Shipping supplies are a necessity for online businesses. You’ve got to have something to ship your lovely products in, right?
And not just something, but the right thing (be it a box or an envelope).
It doesn’t stop there, though. There are a few more essentials when it comes to shipping your products safely and efficiently.
Why should I care about shipping supplies?
Aside from the fact that you need supplies to ship your products, they’re also the only thing standing between your product and the dangers of the outside world.
I’m talking jostling, rain, disgruntled postal workers – the crap you can’t control.
For example: I own an online bookshop, so I ship a lot of books. Sometimes that means I have heavy packages.
When I first started my business, I made the huge mistake of buying poor quality shipping tape (though I didn’t realize it at the time).
One day, I get a message from a customer telling me the post office delivered her an empty box from me. She even sent a picture with a letter from the post office.
Can you imagine how terrible I felt?
Sure, it’s possible it was mishandled by the post office and my tape wasn’t at fault. But after that day, I wanted to be sure I was doing everything I could to protect my products and ensure a good customer experience.
(And of course, I fully refunded the order. Whether it was the post office’s fault or mine, good customer service is a priority.)
In short, quality shipping supplies are an absolute necessity. You can’t guarantee that a package won’t get lost or destroyed in the mail. But you can do your best to avoid it!
So here’s a list of the best shipping supplies (and where to find them) to help your products land safely on your customers’ doorsteps.
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I researched the best quality products with the best prices I could find. Because you’re trying to run a business – you don’t want to pay more than you have to!
Keep in mind that prices do change, so feel free to do a quick check to make sure there’s not a better price elsewhere.
At the end of the post, you’ll also find some important tips on buying and storing shipping supplies.
1. Corrugated Boxes
If any of your products are too large to fit into a bubble mailer envelope, you’ll need cardboard boxes.
You may need to buy multiple dimensions, if your products come in different shapes and sizes.
It took me a lot of research to find the best, most affordable place to purchase boxes. In the end, I landed on Office Depot. Just type ‘Boxes’ into the search bar, and select ‘Shipping Boxes’ under categories.
Their prices are the best I’ve found, especially since they often have coupons & deals. Just make sure you’re buying enough to get free shipping.
Paying to ship your shipping supplies (say that five times fast) is like tossing your money straight into the trash. Avoid it if you can!
2. Bubble/Poly Mailer Envelopes
For smaller items that aren’t fragile, bubble mailers are the way to go. They’re cheaper than boxes, require less tape, and are easier to handle.
Just make sure you get high quality ones that won’t easily tear.
You might have to experiment with a couple different sizes to find the right fit for your products.
For something a little more exciting, you can buy metallic, patterned, or colorful mailers instead of the plain orange or white ones. It’s a great way to make your brand more memorable.
3. Shipping Tape
Not only is shipping tape necessary to tape your boxes closed, but it can also be used to affix shipping labels.
I cover the entire label to make sure the paper doesn’t get wet or ruined. That address is precious: protect it at all costs!
I recommend buying a super-awesome handheld dispenser. I am SO glad I finally got one of these. My days of wrestling with shipping tape are over.
And once you have a dispenser, all you need to buy are refill tape rolls. Saves you money AND hassle!
4. Scotch Tape
If you want to be smart about buying Scotch (standard) tape, buy a re-usable weighted tape dispenser. That way, you just need to buy the tape roll refills, and you won’t waste money on the disposable dispensers (see a pattern?).
Plus, having a weighted dispenser you can use with one hand will save you so much hassle. Trust me, you’ll notice the difference.
5. Printer Paper
You need paper to print your shipping labels. Also, buy in bulk. That’s really all there is to say about this one!
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you which ink to buy, because it’s dependent on the type of printer you own. But you’ll definitely need it!
Often, it’s best to buy the larger sizes, because you get more printed pages out of them. That gives you a lower cost per page.
7. Digital Scale
You’ll need a digital scale if you want to be able to print your shipping labels at home (hint: you do!).
It’ll give you the weight of your packaged product, which you’ll need in order to purchase the label from Stamps.com, PayPal, or your selling platform.
Invest in a quality pair of scissors, if you can.
Two years ago, I would have laughed if someone told me that. Why spend money on something I already have?
Well, after using a dull pair of scissors for way too long, I got fed up and bought a new pair.
Now: no more torn edges or cramped hands. So worth it.
9. Protective Wrapping
This isn’t just for fragile items like pottery. Though, if you are shipping pottery, you sure as heck better wrap it up!
Most products should at least have one layer protecting them from wear & tear inside the box or envelope they’re shipped in.
Protective wrapping comes in many forms. You can use bubble wrap or, for a more environmentally-friendly approach, recyclable Kraft paper.
I wrap my books in thick Kraft paper so the edges and corners don’t get worn or bent.
If the inside of a box is empty enough that the books will get tossed around, I make sure to add crumpled paper or recycled bubble wrap.
If you have the space to store it, you should buy a giant roll or large pack of protective material to save money.
10. Individual Product Packaging
If your products are small, it might be tough to wrap them in paper or bubble wrap. That’s where individual packaging comes in.
Here are a few examples:
- Miniature cardboard jewelry boxes
- Small drawstring satchels
- Mini envelopes
Not only are these important for protecting your products, but they also improve the customer’s unboxing experience. They’ll feel like they’re receiving a gift that was wrapped just for them.
Check out this post for more creative product packaging ideas (stickers, twine, stamps, etc.) and why it’s essential for your business.
Final Tips for Buying Shipping Supplies
Invest in Amazon Prime
Amazon is where I buy a majority of my shipping supplies. Not only is it convenient, but it can be extremely cost-effective.
But that’s not always the case if you’re paying for shipping!
Make sure you’re finding supplies that are free shipping, or invest in a yearly Amazon Prime membership. Get a free trial here.
My own membership has paid for itself many times over. It’s especially awesome during the holidays.
With Prime, you won’t have to worry about shipping costs. Plus, you’ll usually get Prime items within 2 days.
This has come in handy on numerous occasions (where I forgot to stock up and almost ran out of something)!
Always Buy in Bulk
I’ve said this so many times you probably feel like I’ve hit you over the head with it.
But seriously, you get way more bang for your buck that way.
If you aren’t sure how much you’ll need, start with an estimated 1-month supply. After that, you can decide if buying a higher quantity is reasonable for you.
Just remember you’ll have to store it somewhere!
That leads me to my next point:
Get Creative With Storage
When my husband and I lived in a small, one-story home, I figured out a way to fit all my shipping supplies underneath the pool table we got from my parents.
That way, they weren’t taking up any space we would use otherwise.
Trying to fit everything in that small space felt a lot like playing Tetris. But it was much easier once I had an organizational system in place.
So do what you can, and get creative!
Now that you’re set on your shipping supplies, check out this post on product packaging ideas to make your products and brand stand out.