How to pack and ship ecommerce orders


Use our step-by-step guide to learn the basics of ecommerce shipping and explore options for shipping products to Amazon customers.

Why is careful packing and shipping important?

It’s simple. When you pack your items carefully and ship them quickly, you’re more likely to delight customers and secure repeat purchases. But if you don’t, your products can get damaged or lost, your customers might get upset, and you could end up spending more money on returns and replacements. That’s why it’s important to learn how to pack and ship ecommerce orders correctly. It can help your business thrive while keeping costs under control.

In this post, we’ll cover the basics you need to know for packing and shipping products, including:

  • General tips for all ecommerce sellers
  • How Amazon sellers can fulfill orders themselves
  • How to prepare products for Amazon fulfillment

Guidelines for packing and shipping ecommerce orders

Choose the right packaging materials


Choose the right size. Picking the right size packaging is the first step in shipping products to customers. For example, if you use a box that’s too big, your items might bounce around inside and get damaged during shipping. But if the box is too small, your products could get squished or crushed. So pick packaging that fits your products just right.

Choose the right type. Another thing to keep in mind for ecommerce shipping is choosing the right type of packaging material. Some items, like glass or electronics, need extra protection. For these kinds of items, you might want to use sturdy boxes, bubble wrap, or foam peanuts to keep them safe. Other products, like clothes or books, can be shipped in lighter materials like padded envelopes or poly mailers.

Use efficient packing techniques

By choosing the right box and filler materials, wrapping items carefully, and filling all empty spaces, you can improve the chances your products will arrive in good condition.

Here are tips on using fillers, bubble wrap, and other materials to keep your products safe during shipping:

  • Wrap items tightly with bubble wrap. Make sure the bubbles face in toward the product for the best protection. Use tape to keep the bubble wrap in place.
  • Fill all empty spaces in the box. Use fillers like packing peanuts, air pillows, or crumpled paper to prevent items from shifting around. The box should be full, but not bulging.
  • Double box, or over-box, fragile items for extra safety. Put your bubble-wrapped product in one box, then put that box inside a slightly larger box with more cushioning in between.
  • Consider eco-friendly fillers when possible. Instead of plastic, look for paper or other recyclable, biodegradable materials.
  • Test your packaging before shipping. Gently shake the box to make sure nothing is moving around inside. If you hear things shifting, add more filler material.

Label and complete documentation properly


Taking a few extra minutes to label packages properly can make a big difference. That’s because proper labeling and documentation provide shipping carriers the information they need to pick up, track, and deliver packages quickly and safely for customers.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Write the shipping address clearly and completely. Include the recipient’s full name, street address, city, state or province, zip or postal code, and country if shipping internationally. Print the label or use neat handwriting so it’s easy to read.
  • Put your return address on the package too. This information usually goes in the upper left corner. If the package can’t be delivered for some reason, it will be sent back to you.
  • If you’re shipping something fragile, mark it with “Handle with care” or “Fragile” stickers. This alerts the shipping company to be extra careful with your package.
  • For international orders, fill out a customs form. This form tells the country what’s inside the package and how much it’s worth. You can usually get these forms from your shipping company or post office.
  • Attach the customs form to the outside of your package in a clear plastic envelope. It makes it easy for customs officials to see the information without opening the package.
  • Double-check that all labels and forms information is correct before you ship. This task helps avoid delays or lost packages.
Pro Tip
Print labels from a carrier website
If you use a shipping service like UPS or FedEx, you can often print labels directly from their website. This service saves time and makes sure everything is filled out correctly.

Select an ecommerce shipping method

Compare standard, expedited, and flat-rate shipping. When deciding how to ship your products, you’ll need to choose between standard shipping, expedited shipping, and flat rate shipping. The key is to find a balance that keeps your customers happy and your business running smoothly.

  • Standard shipping is usually the most economical option, but it also takes the longest for packages to arrive. This choice might be okay for customers who don’t mind waiting.
  • Expedited shipping, like overnight or two-day delivery, gets packages to customers faster, and it also costs more. This option can be good for urgent orders or when you want to attract your customers. But it can eat into your profits if you’re not careful.
  • Flat rate shipping is when you charge the same price for shipping no matter how much the package weighs or where it’s going. This option can be simpler for you and customers, but it might not always be the best deal depending on the size and weight of your products.

