The Death of the Packing Slip?

By November 27, 2013 Packaging

Are we witnessing the slow death of the packing slip?  Long a standard in an e-commerce order, the packing slip, or packing list, or invoice…or whatever you would like to call it, has accompanied an internet order.  At it’s origin, it served multiple purposes.  First, retailers used the packing slip to confirm with the consumer what was ordered and what should be in the box.  It also conveyed important information regarding returns, contacts and help numbers.  Packing slips also sometimes served as an invoice providing payment data to the e-commerce customer.  From an operations standpoint, the e-commerce fulfillment center used the packing slip as a ‘pick ticket.’  This guided the order picker to what was in the shipment and where it was going so they could fulfill the order.  Rather than throwing it away when done, they simply folded it up and included it in the package.  In essence, it served as a work order for the warehouse picker.

Well…times change.  A modern, e-commerce fulfillment provider no longer needs a paper work order.  We work off handheld computers/scanner often voice or light activated.  The scanner tells us where to go in the warehouse, what to pick and where to send it…no paper.  Therefore, for most high-volume e-fulfilement centers, a packing slip no longer serves any operational purpose.  What about telling the customer what’s in the box, providing contact information and/or invoice information?  Current e-commerce fulfillment best practices involve a lot more customer communication than in the past.  Most e-commerce orders are followed immediately by a confirmation e-mail that provides complete invoice information.  That e-mail is then followed up by a shipping confirmation e-mail after the order has been fulfilled.  This provides what’s in the box and tracking information.  It also often provides instructions, contact information and return instructions.  Finally, we are seeing more and more internet retailers send an e-mail after delivery, confirming the customer’s experience and once again, providing information on the order.

With all of this paperless communication, high volume e-commerce sites are increasingly skipping the packing slip.  In fact, if you have ordered from Amazon lately, you more than likely get a box with just exactly what you ordered and no piece of paper that you will throw away.  From Amazon’s point of view it is very logical.  Besides the obvious cost savings, it is environmentally conscious and further, any information on the packing slip is redundant to what has already been communicated to the customer.

At TAGG, we are also seeing clients move away from the packing slip.  Some e-commerce clients are taking the opportunity to replace it with better developed marketing collateral.  Considering these packing slips ore typically very limited in terms of what you can put on them and they are also very limited in terms of marketing aesthetics – just a black and white piece of paper folded with very limited images – it is not surprising that many clients are taking the opportunity to include a well developed marketing piece as an insert instead of the packing slip.

As with anything, time brings change.  It will be a slow death, as more and more e-commerce sites and fulfillment centers develop the technology to replace the packing slip, but eventually it will die.  This Holiday Season, maybe you should keep a collection of the packing slips you get to save for prosperity….nah…just throw them away as usual and embrace change!