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All you need to know about Ecommerce Cardboard Envelopes

No Comments    |        |    August 8, 2023    |    Reading time 9 minutes
eco friendly ecommerce cardboard envelopes for Vodafone

Introduction: Shipping and the e-commerce cardboard envelope

An ecommerce business relies just as much on its shipping processes and successful order fulfilment as it does on its products.

This is why it’s absolutely crucial that the right packaging is chosen for the job. Not only must it be cost effective and lightweight to keep postage costs to a minimum but it must also be protective and durable in order to ensure an item gets to the customer in tip top condition. And as if that wasn’t enough, it’s been proven - beyond a shadow of a doubt - that packaging is an enormous contributor to customer satisfaction levels, brand reputation and short and long term company growth. Its impact, therefore, cannot be understated.

Heavy duty expandable corrugated cardboard envelopes
Heavy duty expandable corrugated cardboard envelopes

Step forward the ecommerce cardboard envelope. Versatile and efficient, take a closer look at this deceptively simple packaging and it’s easy to understand what makes these brown envelopes so indispensable when it comes to the world of ecommerce shipping. From small retail items to electrical components, parts and lightweight books, the types of products suitable for these envelopes is endless and the sheer variety of things they can ship is without limit.

The benefits of Using Cardboard Envelopes for Ecommerce Shipping

So what exactly are the benefits of using cardboard envelopes for ecommerce shipping? There are quite a few actually, you get a lot of bang for your buck, so to speak, but let’s break down the main ones:

  • Lightweight for cost-effective shipping

Specially manufactured from solid board cardboard, the envelopes still don’t weigh much: this combined with their compact design translates into lower postage costs.

  • Protective, expandable, versatile

Features including reinforced glued sides ensure product safety during transit, but envelopes with integrated creases also mean effective expansion and the ability to ship multiple items securely.

  • Convenient for everyone

A key attribute at both ends of the fulfilment process: trouble-free to store (they require very little space) and fast to pack at the warehouse thanks to an overhanging peel and seal closure, their long end opening makes things easy for customers as well. Seconds to seal and seconds to pull open means happy packers and happy customers.

  • Environmentally sustainable

One thing we haven’t yet mentioned, but we should have, because they are. Recyclable, reusable and bio-degradable, they can be used in place of the ubiquitous bubble mailer. Bear in mind too, that the expandable envelope option also uses far fewer resources to produce than the traditional cardboard box boosting their environmental credentials even further. 

Understanding cardboard envelopes in ecommerce packaging: size and dimension considerations

By now then, the key benefits to be gained from using cardboard envelopes for ecommerce purposes are obvious. However, as mentioned in our introduction, an essential part of the process is ensuring that the right packaging is chosen for the job at hand, i.e., however good that packaging may be in theory, it needs to work well for the product in reality. This applies to cardboard envelopes as much as it does to anything else.

Like with most things in the packaging industry, cardboard envelopes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There’s standard-sized envelopes suitable for smaller items. Then, there are the expandable or gusseted envelopes for multiple product orders and the heavy duty envelope for bulkier items. Finally, the padded envelope is an option in the case that extra protection is required.

Choose wisely to avoid the common pitfalls detailed below.

Preventing damage and avoid excess packaging.

It’s vital to choose the best sized envelope for a product. What you don’t want is too much wriggle room, but neither should an envelope be overly tight. Both these increase the risk of damaging a product in transit. It might be that one size doesn’t fit all so it’s worth having a few options available. Higher outlay up front, but fewer returns and greater levels of customer satisfaction. Customers really do notice thoughtful, appropriate and when necessary, tailored packaging.

Leaving enough space for additional inserts.

Something else to think about is whether or not a product going to be accompanied by promotional material or additional marketing materials? If not now, then is this something that might happen seasonally or in future? If so, make sure this factors into size and dimension considerations before placing a bulk order for packaging.

Considering shipping tariffs.

The size of an envelope will determine how much is paid for postage and/or shipping costs. It’s worth knowing up front what these costs will be and into what tariff bracket parcels are going to fall. For example, can an order once it’s parcelled up be classified as a Royal Mail Large Letter? If not, is it possible to size down and choose a slightly different option? Be armed with information in advance and streamline for success. Don’t put the cart before the horse, however attractive the cart is.

Customisation Options for Cardboard Envelopes

Keeping things simple but effective

Once the right envelope has been determined, the fun can really begin. A cardboard envelope may be plain, but it’s simple, classic aesthetic means that branding opportunities can be straightforward but still highly effective and eye catching.

If there’s only a teeny tiny budget? No matter. If the right packaging has been chosen for the job – that is, it looks smart, is easy to access, nothing excessive, etc. - a simple sticker or label will elevate it even further in the eyes of the consumer, adding up to a good impression and increased brand loyalty thereby enhancing a company’s overall reputation.

It could be, of course, that customisation is as straightforward as making sure a flyer or promotional and marketing materials is included in the envelope. Personalised messages are also very popular with customers, especially from sellers on sites such as Etsy, Notonthehighstreet and eBay so make sure there’s space (refer again to our section on choosing the right size and dimensions for your envelope). All this said, that’s the beauty of most cardboard envelopes; it’s easy to slip in an extra sheet or two of paper.

