If your business operates in an eCommerce niche, you will already be aware of the many challenges that fulfilment can pose. Those stakes only get higher when shipping fragile items, which often have a heftier price tag and are inherently more vulnerable to breakage.
However, there are ways to ensure that your products will make it to their recipients unharmed. To learn how to keep your high-risk items protected from bumps, inclement weather and even handler incompetence, we've compiled a comprehensive guide on how to ship fragile items – and keep your customers happy in the process.
Here are the key steps you should follow:
1. Use the Right Materials to Keep Packages Safe
Getting your fragile items to their intended recipients starts with using the correct packaging. Without the right material that can cushion your products without leaving abrasions, you won't be able to ensure safe delivery.
2. Find the Correct Size Box
Make sure that you are shipping your items in a box that is the right size for your products.
Too many shippers assume that buying an extra-large box will allow for safer transit, but this can have some unintended adverse effects. Not only will you incur higher transport fees, but all that extra padding can move around in a box that is too large, leaving your items vulnerable to impact.
By the same token, a box that is too snug has its own problems. You won't have enough room for appropriate padding, and the smaller package might get shipped with items that are assumed not to be breakable.
Generally, the ideal packaging size leaves about two inches of room on all sides of the objects you are shipping. Once you have found the correct size box, consider how you will position every item that ships with your product and how it will impact the unboxing experience – a potential branding opportunity in itself.
3. Find the Best Packing Materials for your Products
Take time to experiment with different packaging materials that you can use for items that you ship often. Each provides a different experience and will interact with your products differently. Here are some of the most popular choices you should consider:
Packing peanuts – A popular choice for keeping items from moving around during shipment and for filling voids in the packaging space. However, traditional packaging peanuts are often non-biodegradable, have made them unpopular in some regions and even illegal in others.
Airbags – These are another excellent choice to fill any voids that are left in the box after packaging. They work best for items without too many sharp surfaces.
Bubble wrap – This is an excellent option for breakable items that need their surfaces reinforced. Bubble wrap can be made to conform to the exact dimensions of your products, and multiple layers can make it almost impervious to drops.
Foam enclosures – If your item requires precision protection, consider having foam enclosures created. You can order a mold that will fit your product to exact specifications. While this option is expensive, it helps ensure that your package will arrive intact and is an excellent solution for subscription services.
4. Pack Everything Securely and Safely
Once you've decided on what materials to use to keep your products safe, you need to figure out how to pack them.
Start at the bottom, creating a layer of packaging that your items will rest on. Rest your protected items on top of that layer, and then fill in the two inches that have been spaced out on the sides of the box. You should be aiming to give the item as little of an opportunity to shift during transit as possible. Once the object is placed securely in the box, fill it to the top.
Once everything is in place, the package should be able to be closed without any excess bulging. You should also be able to rotate it in different directions without the items shifting inside of the box. If you can feel that they are moving around, you need to find a better way to situate them.
Once you are confident that your items won't shift, seal the entire thing up with high-quality packing tape. Don't be afraid of using too much tape – if the package opens during while it's being shipped, all that effort will be for nothing.
5. Find the Right Shipping Service for Fragile Items
Just putting your items in good packaging won't get them to their destination in one piece. You need to find a shipping service that you can trust to handle delicate packages in a safe, consistent and cost-effective way.
There are several factors to consider when trying to determine who will be the best courier for your fragile packages. Figure out which companies have the most competitive rates for the areas you need to ship products to. After you have this information, find out what sort of tracking and insurance solutions they have available.
Insurance is an especially important consideration when if you ship fragile items with any regularity. No matter how much effort you put into keeping your products safe, eventually, a package will get damaged. At this point, you will need insurance from your shipping provider or will have to write the losses off yourself.
Larger shipping companies tend to have more affordable insurance coverage. For example, in the US, UPS is a reliable large shipper that covers any package that they handle up to $100, with additional coverage available for more valuable items. However, some items, such as artwork, antiques and collectables may not be eligible for insurance, and some shipping companies may not even be able to ship them.
Shipping Fragile Items Overseas
If you are shipping fragile or high-value items internationally, you should take extra precautions to ensure that they make it to your customers as intended.
Even if you think that insurance isn't necessary, make sure you know the total value of items being shipped out of your home country. Make sure you are aware of any import taxes or customs duties that apply to your goods. In addition, individual countries have different items that might be prohibited or restricted that you will need to know about before you send your products. Keeping your company in compliance with any regulations is an essential part of shipping.
If possible, find out if there is a local courier who can handle your package once it arrives in its destination country, too. If your product needs special handling, you will have a better time communicating what needs to be done to accommodate it with a specialised service rather than a large shipping company.
Shipping internationally can be more expensive than you might expect, especially with fragile packages. Make sure you have a good idea of how much it will cost your company to get these items to overseas customers so you can come up with a way to incorporate these costs into your shipping fees.
With a little extra effort, you can ship even the most delicate items to customers around the globe and, hopefully, this guide has given you some indication of how to go about delivering your higher-risk products.
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