As retailers convert more and more sales online and consumers increasingly rely on the digital world to make purchases and store transactions, the humble packing slip has often fallen to the wayside. Who looks at the packing slip, so long as every item is present within the package and the order confirmation email has been received?
Though packing slips have been reduced for smaller deliveries – in part, to save on undue waste – they still form a vital part of many companies packing and order fulfilment process, as they offer a fulfilment contingency plan across all phases of the delivery process, in case of lost/missing items.
What is a Packing Slip?
Typically a piece of paper or card, a packing slip is a document (or collection of documents) that includes a comprehensive and complete list of every item in a particular package. Used in order fulfilment processes, they ensure that the order is accurate and the customer receives all the items they ordered and are expecting.
The Importance and Benefits of the Packing Slip
Though many retailers have ceased supplying them with small orders, a packing slip does actually have benefits for buyers and retailers, including:
- Ease of packaging for picking and packing staff: when collecting and packaging items for multiple orders, the packing slip provides a simple point of reference as to which items are to be packed together
- Shipping the right items to the correct customer: packing slips can increase picking accuracy to avoid the scenario where customers receive the wrong items or partial orders (without prior notice)
- Cross-referencing with the shipping label: including a packing slip gives the packing employee one final look at the destination address before sealing the package, which will avoid two customers having a negative experience
- Returns and refunds: consumer rights relating to online purchases ensure that returns and refunds will always be a part of the eCommerce process. Packing slips can simplify the refund and exchange processes
- Can double as a backup shipping label: shipping labels can get damaged during transit, if so, the packing slip can be a point of reference for carriers to create a duplicate shipping label
- Useful as a document for inspection: packing slips can be used to give carriers important information regarding the package contents, such as if the materials are potentially hazardous, illegal or prohibited by a particular carrier
The Difference Between a Packing Slip and Invoice
Although they can look identical at a quick look, the function of a packing slip and invoice differ entirely. The invoice is the financial documentation detailing the transaction/order, dividing the order across the amount of money each good was sold for, payment methods, date of purchase and payment terms.
The packing slip, on the other hand, is merely used to identify the receipt of each product being received by the buyer.
Sometimes, each item can be intended for different parties – such as gifts – where the invoice will be sent to the person who is responsible for the payment of the goods, whereas the packing slip is intended for the person receiving the package.
The Difference Between a Packing Slip, Picking List and Shipping Label
There are fundamental differences between the packing slip, picking list and shipping label. We have already covered the use of the packing slip earlier in this article, the functional differences are:
- Picking list: the picking list will contain details across multiple customer orders, on a single document. Picking lists are usually designed to add efficiency to the picker’s workday, with optimal picking routes across the warehouse.
- Shipping label: a shipping label assists in the transition across the supply chain, detailing crucial information about the address of origin, destination address, shipping class as well as a tracking number and barcode
7 Things Every Packing Slip Should Include
There are some elements that you will find are consistent across any packing slip.
1. Itemisation of Shipped Items
Customers will reference the items they receive against their complete order list to determine that they have received everything they paid for when unpacking their parcel.
2. Itemisation of Missing/Out-of-Stock Items
Packing slips will also detail any items that are missing from the delivery as a result of being out-of-stock at the time of dispatch, giving the customer the opportunity to re-order the item at a later date.
3. Item SKU/UPC
Though such codes may mean little to the customer, they are useful to the seller/retailer to quickly check the item number against their existing inventory: particularly useful when the customer needs to contact the seller after the sale/delivery has been completed.
4. Item Quantity
A quantity column simplifies the packing slip so that multiple of the same item can be condensed to one line, as opposed to repetitively.
6. Slip Number
The slip number can be used by shippers and purchasers to ensure that the right order was shipped/received.
7. Contacting Information, Order Date, Shipping Address
Basic information should be contained on the packing slip for the purpose of filing and to alleviate any confusion should there be problems occurring during transit: as a useful contingency should anything happen to the shipping label.
Automation and Packing Slips
Automation and modern logistics platforms can simplify the packing slip and carrier selection process, based on rules pre-set by you: increasing the likelihood that orders are accurately fulfilled. Such fulfilment optimisation is useful in speeding up the process of delivery – particularly saving time before last mile delivery – by mitigating the chance of human error.
Stand Out With Personalised Packing Slips
Creating a creative, eye-catching packing slip can heighten the unpacking experience for your customers – think how popular YouTube unboxing videos are. Not only does such an overlooked aspect of the delivery process create a more memorable experience for the customer, but it also demonstrates that you are a company that pays attention to detail and carries a consistent brand identity across its entire operation.
A packing slip should not be overlooked, particularly by smaller businesses. Any opportunity to make them more efficient, memorable and more environmentally friendly should be looked at with excitement, but a detailed packing slip can alleviate commercial headaches resulting from eCommerce and distance selling.
What is a packing slip?
A document that contains details of a complete list of items in a package, the packing slip typically includes SKU numbers, dimensions, weight and quantity of units.
Where does a packing slip go?
Packing slips should be included within the delivery package, which helps the customer check if all of the ordered items have been delivered.
Do I need to use packing slips?
No, you do not need to use packing slips, though they are helpful to you, your customer and delivery partners.
Are packing slips and invoices the same?
Though similar in appearance, packing slips and invoices are not the same documents, nor do they share the same function. An invoice is a financial document detailing the order and relevant financial information, whereas the packing slip is used to confirm that physical goods have been received.
Is there a difference between a delivery note and a packing slip?
They are typically the same and terms are used interchangeably; however, the term delivery note can denote that a signature is required from the recipient as proof of delivery.