Shipping labels are a type of identification label that helps describe and specify what's inside a package. Shipping labels differ depending on the carrier you use, but they all consist of things like addresses, names, weight, and a tracking barcode. Shipping labels are an essential part of e-commerce logistics, but can be more confusing than they seem. No matter the size of your store, if you get shipping labels wrong, things can quickly become costly, inefficient, and even prevent packages from being delivered.
In this article we will help you fully understand;
- What is a shipping label and what is its purpose?
- How do shipping label work?
- How to create a shipping label?
- How to print a shipping label?
- How to place shipping labels on the package?
- Extra labeling information
1. What Is A Shipping Label?
Shipping labels display the key information for a carrier to transport a package from their start destination (your warehouse) to its end destination (the customer’s hands).
The key information includes: postal code, country, tracking number, date, package quantity as well as the weight, address, validation, and ship street, city and state (area). Shipping labels can also specify the contents, particularly if they’re for international shipments.
Labels also include information relating to the method of shipping (e.g. Express, Standard, etc.) for the carrier to ensure the service that was paid for is provided.
Each label is unique and you cannot reuse old labels. A new label must be created for each delivery.
2. How Do Shipping Labels Work?
A shipping label displays the information to direct packages to the correct destinations, track them throughout each stage, and ensure the correct service is provided. Each carrier uses a specific template for its shipping labels. They are designed to be read by humans and machines, and so they need to be clear and easy to read. Each carrier designed their label to work with their own process of sorting and delivery, so it’s vital to use their templates.
On a shipping label, you’ll see barcodes, numbers, and letters. These are all key to the process. Each section provides information to specific sections of the chain.
1: The name and address of the sender
2: The name and address of the recipient
3: A MaxiCode – a code that can be read in any direction by a machine
4: The Routing Code – informs how to route the package within the sorting section
5: The Postal Barcode – the zip code of the destination
6: Tracking Number – the number given to the customer to track their package
7: Level of Service – the chosen method provided by the carrier (e.g. Express, Standard, etc.)
Most of the information is automatically generated by the carrier. The main information you will need is:
- The sender’s name and address
- The recipient’s name and address
- The service method
3. How To Create Shipping Labels?
Shipping labels are generally created during order processing. Carriers have specific requirements for their shipping labels. It is not possible to create your own template or fill out a label by hand. To create a shipping label you must follow carrier requirements.
You can either:
- visit your local post office and pay for a label there
- arrange the label yourself
When you buy labels at the post office, you’re actually purchasing postage at retail rates which are the most expensive pricing tier for shipping labels.
Arranging your own shipping labels has more advantages, including discounts on postage and scheduling package pickups instead of having to wait at the post office. There are even ways to automate the process to minimise manual input as much as possible.
Learn how you can arrange your own shipping labels with the 3 methods below:
Create Your Labels Online
You can create a shipping label using the carrier’s online tools. Each carrier will have its own online tool where you can create shipping labels that fit their specific requirements. Visit their website, fill out the label template and then download the file so you can then print it out.
However, this isn’t the fastest method. For each order, you will need to visit the site and manually enter the information.
Use Shipping Label Software
This option will allow you to download a carrier’s shipping label template and fill the label out locally on your computer. This will also allow you to customize the process, with possibilities for automation as well as the ability to work offline.
Fully Automate With A Shipping Tool
Automatically aggregate order information from multiple platforms and carriers to fill forms in quickly and efficiently with a shipping tool. A good shipping tool will directly connect with your store, retrieve the order information needed for the shipping label, and help you to automatically create the label in the correct template.
4. How To Print Shipping Labels?
There are two main options when it comes to printing your shipping labels: a standard inkjet/laser printer, or a thermal label printer that doesn’t require ink.
Inkjet Or Laser Printers:
It’s highly advised to avoid using inkjet printers, but they will generally do okay if you only print a handful of labels a month. However, be careful to ensure everything on the page is clear and sharp, and that the ink has not smudged.
As you begin to print more labels, take note that printer ink is expensive, and this option can be costly.
Thermal Label Printers:
Thermal label printers are designed for label printing and this makes them the best option. They don’t need any extra supplies like ink or toner, expect the rolls of labels. The printers work by creating shapes on the paper using heat, enabling accurate, long-lasting labels.
However, they are expensive devices. However, they are good to invest in when you begin to print a significant amount of labels and the cost of supplies for the above options is getting too much.
5. Where To Put Shipping Labels On The Box?
A shipping label should be placed on one side of your package, ideally the top, especially if there is a “This Way Up” instructional label on the package. It should be the correct size so it fits entirely on the side where it’s placed. Ensure it is not folded over any edges; important information might not be seen or be able to be scanned.
Make sure the labels are firmly secured, with no corners sticking up, and no bumps that could damage the label and make it unreadable.
In certain cases, some people like to cover their labels in transparent tape to protect it. It’s also possible to use plastic wallets and attach them to the package to prevent any damage, particularly from water. This is most commonly used with international shipping for the enclosed customs documents. Whatever you choose, ensure the whole label is displayed and is clearly readable.
6. Extra Labelling Information For The Delivery
Most carriers will require you to mark the package with what it contains, particularly if shipping internationally.
It’s also good practice to state whether the contents are fragile, perishable, corrosive, or flammable etc. And don’t forget to label your parcel “This Way Up” if it needs to be. This helps to inform the carrier of the special requirements and prepare for any issues with the contents.
These types of labels help the goods arrive in perfect condition, which is vital for your customers’ satisfaction, avoiding bad reviews or extra costs for replacements and redelivery.
Let us know if you have any tips or advice regarding shipping labels or e-commerce logistics! And if you have any further questions, leave them in the comments below.