As an e-commerce seller, you can’t just send a package to your customer without a reference document. Packing slips, invoices, and shipping labels are standard documents used in order fulfillment. However, they all have different purposes and content.
Should a packing slip contain payment information and customer details? Should you place the document inside or outside the package? How do you even create one?
This comprehensive article answers these questions and discusses packing slips in detail. We also discuss why you should use packing slips in your e-commerce business and how the document differs from other shipping documents like invoices and shipping labels.
What Is A Packing Slip?
A packing slip is a crucial document used in logistics and order fulfillment. This document accompanies a shipment and contains a comprehensive breakdown of the items in that package.
Beyond being a structured document, a packing slip serves as a mode of communication between the seller, shipper, and recipient. The seller generates the packing slip, giving a summary of what the seller should receive. The shipper uses the document as a guide to ensure that the correct items are placed in the package according to specifications and in the right quantities. For the recipient, the packing slip is a point of reference to verify the contents of their order.
What Is the Purpose of a Packing Slip?
The primary purpose of a packing slip is to ensure transparency and accuracy in order fulfillment. Other reasons why you should use packing slips in your business include;
Packing slips help with order management and fulfillment, enhancing the overall efficiency of your operations. Your team can double-check if they have packed the correct items and quantities using the document. The document is also helpful for every single step of the order fulfillment process. You can print the slip beforehand, helping the packer know the items to group.
Ensure Complete and Accurate Shipment
The e-commerce world is fast-paced, and orders must be processed and shipped precisely. A packing slip is a comprehensive checklist, ensuring all items listed in the order are carefully packed. You should verify all orders and cross-check before authorizing shipment. In addition, place the document in the box before shipment.
Packing slips reduces the likelihood of shipping errors and instills confidence in customers. Your customers can rest assured that they will receive exactly what they’ve ordered.
Identification of Damaged Items
Sometimes, orders may get damaged in transit. Fortunately, with a well-prepared packing slip, there is documentation of the condition of the items before they leave your facility. Hence, the document can help when filing claims with shipping carriers or addressing customer concerns about the damaged goods. In addition, the packing slip will help speed up the refund process or resending of the package.
Confirmation of Received Items
Your customers can verify if they received all their orders by checking the packing slip. In addition, the document serves as a point of reference if they have concerns or questions about the content of their package. Also, in cases of missing items, the packing slip serves as a paper trail, helping you keep tabs on orders shipped.
Easy Tracking of Orders
Sometimes, you may need to split a single order into several boxes depending on the order size. A packing slip provides a structured record of every order that leaves your facility. You can monitor which orders have been fulfilled, in transit, or delivered. This also improves the overall efficiency of your operations, helping you keep your customers informed on the status of their orders.
Improve Customer Experience and Satisfaction
Efficient and accurate order fulfillment directly contributes to customer experience. Delivering complete and precise orders with well-documented packing slips reflects positively on your brand. You can also include a personalized message to your customers. As a result, your customers can associate your brand with professionalism and attention to detail, enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Smooth Returns Processing
Returns are a crucial part of the order fulfillment process. Sometimes, your customers may not get what they ordered, or the goods may not be in the right condition. Returns processing includes a chain of events from item verification to refund. With a packing slip, the returns process is smooth and efficient. You can verify customer claims and expedite the refund process, minimizing customer frustration and improving your brand image.
What Information Should A Packing Slip Contain?
A packing slip is a comprehensive and informative document that should contain information that enhances your internal operations and improves overall customer satisfaction.
The Order date indicates when the customer places an order, and it serves as a reference point for any potential issues or inquiries. In addition, this information helps you and the recipient track the timeline of the order.
Business and Contact Info
Your packing slip should include essential business details, including your company name, logo, and contact information. You should also provide clear contact information, including phone numbers, email addresses, and other relevant contact details. Your business and contact info reinforce your brand identity and make it easy for customers to reach out if they have questions or concerns about their order.
You don’t need to include sensitive payment details on the packing slip. Instead, you can include a summary of the payment information, such as the method used, e.g., credit card or PayPal. Including payment info in a packing slip reassures your customers that their payment was processed correctly.
The recipient’s shipping address is a critical piece of information. Ensure the information is accurate and complete. The shipping address should include the recipient’s name, street address, city, state or province, postal code, and specific delivery instructions.
Itemized List of All Shipping Items
The packing slip should contain a list of all the items in the shipment. This information should be detailed and include the name or description of each item and the quantity shipped. This helps customers verify that they have received all the goods they ordered.
