Packaging and Shipping News

Packaging and Shipping News

Today’s problem / opportunity: packaging a product that’s likely to be distributed chiefly by mail, you start to think about a lot of things:

  • shipping costs (passed on to your customers)
  • the experience of receiving the item and opening it
  • protecting the item in transit
  • providing tracking info to customers
  • resolving delivery issues

When I first approached the problem, I knew what I wanted to do: I would use a stiff cardboard post-consumer recycled envelope. People get it in the mail and they appreciate the look of it, the fact that the package is easy to open: they can reuse the cardboard envelope (since it’s stiff it protects things like paper documents, or can be used to remail).

So I looked at envelopes: I selected the ones that were just large enough for a single bag, thinking that most orders would be single-item or 3+ items, and that custom boxes may be used for 3 or more items. I was tempted by the envelopes with peel-and-stick closures. I was tempted by envelopes with zip-strip openers. But both of these seemed to not fulfill the original idea of recycled and recyclable / reusable packaging. The peel-and-stick uses a not-so-great space-age adhesive, and yields a throw-away cover strip. The zip-strip is not reusable and the strip is (again) plastic). So I bought a bunch of these stiff envelopes with no adhesive and no zip-strip.  I developed a folding pattern that would let the bag sit comfortably (and flatly) in the container. I used ordinary Elmer’s glue to seal the package. See the result below:

I shipped a few of these out (my mom and Chelse). They arrived in good shape, and the experience of opening was good. So then for the next batch I did more, and took a bunch of these down to the post office, where I got educated about USPS rates. All my packages came in at, like, 13.6 ounces. If an envelope package comes in at less than 13 ounces, it qualifies for a letter (instead of a package) rate. The difference (for US shipping) is, like $2 versus $6. So, in order to see where the weight was coming from, I weighed the bag and carton separately.

Carton with bag: .85 pounds (=13.6 ounces). Carton alone: .30 pounds (=4.8 ounces).

So, if I switch to plastic packaging, I can easily shave off 2 oz, pay less for the packaging and the shipping (and lower the cost of ordering the bag), while also worrying less about the bag becoming stained or water damaged in transit. Plastic shipping wrap could also be a better way to store the bags in inventory (again, protecting from stain, water damage and sealing out moist air).

But I don’t like using plastic, and I think it compromises the experience of opening the package when it arrives (which I think is pretty nice at present).

Any ideas?

Coming soon in a post: how will I handle my first ‘I didn’t get your package’ complaint? How will I enable customers to track their shipments?

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