Packing Tips to Avoid Damaged Goods and Customer Returns
Amazon won’t win any awards for beautiful packaging design – the stiff plain wrapping that many items come in, are dull, boring but incredibly sturdy. These wraps protect books, DVDs and smaller flat items from any form of damage; reason #130010 why Amazon is the world’s number one retailer.
In the eCommerce industry, we harp on how important the last-mile delivery is (very important), but that’s only half the challenge. It’s just as important that customers receive their packages in one piece.
In 2011, FedEx found out just how important this was, when video surfaced of a delivery man flinging a large monitor over a fence. The company received a ton of bad press from the incident, but sadly this wasn’t a one-off.
Tales of such mishandling are everywhere, you can even find compilations on YouTube, and if you want a humorous look at what may happen to packages in transit, in extreme cases your deliveries can get Ace Ventura’d:
Common Damage Scenarios
Of the almost 8 billion packages shipped annually by UPS or FedEx, around 1% are reported as lost or damaged.
That’s almost 8 million packages! This damage is attributed to postal workers throwing parcels while sorting, parcels dropping down chutes and off conveyors, rain damage and more.
To avoid unexpected returns, merchants must consider the following scenarios when selecting packaging; your package must be able to survive:
- Getting dropped
- Protect the contents from the vibration of conveyor belts and trucks, which can loosen screws, cause soft material to rub into dust and other wear and tear
- Compression on all sides, from indiscriminate stacking
- Potential temperature and humidity changes
We understand that you can’t review every shipment before it leaves the warehouse; especially if it’s shipped directly from the manufacturer. What you can do is create a Best Practices Guide for the packaging of your product.
It starts with an assessment of product specifics such as length, width, weight — this prevents packaging overkill like the triple-wrapping and double-boxing of a USB cable.
With basic dimensions and characteristics figured out, the three things to note when choosing the packaging are:
- Degree of Fragility: Fragile products need protection from shifting around during transportation. Merchants are tasked with gauging the amount of space (and best materials) they need to fill to protect the product. Some sellers do this by shipping multiple goods in one box, the use of compartments or a box-in-a-box packaging.
- Know your ECT: The Edge Crush Test rating for a box tells you the amount of weight that can be stacked on a box wall before it deforms and collapses. Single-walled boxes are best used for small and medium sized products, while larger, heavier products should only be shipped in double-walled or triple-walled corrugated boxes.
- Isolating Liquids: Shipping liquids, perfumes, aerosols? Liquids (especially in breakable containers) must be separated using padded poly bags or “jiffy” envelopes. It’s also advised to ship these types of items separately when possible. Still unsure about the regulations surrounding your shipment? Here’s a reference from the U.S.P.S. regarding preparing shipments.
In choosing the packing and shipping materials, common materials to consider include:
For “outer” Materials:
- Polybag: Cheap, offers excellent water resistance, but no structural strength. Best suited for items that are already well boxed.
- Jiffy bag: Similar protection to polybags, but with added cushioning against impact. Best suited for smaller, non-fragile items.
- Corrugated boxes: With the product specs in mind, choose between single- and double-wall corrugated boxes that offer rigidity and impact protection. Single-wall boxes are best suited for fragile items while double-wall or triple-wall boxes should be used with heavier orders.
For impact protection:
- Bubble wrap: Provides total coverage for products that require impact protection, such as glass; the only downside is it can get expensive.
- Brown paper: Cheap, easily scrunched up and zigzagged across the item, it can provide some protection. But it can collapse under heavier loads, especially on longer journeys.
- Single-ply corrugated roll: This is used to line thin cardboard boxes to increase impact resistance. Some merchants also use it to wrap bottles, and keep them from striking each other.
“Void fill” materials:
- Air cushions: When placed inside a box, these small air-filled bags provide protection for objects rolling around. However using them can be expensive, as buying the machine used to inflate them can be pricey.
Cost of Damaged Goods
If you think this is an unnecessary expense, here’s an example of what each damaged good may be costing you.
Assuming that your average international shipping cost is $15; and let’s say one in ten packages arrives damaged. Your business has to pay return shipping on the package, use more labor to send out the goods and still take a loss on the package. When you consider the base cost of the good, let’s say around $50, plus the $15 you just lost in re-shipping, it ends up costing you around $65 for each package that arrives damaged!
Is this really a sustainable business practice? Thankfully, this expense can be avoided by following the steps outlined above.
Protecting your goods from damage during shipping is best done using a three-step plan of:
- Assessing the product to be shipped
- Evaluating available packaging options
- Finding the best fit, in terms of function and cost
Regardless of which shipping provider you use, it’s in YOUR best interest to assume that your goods WILL get tossed, dropped, shoved around. Your customers will listen to ANY excuses as they expect their packages to arrive intact.
It’s true that even after all this preparation, some incidents (like the FedEx deliveryman) simply can’t be prevented.
But with proper packaging, you can reduce the number of your products that get damaged during shipping.
Sellers should also be aware that the cheapest packaging option does not always mean the cheapest overall cost.
By creating (and following) a packaging best practices plan for your product, you can minimize shipping damages.
One of the points in to get your shipping verified by, for example, Floship’s FCLP evaluation checking that our partners have a plan to test the final packaging of their product, to ensure it is not damaged during shipping.
Contact Floship now and learn how we can use the right packaging to minimize costs, prevent damage, and leave your customers with a good impression of your business.