A packing slip may not be an alien term in the eCommerce sector, but it is not something that is common knowledge either. eCommerce merchants and customers alike can mistake it for a shipping label. So, in this article, we dissect all the elements that make up a packing slip and its value with our exclusive packing slip guide.
1) Packing Slip: An Account of Shipment Details
In the logistics dictionary, a packing slip is a document containing the details of all the products filled inside a package. Its usual dimensions are 4"×6" or 8.5”×11” for a slip of paper or a card in landscape mode.
A packing slip typically includes the weight, dimensions, and number of SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) in the package. However, they can be dynamic and have a lot of space for customizations if a brand wishes.
Some take the opportunity to include their brand logos, a Call to Action (CTA), coupon code, and social media link. This way, packing slips become an excellent tool for branding.
Usually, packing slips are filled with information to streamline the processes that go behind packing and delivering an order. When printed at the warehouse or the fulfillment center, it helps the packing staff to ensure they pack the accurate order. Alternatively, it helps the buyer check if the package has all the products they ordered.
2) Granular View of a Packing Slip Template
A packing slip includes all the granular shipping details of every SKU a customer has ordered. However, a business can choose to include information that helps with brand recognition. Here is a list of the most common facts and elements that a packing slip template has:
2.1) Shipping Details
Shipping details are the most essential part of a packing slip. There are many components falling into this category. First comes the brand details such as brand name, address, website, and contact information.
Then comes the order number or purchase order ID, which is a series of unique numbers that identify a particular order. The third element includes the order date and the time of order placement.
The fourth part contains the shipping method, such as USPS Priority Mail or UPS Ground. This section has the details that help customers track their order and cross-reference the shipping information when they receive the package.
2.2) Customer Contact Information
After the initial shipping information is printed, the next critical set of information pertains to the customer or the recipient. This section has the complete account of the customers, such as their name, address, phone number, and email address.
Sometimes, brands also mention the return address in case such a return or exchange request is made by the customer. This section includes the shipping destination. This can come in handy if the package is intended as a gift, thus providing the recipient with the information of the sender.
2.3) Order Items and Out-of-Stock Products
The third section is pivotal and includes an itemized list of SKUs ordered. There are a couple of variations in the listing. Some brands include product names, while others list the SKU or UPC (Universal Product Number).
Apart from the items being delivered, the packing slip also has information about the items that were out of stock and couldn’t be delivered. This important detail helps customers keep track of their ordered products. They can raise a query with the brand about the out-of-stock items if required.
Just like the product name, the quantity and price of each SKU item are presented on a packing slip. Therefore, against each product name or SKU number, the quantities and the price are mentioned.
Generally, a tabular format is adopted by brands containing the columns: Quantity, SKU number, product name, price, and total price. The total price detail can be subdivided into prices of the items, taxes, discounts, etc.
2.4) Brand notes
A brand note is an optional category in a packing slip. However, when included, it adds a touch of personalization for the customer. Companies can include any message for the buyer, from a wish on their birthdays to a gratitude message.
Brands can also improvise to include the customer’s message for the recipient in cases where the orders are gifts. Packing slips can thus be customized in any way to include brand identity, like the logo, and a personalized unboxing experience with a well-wish message.
3) Utilities of Packing Slips
3.1) Helps in Order Management
The eCommerce fulfillment process is a tedious process. Before a package is sealed, the warehouse packer has to verify all the products packed inside are in the customer order list. This includes the exact quantities of the SKUs, the color, dimensions, weight, and size. A packing slip thus gives a confirmation to the packer that the order has been accurately fulfilled.
Since the packing slip records and verifies the fulfillment process, it proves most useful when the order is split into multiple shipments. As a warehouse picker collects multiple SKU items for one customer order, each packing slip encloses the details of the SKUs packed separately.
The slip can be printed beforehand so that it informs the packer about the items that should be grouped together. This not only simplifies the packing process but also orders verifications when all the packages land with the customer.
3.2) Enhances Post-purchase Customer Experience
A packing slip can be considered a post-purchase instrument that is explicitly used to enhance customer experience. It has a number of uses in improving post-purchase customer engagement.
First, packing slips help improve customer feedback about the brand by including a granular view of the orders. Second, it creates a positive unboxing experience when brands write personalized messages to buyers. Third, it helps customers recognize the brand with a branded packing slip format.
