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Shipping Envelopes or Cardboard Boxes - Which is Best for Ecommerce?

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Amazon style Envelopes and Cardboard Boxes

Your ability to properly ship your products to customers is critical to the success of your online store. In fact, 8 out of 10 online customers claim they prefer to buy from businesses that ship using sustainable packaging - so careful consideration should be made not to make wasteful or environmentally questionable choices when shipping your products.

You must choose the correct packaging to keep your products safe throughout transit.

This decision isn't as straightforward as it appears.

Yes, it all boils down to whether you'll send each purchase in shipping boxes or mailing envelopes.
However, there are dozens of variations within those two categories.

What Kind of Packaging Should Your Ecommerce Business Use?

As previously said, you have a range of options.

  • Should you use padded or non-padded envelopes if you use them?
  • How big should the boxes be?
  • Should you try to save money by using standard materials?
  • Is the increased expense of branded packaging justified?

These are just a few of the options available to you.

We'll go over everything you need to know about mailing envelopes and shipping boxes for your online store in this article.

Envelopes for Mailing Products

Expandable Ecommerce Shipping Envelopes

The following are some of the advantages of using envelopes rather than boxes:

The materials are less expensive on their own.

Using envelopes saves money on storage and shipping because they take up less room.

Unlike boxes, envelopes don't require any assembly or adhesive packing tape (for the most part), so you save money on labour and increased dispatch output.

Because envelopes are versatile, you can utilise the same envelope size for a variety of orders.

Mailing envelopes are best suited for light and robust things like clothes and jewellery due to their restricted capacity, however they do make the perfect substituted for bubble mailers.

One of the most essential decisions you'll have to make about your postal envelopes is whether they'll be padded or not (the padded option is sometimes referred to as "cushioned" or "bubble" mailing envelopes).

Padded paper envelopes are more secure, yet non-cushioned envelopes are less costly and often faster to pack.

Padded Paper Envelope
Padded Paper Envelopes

A padded envelope is unnecessary for soft goods like t-shirts.

The extra protection is likely worth the extra expense for more fragile items.

Additionally, when it comes to the material of your postal envelopes, you have three choices:

Paperboard envelopes: Also known as solid board envelopes, these hard envelopes are meant to stay flat during the whole shipping procedure, but some feature creases and to enable them to expand to carry multiple items. They’re lightweight and offer solid burst and abrasion resistance during shipping.

Corrugated envelopes: Known as capacity envelopes or ecommerce envelopes, similar to what Amazon use to ship their products, they are 100% recyclable and often feature expandable capacity. Being made from strong corrugated, they offer increased crush and bend resistance.

Paper based padded envelopes: a plastic free and biodegradable alternative to bubble mailers, they offer the same cushioning, but use more material so are slightly more expensive than the other two options.

Cardboard Boxes for Shipping

Although mailing envelopes have numerous advantages, they are simply not an option for especially large or heavy packages.

In that situation, standard 0201 cardboard boxes will be required.

When choosing a shipping box for an order, the first thing to consider is the size. You don't want it to be overly big because it could damage the product if it slides about during shipping. Customers are also irritated by the waste - many consumers value sustainable and responsible use of packaging.

You don't want it to be too small, either, because the product needs some cushion to protect it from damage. Another reason to keep your boxes small is that many shipping companies, such as UPS and FedEx, have size restrictions.

Double Walled Cardboard Boxes in the UK
Standard Cardboard Boxes

In most cases, around two inches / 50mm of space on all sides is sufficient.

Extra protection is required for fragile products, such as:

Tissue Paper: One of the most cost-effective ways to cover empty space and secure things in shipping boxes is to use tissue paper or void fill paper (check out our paper based void fill solutions here).

Air Pillows/Bubble Wrap: These air-filled plastic packing materials give protection without adding much weight - but single use plastic is often not recycled and can prove damaging to the environment and your reputation with your customer.

Packing Peanuts: Tissue paper and bubble wrap/air pillows may not be enough protection; for very heavy items, packing peanuts will be required. Again, these are messy and a pain for your customer to dispose of, but there are paper based alternatives to these available.

Freezer Gel Packs:Finally, impact may not be the only thing you need to worry about when it comes to protecting your items. Gel freezer packs will not only fill empty space but will also prevent your merchandise from rotting if you're sending food or any perishable item.

By far the most prevalent material for shipping boxes is corrugated cardboard.

Their design, which includes inner folds that support the box's sides with air columns, allows them to be both sturdy and lightweight.

These boxes come in a wide range of shapes and sizes.

Another benefit is that they are recyclable.

They're also stackable and don't have any sharp edges, making storing a breeze.

If you frequently send orders of various sizes, multi-depth corrugated boxes might be considered. You can cut these boxes down to the size you need by scoring them at different intervals along their sides.

Purchasing a large quantity of multi-level boxes is often less expensive than purchasing smaller quantities of various sizes.

Should You Brand Your Postal Packaging?

Your logo and other branding components can be added to both mailing envelopes and shipment boxes. Is it, however, a worthwhile investment?

This can help you stand out in a time when many individuals have various products delivered to their house every week, if not every day. And, with so many options available when shopping online, standing out is crucial.

Consumers think branded packaging makes them more likely to buy from a store again, and 72 percent say it makes them more thrilled to open a package.

You can customise what's inside your envelope/box in addition to branding the outside.
Your logo can be printed on tissue paper, and attaching a thank you card adds a great personal touch.

It's even more amazing to write these messages by hand, albeit only stores with a limited volume of orders will have the time.

Get creative and print material on the inside of boxes, offer guides for using the product, customer reviews, or your businesses mission statement and sustainability goals - this final touch point can leave a lasting impression so don't let it go to waste!

Having said that, branded packaging could be costly - so you'll have to weigh the long-term advantages of branded packaging against the short-term costs.

It all boils down to your bottom line in the end.

What can you afford to accomplish right now, both in terms of time and money?

Smaller businesses may discover that keeping short-term costs low is necessary to stay afloat. Larger stores, on the other hand, may have enough time to spend in branded or expensive shipping materials now to reap the benefits of enhanced consumer loyalty later.

Finally, you should select packaging that is both cost-effective and secure in delivering your goods to your customer. If it makes sense for your business and marketing efforts, you can look into other, fancier packaging solutions once you've nailed down that element.

This article was written by...

Joe Wille

Director at The Packaging Club.

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