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Damaged merchandise leads to a damaged reputation. The cost and disappointment associated with products that arrive damaged can be impossible for a brand to bounce back from. Brands are on the hook for replacing a product, covering return shipping, managing expectations of disappointed customers, and doing damage control against poor online reviews. With nearly 84% of consumers saying that they trust online reviews more than the opinions of friends, your customers are often being directly influenced by the people who have the worst experiences with your products. It can all be averted with a better packaging plan.

Brands that are losing money due to returns and poor perception can’t afford not to reevaluate their packaging plans. According to marketing researchers, 30% of items purchased online are returned. A big factor behind this phenomenon is that products don’t always arrive as advertised. Items don’t need to be fragile to get put “through the wringer” by the shipping experience. Take a look at the packaging tips brands can use for damage-free shipping every time.

1. Fill in Empty Space

“Nothing” can create big problems for product integrity. That’s because empty space is actually dangerous for products. The big issue with empty space is jostling. Products that are placed in boxes that are too large will inevitably be tossed around during transport and shipping. The lack of padding can have two results.

The first result is a visibly damaged product that has detached parts or components by the time the package is opened by the customer. The second result is a product with invisible damage to its components. While a product may appear normal, the customer will inevitably discover that it doesn’t work properly. The second type of damage is far more frustrating for brands because they are unable to verify where in the product’s life cycle the damage occurred. This actually creates headaches for production and quality control because it’s necessary to consider that there is a widespread product defect. Using appropriate padding to prevent shifting and jostling during shipping can eliminate non-factory product defects.

There are two ways to fill in empty space in a box. The first is to simply audit box size to ensure that appropriate dimensions are being used. The built-in perk of using a smaller box to create a more secure fit is that shipping charges will be reduced. The second solution is to use filler to pad the area surrounding the product. Airbags, packing peanuts, and shredded kraft paper are all viable options. Extremely fragile items can benefit from being encased in foam. It’s also important for brands to keep in mind that boxes aren’t the only types of packaging that can benefit from some added insulation. Making a simple upgrade from standard mailers to bubble mailers can help to protect smaller items with a very minimal price increase per shipped item.

2. Use Proper Labeling

Many newer shippers learn the hard way that shipping companies don’t treat each item they handle as fragile by default. A package that is shipped to a customer comes into contact with a wide variety of people throughout the supply chain. One of the easiest ways to ensure that a package is handled properly is to include a “fragile materials inside” label. While this solution may seem overly simplistic, the visual reminder can be extremely effective for shielding a box against improper handling. It’s important for brands to create high-visibility labels that can be applied easily and uniformly to packaged items. Brands should also consider labels that indicate the intended vertical direction for each package. Products that can be damaged from being positioned the wrong way can greatly benefit from this very simple directional cue.

3. Protect Packages Against the Elements

It’s easy to get caught up in the risks of improper handling when deploying packages through shipping channels. However, jostling and falls aren’t the only dangers. Packages are highly vulnerable to factors like temperature changes, moisture, and inclement weather at every stage of shipping. Most packages will change shipping facilities and trucks several times before ultimately being left on an outdoor porch.

It should be assumed that packaging will encounter harsh weather. Brands need to design packaging accordingly. Packages that are not fortified against the elements are vulnerable to:

  • Warping.
  • Corrosion.
  • Mold.
  • Splits and rips caused by dampness.

The first line of defense is to simply use a sturdier box that can stand up against moisture and temperature changes. In addition, many brands use desiccants in packaging to help products stay dry. While desiccants can’t necessarily protect the exterior of the box from becoming damp, they can help to reduce moisture levels in the interior of the box much faster to prevent dampness and water damage.

4. Insulate Food Products Against Pests

The stakes are slightly higher for brands and vendors shipping food products. Unfortunately, places like warehouse environments, the interiors of cargo areas, and front porches all make food products vulnerable to pests and critters. Rodents and bugs can quickly identify food sources in dark, damp environments. It’s often very easy for critters to burrow into boxes to reach food products. The problem is more common with overseas shipments that involve several days spent traveling on large freight ships. It’s very important to invest in sturdy packaging that will not break easily with burrowing. In addition to choosing sturdier packaging, it may also be necessary to add special seals that prevent animals from crawling inside.

5. Include Theft Deterrents

Replacing a product represents the same cost regardless of why the product is being replaced. This is why deterring product theft is every bit as important as deterring product damage. Properly sealing packaging to make it very difficult for someone to “reach in” without using tools to open a box is the first line of defense. Many thieves are simply looking for opportunities to slink away with stolen goods discreetly instead of walking away with a bulky box. A highly branded box can also be a good theft deterrent because it’s very hard to be discreet when a box draws attention.

6. Prevent Breaks, Cracks or “Explosions” From Ruining the Entire Order

It sometimes takes one weakest link in a larger order to ruin everything. This is especially true when it comes to products that contain liquids. The best strategy for preventing a ripple effect if one product should fail is to always carefully wrap individual products in cushioning material. In addition to creating a soft buffer, cushioning materials will also protect individual items in a shipment in the event that one item “goes bad” during shipping.

7. Choose the Best Packaging for the Type of Product Being Shipped

Each box should appear “custom made” for the product it’s holding. The easiest way to achieve this is to use a variety of box sizes as part of a larger packaging plan. Here are some tips for matching packaging with products for shipping success:

  • Have a System for Determining the Right Package Size for Each Product: While it’s obvious why a box that allows a product to bounce around is a bad thing, it’s also important to know why tight fits are bad. A box that is too small can create stress and stretching that ultimately cause a box to tear the corners.
  • Choose Packaging by Product Type: The general rule is that breakable products need as many layers as possible. It’s also important to have enough room for added padding that will restrict movement.
  • Create an Equation for Choosing Packaging by Product Weight: While there’s a temptation to use lightweight boxes to save on shipping costs with heavier items, the likelihood of a lightweight box tearing is high. It’s wise to stick to a plan that assigns boxes made of plywood or strong corrugated cardboard to products above a certain weight threshold.
  • Balance the Higher Packaging Costs for Heavier Items With Lightweight Packaging at the Right Times: Balance out the higher cost of using sturdier packaging for heavier items by using cost-effective options like paperboard and chipboard for lightweight products.

Making sure the best packaging is being used every single time is a multi-tiered process. The first step is to source a lineup of packaging that matches a brand’s complete product line. The second step is to create an automated, operation-wide plan for assigning the right packaging to specific products based on weight or breakability.

Make a Plan to Reduce Product Damage

Don’t deliver a bad impression for your customers because you don’t have your plan for using the right packaging fleshed out. The right packaging can reduce product damage to protect your brand’s bottom line from unnecessary accidents during the shipping process. Contact Mid-Atlantic Packaging for a custom quote today!