The Definitive Guide to Shipping Labels for Any Carrier, Marketplace, or Platform
Getting your product out the door can be the most challenging part of fulfillment for ecommerce businesses. Packaging your product for safe delivery and selecting the right carrier can present unique challenges, but there's no reason selecting a shipping label should, too.
To make this process easier, we compiled a comprehensive guide about shipping labels, including compatible labels sizes and recommendations for the most popular shipping carriers, marketplaces, and platforms.
Shipping Label Best Practices
Your specialty lies in creating great products and services, you don't have time to figure out all the secrets to shipping on your own. The information below should help you through the printing and packaging process so you can get back to what you do best.
Choosing Shipping Labels on Sheets or Rolls
You have two options when it comes to purchasing and using labels: labels on sheets and labels on rolls. Which one you buy depends on your printer type – most people have standard desktop printers (the laser and inkjet varieties) which take sheet labels.
Sheet labels are simply the label version of printer paper. On the flip side, businesses are more likely to have dedicated label printers (most commonly direct thermal or thermal transfer). Those printers take roll labels, where a strip of adhesive labels is spun around a cardboard spool.
Most shipping platforms will offer their downloadable shipping labels in both sheet and roll formats, so it's truly up to you which technology you utilize. There are several benefits to roll printers, however, that make them a better option for large volume shippers.
Roll printers are faster on a per-label basis, for one, which can be a huge selling point. Additionally, because they print the labels out one at a time, you don't have to reload sheets. And finally, there are rarely alignment issues with roll labels because of the way they're inserted and fed through the printer.
But, most people don't own a dedicated label printer already, which can be an added upfront cost for your business. If you're just now investing in a printer, consider how each option can affect your label:
Laser vs Inkjet Shipping Labels
Laser printers are preferred by most carriers as they produce more durable prints and cleaner lines than inkjet printers – which is important with barcode printing. There's also no "wet ink" on your page since they use electrically charged lasers to fuse toner onto the paper.
Inkjet printers are typically cheaper, though. They're ideal for printing in color and can produce high-quality prints.
Direct Thermal vs Thermal Transfer Shipping Labels
Direct thermal printers are popular due to their low operation costs. They create prints using only heat. The labels for direct thermal printers are chemically treated to react to the heat and produce your image.
For packages that sit in hot environments, this can cause problems – the entire label is prone to darkening, erasing the details of your shipping label.
Thermal transfer printers are more like laser printers in that they're the more durable option. Thermal transfer printers work by melting wax or resin onto the label. The resulting print is strong enough to withstand extreme temperatures and contact with chemicals.
Picking Your Label Adhesive Type
We offer four types of adhesive labels for customers, but recommend only three for the purposes of shipping. Our standard label adhesive offers a strong, permanent backing that sticks to most smooth surfaces.
Our heavy-duty adhesive is great for longer staying power, but it won't hold up to wet conditions. Which is why we recommend our weatherproof permanent labels for shipping. The adhesive of our weatherproof label line is ideal for heavy handling, contact with liquids, and more.
Selecting the Facesheet Properties
All of our label materials feature of smooth, bright white facesheet though some are created with additional coatings for specific uses.
Weatherproof labels feature a waterproof top-coating. They're also made of a synthetic material as opposed to paper for added durability. This material is great for people shipping during rainy or snowy seasons, or anyone who wants that added layer of protection.
Blockout labels are special in that they use a coating between the facesheet and adhesive. This opaque layer prevents light from passing through, perfectly covering up content underneath. This material is ideal if you're reusing boxes and want to hide old shipping information or writing.
Shipping Label Mistakes
How your package looks when it arrives speaks volumes to your customers. Here are few things we've noticed over the years and would recommend against:
- Skip the scissors and tape. Printing your shipping labels on standard printer paper may seem easier and cheaper, but it produces a less-than-professional look and can make your customers second-guess the quality and legitimacy of your business.
- Applying your shipping label with milk. We've heard of people dipping their printed label in milk before sticking it to the box. The protein in milk can act as a powerful bonding agent, but that doesn't mean you should use it as your adhesive!
- Using removable labels. Our removable materials are made to remove easily which can result in lost packages – a headache for both you and your customers.
- Reusing boxes. Don't cut corners and use ratty old boxes for shipping your product. In addition to the messy presentation, having multiple barcodes or labels on your packaging can make it difficult for carriers to deliver your package correctly.
- Placing your labels over seams or corners. Your package gets scanned at every checkpoint in its journey. If your barcodes aren't easily scannable, this can slow things down or even make delivery impossible. Make sure your label is on flap or side without interruption (see example).
Labels for Shipping Carriers
The most commonly used carriers for ecommerce shipping are UPS, USPS, and FedEx. Each one offers different rates and benefits that may be right for your small business. Check out our suggestions when deciding how to choose a shipping carrier and our label recommendations for each.
Shipping Labels for UPS®
UPS is revered for its speedy delivery. The shipping-giant has approximately 119,000 vehicles on the road and more than 550 planes in the air fulfilling your orders. Its tracking is comprehensive, bulk discounts are available, and they offer generous benefits for business owners – but all of its benefits come at a cost.
UPS shipping costs include extra fees for services other carriers provide standard. This includes surcharges for residential addresses, heavily weighted packages, and more.
During our testing process, we found that the "standard" UPS shipping label was different when purchased from UPS Internet Shipping versus through the UPS Worldship desktop software. The variations were substantial enough to warrant different recommendations. Those can be found below.
Recommended UPS Internet Shipping shipping labels:
Recommended UPS WorldShip shipping labels:
Shop all UPS shipping label sizes
Shipping Labels for USPS®
The United States Postal Service is the only public shipping carrier. Because of this, its prices are considerably lower than its private shipping counterparts.