Choose a shipping carrier

Choosing the right carrier and service can help you balance cost and speed to keep your customers happy. When it comes to shipping your products, you have a few different options.

Each of the following carriers offers various services depending on how fast you need your package to arrive and how much you’re willing to spend:

  • United Parcel Service (UPS)
  • FedEx
  • United States Postal Service (USPS)

UPS and FedEx have standard ground shipping, which takes a few days, and expedited options like UPS Next Day Air or FedEx Overnight to get packages there quicker. They also offer special services for shipping internationally or handling fragile items.

USPS has Priority Mail and First-Class Mail, which are economical but slower. It also has Priority Mail Express, which costs more but it’s faster.

Understand dimensional weight

Dimensional weight is a way that shipping companies calculate what to charge based on how much space a package takes up and how much it weighs. They do this because big, bulky packages can be harder to transport even if they’re not heavy.

To figure out a package’s dimensional weight, multiply the length, width, and height of your package (in inches) and then divide by the relevant number for your package and carrier.

If the dimensional weight is more than the actual weight, you’ll be charged based on the dimensional weight instead. That means if you’re shipping something light but big, like a large stuffed animal or a set of pillows, you might end up paying more than you expected.

To keep costs down, try to use packaging that fits your products snugly without too much extra space inside.

Other packing and shipping considerations

Get insurance

If you ship high-value items to your customers, you’ll want to protect your business and buyers by purchasing shipping insurance. This extra coverage safeguards you financially in case a package gets lost, damaged, or stolen during transit. Without insurance, you could be responsible for the full cost of replacing an expensive item, which could hurt your bottom line.

Here’s how it works. If something goes wrong, you file a claim and get reimbursed for the declared value of the package. In other words, with insurance, you can quickly send a replacement to your customer without having to absorb the cost yourself. And by making things right without any hassle, you’ll show your customers that you care about their satisfaction and are willing to ensure they have a positive experience with your brand.

Track your orders


In addition to insuring high-value shipments, it’s also important to provide your customers with tracking information. When someone places an order, especially for an expensive item, they want to know exactly where their package is at all times. By giving them a tracking number and regular updates on the status of their shipment, you’ll ease their worries and build trust in your business.

With tracking information readily available, your customers can see when their package leaves your warehouse, follow its journey through the shipping process, and know exactly when to expect delivery. Plus, if any issues arise during shipping, you and your customer will be able to quickly identify the problem and work together to find a solution.

Handle returns and exchanges

Customer returns happen. If you handle them well, you can keep your customers happy and coming back to shop with you.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for and handle returns smoothly:

  1. Make sure your return policy is easy to understand and find on your website. Clearly explain how long customers have to make a return, what condition items need to be in, and whether you offer refunds, exchanges, or store credit.
  2. Have an organized space and system set up for processing returns. When a returned package arrives, you’ll need to open it, inspect the item’s condition, and decide what to do next based on your policy.
  3. If not handing returns yourself, assign specific staff members to handle returns and make sure they understand the process fully. They should know how to log the return in your system, issue refunds or exchanges, and restock items that can be resold.
  4. Communicate with customers during returns. As soon as you receive their items, let them know it arrived and provide updates on when their refund or exchange will be processed. If there are any issues, like a damaged item or a missing receipt, reach out promptly to resolve them.
  5. Look for ways to make the returns process even better over time. Ask customers for feedback on how easy it was to make a return. Keep track of common reasons for returns, and see if you can reduce them by improving product descriptions or packaging. Regularly review your policy to make sure it’s fair to customers and not hurting your profits.

Packing and shipping Amazon orders yourself

Introduction to Fulfilled by Merchant

When you sell goods on Amazon and pack and ship ecommerce orders yourself, we call that Fulfilled by Merchant.

