How do Shipping Labels Work and How to Create One?

two men pointing at parts of a shipping label

If you’re new to the world of eCommerce or shipping, you might be wondering what shipping labels are and how they work. Shipping labels are an essential component of any shipping process, whether you’re shipping items to customers or sending packages to family and friends. They provide critical information to carriers and allow your package to be routed to its destination accurately. Without them, your packages could get lost! 

What is a Shipping Label?

A shipping label is a sticker or tag you attach to a package or envelope you are sending to someone. It includes important information like the recipient’s address, the sender’s address, and the weight of the package. These addresses and packing information help the shipping carriers know where to send the package and how much it weighs so they can charge you the correct shipping rates. Shipping labels can come in many different shapes and sizes, and they can be printed on a variety of materials. Some common types of shipping labels include peel-and-stick labels, integrated labels, and label sheets that you can print on using a regular printer.

What is the Purpose of a Shipping Label?

The purpose of a shipping label is pretty straightforward – it’s basically a way to make sure your package gets to where it needs to go! Think of a shipping label as a sort of “travel guide” for your package. It includes all the important information that the carrier needs to know in order to get your package to its final destination. This might include the recipient’s name and address, the weight of the package, and any special handling instructions that need to be followed.

Why are they Important for eCommerce?

Shipping labels are essential for eCommerce businesses because they provide a quick and efficient way to manage the shipping process. By using shipping labels, eCommerce businesses can streamline their shipping operations, and project a professional image to customers. We all know how important customer satisfaction is when it comes to an eCommerce business, and having a streamlined delivery process with clear packing slips helps the process. Shipping labels can help speed up white glove fulfillment so packages are delivered to the correct address, reducing the risk of mis-delivery or lost packages. Additionally, shipping labels can help eCommerce businesses save money on shipping costs by accurately calculating the weight and dimensions of the contents within the package, which helps carriers charge the correct shipping fees. 

How Do Shipping Labels Work

Shipping labels work by providing critical information about a package or shipment to carriers, including its origin, destination, weight, and any special handling instructions. Once the package is in transit, carriers use the information on the shipping label to quickly route the package to its intended destination. This might be done through shipping software where the carrier uses barcode technology to scan the labels at various checkpoints along the way to verify the package is moving in the right direction. Once the package reaches its destination, the shipping label and the barcodes included on it are used to identify the recipient and ensure the package is delivered to the correct address. This might involve the carrier companies obtaining a signature from the recipient to confirm delivery, depending on the type of shipping service that was used.

How to Create a Shipping Label

Here are some necessary steps to take when creating your own shipping label: 

  1. Gather the necessary information: To create a shipping label, you’ll need to gather information about the recipient’s address, the weight and dimensions of the package, and any special handling instructions. There are many shipping label templates available online to help you get started. 
  2. Choose a shipping carrier: Decide which shipping carrier you’ll be using to ship your package. You can choose from a variety of carriers, including USPS, FedEx, and UPS, depending on your preferences and shipping needs. This could include overnight shipping, or options such as 2-day or 3-day shipping. 
  3. Create the label: There are several ways to create a shipping label, including using a carrier’s online shipping tool, a third-party shipping platform, or machine such as a label printer in your own office. Follow the instructions for the method you’ve chosen to input the necessary information, such as the recipient’s address, the weight and dimensions of the package, and any special handling instructions.
  4. Print the label: Once you’ve created the label with the customer information and shipping information, you’ll need to print it out. If you’re using a carrier’s online shipping tool, you can usually print the label directly from the website. If you’re using a third-party platform, you may need to download and print the label separately.
  5. Affix the label: Once you’ve printed the label, you’ll need to affix it to the outside of the package. Make sure the label is securely attached and the information is legible and easy to read.
  6. Hand off the package: Once the label is attached, you can hand off the package to your chosen carrier for delivery.

What Info goes on a Shipping Label?

