December 12, 2021

6 packaging design strategies for better e-commerce returns


Guest feature from our partners at Packlane.

Packlane is the one-stop-shop for creating affordable custom branded packaging for businesses of all shapes and sizes, from mailers to printed shipping boxes and anything in between.

Let’s face it; packaging returns are inevitable in the world of e-commerce. When you’re buying from a screen and not touching or trying on a product for size, sometimes, the item can disappoint.

According to a recent study by Invesp, a whopping 30% of all e-commerce purchases are returned. The good news is that 92% of customers are more likely to come back to a brand if the return process is easy—and packaging plays a significant role in this process.

Intentional packaging choices and some logistical preparation are the keys to a positive e-commerce return. Here are some effective packaging design and order fulfillment strategies to incorporate into your next manufacturing run so you can keep your customers happy and coming back for more.

Important packaging details to keep in mind

Simplifying returns is a calculated choice!

Make sure you consider the following details when optimizing your brand’s packaging returns for a profitable product: 

1. Material

Packaging material plays a vital role in the construction of your mailer or shipping box. Remember, these packages can travel through several fulfillment centers and carrier trucks before they arrive at your customers' doors. A durable material choice could mean the difference between a damaged product and lost profits, so consider the shipping elements your product will need to withstand to ensure it can make a round-trip delivery.

Packlane’s econoflex shipping box, for example, is an optimal choice. They’re made of 32 ECT corrugated cardboard and protect your precious cargo door-to-door, all while being naturally biodegradable over time.

2. Perforated tear strip on boxes and mailers

No one likes to face the frustration and struggle of opening a tightly taped box, especially your customers.

Instead, use a perforated tear strip to make unboxing fast and convenient. In addition, these strips can minimize box damage and encourage customers to reuse the packaging for their return journey. Better yet, add an adhesive strip to pump up the reusability factor of your package. Although they cost more than standard shipping boxes or mailers, they can be an excellent investment for a superior customer experience.

3. Double seal poly mailers 

If you've received an Amazon poly mailer, you've probably seen double adhesive strips in action. When paired with a tear strip, customers can reuse double seal poly mailers to return a product in its original parcel.

During fulfillment, warehouse workers first use one strip to seal the bag. Then, your customers will need to peel and seal the other strip for an efficient return. 

These mailers are a great tool to reduce sourcing unnecessary return packaging. Even if customers happily keep your product, they'll be incentivized to reuse your container for another pesky e-commerce return. Packaging is easy for you, and returns are convenient for the customer… A real win-win.

4. Add extra return mailers 

Hear us out; sometimes, an extra set of mailer boxes makes sense for product returns. A poly mailer—custom or blank—that's separate from the primary packaging used to ship your product makes return shipping easier for your customers. If you foresee customers sending back only a subset of shipped products (like clothing in try-on boxes) or you want to ensure your products will arrive back in mint condition, adding this extra insurance is a worthy investment.

Brands like MM LaFleur and thredUP send their customers an extra poly mailer with a shipping label for a seamless return experience. 

Again, this strategy helps brands build customer trust and loyalty, increasing brand credibility. You can also include return instructions on collateral, a packing slip, or directly designed on custom packaging, suggesting that customers not discard it until they are satisfied with their purchase. On top of this, including an extra mailer shows your customers you have thought out and created an easy return flow, which is crucial for building return and referral loyalty. 

5. Void fill and inner packaging

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