With Fulfilled by Merchant, you manage custom orders directly and have the opportunity to put a personal touch on the post-order experience. But you’re also responsible for each part of shipping and fulfillment. For example, you pay for shipping and make sure orders get to customers on time, without Amazon’s help. That also means you keep your products in your own warehouse or storage space. It also means you handle returns and customer service.

You can use Fulfillment by Merchant services for every product you sell, or use it for certain products while you sell others using Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA).

Introduction to Fulfilled by Merchant
Get an overview of Fulfilled by Merchant packing guidelines, understand shipping metrics, and review guidelines for maintaining a positive customer experience.

Benefits of Fulfilled by Merchant

When you choose Fulfilled by Merchant, you take charge of storing your own inventory, packing orders, and shipping products directly to customers. You can also access to tools that keep track of your inventory and make sure all your orders from Amazon and other places you sell are organized in one spot.

Another benefit to Fulfilled by Merchant is freedom. For example, you can customize your packaging to showcase your brand and include marketing materials to connect with buyers. You also have the flexibility to sell specialty items that might not be a good fit for Amazon’s facilities, like fragile or oversized products. Plus, you can offer your unique level of customer service by handling customer issue and inquiries directly.

Pro Tip
Set shipping rates with care
It’s important to set realistic shipping rates that cover your costs while still being competitive with other sellers. You should also make sure you’re prepared to ship orders promptly and communicate with customers about any delays or issues that might arise.

Set up shipping options for Fulfilled by Merchant

To use Fulfilled by Merchant services, one of the first things you’ll need to do is set up your shipping options in Seller Central. This determines how much you’ll charge customers for shipping and which regions you’ll ship to.

Here’s how to set up your shipping options:

  1. Log in to your Seller Central account, or sign up for an account if you don’t already have one.
  2. Hover over the gear icon to open the settings menu, then select Shipping Settings.
  3. Use the General shipping settings tab to confirm or update your default shipping address, operating days, cut-off times, handling times, and other settings.
  4. Use the Shipping templates tab to confirm or updates transit times and fees for domestic, international, and expedited shipping, as well as two- and one-day delivery. You can create multiple templates to set different transit times and fees for different products.

You can offer free shipping, charge a flat rate per order, or set rates based on the weight or price of the items. If you choose to charge by weight or price, you’ll need to enter your rates for each region you ship to.

You can also use Shipping Settings Automation and an automated handling time to optimize the delivery dates that appear to customers. Consider setting up a cancellation window to reduce the number of order-cancellation requests you receive from buyers.

After configuring your shipping setting, you should check your return settings and make adjustments, if necessary. You can create additional return policies for your business that match or exceed Amazon’s policy.

Fulfilled by Merchant: How to set order handling capacity
Learn how to set order handling capacity for the Amazon orders you fulfill directly.

Packing Fulfilled by Merchant orders

As orders come in, prioritize packing and shipping them out as quickly as possible. Having a streamlined process for receiving orders, locating products, packing boxes, and printing shipping labels will help you stay on top of fulfillment.

Follow the general packing guidelines we’ve already reviewed, like using high-quality, sturdy boxes that are the right size for your products. The box should be just a bit larger than the item, with enough room for protective packaging material like bubble wrap or air pillows. Avoid using a box that’s way too big.

Pro Tip
Double-check orders
As you pack each order, double check that you’re including all the correct items and quantities that the customer purchased. It’s a good idea to use a packing slip that lists everything in the order, so you can verify it’s complete before sealing up the box.

Shipping Fulfilled by Merchant orders

Fulfilled by Merchant sellers should usually ship orders within 1 to 2 business days. The shipping method you pick will depend on a few key factors, like the size and weight of your products and how fast your customers expect to receive their orders.

For smaller, lightweight items that don’t need to arrive as quickly, you might opt for a more affordable shipping option like USPS First Class Mail. This choice can help keep your costs down while still providing reliable delivery.

If you’re sending larger or heavier products, or if your customers want their orders sooner, you’ll probably need to use a faster shipping service like UPS Ground or FedEx Home Delivery. These options cost more but will ensure your packages arrive on time.