Printed customisation

Unique customisation can be achieved by having envelopes printed with custom designs or logos. And a small or start-up ecommerce business shouldn’t be put off if they’re only able to order in low volumes. There are options from low volume digital though to high-end flexo for businesses of all sizes.

Packing Cardboard Envelopes: Considering the inside and outside.

Once the correct envelope has been chosen and customisation decided upon, it’s time to pack the product.

Protecting and Securing

Some products, i.e. small books, leaflets, paper products, etc. can simply be slid into the envelope and are good to go. But this approach is of course item dependent. If a product is fragile, for example, made from glass, ceramic or china, it will need protective wrapping or cushioning materials, like honeycomb paper wrap or paper cushion material.

Regularly dispatching uniform items which are fragile or delicate might mean that it’s worth looking into whether envelopes can be designed with inserts or cut outs to hold items in place. 

Labelling and Documentation

The product is secure on the inside and on the outside everything looks professional and smart, even eye-catching. But equally as importantly and not to be overlooked are the mundane, boring bits, like labelling and documentation.

Safe delivery is one thing, but to ensure the envelope gets to its destination as smoothly as possible, it’s vital that all the necessary shipping labels, barcodes and tracking information is put on the outside of the envelope and are displayed as clearly as possible, visible to anybody who might be handling the packages during transit. Make sure that labels are displayed as clearly as possible, visible to anybody who might be handling the package during transit. And don’t forget those that are regulatory. The contents of a package with say, Lithium-ION batteries or other similar products will need to be declared. Consider whether your customer might be well served by the use of a document enclosed sleeve on your cardboard envelope. Don’t let unclear, inadequate or poor labelling be an obstacle when so much time and effort has gone into the product and its packaging.

Protection, security and the correct labelling and documentation are all instrumental in contributing to a seamless delivery. There are however other factors that ecommerce businesses might also want to consider before purchasing their packaging.

Other Noteworthy Factors:

Sustainable Packaging Options

It’s always worth considering sustainable packaging options when it comes to ecommerce packaging. It’s an established fact within the industry that although online purchasing continues to rise steadily, so does a consumer’s desire for environmentally friendly packaging. 

Incorporating recyclable or biodegradable elements in packaging solutions means that a company can reduce their carbon footprint at the same time as meeting customer expectations and ecommerce cardboard envelopes fit this brief perfectly.

Ecologically sound packaging doesn’t mean compromising on protective quality. Not only are envelopes robust, but here are multiple options out there aside which provide an alternative to traditional protective measures (like bubble wrap). Take these envelopes with their extra paper weave padding, for example. 

Shipping Efficiency and Cost Reduction

We’ve already touched upon packaging design in this article (see paragraphs on protecting and securing as well as customisation), but we can’t state enough how much its optimisation can pay dividends for an ecommerce business.

A holistic approach is what’s needed in order to make consistent, long-term cost savings. From the material out of which the packaging is manufactured, to its aesthetic (inside and out), as well as how efficiently it can be packed and opened, plus how secure and robust it is – all these are worth time and consideration. As is achieving maximum shipping efficiency.

The less space is taken up by items when shipping them, the better: better in terms of shipping costs and better in terms of carbon footprint. Packaging that is as space saving as possible therefore - whilst still doing its job - is one means by which the shipping process becomes more efficient. Changing the size of an envelope, cardboard box or parcel by a couple of centimetres might seem paltry, but small tweaks matter. More packages on a pallet equals more efficiency as does an envelope able to be put through a letter-box.

Considering options for streamlining packaging and shipping processes is fundamental to any ecommerce business and should be a regular part of internal practice audits and reviews. Optimising packaging design so that there is highly efficient use of space during shipping can stack up in the long run.


There are so many benefits to using cardboard envelopes for ecommerce shipping. These are benefits that every business – whether large, small, longstanding or newly established - can enjoy and from which they can reap rewards. Moreover, as the three case studies above demonstrate, these advantages are ones that can be tailored to a specific product, consumer or requirement, providing a unique or bespoke solution to many packaging niggles and at the same time elevating the quality and look of a company's packaging in general.

Lightweight, protective, durable, convenient, versatile, tamper-proof, letter-box friendly, sustainable, cost-effective, adaptable, impactful: these aren’t just platitudinal descriptions. Behind each one is an explanation that means that ecommerce envelopes are worth considering.

If you’re an ecommerce business thinking about switching to cardboard envelopes to improve your company’s cost-effectiveness, sustainability and customer satisfaction, then give us a call at The Packaging Club today. You won’t regret it and you could find yourself on the receiving end of a lot more advantages than you were bargaining for.

This article was written by...

Jo Hilton

I studied at the University of St. Andrews and have an MA in French and German. For a number of years, I worked for a Swiss financial institution and lived in Hamburg, London, Zürich and NYC before retraining as a primary school teacher and settling with my family in Cambridgeshire. When I'm not at school, I write content for various blogs and edit academic research articles for clients at ETH Zürich and the University of Munich. I'm also in the process of completing a Masters in Crime and Thriller writing at the University of Cambridge, so behind me you'll find a trail of fictional dead bodies and actual biscuit wrappers.

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