You cannot talk about eCommerce shipping without talking about the packing slip. Whenever you buy something online, you receive a packing slip. This small piece of information might not seem like much at a first glance, but it’s still an important part of the eCommerce shipping operations.
But what is a packing slip and what role does it play in shipping? Let’s dive right in.
What Is A Packing Slip?
A packing slip is a list of all the items that are included in a shipment. When you place an online order, the seller’s sales management software will automatically send a packing slip to the shipping department. The packing slip informs the shipping department of what items they need to send out to complete your order.
The Main Differences Between A Packing Slip And An Invoice
While packing slips and invoices look very much alike, they’re not the same thing and they serve different purposes.
The packing slip is a list of the physical goods included in the order, whereas the invoice is the financial document that contains information about the value of each product, agreed payment terms, payment method, and the order’s date.
The invoice and the packing slip can be sent to different people. The invoice is always sent to the person responsible for payment, while the packing slip is sent to the person who receives the package.
When you order something for yourself, you receive both documents. But when you buy someone a present, you receive the invoice while they receive the packing slip. The package slip doesn’t contain financial information, so the recipient won’t find out how much the items cost when they receive the package.
The invoice and the packing slip can be issued by different software. The invoice is issued by the order processing software (or payment platform) while the packing slip is issued by the shipping or fulfillment software an eCommerce uses.
Last but not least, all businesses are required to issue invoices, but not all businesses have to use packing slips.
The Main Reasons Why Packing Slips Are Important For eCommerce Businesses
When you buy something from a brick and mortar store, you physically grab the items off the shelf and put them into a shopping cart. This is not a possibility when you’re shopping online, so eCommerce businesses use packing slips to translate what’s happening in the digital world into the physical one.
1. Making Sure That Your Order Contains Everything
eCommerce businesses need to constantly check and double-check every order. Before a package is sealed and labelled, the online business has to confirm that all the items inside it are exactly what the customer ordered, including the exact counts of multiple identical items.
And each business has a different approach to this problem. But there are four main ways to achieve this:
- Single order - This is the simplest process. Each order is assigned a picker, who is an employee responsible for gathering the items and placing them in the box. The picker will pick all the items and bring them back to the packing station, usually one at a time.
- Batch picking - Every picker is assigned a certain number of orders they need to pick in a single trip before returning all of them to the packing station.
- Zone picking - Each picker is assigned a section of the warehouse. When an order contains items belonging to that section, the picker is notified and starts selecting the ordered items. The package passes through the sections, and each picker adds the items as it passes.
- Wave picking - The warehouse is split into multiple sections, but instead of passing through multiple sections, the package is placed in a centralized position. The pickers from different zones select the items needed to complete the order and they bring them to the box to be packed.
As you can imagine, it’s not very easy to get all the items right, especially when packing large orders. Barcode scanners make things easier, but the box is still double-checked before sealing. This is where the packing slip comes into play. Pickers might examine the package’s items and compare them with the packing slip, or they might even check each item off the packing slip as they go through the checking process.
2. Tracking All The Items In An Order
Large orders may have to be split into multiple packages because the products are too large or heavy to fit into a single package, or because various items in a seller’s inventory may be stored in different locations.
Packing slips ensure that a client will receive all the items they ordered when their order is spread out across multiple packages.
Instead of receiving an invoice listing all the items in an order, pickers receive packing slips listing all the items that go into the same box. They pack each box individually, so the packing slip helps them stay organized and check if all the items belonging to a certain order have been packed.
3. Identify Missing Items
Despite the fact that most eCommerce businesses put a lot of effort into making sure that all your items are packed and delivered, mistakes can still happen and you might receive a package that doesn’t contain all the items it should.
If this happens, the packing slip acts as a record of what should be in the package. You can contact the seller and explain that a certain package was missing a particular item.
This can be especially useful when your order is spread out across multiple packages because it enables the seller to identify the problem.
The packing slip can also help you keep track of any inaccuracies that might show up in the order tracking.
4. Sort Out Damaged Items
Sometimes, your package can be damaged in transit. Now, if all the items in your order fit in a single box and all of them are broken or not functional, you can easily ask for a refund based on your invoice.
But what happens if your order was split across multiple packages and only one of them was damaged? Should you return all the boxes just because one is damaged?
Well, you shouldn’t because you don’t have to. You can simply keep the good items and use the packing slip to inform the seller of the damaged box and ask for a refund.
5. Proof In Small Claims Court
But what happens if the seller doesn’t want to reimburse you for the damaged goods?
Well, if the goods are significant enough in costs you can take the problem to a small claims court, where the packing slip can serve as proof, along with the invoice and the receipt.
Having the packing slip can prove that the items in a certain package were damaged during transit.
6. Enables Customs To Evaluate Your Package
The packing slip can be very helpful when you ship internationally because it enables customs to estimate the value of a package.
Even though most customs agents prefer using commercial invoices that show the value of the goods and their destination because they give them a clear estimate of the goods, the packing slip is still useful and might get your package cleared faster.
7. Indicates The Details Required For A Certificate Of Origin
A Certificate Of Origin is a document issued by a business that exports goods to authenticate that the products they sell were manufactured in a particular country.
In order to issue a Certificate Of Origin, the business has to include information regarding the products, their destination, and the seller’s address.
A packing slip contains all that information, making it helpful for businesses that specialize in cross-border shipping.
What Should A Packing Slip Normally Include?
Packing slips should include a list of items and basic shipping information but shouldn’t include the price.
1. Shipping Address And Basic Contact Information
A packing slip should include the shipping address and basic contact information to help carriers deliver the package in case the shipping label is somehow lost. In this case, the packing slip acts as a backup for the shipping label.
2. List Of Items
The packing slip should include a list of items that belong to each box. When the recipient receives an order, they can use the packing slip to check if the package contains all the items they ordered.
3. Quantity Column
A packing slip should include a quantity column because customers frequently purchase more than one of a certain item. Using a quantity column reduces the length of the list when a customer buys multiple identical items.
4. Item SKU Column
Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) are numbers used by sellers to identify products in their stock. They don’t represent anything for the buyer, but including an SKU column on the packing slip helps the seller identify a product with greater accuracy.
If the customer encounters a problem with a product, the SKU code can help the seller identify its cause.
5. Packing Slip Number
Attributing each packing slip a number is helpful because it enables the seller and the buyer to quickly identify a package. If your order is distributed across multiple boxes, knowing which box is which can be helpful in case one of them encounters any problems.
Packing Slip Template
You can find a lot of packing slip templates online. Some of them are free to use, others are not. But here’s the thing, if you’re using an automated CRM tool, chances are you already have several built-in templates to choose from.
However, you might want to personalize your packing slip to make it your own. If this is the case, you can download our template and use it for free for personal and commercial use.
Other Things To Know About Packing Slips
Packing Slips Can Be Used As Marketing Material
Personalized packing slips can be used as marketing material. Improving your customers’ unboxing experience can leave a lasting impression, so make sure to use branded packing slips that display your brand.
Packing Slips Are Usually Included In Integrated Services
Ship Expert will send out packing slip with every package. When you use our fulfillment services, you ensure that your customers will receive a personalized packing slip with every order.