A shipping label typically includes the following information:

  1. Recipient’s name and address: This is the person or organization the package is being shipped to.
  2. Sender’s name and address: This is the person or organization who is sending the package and helps the carrier identify who the package is coming from.
  3. Shipping service and tracking number: This information tells the carrier which shipping service was used (e.gUSPS Priority Mail, FedEx Ground, etc.) and provides a tracking number to be used to track the package’s progress during transit.
  4. Package weight and dimensions: This information is used to calculate the shipping cost and helps the carrier determine how to handle the package during transit.
  5. Special handling instructions: This might include information about how the package should be handled (e.g., “Fragile” or “Do Not Bend”), or any other special instructions the carrier company needs to know about.

How To Print Shipping Labels

Printing a shipping label is a relatively simple process that can be done using a few different methods. One common way to print a shipping label is to use an online shipping tool provided by the carrier you’re using. To do this, simply navigate to the carrier’s website, log in to your account, and follow the instructions for creating a new shipment. Once you’ve inputted all the necessary information, you should be able to preview and print the label directly from the website. Another option is to use a third-party shipping platform, such as ShipHero or Shippo, which can help simplify the shipping process and allow you to print labels for multiple carriers from a single dashboard. Whichever method you choose, make sure the label is printed clearly and legibly, and all necessary information is included.

Where To Put Shipping Labels On The Box

The best place to put a shipping label on a box is on the largest, flattest surface of the package, ideally the top or one of the sides. Make sure the label is affixed securely and all of the information is legible and easy to read. Avoid placing the label on a seam or a corner, as this can make it difficult for people to scan the label or for the information to be easily read.

Shipping Label Best Practices

Here are some best practices to keep in mind when creating and using shipping labels:

Use legible and accurate information

Make sure all of the information on the label is easy to read and accurate, including the recipient’s address, the weight and dimensions of the package, and any special handling instructions.

Use a high-quality printer

This way the label is clear and easy to read, use a high-quality printer with good ink or toner. 

Affix the label securely

Make sure the label is affixed securely to the package and it won’t fall off during transit. Use adhesive tape or label protectors to help keep the label in place.

Avoid covering up or obscuring the label

Make sure there are no other labels or markings on the package which might obscure the shipping label or cause confusion for the carrier.

Check carrier requirements

Each carrier may have specific requirements for shipping labels, such as minimum font size or placement on the package. Check the carrier’s guidelines to ensure you’re following their requirements.

Consider using a label printer

Using a label printer can help ensure your ink won’t smear, and your labels are consistently high-quality and can save time compared to printing labels on a regular printer.

Key Takeaways

Shipping labels are a crucial part of any shipping process, and they provide critical information to carriers and by allowing packages to be routed to their intended destination accurately. eCommerce businesses, in particular, rely on shipping labels to streamline their supply chain and shipping operations and provide a positive customer experience through the logistics process. And, by following best practices, you can ensure your shipping labels are accurate, legible, and easy to read so they arrive at their destination smoothly. 

Shipping Labels FAQs

Is Shipping Cheaper if You Print Your Own Labels?

Printing your own shipping labels can often be cheaper because carriers offer discounted rates for online shipping tools or third-party shipping platforms. This saves you money on shipping costs and avoids additional fees for manually processing shipments or printing labels at retail locations. However, savings will depend on factors like package size, weight, shipping service, and location. Compare rates and options from different carriers to find the most cost-effective solution.

Can I Just Tape a Shipping Label?

It is not recommended to just tape a shipping label onto a package. Shipping labels should be affixed securely to the package using adhesive that is appropriate for the surface of the package. This ensures the label stays in place during transit and can be easily read by the carrier. If a label is only taped to a package, it can easily become detached or damaged, which can cause delays or result in the package being lost.

Is It Free to Create a Shipping Label?

Creating a shipping label may or may not be free depending on the carrier you’re using and the method you choose. Some carriers offer free online shipping tools that allow you to create and print shipping labels from your computer, while others may charge a fee for this service. Additionally, some carriers may offer free shipping labels as part of a promotion or discount program, while others may charge a fee for each label printed.

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