If you're shipping products under 13 ounces, there is not a more affordable option. You can also get USPS boxes for free and schedule pickups.On top of that, USPS is the only carrier that can place deliveries in mailboxes and PO boxes – which means less worrying about doorstep package thieves. However, USPS handles 47% of the world's mail volume so package tracking is less-than-desirable and dealing with its customer service team can be difficult.
Recommended USPS shipping labels:
Shop all USPS shipping label sizes
Shipping Labels for FedEx®
FedEx offers many of the same benefits as UPS including an extensive tracking system, quick delivery, and discounts for high-volume customers.
You'll also find FedEx doesn't require you to enter package dimensions or weight during the checkout process – likely due to the fact that it moves more than 15 million packages across the United States and throughout the world every business day. Cost is a detractor for entrepreneurs looking to ship with FedEx, but it does win out over the other options for those looking for Saturday delivery.
During our testing process, we found that the "standard" FedEx shipping label was different when purchased from FedEx Ship Manager Lite versus through the FedEx Ship Manager desktop software. The variations were substantial enough to warrant different recommendations. Those can be found below.
Recommended FedEx Ship Manager Lite shipping labels:
Recommended FedEx Ship Manager shipping labels:
Shop all FedEx shipping label sizes
Labels for Online Marketplaces
One of the best places your business can be is online. If you're tapping into the billions of people shopping across third-party marketplaces, here's what you need to know:
Not sure if the platforms listed above are right for your small business? Explore other options for selling your product online.
Shipping Labels for Amazon® FBA
Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is the brand's internal fulfillment service. You ship your products to one of Amazon's warehouses and Amazon takes over the process from there. It's a useful resource for small businesses who lack inventory space, time to fulfill orders, etc.
With FBA, you only have to worry about shipping once every so often and they always use UPS for small parcel deliveries so you don't have to worry about different carriers and label sizes.
Recommended Amazon FBA shipping labels:
Shop all Amazon FBA shipping label sizes
Don't forget to label the contents inside your FBA box, too! Check out our FBA product labeling guide.
Shipping Labels for Etsy®
Etsy specializes in the sale of handmade goods. The shoppers on Etsy are very targeted and they don't mind paying more for a handmade product. You're responsible for housing and fulfilling your own orders, unlike Amazon FBA, but it results in a much more personalized experience for the customer.
During the shipping process, you'll get to choose your preferred carrier for each Etsy order, ensuring you get the best price every time.
Recommended Etsy shipping labels:
Shop all Etsy shipping label sizes
Once you have your sheets in-hand, find out how to print your Etsy shipping labels.
Shipping Labels for eBay®
eBay is a veteran in the online marketplace scene. It has a dedicated customer base and is great for sellers of rare, vintage, or collectible goods.
For shipping via eBay, you're likely using PayPal until the transition to Adyen in 2020. With both programs, you'll be able to print in the same format each time so you can use the same labels time and time again.
Recommended eBay shipping labels:
Shop all eBay shipping label sizes
Discover how to print your eBay shipping labels.
Labels for Fulfillment Platforms
If you don't want to go through a mail carrier, another way to get the most out of shipping for your small business is through a shipping solutions platform. These third-party services often connect to your ecommerce platform and you can manage all of your shipping needs right from your account.
Shipping Labels for ShipStation®
ShipStation is a paid platform to help ecommerce businesses manage order processing, fulfillment, and shipping. It features an extensive list of store partners which makes connecting your business to Shipstation simple. Once connected, everything is automatically pulled into Shipstation so you can view order details, see customer information, pay postage, print labels, and customize delivery emails.
Recommended ShipStation shipping labels:
Shop all shipping label sizes
Shipping Labels for ShippingEasy®
Save time shipping with ShippingEasy. If you're shipping less than 50 packages a month, the platform is free and helps with processing orders, printing labels, and order tracking. It provides discounts on USPS postage but still allows you to choose the best carrier/prices for your orders.
Recommended ShippingEasy shipping labels:
Shop all shipping label sizes
Shipping Labels for Shippo®
Shippo is another software company that helps business owners manage shipping with multiple carriers. Connect your Shippo account with your order management software and you're in business. And with the Pay As You Go option, it's free to sign-up and there's no monthly fee. You only pay for the shipping labels and carrier fees.
Recommended Shippo shipping labels:
Shop all shipping label sizes
Shipping Labels for Stamps.com®
You can purchase your postage directly through companies like Stamps.com. It integrates with a wide range of ecommerce shopping carts so you can calculate the different costs, create shipping labels, and more. The paid platform also offers features for standardizing domestic addresses, tracking shipments, and customizing delivery emails.
Recommended Stamps.com shipping labels:
Shop all shipping label sizes
PayPal® Shipping Labels
PayPal is a popular platform for payment processing, but it offers more robust functionality for ecommerce companies. Through PayPal Shipping, you can manage all your shipments at once, order and print shipping labels, track packages, and more. And unlike many of its competitors, PayPal has no subscription costs or monthly fees.
Recommended PayPal shipping labels:
Shop all PayPal shipping label sizes
Read through our quick guide for printing PayPal shipping labels.
Recommended Shipping Label Configurations
You probably aren't printing shipping labels in a bubble – you're likely switching between carriers or platforms based on what the situation calls for – which could mean a lot of wasted time changing the label sheets in your printer tray.
We've printed the labels from each of the carriers, marketplaces, and platforms above onto each of our popular shipping label configurations so you can find the best all-in-one shipping label for your needs.
OnlineLabels.com is a resource for all things shipping. We have the tools and supplies you need to build a better business. Whether you're deciding on a product to sell, figuring out where to sell it, or already in the shipping process, we're here to help.
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