One great way to streamline your Fulfilled by Merchant shipping is to use Amazon Buy Shipping. This tool lets you buy shipping labels directly through Amazon at discounted rates negotiated with major carriers. With it, you can compare prices and delivery speeds from UPS, FedEx, and USPS all in one place to find the best deal for each order.

Plus, when you use Buy Shipping, Amazon will automatically send tracking information to your customers and mark the order as shipped in your Seller Central account. This feature saves you time and helps keep your customers in the loop about their packages.

To use Buy Shipping:

  1. Select the Orders tab in Seller Central from the menu, then select Manage Orders.
  2. On the Manage Orders page, find the order you want to ship, and click Buy Shipping.
  3. Enter the package details and choose your carrier and service level.
  4. When you’re ready to complete the purchase, click the Buy Shipping button and print the label.
  5. Finally, pack up the order, place the label on the shipping package, and send it on its way.
How to ship your first order with Amazon Buy Shipping
Learn how to use Amazon Buy Shipping to purchase and print labels for your Fulfilled by Merchant orders.

Managing inventory with Fulfilled by Merchant

Remember, inventory management is one of the perks of using Fulfilled by Merchant services, which can help you stay organized, keep close track of your product levels, and fulfill customer orders on time. You can use the Manage Inventory tool to monitor what you have on hand and when you need to reorder products. You can also see your sell-through rate, which is how quickly you’re selling inventory compared to how much you have in stock.

Let Amazon fulfill orders for you

Introduction to Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)

When you sell products online, fulfilling orders can be a big challenge. That’s where Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) comes in.

With FBA, Amazon takes care of picking, packing, and shipping product on your behalf. You send your inventory to Amazon’s fulfillment network, and when a customer places an order, Amazon takes care of the rest. We’ll even handle customer service and returns related to those orders.

You can use FBA for every eligible product you sell, or use it for certain products while you sell others using Fulfilled by Merchant services.

Using FBA can eliminate the need for a storage. Instead of worrying about having enough space to store your inventory or spending hours packing boxes, you can focus on growing your business. Plus, your products will be eligible for Prime shipping, which means customers can get them delivered faster—often in just one or two days, a selling point that can help you attract more buyers.

Another big benefit of FBA is that you can reach customers all over the world. Amazon has fulfillment centers and other facilities in many different countries, so you can expand your business globally without having to figure out international fulfillment on your own.

There are costs associated with using FBA, like for storage and fulfillment. But if you’re an Amazon seller, the time and hassle you save can be well worth it. With FBA handling your packing and shipping, you’ll have more time to scale your business and delight customers with speedy, reliable delivery.

Fulfillment by Amazon vs. Fulfilled by Merchant
Learn about both fulfillment methods and understand how to use one, the other, or both for the products you sell in the Amazon store.

Prepping products for FBA

First, make sure to follow the packaging and prep requirements closely when shipping products to FBA to ensure that your items are stored and delivered to customers correctly. These will tell you how to properly pack and protect your items based on what type of products you sell:

  • Liquids need to be sealed tightly and packed with plenty of cushioning to avoid leaks or breaks.
  • Clothing should be folded neatly, and some can be hung on hangers, like baby clothes.
  • Fragile items like glassware need lots of bubble wrap.

Next, make sure each item has a scannable barcode that meets Amazon’s standards. Most products will need a GTIN barcode, which stands for Global Trade Item Number. UPCs, EANs, JANs, and ISBNs are all types of GTINS. If you manufacture or sell your own products, you can get barcodes directly from an organization called Global Standards 1, or GS1 for short. For some categories, like books, you can use the manufacturer barcode already on the item. Amazon also has special barcodes for products that expire or need to be tracked in batches.

Once your products are prepped, you’ll need to label each unit with your seller information and a special FBA label. You can print these labels yourself or have Amazon label the items for a per-item fee. If you label products yourself, make sure to cover up any old shipping labels or barcodes.

After your products are prepped and labeled, they’re ready to be shipped to an Amazon fulfillment center.

Fulfillment by Amazon packaging, prep, and labeling requirements
Learn about the requirements for FBA, including barcode, inventory, packaging, and labeling requirements.

