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E-commerce Packaging: A Beginner’s Guide

E-commerce packaging is as big as ever.

But conceptualizing your product’s packaging is surely nerve-wracking, especially if you lack design experience or you’re simply clueless about where to begin.

Packaging has become just as important as the product and requires thorough research and planning to make sure it will complement the merchandise and your brand.

If you are in the beginning stages of creating your first branded e-commerce packaging for your online products and want to get the most out of the process and your budget, read along!

This guide is to help guide you through the process of getting your e-commerce packaging produced in the most efficient way. 

Illustrates the process of brainstorming your next custom e-commerce package.

Step 1: Budget, Product Placement & Determining Dimension

Initially, you will have to know how your overall goal for the packaging will align with the scope of your budget. You don’t want to go deep into the packaging process realizing that you don’t have enough resources. This is important! 

Your budget will shape the type and the direction of your packaging.

See also: 5 Steps For Preparing Your First Customized Packaging

Once that’s settled, start thinking about how you’ll place the product in the packaging as this will determine the dimensions of your box. 

If you’re in the cosmetics or beauty business, for example, it’s ideal to place all the merchandise where its entire size, shape, and color can be seen, whereas, certain subscription box products you can stack products one after another.

It will all depend on you but it is also important to consider how big or how small your packaging will be as this will influence the cost as well. 

Based on where you want to place the product and space it may occupy, you can now determine the measurement of your packaging.

As much as possible, minimize the dimensions and make the packaging light and small to save costs on materials and shipping fees.

Various examples of corrugated e-commerce packaging.

Step 2: Choosing the Best Packaging Option

Now that you have the dimensions finalized, you can start looking for the ideal structure for your product. 

There are many options to choose from, therefore, you should decide based on your needs and requirements.

Some of the most popular and cost-effective packaging options can be found below:

Roll End Tab Lock Boxes

The tab lock roll end box or mailer boxes is a corrugated box style that is well sealed and sturdy. This is the most popular e-commerce packaging box due to its protection capabilities and unboxing experience. 

Slotted Corrugated Box

Slotted corrugated boxes are your typical shipping boxes. The sheet is formed at a joint where one panel and one end panel can be joined together. The style, however, requires manual taping. It is ideal for very large products. 

Roll End Tuck Top Boxes

Roll end tuck top boxes are unglued boxes that can be folded without hassle during assembly. The top can open and close smoothly and ensures maximum closure with a tuck based on the inside of the box.

These boxes are ideal for shelves, tea packaging, catalogs, clothes, gifts, electronics, health, beauty products, and small hardware.

Poly Mailers

The poly mailer is an elastic type of packaging, made from polyethylene LDPE. It is a popular choice for e-commerce businesses that ship non-fragile items like apparel and soft goods due to its low shipping costs.

This packaging type is extremely cheap, lightweight, and space-saving. It is also tear-resistant and waterproof. Poly mailers have a self-seal adhesive strip for easy closure.

E-commerce packaging material thickness.

Step 3: Material Thickness

Typically, the manufacturer will automatically make the decision on the thickness of the paper based on the weight of your products and the dimension of your box. It is still good, however, to have an understanding of what they are.

For corrugated packaging, flutes are used as a basis for material thickness. The following are average material thickness based on flutes:


The average thickness of E-flute is 1.2mm.

LXWXH = <570  Anything less than this total dimension is E-Flute (Software, Retail, Beauty, Food, etc…)


The average thickness of B-flute is 3.0mm.

LXWXH = >570 anything more than this total dimension is B-Flute (Packaging Shoes, Industrial Products, Furniture, etc…) 

Digital vs offset printing in custom e-commerce packaging.

Step 4: Choosing the Right Print Type

The quality of print greatly affects the presentation and overall look of the products’ packaging.

These are the two main printing options for packaging:

Digital Printing

Digital printing is the process of transferring a document on a desktop or any digital storage device to a particular printing substrate through a device that accepts graphics and text output.

It is perfect for low quantity orders and is way cheaper than other printing methods. It works best on e-commerce packaging boxes.

See also: PakFactory’s Digital Corrugated Boxes

Just a reminder, try to keep your artwork as minimal as possible in terms of details and colors. The simplicity will provide a better output quality when printing in digital.

Having too many small details and lots of colors in digital will fog the overall quality of the artwork.

For digital, you can either go for no coating or gloss varnish (minimal to semi-gloss effect)

Offset Printing

Offset printing is a printing press technique that transfers the ink from a plate to a rubber roller (or blanket) and then to a paper material.

It is typically used for printing large quantities of newspapers, brochures, stationery, magazines and boxes in the best printing quality. 

The cost for offset printing is best for large quantity orders (>1000) as it offsets setup and plating costs.

