The best part of selling online is shipping your products safely – right? Product packaging material is the first thing that your customer will see when they receive your small business's package. And we all know that the first impression is the most important. So, let's figure out how to make your product's packaging pop – and keep your items safe, too.
Here are some great tips for shipping small items like stickers, 3d prints, pins, magnets, and more! From poly bags to packing peanuts, we've got the best practices for packaging in 2022 and beyond.
Step 1: Consider Your Object
Your outermost packaging will be chosen based on characteristics of the object that you're shipping, as well as shipping costs and shipping process. After you've chosen your outermost packaging, you can consider things like brand image, brand awareness, and the impression customers get when they first see your package.
Flats and Flat Items
If you're selling stickers, pins, magnets, necklaces, or small keychains, you may be able to get away with using a “flat” for most of your shipping needs. A flat is usually an envelope, and the US Post Office needs it to be mostly uniform in size, and no thicker than about a quarter inch. The USPS site says:
Whatever you call them, flats must:
Have one dimension that is greater than 6-1/8 inches high OR 11-½ inches long OR ¼ inch thick.
Be no more than 12 inches high x 15 inches long x ¾ inch thick.
I know, I know. We all hate math. But really, it boils down to what can fit through a USPS machine. It can't be oddly shaped, it needs to be flexible, and it can't be too big or small.
Flats are great because they're cheap. They cost a stamp, basically, plus an ounce modifier – usually about $0.15 – if the envelope is heavy. It can't weigh more than 3 oz. I find that I can send pins, weak magnets, and stickers in A6 or A7 envelopes just fine. Very strong magnets, like ceramic magnets, need to be send in cardboard or poly to stay safe.
Oddly Shaped and Destructible Items
If you're selling things like 3D prints, cut out art, small cups or saucers, or even stiff objects like picture frames or wood signs, you'll need to use protective packaging for your outer packaging. With corners to break or glass to shatter, your first priority is making sure that your packaging materials are strong enough to keep your item safe during shipping.
Protect your object before you buy a box
Wrap your object up in foam or bubble wrap like you're about to ship it, then measure those dimensions. Search Amazon, Staples, or other online sources for shipping boxes or ecommerce packaging. When you're exploring ecommerce packaging for the first time, you don't really want to buy in bulk. Try to find sets of 10 or 20 to start your product packaging- your budget will thank you.
If your item is super breakable, stick to a box. If it's just oddly shaped, you might be able to get away with using poly mailers, which are cheaper, but basically – just plastic wrap.
Using recycled materials
If you're unsure, or don't have the budget to buy and test out boxes, use recycled materials! No one really minds receiving an older box. Just black out any previous address or digital printing on the box so that it's not confusing for your brand identity.
Most boxes are standard sizes and have either their dimensions or a shorthand size indicator printed right on them. Especially Prime boxes and other “big box” ecommerce packaging. So – use that information to your advantage. If your item fits perfectly into an Amazon A4 box, then figure out the dimensions and order some. Your packaging material must keep your object safe, so the closer fit you can get with your corrugated boxes, the better.
Should I buy custom packaging for my ecommerce business?
Custom packaging is a great way to stand out against the crowd because it uses digital printing to customize the end result. It can make your ecommerce packaging easy to spot (good), but it could also make your product packaging easy to see and steal (bad). So consider both pros and cons as you think about custom packaging design, because there may be unexpected costs.
Leave yourself enough time to experiment
The ecommerce packaging design process will take some time, and you may want to ask for samples before committing to getting a whole set of boxes or poly bags printed. Keep in mind that if you're doing custom product packaging, you are essentially paying for the printing of something that will be destroyed shortly after receiving it.
Make sure it's in the budget
There's an argument for cost savings, and also an argument for environmentally friendly practices here for ecommerce packaging. But custom packaging does have some benefits, and realistically, the ink it takes to print custom packaging material doesn't make it less recyclable. It just costs you more money to get custom product packaging with digital printing instead of using plain boxes.
Alternatives to custom packaging: Tips and Tricks
If you don't have it in your profit margin to do custom ecommerce packaging, there is an in between step. You can get colored corrugated boxes, or colored poly mailers, or even colored envelopes that will work great to help your product stand out. This avoids the digital printing process altogether, and lets you save money by buying “generic” items.
For envelopes and boxes, you could even use stamps or stamping to decorate your packaging. If you buy yellow corrugated boxes, you could use a black stamp with your logo as a great way to customize the box cheaply. For poly mailers, you can use stickers – just be sure that they stick well on the product packaging.
And remember: online shopping doesn't usually show the package. So unless you're running a subscription service, your customers probably don't care about your ecommerce ready packaging. They've already made a purchase from your ecommerce company. As long as you've got frustration free packaging (e.g., it's easy to open), your customers will probably be more concerned about what's inside the box.
What I Use To Ship Stickers
Right now, I'm using clearance A7 envelopes from Envelopes.com. I bought 2,000 of them at once, and they worked out to about $0.05 per envelope. The envelopes are blood red. I use printed 4×6 shipping labels to ship, though my postage type varies.
If the sale is on Etsy, I use their Pitney Bowes flat postage labels. If the sale is through my own website, I use labels from Letter-Track.com and then add my own stamps. This gives me tracking at a slight additional cost ($0.18 per), but it lets me know if my customers are getting their items. I usually include a thank you card, branded stickers, and coupon in every order, too.
Packaging changes through time, as postage rates and packaging availability changes. Don't be afraid to change things, especially if they're more cost effective. Over-packaging something will cost you a little every time you send a package. Under-packaging can cost you once every few times if something breaks. So just be aware of the risks and rewards with ecommerce packages, and make your choices wisely.