October 23, 2020
Everything Sellers Need To Know About Shipping Labels
This blog post was originally published by Deliverr, which is now Flexport. The content has been adjusted to fit the Flexport brand voice and tone, but all other information remains unchanged. With the merging of Deliverr’s services (DTC fulfillment, B2B distribution, and Last Mile delivery) into Flexport’s existing international freight and technology services, we’re now able to provide merchants with true end-to-end logistics solutions spanning from the factory floor to the customer’s door.
Shipping labels have all the information that you, the seller, your fulfillment partner, and your customers need for a successful transaction. In this article, we'll go over the basics of shipping labels for self-fulfilled and outsourced ecommerce orders.
What Is a Shipping Label?
A shipping label is a marker affixed to a package that displays vital information for your warehouses, carriers, and customers. They're crucial for getting items into your customers' hands.
The basic information displayed on a shipping label is the customer’s name, address, and the shipping service. More detailed information can include:
- The name and address of the sender
- The weight and contents of the package
- A MaxiCode containing information such as customer reference, invoice number, etc
- A routing code for your shipping carrier’s internal processes
- A tracking number to log the package’s journey
If you’re sending an item internationally, the label may contain more information such as the exporter’s reference and contact details, the importer’s details, and tariff information.
Why Shipping Labels Are Important in Ecommerce
A shipping label is essential in ecommerce for four reasons:
A shipping label instructs your shipping carrier what to do with the package, including where to take it, who to deliver it to, how quickly it needs to be there, and whether anyone must sign for it.
The tracking number and shipping barcode on a delivery label allows you (or your customer) to track a package on its journey. This keeps customers informed, helps you to locate missing packages, and informs you both of potentially late delivery.
A shipping label also protects the parcel, the carrier, yourself, and the recipient. For example:
The contents description tells handlers when they must take extra care, for example with fragile items.
- The package’s weight allows handlers to lift heavy boxes correctly
- The sender’s details ensure undeliverable packages are returned
- The customer’s details ensure packages are delivered to the right person
Shipping labels assist fast shipping speeds by making it quick and easy for shipping carriers to deliver packages to the right address. It gives them all of the information they need at a glance or a quick scan of the barcode.
How To Create a Shipping Label
You can create a shipping label in many different ways, depending on whether you deliver orders using in-house or outsourced fulfillment.
Creating a Shipping Label In-House
While you can still visit your local post office and pay for a shipping label there, there are far more convenient ways to create a shipping label for in-house fulfillment:
- Shipping carrier website: Most shipping carriers have an online tool for you to create, pay for, and print shipping labels yourself
- Multi-channel management software: Many multi-channel management platforms directly integrate with your sales channels and shipping carriers to automatically create labels for all of your orders
- Shipping automation platforms: Shipping automation platforms also automate shipping labels by integrating with your sales channels and downloading the relevant information
If you ship a large volume of orders (generally more than 10 packages per week), multi-channel management software or a shipping automation platform will save you the most time and give you the most confidence.
Creating a Shipping Label via 3PL
If you use a third-party fulfillment partner to ship items, they will create shipping labels for you. However, you might still need to create shipping labels when inbounding inventory to them.
How To Use a Shipping Label
While you might think you just need to peel and stick a shipping label onto the relevant package, there’s a lot more art to properly using a shipping label.
- Print the label: While you can print labels on plain paper and use tape to attach them, a label printing machine is far better. Label printers print labels in the right ink, size, and format, using waterproof paper that sticks directly to your package.
- Place the label: Place the label on the package somewhere that’s clear, easy to scan, and not likely to get damaged or damage the parcel. For example, if you place a label on the bottom of a package, you risk it getting dirty, wet, and illegible when carriers place it on the floor. Plus, it also means carriers must turn the package upside down to see it, which could damage the contents. The best placement for shipping labels is typically the largest and top side of a package, not touching or folding over any of the edges.
- Attach the label: If you’re not using a label printing machine with stickable labels, use clear tape or a plastic wallet to attach the label to your package. The most important thing is that it’s secure and visible.
- Consider extra instructions: Depending on the contents of your package or the requirements of your shipping carrier, you can add extra labels to your package to aid a successful delivery. For example, directional labels (right way up), hazardous warnings, fragile labels, or contents labels. A third-party fulfillment ptovider will complete these steps on your behalf.
How To Prepare Your Labels for Flexport
When preparing your products for inbound shipment to Flexport, please keep the following in mind:
- If you’re shipping using Flexport’s rates: Generate and print the shipping and contents labels from your account and attach both to the outside of the corresponding box
- If you’re shipping using your own rates: Print your own shipping labels and attach them to the outside of each box, alongside the contents label
Ensure both the shipping and contents labels are fully visible and remove or cover any other barcodes. Please also note the product barcode requirements.
Shipping labels are a small but crucial piece of information for ecommerce sellers and shipping carriers. Not only do they help packages get from point A to point B, but they also ensure that shipments are delivered on time, handled properly, and delivered to the right person.
The contents of this blog are made available for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for any legal, business, or financial decisions. We do not guarantee, represent, or warrant the accuracy or reliability of any of the contents of this blog because they are based on Flexport’s current beliefs, expectations, and assumptions, about which there can be no assurance due to various anticipated and unanticipated events that may occur. This blog has been prepared to the best of Flexport’s knowledge and research; however, the information presented in this blog herein may not reflect the most current regulatory or industry developments. Neither Flexport nor its advisors or affiliates shall be liable for any losses that arise in any way due to the reliance on the contents contained in this blog.