See also: PakFactory’s Freedom Offset Corrugated Boxes

What makes offset the desired choice for printing is its ability to print in PMS Color and produce special printing processes such as matte & gloss lamination coatingspot UVfoil stamping, and embossing, which digital cannot do. 

Step 5: Material Stock Type

Choosing the right material stock depends on your artwork and your brand. Check out the different options below:

Natural White (Digital & Offset): For colorful and flood printing

Bleached White (Digital): Brighter output of colors to mimic offset printing slightly

Kraft (Digital & Offset): Environmental and rustic look – perfect with black print and no coating required.

Corrugated e-commerce packaging for a custom donut box.

Step 6: Add Custom Inserts

You can also consider adding inserts for protection or for promotion purposes.

To help you decide, we have enumerated some types of inserts for different purposes.

Protective Inserts

If you want to protect and organize your product, you can use cardboard or foam inserts to divide your products.

These types of packaging inserts will prevent your products from moving around the box during transit. They also enhance the experience of your customers when they receive their boxes.

Protective inserts are typically a bit costly to add but if you have the additional capital, you can opt for this option.

Thank You & Promotional Inserts

Thank You inserts are one of the cheapest ways to promote your product and increase brand awareness, customer loyalty and sales.

A custom message will not only make your customers feel that you appreciate them, but it will also allow them to treat their “customer journey” as a personal encounter.

Promotional inserts, in addition, gives them the motivation to continue to engage with your products and an opportunity for them to get the most value for your products and/or service.

Shop: Custom Packaging Inserts

Step 7: Artwork Design 

Here are simple elements you can incorporate into your artwork to resonate with your customers. The printed design is, in fact, the first thing they see and interact with.


You don’t need fancy letters or designs to capture the attention of your customers. All it takes is having a well thought out brand message that shows the personality and value of your brand.

Custom packaging specialist Francesca Nicasio from Vend.

Both the inside and outside of the box have quips like “This is my good side” and “Well done. You obviously have excellent taste.” It’s nothing fancy, but DSC’s packaging goes a long way in promoting their unique brand and voice through brand messaging.

Francesca Nicasio, Vend

Unlimited Brand Color Scheme

What is great about custom printed e-commerce packaging boxes is that you can use unlimited colors for your artwork without any additional charge.

Therefore, make sure to include all of the elements of your brand color into your artwork. If your website, blog contents and product all use pastel colors, then it would make sense to incorporate that into your packaging as well.

You can also consider color psychology and choose which colors you would like to trigger based on your customer’s emotion.

Brand Logo 

This should be visible the moment they receive your box (whether inside or outside of the box). Make sure to make your name stand out and recognizable.

For more design ideas, you can check out: 2018 Design Trend Report

Need to find a designer? You can contact PakFactory for multi-service design & production or outsource talented packaging designers for a good cost from these platforms:

Step 8: Don’t Skip the Process of Prototyping (Especially for Large Quantity Orders) 

You’re so close to creating your perfect packaging! This step is one of the most important parts of the process as it is a way to confirm the quality of your packaging.

It is recommended that a prototype is made (to confirm the structure and printing of the final output of the packaging).

Imagine receiving 10,000 boxes with the wrong dimension. It will be a DISASTROUS situation! 

The best option is to request a Physical CTP Proof (to verify printing) and a non-printed sample (to verify structure).

Another great option is a custom sample. This allows you to see how your artwork will fit into the structure (made to production digital sample).

The biggest drawback for custom samples, however, is that it typically prints in digital. If you are producing in offset for final production, the sample and final production may not 100% match in colors.

In this case, receiving a physical CTP Proof would be better for offset printing as it shows you exactly what will be printed on the box.

Step 9: Production & Shipping

You will have minimal involvement in the last step of this guide. This is when the manufacturer mass produces your packaging based on all of the final specifications.

Typically the manufacturer will be the one to take care of this part of the process but you have the choice of taking the responsibility of the shipping as well.

There are three ways you can ship your products:

  • Sea Freight (Coming from overseas and typically the cheapest option for international shipping)
  • Air Freight (Overseas or local, quickest and most costly)
  • Train or truck (Local)

Logistics can be a daunting process especially if you are shipping international, luckily, companies like PakFactory do all of the shipping grunt work for you!

Et Voila!

Don’t let the process overwhelm you, instead, see this as an opportunity to connect with your target market.

Doing so will enable you to come up with packaging that will help sell your products and attract customers! 

It may be daunting to begin your own e-commerce packaging, but with proper preparation, any business can achieve a personal touch as well.

About author

Mark Velarga

Mark Velarga is PakFactory's Director of Digital & Content Marketing. He writes about all things related to design, business and technology and how it serves value to customers, business owners, packaging designers and industry experts. Connect with him on Linkedin.
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