Packing Slips: A Complete Guide for Delivery Businesses
Succeeding with a local delivery business is not easy these days. Consumers expect you to deliver great products cheaper and faster than Amazon. That’s a big task! Yet, you can improve your delivery statistics and satisfaction using simple tools. One of these is the packing slip, a humble piece of paper that can help you get every order right first time.
At Routific, we’re passionate about delivery management. In this article, we’ll explain what a packing slip is, what the advantages are and when you should be using one. We’ll also show some real-world examples from our customers.
What is a packing slip?
A packing slip, packing list or shipping list is a shipping document that shows what’s in the package. Packing slips make delivery confirmation easier by putting all relevant information at the customer’s fingertips. This could include:
- order number
- order date
- product/SKU (stock keeping unit)
- item description
- company information
- customer information
- route number
- delivery date
- split shipment details
Some of this information may be irrelevant to your business, and that’s fine. There’s more detail below about how to choose exactly which information to include.
Packing slips are not the same as invoices. A commercial invoice details the financial side of the order. This includes a billing address, payment methods and payment terms. Invoices are typically sent by email these days. Some businesses use invoices in place of packing slips, but we’ll come back to why that’s a bad idea.
Packing slips also differ from shipping labels. A shipping label goes on the outside of your packing materials, either as a sticker or in a shipping pouch. It shows package information including the shipping address. Shipping labels often include one or more barcodes or QR codes offering extra information. A packing slip is usually inside, and contains a detailed inventory of the package. Packing slips are typically printed on paper, but can also be plastic stickers or digital documents.
5 advantages of using packing slips for local delivery businesses
Packing slips are useful for several different purposes:
1. Customer peace of mind
Firstly, they can provide information about the contents of the package. This ensures that you deliver the correct items to the recipient. This can be particularly important for businesses that need accurate and timely deliveries. Examples are those in the food industry or or who run on just-in-time principles.
2. Logical order fulfillment
Packaging slips help if a customer has more than one active order with you. They also help manage orders in split shipments and provide proof of delivery.
3. Accurate packing
Packing slips also enable easy and accurate packing. With an itemized list of what’s in each package, you can ensure that everything is packed correctly. This can prevent inventory management errors and ensure full delivery. Correct fulfillment means customer satisfaction!
4. Easy returns
If the delivery includes damaged items, the packing slip can make returns easier. It can provide information about the return process, like a return address and specific instructions.
In high-volume businesses, packing slips can cover for damaged shipping labels or missing invoices. This should not be a consideration for most local businesses. Getting things right should be your priority.
Why packing slips may not be right for a local delivery business
In the age of environmentalism, delivery companies should reduce packaging materials. Even if you’re using packing slips for all the right reasons, a lot of them will go straight in the bin.
Sometimes, including a packing slip is unnecessary or counterproductive. In today’s digital world, you can also consider using an electronic version. Use caution and consider who your customers are — not everybody is fully digital yet. But certain customers may feel strongly about this either way.
If there is no good reason to include a packing slip, it’s a waste of time and money. For example, if a shipment contains only one item, or if the recipient can quickly open the package and check its contents.
Packing slips can be useful for local delivery companies and ecommerce businesses. However, it's important to consider the specific needs of each shipment. Balance the benefits with minimizing packaging materials.
When to include a packing slip
When delivering to a business, including a packing slip improves order fulfillment. You want to deliver the right items to the correct person or department. If the delivery is to a large factory, it may take a long time before it reaches the intended recipient. That’s not good for perishable goods or time-sensitive deliveries.
When delivering many different items in a single shipment, include a packing slip with a list of items in the package. This helps prevent confusion and ensures that all items are accounted for. It may not be necessary if you are delivering, say, a crate of fruit.
When delivering one or more pieces of a larger order, it is important to include a packing list. This lets the recipient and driver understand which ordered items are delivered. They can then double-check them with your shipping department if necessary.
If there are special instructions for the recipient or the delivery driver, including them is helpful. That could be a specific location to leave the package or a delivery time window. Special driver instructions can be also handled directly in Routific.
If you ship many gifts, packing slips allow the sender to include a personal note and hide the price. Consider whether your checkout flow needs a gift option.
When not to include a packing slip
For most residential deliveries, including a packing slip is unnecessary. If your customer is only expecting a few items, they can easily check whether they’ve got everything.
If a shipment contains only one item, including a packing slip may not be necessary. The recipient can easily verify that they have received the correct item.
Confidential or sensitive shipments
If the shipment contains confidential or sensitive items, it may not be appropriate to include a packing slip.
On the whole, local delivery companies should consider whether a packing slip will provide value. Here, value means improving the fulfillment process. The more complex the shipment, the greater value. However, if it is not necessary or could compromise the security of the shipment, it may be best to leave it out.
Use common sense. If 80% of your shipments fulfil the above requirements, consider including a packing slip every time. If most deliveries don’t need them, use them sparingly.
What to include in a packing slip
A packing slip should always include essential information, such as
- Order number: This allows you and the recipient to track the shipment and verify fulfillment.
