Understanding Shipping Labels
It can often be a surprise when a delivery from China rocks up to the UK within 3 or so days of ordering it, especially with the 10,000km distance separating the two countries.
Consumers are often quick to overlook the complex process that goes into the journey of a delivery; as long as the package arrives, what more do you need to know? However, in the world of multi-channel e-commerce, it is crucial to learn about the process of shipping deliveries. This article explores the importance of a shipping label throughout the entire shipping procedure. This may appear insignificant compared to other crucial stages during shipping, but its value should not be understated.
What is a Shipping Label?
Shipping labels are used to identify a package and specify what is inside. While different carriers may use slightly different labels, they pretty much all show the relevant addresses and names, etc.
A shipping label is often placed at the top or front of a package, often taped to the parcel for security. They are a fundamental feature in any e-commerce business for several reasons: to keep up with the demands of the supply chain, to deliver parcels to a time-effective standard, and to ensure accurate delivery to the correct customer. Not hitting the mark on any of these may lead to grave financial losses for your business or result in negative reviews.
What is Included in a Shipping Label?
So, what should be included in a shipping label to prevent any of these scenarios from taking place? The label should contain important information that helps to directly identify the package: for example, the destination, weight, the carrier’s name, the recipient, and so on.
Here is a full rundown on what should be included:
Name and address of the sender
Normally including a return address to help return the parcel in an instance of non-delivery.
Name and address of recipient
Identifying the intended destination for the parcel.
Package weight could include:
– products being shipped
– any extra packaging that is used
– weight of the package itself
This is a maxicode designed to be identified by a machine no matter the direction.
Sometimes known as an IMpb (Intelligent Mail package barcode), this is a scannable zip code for the recipient.
Including details of the mode of shipping, for example: priority, standard, or express.
This explains the route of the package.
This can be used by customers to track the progress of their package online.
All of this information will be automatically printed on a label if you use a carrier’s website to print labels or a shipping software like Veeqo.
How to Create a Shipping Label?
It can often be found in e-commerce that it is more cost-effective to create your own shipping labels as opposed to paying for them from a carrier, especially if your business only ships a small number of packages each week. Paying for postage at only a retail rate is an expensive and time-consuming route to go down, wasting your time as you wait in a queue to post and ship your deliveries. It is crucial for your business to invent a quick and efficient way to utilize your time effectively.
The easiest way to do this is by creating a shipping label yourself as this will enable you to take advantage of any postage discounts whilst allowing for pickup arrangements with your carrier from your home. This can be done either by printing a shipping label through a carrier’s website or by creating the label with shipping software solutions.
Veeqo allows e-commerce businesses to ship, and manage, customer orders with the perks of discounted shipping rates. Veeqo also has other features such as bulk label printing, one-click printing, automated workflows, and supports international shipping.
Carrier Shipping Label Printers
There are online services, offered by separate carriers, that can be useful for e-commerce fulfilment. Although they may not always be the quickest method of labelling, for smaller businesses, with a low capacity of packages they are perfect. To get started, visit the carrier’s website, complete the shipping label template, download the file, and then send it to print.
Some of the major sites for reference are:
Can I use Software to Create Shipping Labels?
Shipping software is a truly indispensable way to bulk print shipping labels in just one-click, whilst also being one of the most affordable ways to ship your products. There are some software solutions out there that specialize just in shipping labels and some that offer broader shipping options.
However, if you are a smaller ecommerce business looking to grow or a more established retailer with complex fulfilment needs, these are unlikely to be suitable for your needs. Instead, you will need a solution that covers the entire fulfilment process.
How to get Shipping Labels Right
Here are some important tips to help ensure your shipping label is accurate and the package arrives on time.
Depending on the size or frailty of the product, it may be important to include special instructions on your parcel (such as telling the driver to leave it on the porch). This enables the packers to handle your package safely, ensuring the order arrives to the customer in pristine condition.
This is an important thing to remember as the label placement needs to be situated perfectly for visibility. Labels should usually be put on top of your parcel, completely visible and unfolded to ensure it can be scanned. Try and make sure that the label is smoothed down with bumps flattened and, if you decide to use tape over the top, make sure that the whole label remains visible.
Include a packing slip
Packing slips go inside the parcel, containing information regarding the items, the customer’s address, the order date, the number of items, and so on. The slips are essential for a good e-commerce seller as it helps provide the customer with additional information in case they may need to return or refund their items.
Setting Yourself up for Success
Get quality weighing scales
A great quality weighing scale will help calculate the weight of your package to ensure you select the most accurate shipping service and package type for the order.
Some services/package types have weight limits and it is important you stick to these limits. For example, if you under-declare your weight or select the wrong service, the carrier will charge you more. And, If you over-estimate the weight of your package and select a service with a higher weight limit, you’re spending more money than you need to.
This is why weighing scales are important to ecommerce fulfillment.
Use a thermal printer for labels
Thermal printers produce shipping labels at a rapid pace and for companies with a high demand, it is a cost-effective way to generate shipping labels.
Print in bulk
Print shipping labels in bulk to fulfill your orders more efficiently and deliver parcels to customers on time.
Integrate your labels
Integrate your labels by including a returns label, invoice, and a packing slip. As a result, it becomes convenient to integrate this all together as it reduces room for errors.
Shipping label FAQs
Do I Have to Pay for Shipping Labels?
Shipping labels are free to create but you will need to pay for the postage in order to ship your package.
What is a Prepaid Shipping Label?
If items or packages are being returned due to refunds or repairs, some companies will pay for the shipping label in advance. This is completed by sending a prepaid shipping label to the recipient’s address to stick to your parcel or through a web address to then print it out at home.
Are There Specific Size Requirements for Shipping Labels?
Typically, the standard size for a shipping label is 4” x 6” but this may sometimes depend on the carriers. Ensure you check with your carrier if you’re creating your own shipping label to make sure it complies with their requirements.
Do you have any more guides I could read?
Yes! We have the following shipping related guides:
- What is order fulfillment?
- What is dunnage?
- Small business shipping guide
- How to reduce shipping costs
- How to calculate shipping costs
- What is product bundling?
About the author
Rithu Rajan is a Product Manager at Veeqo. She’s helped design and launch B2B products in four countries. She’s now focused on simplifying ecommerce shipping for growing businesses. No longer does she take the prompt arrival of her online purchases for granted.