3.3) Assists in Order Tracking
The packing slip comes with a series of critical details that can help customers and the brand keep track of the orders. This is especially true for split shipments where the complete order of the customer is broken down into smaller orders. They are usually dispatched from different warehouses, and the retailer can monitor them with packing slips.
A packing slip containing the purchase order number and the SKUs packed in a parcel notifies the shopper of the current state of their order. They can track the portion that has arrived and estimate the value of the order segment.
3.4) Supports Order Confirmation and Verifies Damage
Packing slips assist businesses and customers in confirming that the order has been accurately shipped and received. A packing slip helps customers cross-check, refer and verify all the items with their subsequent price, size, quantity, and details.
Packing slips also help buyers sort out and identify damaged items in cases where items break in transit or become deformed. The customer can track the ordered item with its SKU number and check if the item looks the same while unboxing the product. If not, they can request a refund or ask the brand to exchange the product.
3.5) Aids in Returns and Exchanges
Returns are almost always inevitable in eCommerce and induce headaches for both the shopper and the business. Return requests can be initiated for a number of reasons, like damaged items, manufacturing defects, mismatched sizes, and colors. Once a return request is made, it creates a chain of events from item verification to refund.
A packing slip can come of service in verifying customer claims and expediting the refund process. For example, when an item is mismatched or damaged, a shopper can cross-check the product with the packing slip and raise a return or exchange request. When an item is missing from the package, they can bring it to the notice of the brand and file for a refund.
A packing slip has immense utility for the apparel industry in eCommerce, which has high volumes of returns and exchanges. So, they can customize the packing slip to include information about return policies. Or, inform customers about an out-of-stock item and a refund to lessen customer anxiety.
4) The Process of Creating a Packing Slip
eCommerce merchants can either manually create a packing slip or use their inventory management tool. In either case, they would first need to gather some data such as all their SKU numbers, product names, dimensions, weight, and prices. If they use an inventory management software like ShipSation, such details should already be available.
After compiling the data, the retailer can either use a free packing slip template or fill in the data. Alternatively, you can also select any template available in the SaaS tool and input the details. Most of these software allows retailers to customize the slip according to their preferences, like brand logos and notes.
Once the packing slip template is in place, merchants can save it and print the slip to be included in the package. In cases where they use software, retailers can create multiple templates for different occasions. They can also automate the printing process by hitting the order details in the specific templates.
5) Is Packing Slip Different from Invoices?
Given that a packing slip includes data that are almost identical to a shipping label and invoices, it is not uncommon to consider a packing slip as a shipping label or an invoice. The difference between the three lies in their purpose.
An invoice is a financial document that contains the selling price of each product, the payment status of the order, the payment method, and the terms. Therefore, even though a packing slip has the details of the item price, it does not include payment methods and any outstanding payment involved with the shipment.
Invoices specify the amount needed to be paid by the recipient when customers involve multiple payment methods. For example, when customers pay half the amount via UPI and the rest is ordered in cash. In these circumstances, the invoice acts as a bill for the person who is responsible for clearing the payment.
6) Is Packing Slip the same as a Shipping Label?
No, what makes a packing slip different from a shipping label is the latter’s purpose. A shipping label includes the billing and shipping address indicating the shipment origin and delivery locations.
It can also include order details such as SKU items, the weight of the package, and the shipping method. However, it contains a QR based order tracking label and number that can be scanned and tracked. This is absent from a packing slip.
Packing slips are a great way to ensure order verification and fulfillment accuracy for an eCommerce store. These little slips of paper also have the capacity to bring a positive brand impression to customers. The versatility of the packing slip ensures that businesses can include any brand customization alongside mentioning order details.
Having a packing slip is like hitting two birds with one stone. eCommerce businesses can exercise control over the post-dispatch process and post-purchase customer engagement.
8.1) How much does it cost to create a packing slip?
Packing slips can be created free of cost in most cases. There are a lot of free packing slip templates available on the internet that can be freely downloaded and used. In fact, inventory management software offers packing slips for free. The only cost component involves the printer, ink, and paper used.
8.2) Are packing slips environmentally friendly?
Packing slips do impact the environment by contributing to paper wastage. In this sense, it is not environmentally friendly. However, brands can still include packing slips judiciously for specific shipments, international packages, and split shipments. Moreover, for single box shipments, retailers can focus on a digital version of the packing slip and mail it to the customer's email address.