Choosing the Right Box Size

Boxes come in all shapes and sizes.  So do products.  Yet, have you ever ordered something small from an e-commerce company only to have it shipped in a box that was entirely too big?  Who bears the brunt of the added shipping cost associated with an oversized container?  The consumer? The e-commerce company?  Answer: Both. The consumer bears added cost of shipping and the e-commerce company realizes an increase in the cost-of-goods-sold (COGS) through increased costs in boxes, packing material, and warehouse storage.  It all adds up.

Take the example of a small bottle of vitamins. 

One. Small. Bottle.

If you’re an e-commerce company, like Melaleuca or GNC, it should come as no surprise that some customers will opt to purchase JUST ONE bottle.  As such, be sure to have a small-sized box to accommodate such an order.  The box doesn’t have to fit the product like a glove, but it should be small enough that when the customer opens it they won’t have a hard time finding the product because it’s not buried in a never-ending pile of packaging material.

When dealing with box sizes, the law of diminishing returns applies.  Sometimes in our efforts to perfectly-accommodate products with boxes sized accordingly, we end up losing money because of wasted effort.  There is a happy medium.

There are a few schools-of-thought when it comes to strategically choosing box sizes.  Here are three:

  • Choose box sizes according to flat-rate shipping

This strategy is best used for domestic shipping only.  However, when used, it can save a good amount of time that otherwise would have been spent trying to optimize box selection according to weight.  This is particularly helpful when dealing with a variety of products combinations and resulting gross weights.

  • Have 3 sizes and deal with it

Sometimes less is more.  Don’t complicate your world, especially if you are certain customers won’t freak out and if your product sizes are not that variable.  Consider having a selection of three basic box sizes: Small, medium, and large.  I call this the 3 bears approach.

  • Get really sophisticated and invest in automated system

Some companies, particularly multi-million-dollar e-commerce outfits, will invest in a distribution platform that selects box sizes to optimize according to weight and product size.  It’s pretty fascinating, but extremely expensive.