Preventing Shipping Damage for Ecommerce Deliveries

banged up shipping box

Unfortunately, the occasional damage during shipping is unavoidable. During the shipping process there is a chance that packages will be damaged because of improper handling, water exposure, or some other unforeseen accident.

For some ecommerce merchants, this is a major concern. The damage is often out of their control, can be costly to repair or replace, and could negatively impact customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The merchant is often burdened with the cost to ship a damaged order back, the shipping cost to replace the damaged order, and the cost of the damaged product or products that likely are now unsellable.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent damage, even with highly fragile items..

Most Common Causes of Shipping Damage

First, you need to understand the most common causes of shipping damage.

Not Enough Padding

Having enough padding and cushioning around your product in the packaging can go a long way towards preventing damage, even if packages are mishandled.

What type of padding you use, often referred to as dunnage in the shipping industry, will depend on what you are shipping. Bubble wrap and styrofoam are not the only options available.

Many times recycled paper will do the job and is better for the environment.

Of course, not everything gets shipped in a box. If you use shipping envelopes for some orders, you might want to consider using bubble mailers to prevent damage.

Too Much Empty Space in Packaging

If you use a box that is much larger than what you are shipping, you are likely leaving room for the product to move around inside the box increasing the risk of damage.

Besides being concerned with damage, it is also better to use appropriate size boxes because of the cost involved with using a larger box. If you use a box that is too large it will take up more space in delivery vehicles and carriers will charge you DIM weight pricing.

Water Damage

Obviously, if a package is left outside a residence or business’s door and exposed to unexpected rain, water damage can occur. However, exposure to extreme variations in temperature and humidity inside trailers can cause condensation to build up and cause damage inside packages as well.

Condensation can lead to corrosion, warping of materials, and mold growth.

Including desiccants inside of shipments can help prevent this.

Careless and Improper Handling

Your packages are going to likely pass through many hands in the supply chain on the way to their destinations. Even though carriers try to implement quality control measures along the way, accidents happen and sometimes employees just make mistakes in mishandling packages.

Improper handling, especially of packages marked fragile, can result in damages to contents.

Fortunately, there is insurance available to cover business owners for improper handling of shipments.


Technically, this is not damage to packages, but it does cause a loss in replacement costs for businesses. The most common time that theft occurs is once the package has been delivered. We have all seen the stories and videos about people driving through neighborhoods and taking packages off of doorsteps.

You can minimize the chance of theft by educating your customers about services available from carriers that lets them schedule delivery windows when they know they will be home or to have packages held at pickup locations.

Ways to Prevent Shipping Damages

Returns due to product damage accounts for as much as a quarter of all returns for many ecommerce businesses. Knowing that, there are some things you can do to try to prevent shipping damage and increase your profits as a result.

Use Proper Padding and Fill Empty Space

If your products are fragile, make sure everything is wrapped in some sort of cushioning material and that padding is used to fill in empty spaces in the packaging. You want everything filled in to prevent the products from shifting around during shipping.

Select the Appropriate Packaging

Yes. Size does matter when you are talking about shipping. The box should be larger than what you are shipping, but only slightly larger. The closer you can get to a tight fit, the better, while leaving room for dunnage.

You do not want the product to be touching the edge of the packaging. Remember that packages may get bumped and battered in shipping. You need space to add padding to protect the product from being damaged if this happens..

Use Appropriate Labels

If you are shipping something that is fragile, label it as such. Put the label on multiple sides of the packaging so it is not missed. Ideally, package handlers are going to be a little more delicate with boxes that are labeled as fragile.

Trial Runs

If you are shipping a new product or started working with a new carrier or order fulfillment company, consider doing a few shipping trial runs to make sure packages are arriving without damage.

It is better to test things and work out any kinks before you start shipping to customers and end up with service issues that could have been prevented.

Collect Data

Make sure that you are collecting data on products returned due to shipping damage. Collect more than just the fact that the product was damaged. What kind of damage did it incur? Describe it in detail.

If you can start to recognize a pattern with a particular product, you may want to revisit how you are packing it. Maybe there are adjustments you can make to your packaging to prevent the same damage in the future.

Can You Hold Shipping Carriers Accountable?

If you can prove that the carrier damaged the product during shipping, they can be held liable for it. However, this can be challenging to prove, and sometimes ends up being more headaches than it is worth.

All of the major carriers do offer shipping insurance as an alternative. Shipping insurance lets the sender file a claim if a package was damaged or lost during shipping.

Shipping insurance claims tend to be a lot easier to win and usually just require photo evidence of the damage.

Enhance Your Shipping and Fulfillment With ShipBuddies

Need help making sure your products are properly packaged for shipping? Want someone else to handle the headaches of processing returns when something does get damaged?

Give us a call for a free quote today and learn how ShipBuddies can take care of all of your shipping and fulfillment needs.

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