* Article originally published on 18/01/2019 *
* Updated on 19.04.2020 *

How to reconcile packaging aesthetics with maximum protection against product damage? Is it possible to design this process without breaking the company’s budget, and at the same time, improve the appearance of the order to create a positive customer experience?

In this article, we suggest how to plan the required materials and what you should include in the location of online packaging orders. We also reveal in which areas optimizing the packaging of orders is worth the effort and helps to avoid unnecessary costs.

Who packs your orders?

The most important question is who packs the packages in a given online store. In many smaller and growing businesses, the store owner might be doing this on their own – at this stage of their business activity, there’s nobody employed to help yet. However, in medium-sized stores, the packaging is often included in the duties of the employee responsible for the entire order picking process – picking, box marking, and packaging. Employing dedicated people for packaging is a “luxury” that only larger stores can afford. However, this solution allows for advanced packaging, e.g., according to branding guidelines – using special paper, adding personalized inserts, notes, and even spraying materials with perfume.

There are different approaches to this. However, those who have faced this area of operation will admit that the unoptimized packaging of eCommerce orders can lead to shipping delays and a lot of unnecessary costs. That is why (and, of course, not only because of this), online stores decide to outsource logistics.

For many owners of growing online stores, an increased number of orders means overtime work. In such circumstances, it is difficult to find time for other important duties and even more to reconcile the care about packaging aesthetics and product safety.

The key is optimization

We often think that the packaging should be maximally adapted to each type of product we sell. As a result, we use several types of cardboard boxes, which is more than necessary. The boxes may differ slightly from each other. Their size may be larger or smaller by several centimeters. Some of them may be square, some rectangular.

Packing online store orders in a way that includes a wide selection of custom-made boxes with natural fill, prepared personally by one of the decision-makers in the company, doesn’t help in the development of the brand. On the contrary – it steals its potential.

Example: Does each product require special packaging?

Online stores that offer a wide range of products only seemingly need an extensive packaging set. For example, let’s imagine a store “X” sells hundreds of products: cosmetics, care equipment, and textiles, such as towels and blankets. For such an extensive offer, the store owner is considering ordering a set of boxes in 10 different sizes. But is such differentiation and a wide selection of packaging really profitable for the store? Will it facilitate the efficient packing of orders?

When choosing a package, of course, we should be guided by what we are going to pack in it. For heavier products, the box must have the right number of layers and weight. Consider this: the so-called creasing in cardboard boxes (several variants of bending) after folding allow us to use several types of boxes in different variants, differing from each other by several centimeters.

It turns out that the choice of, for example, three main carton sizes for packaging orders, allows negotiating a more favorable rate, even on the largest package. Recommended sizes are as follows:

  • small cardboard – 250 x 150 x 100 mm
  • medium carton – 400 x 200 x 200 mm
  • large cardboard – 600 x 400 x 400 mm

The added benefit of a limited number of packages means a simpler choice for the person responsible for packing orders. This speeds up the work and translates into increased warehouse capacity and more efficient order packaging.

What type of packaging should I choose?

If there is a lot of free space inside the box, the package should have adequate protection, preventing the product from moving inside it. Here we have a choice of traditional bubble-free film and the so-called chips used for smaller, delicate, or sharp objects. Chips made of flexible materials are one of the forms of loose fillings. They’re available in several variants, some of which are biodegradable.

Other, more eco-friendly, and commonly used fillings are cardboard fragments. Some stores use more aesthetic materials, giving a higher quality filling, they are paper shavings or eco wood wool – both materials work best with smaller packages with small products, for instance, cosmetics.

Currently, an increasing number of our clients choose or switch to eco-friendly packaging and fillings. We wrote more about this in this article: Ecological packaging in eCommerce – what do consumers expect? [+ EXAMPLES]

As part of the filling, we can also add internal cardboard compartments that allow you to separate products from each other. This type of filling is used with bottles (for example, wine) or other glass sets (like jars). The most popular internal protections used in larger packages are plastic pillows of various sizes. They are filled with air to effectively immobilize the products in the package.

Packages for eCommerce

Do you want to plan your packing costs better? We have prepared a price list of fillings and 3 recommended sizes of eCommerce boxes for subscribers of our newsletter. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive this price list.

By downloading this PDF you are joining Omnipack newsletter.

Should every online store use all types of materials? If the assortment is wide enough to contain both earrings and an armchair – then, naturally, the fillings we use must be more diverse. However, when the assortment is more homogeneous, two types of cartons and fillings will suffice to ensure proper depreciation of products inside the package.

Rafał Szczczeswski, COO and founder of Omnipack:

When we set the packaging rules for the Westwing store, we followed the principle of less is better. Westwing is known for having a very wide range of products, from ceramics and glass, through textiles, to furniture – for instance, sofas. Considering Westwing’s thousands of products, it seemed that we needed a whole range of materials. In reality, we used about eight types of cardboard boxes. Of these, warehouse staff most often use four main, universal cardboard boxes that worked perfectly.

It turns out that this approach facilitates the work of the employee responsible for packaging and significantly reduces the time it takes to implement new employees. In a well-planned system, it’s enough to present the rules that an employee should follow in this position and a few hours of working together so that a person can pack orders independently and faultlessly.

But there is also an additional financial benefit from the reduction of materials. Calculating costs with small, medium, and large packaging is much more predictable. This restriction allows us to monitor costs and accurately determine the amount we spend on preparing the order for shipment.

How do you choose a material supplier, and why only one?

It’s best to find a supplier who will provide us with boxes for packaging parcels, fillings, as well as tape and stickers. Why is this so important? Ordering from the same source will help us reduce the number of invoices. It will also save the time we dedicate to agreeing on the terms of cooperation.

When commissioning the preparation of materials to many suppliers, we have to reckon with another duty: ensuring the care of all deadlines and more accurate tracking of inventory levels. Cooperation with many suppliers also makes building business relationships harder – when ordering small volumes of one type of product, we don’t become a large customer, but only one of many. Despite regular orders, we don’t get the opportunity to negotiate more favorable rates.