Shipping is a process involving the package, shipping label, transportation to shipping service, and sharing shipping info with the customer- importantly, the tracking number.
Overall, you want this process to be fast, cheap, and monitored so as to avoid double shipping and to resolve complaints promptly.
Shipping is one of the key entrepreneurial barriers for hardware businesses. It is often poorly understood and is a common source of inefficiency for start-ups executing direct distribution.
ULINE is a popular North American distributor of supplies for shipping and logistics.
I recommend the use of literature mailer boxes when shipping small to medium-sized products. These boxes seal themselves with their folded tabs instead of tape. They are a clean, simple, cost-effective internal container that provides secondary protection and doubles as a convenient storage case for the end-user. Mailer boxes should generally be used in combination with a normal envelope or shipping box or external sleeve as the primary protection layer and label surface.
Popular cushioning options include packing paper, packing peanuts, and air pillows (ex. bubble wrap). I recommend using packing paper and air pillows.
The main problem with packing peanuts is that they are a major hassle for both merchants and customers. First, packing peanuts tend to scatter when the package is opened, wasting pick-up time. Second, packing peanuts cannot be flattened easily, adding to transport and disposal time. Third, packing peanuts are materially inefficient for filling voids of medium or larger size when compared to alternatives. Fourth, packing peanuts reduce the eco-friendly value of your product for customers.
Packing paper and uninflated air pillows are nicely compact for storage and transporatation. Paper incurs the hassle of having to scrunch it for cushioning properties, while pillows either need to be inflated or received pre-inflated with poorer volume density.
The shipping label is the most complex pillar of the shipping process.
Once the shipping label is attached, the package will be ready for carrier transportation.
The modern shipping label process involves 4 steps. First, purchase shipping service from a carrier. Second, record the shipping details. Third, print the shipping label. Fourth, attach the shipping label on the package.
Shipping labels can be printed on adhesive labels or regular paper. I recommend using high speed laser printers. Adhesive labels simply stick on the package. Paper labels must be inserted in a transparent pouch that adheres on the package. Adhesive labels are faster to attach and easier to automate, hence preferred by large distributors. Pouches are also used to carry extra documents, such as for cross-country duties.