Packing Slip: The Hidden Element of Fulfillment Success

Post by
Frazer Kinsley
Packing Slip: The Hidden Element of Fulfillment Success

We live in wonderful times! Times our ancestors never thought possible—a digital and electronic era. As recently as last century, receiving a package from a remote country would seem like something from a Hollywood movie. More than that: Receiving that package on a tight deadline would be as rare as an oasis in the desert! Nowadays, it's even possible to receive packages transported by drones. How amazing is that?

Welcome to the amazing world of logistics and e-commerce. A world where increasingly customers

Maybe you never got a packing slip inside one of the packages you ordered. But you may get one one of those these days.

In this post, we'll talk about packing slips and why they're important. Let's start with the definition.

What's a Packing Slip?

A packing slip can go unnoticed, but it's an important document for order fulfillment, packing, and shipping. It lists all items in a shipping order. Then, shipping personnel use packing slips to know what inventory they must pack to fulfill orders. Down the road, carriers use a shipping label stuck to the package. However, inside the package goes a packing slip. After this explanation, it might sound to you that we're talking about the order invoice, but...

Is a Packing Slip and an Invoice the Same?

Well, at first glance, they look the same. But they're different documents that suit different purposes.

A packing slip lists the goods that must go inside a package. Contrarily to a packing slip, an invoice contains information used for financial purposes such as

  • Unit prices
  • Unit price discounts
  • Payment terms
  • Payment method

Sometimes, the person who receives the packing slip is not the same person who receives the invoice. The invoice is for the person who handles payments. On the other hand, the packing slip is for the recipient—the person who receives the package. Finally, a payment platform issues invoices. And on the other hand, a shipping or fulfillment platform generates packing slips. What about a shipping label?

What's the Difference Between a Packing Slip and a Shipping Label?

The shipping label is like the passport of a package along the supply chain. It contains information such as origin and destination addresses, the shipping class, and the tracking barcode. Seldom, shippers use packing slips as shipping labels. They do that by enclosing the packing slip in a transparent envelope and sticking it to the package. Nevertheless, to serve the purpose of shipping labels, packing slips would require shipping information. And your carrier would have to create the shipping label, after all, to get the tracking barcode. At this point, you might be wondering about the detailed information packing slips contain. Wonder no more! The next section will satisfy your curiosity.

What's on a Packing Slip?

Here's the kind of information that's on packing slips:

So far, you read about what a packing slip is and how unique it is. You also know the kind of information you may expect to find in one. But how does the packing slip fit into shipping operations?

The Packing Slip in the Shipping Process

The prime goal of the shipping process is to deliver ordered goods to their final destination on time. And whether you fulfill your own orders or rely on a 3PL (third-party logistics) company to do so, the goal of shipping is exactly the same.

The difference between the two scenarios is that

  • If a 3PL company doesn't fulfill orders correctly and on time, it fails as a business. And it loses clients to other 3PL companies.
  • If you don't fulfill your orders correctly and on time, your business fails. And you lose customers to other brands and multibrand e-commerce companies.

To increase the chances of being successful, 3PL companies optimize the shipping process with techniques like batch fulfillment. Customers can almost always switch brands. But a brand cannot afford to lose a customer. And when there's no alternative brand, most of the time customers prefer not to order the product again anyway.

Now, you're aware of the utter importance of having a streamlined shipping process. Therefore, you might conclude that every piece of the process is important. And one piece of the shipping process is the packing slip. Not convinced by the need to use such a document? Keep on reading.

Why Are Packing Slips Important After All?

Let's discuss a few reasons why you absolutely cannot get rid of packing slips.

Verify That Shipped Items Match Ordered Items

If no stock break occurs, shipped items must match ordered items. But that may not be the case with some orders. Someone may forget to pack an ordered item or pack a wrong one. So, before sealing a package, shipping personnel must check that all ordered items are inside the package. And for that verification, they use the packing slip.

Organize Items Split Into Multiple Packages

Have you ever placed an order at an online store and got packages originating from different physical locations? This happens when different warehouses or physical stores ship different goods belonging to the same order. Or when an order contains more items or items with more volume than a package can transport. In any of those cases, each package has its own packing slip—it's a way to organize items across packages.

Identify Damaged or Undelivered Items

Remember that time you got a damaged package? Or a package missing an ordered item? People may actually open your package during transit and get an item out of it! And carriers may damage your package or the items inside of it.

A packing slip helps to identify

  • Items damaged during transport
  • Items not delivered

In case you need to claim a refund or a resend, the information on a packing slip is essential.

Improve the Customer Experience of Unpacking

Everyone enjoys unpacking, right? Unpacking is a great opportunity to impress your customers and make them return customers. A packing slip gives your customers the chance to easily check that they got what you told them they would. But you can do even more with a packing slip. You may display your brand or send a thank you message to your customer. Packing slips could even encourage customers to follow you on social media or subscribe to your newsletter.

Maybe, Go for an Electronic Packing Slip

At this stage, you already understood how a packing slip is important. However, many of these benefits can be realized with electronic packing slips, too! Why not help the environment and go paper-less? Although it's possible to recycle paper packing slips, you never know if a customer will follow through. And perhaps, they prefer brands that use as little paper as possible.

So, how does an electronic packing slip work?

You can electronically send packing slips as PDF files to your customers. And shipping personnel can print electronic packing slips to verify the order. Another environmentally-friendly solution on the customer's end is to issue the packing slip alongside a shipping confirmation e-mail.

In short, an electronic packing slip is a viable option both for shipping personnel and customers.

Some Wrapping-Up Thoughts on Packing Slips

Assume that no ordered item runs out of stock. In that scenario, a packing slip ensures that the shipper packs and ships every ordered item. It also streamlines order fulfillment, packing, and shipping operations, thus saving time and money at those levels. Although its not a frequently discussed, each packing slip is part of your customer experience strategy.

What's the highest customer expectation of all? Get the items they ordered, isn't it? And that's true for both e-commerce and retail customers.

So, it's really important that your customer has a way of checking that all ordered items are inside the package. Packing slips excel at this job, and that's why 3PLs like Hook Logistics will always use them to provide the best fulfillment services.

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