Packing Tips To Avoid Damaged Goods And Customer Returns

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Always protect the goods! 1 in 100 packages shipped annually by UPS or FedEx are reported as lost or damaged. Considering together the two carriers ship almost 8 billion packages per year, that’s almost 8 million packages on the receiving end of some extra tough love. 
In general, the main risks that cause damage to goods are:

  1. Getting dropped
  2. Heavy vibration from conveyor belts and trucks
  3. Getting compressed (i.e., squished) from stacking or sudden movement 
  4. Humidity and temperature changes

Depending on the fragility of your goods, you should first evaluate what is required for full protection. Take into account the type of box material, packaging materials (e.g., styrofoam aka ‘packing peanuts’), etc., and compare that to the cost of repair/refund for a damaged item. Note that while you can save some money using cheaper alternatives for packing, you may pay more in the long run if items are frequently damaged on their way to customers. 

Tips to Avoid Damaged Goods

Whether it’s thrown around in transit, dropped down chutes and conveyors, or subject to the harsh elements, retailers must consider these packing tips to avoid the headaches of customer refunds and returns caused by lost or damaged goods.

Tip #1 – Fragile Product? Double Up.

Fragile products must not have room to shift around during transport. To prevent fragile products from breaking, we recommend one of the following:

  • Use ample amounts of packaging materials (see below) in a right-fit box, 
  • Ship multiple items in one box using compartments
  • Box-in-a-box packaging for added protection and branding opportunities

Consider the following packaging materials for impact protection:

  • Polybag: Cheap, sealed plastic bag. Prevents water damage, but no structural strength.
  • Jiffy bag: Like a polybag with added cushioning 
  • Bubble wrap and air cushions – although it can get expensive, bubble wrap and air cushions provides total coverage
  • Brown paper and void fill materials – the cheaper alternative, brown paper and styrofoam packing peanuts are easily scrunched up to fill voids in packaging; however, it can collapse easier than bubble wrap on long journeys
  • Single-ply corrugated roll – Line thin cardboard boxes and wrap bottles with this to increase impact resistance

Tip #2 – Heavy Products? Wall Up.

Heavy products could deform or collapse weak boxes when stacked. That’s why it’s important to know a box’s ECT (Edge Crush Test) rating, which is the amount of weight that can be stacked on a box wall before it deforms and collapses. When shipping small and medium sized products, single-walled boxes provide enough support. As for larger, heavier products, only use double- or triple-walled corrugated boxes depending on the fragility and value of your items.

Tip #3 – Shipping Liquids? Bag up.

For liquids, perfumes, aerosols, especially those that come in easily breakable containers, most carriers advise that they are shipped separately when possible, using padded poly bags or jiffy envelopes.

Tip #4 – Take a Picture of Your Package Contents Before You Ship

Before handing off any package to a carrier, we recommend taking a picture of the package contents and condition. That way, you have proof in case a carrier tries to shift blame to your warehouse processes.

That’s why ShipHero created a feature that allows warehouses and fulfillment centers to seamlessly take snapshots of packages before completing the packing and shipping. To use ParcelView, you simply set up a camera and scan a barcode, and the image is automatically uploaded to the order. It fits right into your pick and pack processes and gives you the liability protection you need.

Tip #5 – Create a Best Practices Guide

Depending on the item value and size, create a playbook for your warehouse workers and packers so they can use the correct packaging every time. This ensures that products aren’t damaged in transit and also saves you money from over-packing.

Wrap It Up

By following these 5 tips, you’ll effectively reduce the likelihood of your goods getting damaged in transit from your fulfillment center or warehouse. This will not only help your bottom line, but will also avoid complications from returned products. Goods, protected.

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