requirements. Your process will likely follow these three steps:
1. Check Your Oversized Package Requirements
Different carriers list different dimension and weight thresholds for packages to be considered oversized. Some carriers call a box oversized if it weighs more than 70 pounds or another weight threshold. Others will look at the package’s combined dimensions. For some carriers, anything over 130 inches will fit into the oversized category. As with small packages, you’ll need to measure and weigh your package to calculate your shipping rates.
If your package is considered oversized with your chosen carrier, you may need to follow special requirements. For example, you might be required not to reuse a corrugated box and ensure it will hold a certain weight. When you prepare your product for shipment, you may need to add a special caution sticker indicating the package’s weight so your package will receive the attention it deserves.
2. Review Shipping Options and Rates
If your package falls into the oversized range for your chosen carrier, you’ll have to pay additional shipping costs. You may even have to discuss special rates with your carrier for extremely large shipments that fall outside of standard oversized dimensions. Carriers who specialize in small packages will take oversized packages for an added fee. Other providers will deliver your parcel, classifying it as a freight shipment instead of regular delivery.
You can also choose a dedicated delivery service, like Street Fleet. With the dock trucks in our fleet, we can accommodate pallet-sized loads and get them delivered quickly. When shipping large items, it’s crucial to balance affordability with quality. Working with a courier ensures your products get delivered promptly by a uniformed driver. They’ll take the utmost care through the shipping process to prevent damage to your large, heavy and often valuable merchandise.
3. Confirm and Prepare Your Shipment
When you’re ready to proceed with a chosen carrier, you’ll book your order and follow your carrier’s instructions to prepare it for pickup or drop-off. Print out and attach your shipping labels and any required special labeling for your oversized packaging. Then, your package will be ready for the carrier.
How to Ship Fragile Items
If items arrive broken, you may have to worry about returns and potentially bad reviews and lost customers. That’s why it’s essential to know how to pack and ship fragile items. Most of the differences in your shipping approach have to do with packaging your fragile items. Pick the right size of box and wrap each item individually. Pack the items safely using at least 3 inches of cushioning as opposed to the usual 2 inches.
As you prepare your items for shipment following all carrier requirements, make sure you put the shipping label on the largest surface. This helps ensure your package will stay upright during shipping, protecting its contents. Adding a “fragile” sticker to the box can also remind personnel to handle your parcel with care.
Learn How Street Fleet Can Handle Your Business Deliveries
As a courier and delivery provider based in Minneapolis and St. Paul, we can get your deliveries anywhere in Minnesota and the neighboring states. With a fleet that ranges from bikes to dock trucks, we can deliver anything from your smallest envelope to a truckload of pallets. We have the necessary experience and certifications to transport medical, hazmat and financial packages, so we can ship any package, no matter the size or contents. We also specialize in timely deliveries and logistics solutions, with services that include:
- Same-day deliveries
- Scheduled deliveries
- Dedicated drivers
- Immediate deliveries
- Warehousing, cross-docking and distribution
With our competitive rates and 24-hour, year-round availability, you can rely on us to provide the service quality you need. If we can help you with a one-time delivery or your regular business shipments, contact us online or dial 612-623-9999 to start making your arrangements. If you’re ready to ship, place your order online today.