Itemized List of Unavailable Items
Although the availability of products is verified before order fulfillment, sometimes the items may be unavailable. If any items from the order list are temporarily out of stock or unavailable, clearly indicate them on the packing slip. Listing unavailable items promotes transparency, preventing customer confusion. It also lets your customers anticipate when they can expect those items to be shipped separately or included in a future order.
Quantity of Each Item
Specify the quantity of each item included in the shipment. Your customers can quickly compare the quantities they receive against what they were expecting. This reduces the likelihood of disputes or misunderstandings.
UPC or SKU of Each Item
Universal Product Codes (UPCs) or Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) are unique codes or identifiers that help you identify and organize inventory easily. These special codes are a reference source for tracing an issue and contacting the seller.
PO Number or Slip Number
The purchase order (PO) or slip number is a reference for internal tracking. You can use this number to ensure the accurate order was shipped or delivered. Your customers can also use the number to inquire about their order.
You can provide a section for additional notes or special instructions on the packing slip. This section is versatile; you can include relevant information to the order, personalized messages, promotions, and return/exchange instructions.
How to Create a Packing Slip?
Now that you know why you should use a packing slip for your business and the information to include in the document, let’s see how to create one.
You can create a packing slip manually or automate it. With manual creation, you must design and fill out the packing slip individually for each order. You can fill out the details of your packing slip on a template from Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.
Manual packing slip creation is ideal for businesses with low order volumes. However, as your business grows, it can become time-consuming and error-prone.
Automated packing slip generation is ideal for businesses with higher order volumes. This process saves time and reduces the risk of errors. You can invest in e-commerce or order management software. Modern software allows you to integrate into your inventory management system, design templates, and generate packing slips.
After generating your packing slip, you can save or print it according to your requirements. Ensure you put the packing slip in the item before shipment.
Packing slip vs. Invoice vs. Shipping label
Packing slips, invoices, and shipping labels are documents used in order fulfillment. Although these documents can be easily confused, they are different. They all serve distinct purposes and contain different information.
A packing slip is always included in the package. It contains information that helps buyers verify if they received all their ordered items. On the other hand, an invoice is a document requesting payment for shipped goods. The document is always sent separately from the shipment to the customer. A shipping label contains information the shipping carrier uses to deliver the package to the right destination. This document is attached outside of the package.
The table below summarizes the key differences between packing slips, invoices, and shipping labels.
|Packing Slips||Invoices||Shipping Labels|
|Purpose||Order verification and transparency in shipment||Payment request||Logistics|
|Content||Item list, quantities, SKU or UPCs, shipping address, customer information, and order date||Buyer and seller’s contact details, invoice number, payment terms, list and quantities of products sold, unit process, applicable fees, and total amount due||Sender and recipient’s addresses, tracking numbers or barcodes, and shipping service level (e.g., standard or express)|
|Payment Information||No payment details||Includes payment terms||No payment details|
|Placement||The document is placed inside the package to allow customers to verify the accuracy of their orders.||The document is sent separately from the shipment, before or after the goods are delivered.||The document is affixed outside the package for carrier and courier use.|
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Packing Slips
Because packing slips are essential to your e-commerce business’s success, avoiding errors is crucial. The most negligible errors can lead to customer dissatisfaction, confusion, and operational challenges. You can prevent the following common mistakes when writing packing slips:
Inaccurate information in a packing slip causes discrepancies and costly errors. You can avoid this mistake by cross-verifying your orders. Always double-check the itemized list on the packing slip against the packed items. Ensure the quantities are correct and the items are accurately described.
You can also use automated systems if possible. Automated systems generate packing slips based on order data, reducing the chances of manual data entry errors.
Illegible printing may make the packing slip challenging for customers and shipping personnel to understand. You can avoid this mistake by using legible fonts for all text. Overly decorative fonts may be challenging to read. In addition, maintain a consistent font size throughout the document to ensure uniform readability.
You should also check your printer for proper functioning. Ensure the packing slip is clearly printed without smudges or faded text.
Missing Contact Information
The packing slip is usually the customer’s last communication with their order. Without contact information, your customers won’t be able to contact you for assistance or returns. You can avoid this mistake by listing your customer service phone numbers and email addresses on the packing slip.
In addition, highlight the business hours if your customer service does not operate around the clock. You can also include concise instructions on initiating a return if necessary.
Packing slips are essential in your e-commerce business. This document contains information to improve order fulfillment, build your brand reputation, and enhance customer loyalty. You can create packing slips manually or with e-commerce software. Regardless of your choice, ensure the details included in the document are correct for a transparent and accurate order fulfillment process.