Shipping products to the Amazon fulfillment network

Once your products are prepped and ready to go, it’s time to create a shipping plan in Seller Central using the Send to Amazon workflow. This plan tells Amazon which items you’re sending to their fulfillment centers and how you want to ship them.

To get started, open the main menu in Seller Central, hover over Inventory, then click FBA Inventory. On the next page, hover over Shipments at the top, then click on Send to Amazon.

On the Send to Amazon page, follow the steps in the workflow:

  1. Confirm inventory to send. Choose the inventory you want to send and pack the individual units. Decide whether you want to ship everything in one box or split it into multiple shipments.
  2. Confirm shipping. Pick a carrier to transport your products to Amazon. You can use your own carrier account or buy shipping labels directly from Amazon.
  3. Print box labels and attach them to your boxes.
  4. Confirm carrier and pallet information if you’re shipping products to Amazon using a pallet. Take advantage of discounted shipping rates and automated tracking by selecting an Amazon partnered carrier. Or use a non-partnered carrier and book shipping outside of Seller Central.
  5. Print pallet labels if you’re shipping pallets using a partnered carrier.

After your shipments are on their way, monitor your inventory levels from your FBA Inventory dashboard. You can also use the Shipping Queue to see when items arrive at a fulfillment center and become available for customers to buy. If you start running low on certain products, make sure to send more inventory before you run out completely.

Introduction to the Send to Amazon workflow
Get an overview of how to send your inventory to the Amazon fulfillment network using the Send to Amazon workflow in Seller Central.

Use Amazon to pack and ship ecommerce orders for multiple sales channels

Introduction to Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF)

If you already use FBA to handle your Amazon orders, you can also take advantage of Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) to fulfill orders from your other sales channels. MCF lets you store your inventory in Amazon’s fulfillment network, then have Amazon pick, pack, and ship orders that come in from places like your own website, eBay, or Etsy.

It’s important to note that sellers are responsible for providing customer service for MCF orders, including addressing delivery inquiries and managing requests for replacements, refunds, and returns.

Understand Multi-Channel Fulfillment
Learn how to use Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) to take advantage of Amazon fulfillment across multiple sales channels.

Benefits of MCF

One of the biggest benefits of using MCF is that you can use the same pool of inventory for both your Amazon and non-Amazon orders. That means you don’t have to split your stock between different facilities or worry about running out of products on one channel while having plenty in another. Plus, your customers will get the same fast, reliable shipping that Amazon is known for, no matter where they buy from you.

Create MCF orders and send to Amazon

To get started with MCF, you need to create MCF orders in your Amazon Seller Central account. When you receive an order from one of your other sales channels, just head to the Manage Orders page and choose Create Fulfillment Order. Enter the customer’s shipping information and select the items to be shipped. You can even set your preferred shipping speed, like standard, expedited, or priority.

If you need to send more inventory to Amazon to fulfill your MCF orders, the process is the same as when you replenish stock for your regular FBA products. Use the Send to Amazon workflow to create a new shipping plan, prep your products according to Amazon’s guidelines, and then send everything to Amazon. Once your inventory arrives, it will be available to use for both your Amazon and MCF orders.

Pack and ship ecommerce orders efficiently

It’s no secret that mastering packing and shipping is a key component of ecommerce success, and one way to do that is by choosing the right fulfillment method based on your business model and capabilities.

Should Amazon make sense for your business model, we offer various fulfillment options to help delight your customers and grow your business. With Fulfilled by Merchant, you can save time and money with tools and automation to sync your inventory and manage orders from multiple sales channels. Or use FBA for Amazon’s extensive fulfillment network and offer Prime and Premium Shipping options to your customers.

Whatever packing and shipping method you choose, remember that ecommerce success lies in providing excellent customer service, efficient order fulfillment, and reliable shipping.

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Mickey Toogood
Mickey Toogood
Mickey Toogood is a Sr. Content Marketing Manager at Amazon. He’s passionate about connecting sellers with ecommerce opportunities. He also loves books, travel, and music.