eCommerce Insiders

The Frightening Consequences Of Poor Product Packaging

Does the condition of a box or shipping material really matter, as long as the customer receives their product within a reasonable amount of time?


Not only is this an issue that matters, this is an issue that could generate negative branding and relationship consequences, unless your shipping and fulfillment team takes a proactive approach in handling your customer’s packages with care.

Below are some of the most common shipping fails, and how they’ll affect your company:

Damaged Packing

Damaged packaging takes place in one of two ways:

– The package was damaged during the fulfillment process.

– The package became damaged by the shipping courier.

No matter why the package became damaged, shoppers aren’t interested in excuses! They expect for their packages to arrive intact, both inside and outside. Ripped and damaged packaging speaks of poor care for the product, and the customer.

This is a definite turn-off for shoppers, and damaged packaging ultimately hurts the brand shipping the product.

George Yarusavage, CTL, C.P.M., and Principal in Fortress Consulting, published a list of considerations on Parcel Industry’s blog that will help you to avoid the issue of damaged packaging, and angry customers:

1. Assume that whatever you ship via any carrier will be tossed, kicked, dropped, shoved, stacked, and generally roughed up.

Do you remember the last time the plane you were on made a rough landing? Imagine how that felt to the airfreight in the cargo hold under your feet – without the cushion of a seat.

*Writers note: At the very least, packages will take a beating in the cargo planes from one distribution center to the next.

2. Assume that any handling instructions or warnings written on your box will be ignored.

“Fragile”, “This End Up”, “Top Load Only”, etc. might as well be written in Klingon, as most package handling today is done by machines. At best, the delivering driver MIGHT notice such instructions, but by then the damage is done.

3. Pick the right size box. If you simply drop an item (or two, or ten) into an oversized box, allowing it to rattle around, then only a loose collection of smashed and broken parts will be delivered.

*Writer’s note: Imagine the recipient’s anger and surprise when they open their box!

4. Properly secure each item inside its shipping container. Ideally, the box should protect your goods the way your shoes protect your feet, and socks are worn to absorb the shock on your foot.

In shipping, the socks can be the item’s original packaging (first choice), plastic peanuts, bubble wrap, or other shock-absorbing materials. Also, make sure that the material you use, whether virgin or recycled, is recyclable.

5. Select a package strong enough to survive scenario # 1. FedEx, UPS, and even the Post Office provide a number of expertly designed packages – for free.

This includes sturdy envelopes, boxes, tubes, special laptop boxes, and others. All are described in detail in each carrier’s shipping guide, available at their respective websites.

6. Before re-using old packaging, be sure that it’s intact and can protect its contents as if it was brand new. When in doubt, find another package and retire the old, worn-out packaging material.


Packaging That’s Too Small

Occasionally, a package will be shipped out in a container or wrapper that’s too small. This usually takes place when the retailer offers free shipping, or when a customer opts for economical shipping in exchange for waiting longer for their delivery.

When a product is shipped in a package that’s too small, the product either becomes next to impossible to remove from the box, or if it’s shipped with multiple products, then there’s a greater chance for the items inside to become broken or damaged.

If the product is simply wrapped in shipping paper or some other sort of non-boxed packaging, then the package will probably rip or tear, exposing the product to outdoor elements and dirt during the shipping process. Worse, when the product’s shipping wrapping is ripped or torn, then the product inside could become mildewed if it’s exposed to water, or moist, humid conditions.

Packaging That’s Too Large

On the other hand, products that are shipped in boxes that are too large simply annoy the customer. For starters, if the customer ordered small products, then they don’t want to receive a shipping package from their mail carrier, forcing them to make an unnecessary trip to the post office when a delivery to their mailbox would have sufficed.

Additionally, throwing a customer’s products inside oversized packaging shows the customer that the fulfillment center is careless. Again, this hurts the brand’s perception, and it kills credibility.

The Real Cost Of Improper Packaging

Mike Stolzer, VP of Sales, Packaging and Fulfillment for Veritiv makes things very clear in the May 2015 issue of Internet Retailer:

While speedy fulfillment is important to customers, it means nothing if their orders arrive damaged…When a package fails, it usually leads to a return, and processing returns is a big cost for retailers.

It costs money for a company to pay customer service reps to process angry telephone calls (or emails) from customers who have spent money, and now, they’re experiencing the frustration and anxiety of needing to return a product.

It also costs money to send return shipping labels to customers that allows them to ship the damaged products back at the expense of the company. Worse of all, it costs the company a possible lifetime customer.

And, there’s no way to put a price tag on the amount of positive publicity that’s lost when an angry customer warns their friends and family members not to shop with the negligent retailer.

Here’s a quote from an anonymous online retailer who specializes in selling French furnishings:

Packaging was never a real priority for my business until I experienced a spate of returns for one item which had unusual dimensions. The time, not to mention sales lost as a result of this made me realize I needed to invest a bit more time looking at my packaging requirements.

I now consider the packaging as part of my marketing and I believe it’s helped to build my repeat customer base.

Fortunately, avoiding these consequences are simple.

First, understand that the sales process doesn’t end the moment that a customer renders their credit card information. Second, take a proactive approach at learning how your fulfillment center packages products. Then, use the best-quality carriers that care about your customers as much as you do.

Remind yourself: you have worked too hard to attract customers just to lose them due to shoddy shipping issues!

Terri is a content marketing storyteller and strategist. She teaches marketing and entrepreneurship through stories for marketers of all stripes. Her specialty is creating narrative and she writes essays and memoir in her spare time.

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