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Dimensional Weight: Shipping Boxes Explained

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Cartoon of a man holding a tape measure, staring at the box ontop of some digital weighing scales. Blog title is "Dimensional Weight: Packaging Explained"

In the world of e-commerce, the term 'dimensional weight' is a crucial concept that plays a significant role in the packaging and shipping process. This glossary entry will delve deep into the intricacies of dimensional weight, shedding light on its importance, calculation, implications, and much more.

Understanding dimensional weight is not just beneficial, but essential for anyone involved in e-commerce. It directly impacts the cost of shipping and can significantly influence the profitability of an online business. So, let's embark on this comprehensive exploration of dimensional weight.

Table of Contents

Definition of Dimensional Weight

Dimensional weight, also known as volumetric weight, is a pricing technique used by shipping companies. It takes into account the size of the package being shipped, not just its actual weight. This method was introduced because large, lightweight packages were taking up more space on shipping vehicles, yet were costing less to ship due to their low weight.

By charging based on dimensional weight, shipping companies ensure they are compensated for the space a package occupies on their vehicle. This approach encourages shippers to use smaller packages where possible, leading to more efficient use of space in shipping vehicles.

Why Dimensional Weight Matters

Dimensional weight is a critical factor in determining shipping costs. If a package has a large size but low actual weight, the dimensional weight will likely be higher than the actual weight. In such cases, shipping companies will charge based on the dimensional weight, resulting in higher shipping costs.

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Therefore, understanding and optimising dimensional weight can lead to significant cost savings in shipping. It can also lead to more efficient packaging practices, reducing waste and contributing to sustainability efforts.

Calculating Dimensional Weight

Dimensional weight is calculated by multiplying the length, width, and height of a package (in inches or centimetres), then dividing by a specific divisor. The divisor varies depending on the shipping company and the unit of measurement used.

For example, if a shipping company uses a divisor of 5000 for measurements in centimetres, and a package measures 50cm x 30cm x 20cm, the dimensional weight would be (50 x 30 x 20) / 5000 = 6kg. If the actual weight of the package is less than 6kg, the shipping company will charge based on the dimensional weight of 6kg.

Dimensional Weight Divisors

The divisor used in the dimensional weight calculation is set by each individual shipping company. It is often based on the average density of packages they handle. A lower divisor results in a higher dimensional weight, and therefore higher shipping costs.

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It's important for e-commerce businesses to be aware of the divisor used by their chosen shipping company, as it can significantly impact the cost of shipping. Comparing divisors between different companies can also be a useful way to find the most cost-effective shipping solution.

Implications of Dimensional Weight for E-commerce

Dimensional weight has significant implications for e-commerce businesses. It directly affects the cost of shipping, which can be a major expense for online retailers. By understanding and optimising dimensional weight, businesses can reduce their shipping costs and increase their profitability.

Furthermore, dimensional weight encourages businesses to use more efficient packaging practices. By using smaller packages where possible, businesses can reduce their shipping costs, reduce waste, and contribute to sustainability efforts.

Cost Implications

The cost implications of dimensional weight are significant. If a business regularly ships large, lightweight packages, they may find their shipping costs are higher than expected due to the dimensional weight charges. This can eat into profit margins and make it more difficult for the business to compete on price.

By understanding how dimensional weight is calculated and charged, businesses can make more informed decisions about their packaging and shipping practices. They can choose to use smaller packages where possible, or to consolidate orders into fewer, larger packages to reduce the overall dimensional weight.

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Sustainability Implications

Dimensional weight also has implications for sustainability. By encouraging the use of smaller packages, it promotes more efficient use of space in shipping vehicles. This can reduce the number of vehicles needed to transport the same number of packages, leading to lower carbon emissions.

Furthermore, using smaller packages can reduce waste, as less packaging material is needed. This can contribute to a business's sustainability efforts and help them meet their environmental responsibilities.

Strategies to Optimise Dimensional Weight

There are several strategies that e-commerce businesses can use to optimise dimensional weight and reduce their shipping costs. These include using smaller packages, consolidating orders, and negotiating with shipping companies.

By implementing these strategies, businesses can not only reduce their shipping costs, but also improve their sustainability practices and potentially offer more competitive pricing to their customers.

Using Smaller Packages

One of the simplest ways to reduce dimensional weight is to use smaller packages. By minimising the size of the package, businesses can reduce the space it occupies on a shipping vehicle, and therefore reduce the dimensional weight charge.

However, it's important to ensure that the product is still adequately protected in a smaller package. Using too small a package could lead to damage during shipping, which would result in additional costs and customer dissatisfaction.

Consolidating Orders

Another strategy to reduce dimensional weight is to consolidate orders. Instead of shipping multiple small packages, businesses can combine orders into fewer, larger packages. This can reduce the overall dimensional weight and result in lower shipping costs.

However, this strategy requires careful management to ensure that orders are correctly consolidated and that customers receive their orders in a timely manner. It may also require investment in more sophisticated order management and shipping systems.

Negotiating with Shipping Companies

Finally, businesses can negotiate with shipping companies to try and secure a lower divisor for the dimensional weight calculation. This can result in a lower dimensional weight and lower shipping costs.

However, this strategy requires a good understanding of the shipping market and strong negotiation skills. It may also require a commitment to ship a certain volume of packages with the shipping company.


Dimensional weight is a crucial concept in e-commerce packaging and shipping. By understanding how it's calculated and charged, businesses can make more informed decisions about their packaging and shipping practices. They can implement strategies to optimise dimensional weight, reducing their shipping costs and improving their sustainability practices.

While dimensional weight can seem complex, with a thorough understanding and careful management, it can be a tool for businesses to improve their operations and increase their profitability. So, whether you're an e-commerce business owner, a packaging professional, or simply interested in the world of e-commerce, understanding dimensional weight is a must.

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This article was written by...

Nathan Calvert

Nathan is Head of Digital at The Packaging Club. He has worked in the packaging sector for over 15 years across food, consumer electronics, FMCG ecommerce and more, both directly in-house or as a freelance consultant.

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