- Order date: The date when the order was placed can help provide context for the recipient.
- Product/SKU: The slip should detail the item(s) being shipped. Include any relevant SKU numbers or product details. (Not all products need an SKU. If you are delivering a box of oranges, you probably don’t need one.
- Quantity: The number of shipped items. This helps ensure that the recipient receives the correct quantity.
- Company info: Your contact details, including the company name, address, and phone number. This information can be useful if something goes wrong with the shipment.
- Customer info: The recipient's name and addres. This ensures delivery to the correct person and location.
Additional information to consider including on your packing slip
In addition to the essential information, a packing slip may also include optional information. Depending on the needs of the sender and recipient, you may want to add:
Route number: If you’re running several delivery routes on the same day, include the route number to make sure that the shipment is loaded on the correct vehicle.
Stop number: For long multi-stop routes, including a stop number on the packing list helps your drivers load their van in reverse order. That means less time unloading at each stop. Route number and stop number can be automatically generated using route optimization software.
Split shipment number: If the shipment is one piece of a larger order, include a split shipment number. This will help both you and the recipient keep track of the shipment.
PO number: If the order is generated from a PO, include the purchase order number. This may aid the customer.
Packing slip number: If you pack many orders, it may make sense to number your packing slips.
Branding: A personalized note of thanks or other branding elements help to create a positive experience. Don’t go overboard here unless it fits your brand.
Return information: Do you have a specific shipping process for returns? Make it easy for the customer by including it on the packing slip.
UPC: Do you pack orders with many line items or use an advanced packing system? Then, it may make sense to add a universal product code for each item.
You should tailor the information on your packing slips to your and your customers needs. Focus on providing important details. Ensure accuracy, help communication, and create a great customer experience!
Every piece of your shipment should have a purpose. Think about what you want to achieve. Happy clients? Painless deliveries? Decide what you need, and work your way back from there. Our article on last mile delivery best practices for local businesses might be worth a look. We recommend using your order management system to generate packing slips.
What does a packing slip look like?
Your order management system probably has a built-in packing slip template. If you’re looking for a free packing slip template, it’s probably worth implementing a proper order management system first! With the right systems in place, you can generate packing slips instantly. Failing that, you can create a simple one in Excel based on the real world examples below. Filling it manually might take you four to six minutes per shipment.
A simple paper packing slip
Here’s a real-world example from one of our customers, showing a combination invoice and packing slip.
This is a great example of a simple packing slip that includes all the information both the customer and the delivery driver need (we’ve blanked out the customer’s full address and phone number to preserve their privacy). Depending on how your business operates, you might also want to include:
- Company branding or personalisation, particularly if you’re shipping a high-end product.
- An order date.
- If the order is a gift, leave the prices off the slip.
An electronic packing slip
Here’s an example of a packing slip generated from the Local Food Marketplace software, which is a Routific partner.
Local Food Marketplace helps farmers and food hubs sell and distribute locally produced food from their own online stores. It’s a complete system to manage all sales and distribution, whether you operate as a wholesaler, retailer, or CSA operation. LFM offers a convenient way to organise your fulfillment process. You can easily create picking and packing lists and print shipping labels.
This packing list has the order number, order date, products and quantities, and customer information. LFM also codes items by storage location: Blue for frozen, green for chilled, and white for dry goods. This makes it easy to find and pack items that are stored in different locations . There is also a thank you note that doubles as payment confirmation.
If this list is sent by email, the company name and contact details will be included. If it’s going to be printed and sent with the delivery, you might want to include:
- Company details to ensure the customer knows who the shipper is.
- A company phone number to help customers reach you about the delivery.
- Delivery date and any special instructions if necessary.
- Branding elements.
How packing slips can help you deal with split shipments
Split shipments occur when the items in an order can’t all be delivered at once. This could be because of problems with inventory, unexpected order volume, or delivery problems further up the chain.
Imagine you find out one item on an order will come next week, but the others are in stock. This creates a split shipment, where you send part of the order now and the rest later.
To provide the best service, you should first check with your customer. Do they prefer a split shipment, waiting for delivery, or cancelling the order entirely?
If they choose a split shipment, packing slips are the best way to keep track of what's been sent and what hasn't. You can use the slip to list what's in each shipment. You can add order and split shipment numbers, customer information and tracking numbers. This helps you avoid confusion and make sure the customer gets everything.
If there are any issues, packing slips can also help find missing items and solve problems. On the whole, packing slips help manage split shipments and ensure the customer gets their whole order on time.
In summary, packing slips are important for local delivery businesses, especially in the food industry. They list what's in each package, ensuring everything is right. They also help with returns and give brand awareness. Packing slips can improve your fulfillment and delivery. But not all shipments need them. So, you should consider whether they help you or your customer.
At Routific, we live to help you deliver. That’s why we made delivery management software to optimize your delivery routes. You can track your drivers in real time and send automatic updates to your customers.
With our software, you can save time and money while improving your overall customer experience. Plus, it’s user-friendly and integrates into your existing delivery process without a hitch. Sign up for a 7-day free trial to see for yourself!
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