As the owner of an eCommerce business, quick and efficient shipping is your bread and butter. Because for the modern consumer, getting a product from your warehouse to their doorstep isn’t enough: They expect it to come securely and economically too.
For this reason, you’re probably already on the constant look-out for ways to make your inventory management and shipping processes more efficient and accurate. As you do so, be sure not to overlook the power of the humble packing slip.
A printed packing slip may seem frivolous in today’s digital world, but it’s actually an essential part of the customer experience.
So what is a packing slip? And why do you need one?
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about packing slips, such as what to include on your slips, why they’re important for businesses and customers, and a free packing slip template.
What Is a Packing Slip?
A packing slip is a printed document that details the contents of a package to the customer. Though the specifics of a packing slip may differ from one eCommerce store to another, most of them include a line item for each product being shipped, along with basic elements like SKU number, unit quantity, and weight/dimensions.
Why Are Packing Slips So Important?
There are several reasons why packing slips are such an important part of the shipping process. These documents serve many different purposes—helping to increase accuracy, improve customer service, and streamline order receiving.
Here are a few reasons why packing slips are essential for any eCommerce business:
1. Increase Shipment Accuracy
Packing slips are important for both the customer and the warehouse team that is packaging the product. Before the package goes off to the shipping company, the warehouse employees can refer to the packing slip to make sure they’re packing the right products.
The packing slip will tell them if they have the right SKU number and the accurate quantity, and ensure they don’t mix orders together in one box. By double-checking their work against the packing slip, the shipper can reduce shipping costs that come as a result of packaging and handling mistakes — and keep customers happy by always sending the right products.
2. Improve Shipment Tracking
If you run an online marketplace and have multiple warehouses or fulfillment centers, there’s a good chance that customer orders are sometimes split into multiple shipments. In this case, packing slips are an essential part of accurate shipment tracking.
Both customers and eCommerce sellers will be able to keep track of packages when each shipment has its own packing slip with a purchase order number, SKUs, and quantities listed inside.
3. Streamline Returns
Product returns are an inevitable part of running an eCommerce business, and it’s important to find ways to make the process as efficient and affordable as possible.
Packing slips can help streamline product returns by helping brands and customers easily identify products and order numbers. When paired with a return merchandise authorization (RMA) form, customers can easily handle returns on their own—without the need for additional customer support.
Packing Slip vs. Shipping Label vs. Bill of Lading
With so many different documents involved in the shipping and handling process, it’s easy to get them confused. Many eCommerce business owners use terms interchangeably, but in reality, a packing slip is distinguishable from a shipping label, bill of lading, invoice, or purchase order.
Here’s what you should know about each term:
- Packing slip: A packing slip is a printed document placed inside the package, including a list of ordered items and details like weight and quantity. Its main purpose is to help customers, order fulfillment teams, and customer service agents easily identify items in a package.
- Shipping label: In contrast, a shipping label is placed on the outside of a package and includes a scannable barcode and tracking number. This label is intended for the use of the carrier and shipping department, rather than for the warehouse team and customer use.
- Bill of lading: A bill of lading is a legal document that is handed from the carrier to the receiver of the package. This document signifies the transfer of ownership from the seller to the buyer and confirms that the shipment was received.
What Goes on a Packing Slip?
Ultimately, every packing slip should include an itemized list of the products inside the package.
The details will vary depending on the type of business and your products, but here are some examples of what you should consider including:
- Order number: The order number can be used for customer service purposes, allowing the customer service agent to easily identify the order in case a product needs to be replaced or returned.
- Product/SKU number: The itemized list should include the SKU number next to each product, in order to ensure accuracy in the fulfillment process.
- Unit quantity: Adding a column for the unit quantity will help with accuracy during the packaging/fulfillment process, and help the customer compare the order placed with the items that arrive.
- Product description: Though not necessary, a product name and description can help the customer quickly identify which products are related with which SKU number.
- Weight and dimensions: Weight and dimensions can be another helpful element to include, especially for warehouse data.
- Company information: Company name and information should be listed at the top of the packing slip, including the contact details, shipping address, brand logo, etc.
- Recipient information: The packing slip should also include the customer’s name, address, and order date.
Additional notes: Sometimes the information you need to relay to a customer doesn’t fall neatly into one of the standard categories. For these circumstances, it’s best to include a section for additional notes. This section might include information about backordered products, additional shipments, etc.
Free Packing Slip Template
Since a packing slip is often the first thing the customer sees when they open your package, it’s smart to add identifying information like your company’s name and logo. You should also include your billing address and contact information, making it easier for the customer to contact you if they need to.
A packing slip template can be made in either Word or Excel. Once you have these elements in place, here’s an example of how you might itemize the list of products:
|SKU/UPC||Description||Order quantity||Shipment quantity||Weight|
|111222||Product A||5||5||12 ounces|
|333444||Product B||3||2||1 lb|
Of course, this packing slip template can be customized to best suit the needs of your business. Feel free to edit the cells and add columns to better serve your warehouse team and your customers.
Note that this template shows what’s included in the package—and also accounts for the items that are being shipped separately. In this case, one Product B is shipping separately, along with Product C.
Next Steps to Protect Your Package
A packing slip adds an important layer of security for both eCommerce merchants and consumers, increasing shipment accuracy, improving shipment tracking, and streamlining the returns process.
But the savviest merchants understand that there’s far more to shipping security and a great customer experience than a simple itemized document. Instead, you should have multiple layers of protection to keep you and your customers safe from package loss or fraud.
If you’re ready to take your package protection to the next level, Route is here to help. Step into the future of eCommerce with Route real-time package tracking, protection, and product discovery tools.
An affordable alternative to USPS shipping insurance, our powerful software gives the modern shopper the connection they crave. Route turns package tracking into an immersive branded experience that boosts visibility and customer loyalty—while decreasing support costs. Get a demo today.