Selecting the right packaging for order fulfillment sounds easy. Just shove your stuff into a box, slap an address label on it, pop it in the mail, and Bob’s your uncle! Right?

Not quite. It can be a lot more complicated than that. In fact, once you delve into the different packaging options available, you may start to feel overwhelmed. Do you need corrugated cardboard or paperboard? How about RSC, FOL or RELF. What’s the difference?

Choosing the right type of box for your products is critical and can significantly impact your bottom line. You’ll want to choose the most cost-effective—and protective—option.

But if you’re new to shipping (and even if you aren’t), you might not be aware of all your choices. Here are just a few of the packaging solutions available to e-commerce brands like yours.

Corrugated Cardboard vs. Paperboard Packaging

Corrugated cardboard is an engineered paper product that is both versatile and durable. It consists of a fluted corrugated (i.e., shaped into alternate ridges and grooves) sheet and one or two flat liner boards.

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A stack of corrugated boxes

Corrugated boxes are a popular and cost-effective option, especially when shipping fragile items. They are strong and can withstand moderate weight. Because of its paper surface, corrugated cardboard can easily be custom branded. 

Paperboard boxes are made from a layer of pliable, bending chip cardboard that comes in a variety of thicknesses. These boxes are available in much smaller sizes than corrugated cardboard and are more aesthetically pleasing, making them the better choice for the outer packaging of products like cosmetics.

Standard Corrugated Box Types

Corrugated boxes are the most commonly used containers for shipping. Since most shipping companies base their prices on dimensions as well as weight, you’ll want to select the smallest box possible for your product. These boxes aren’t suitable for very small items.

Within the category of corrugated boxes there are several styles and uses:

RSC

Regular Slotted Container

Regular Slotted Containers

The Regular Slotted Container—or RSC—is the most common type of corrugated box, and comes in a huge variety of sizes. It’s usually the most cost-effective option for businesses who don’t require custom boxes and will be shipping goods that aren’t particularly heavy. Standard sizes are on the larger side, so you might end up having to fill the empty portion of the box with void fill (air-filled pillows, crumpled paper, polystyrene peanuts, etc.) which can add to your overall fulfillment and shipping costs.

 

Full Overlap

Full Overlap

Full Overlap

Very similar to the RSC, the Full Overlap (FOL) has two flaps, both of which fully cover the opening of the box as opposed to joining in the middle. This design results in a box that’s even more sturdy than the standard RSC and provides a better-secured opening. Full overlap boxes are the best option for heavy, fragile items and for items traveling a long distance.

 

 

 

Auto-locking Bottom

Auto-locking Bottom

These boxes are stored flat but can be quickly built by pushing down on the inner flaps so they interlock with each other as you open the box. The sturdy bottom doesn’t need additional tape to fasten securely. These boxes are usually more expensive, but the reduced manpower and materials needed to assemble them can offset those costs.

 

 

Roll End Boxes

Roll-end boxes are available in corrugated cardboard as well as paperboard. Within the roll-end box category, there are also a couple of choices:

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Roll End Lock Front (RELF)

Roll End Lock Front (RELF)

The RELF, as it is known in the shipping industry, has a unique fastening mechanism whereby a hinged piece of cardboard flaps over the opening and is secured into the box itself. With minimal cardboard overlap and no additional tape needed for fastening, this is a more environmentally friendly packing option. Because it’s unlikely to open during transportation, the RELF is ideal for shipping. Some companies secure the lid with a sticker, which can show if the package has been tampered with. It’s a popular box for subscription boxes or cosmetics, as its shape makes for an ideal unboxing experience. It’s ideal for environmentally conscious companies due to the lack of additional material needed. 

 

Roll End Tuck Top (RETT)

Roll End Tuck Top (RETT)

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RETT With Dust Flaps

The Roll End Tuck Top, or RETT, is not recommended for shipping, but it’s worth mentioning since it’s sometimes confused with the RELF. The RETT features a lid with a flap that tucks into the top of the box. Although this protects the contents from all sides, the lid does not lock into place and thus is not as secure as the RELF. These types of boxes are ideal for retail items (e.g., shoes) and food (e.g., pizza, cakes, doughnuts) that do not require shipping. Note: If the box does not have a front locking system, it is a RETT. The RELF is identifiable by the ability to slide the side flaps into the front of the box.

Finding the Right Packaging for You

Ultimately, only you can decide what packaging is best for your products. Consider: are your products fragile and in need of protective packaging? Then use a sturdy corrugated cardboard box. Are you instead shipping something that won’t break in transit, like clothing? If so, you could go with a cheaper, less protective shipping box, or even a polybag or bubble mailer (we’ll get to those in another article). Or, if your product’s under three pounds, you could try this ingenious new product from 3M.

To choose the right packaging solution, balance the necessary level of protection against the box size (which affects dimensional weight and therefore your shipping cost) and the impact on the environment. If you want to brand your package or offer a unique unboxing experience, you’ll have to select packaging that lends itself to customization. It’s a lot to think about, but with so many options available, you’re sure to find one that exactly suits your brand and your products.

Need help? Simple Global’s fulfillment services include options like subscription boxes and customized packaging. We’ll help you find the ideal packaging solution for your products. Contact us today to learn more.