How to Prevent Damaged Packages in Ecommerce
by Jaidyn Farar
A notification pops up on the customer’s phone: “Your package has arrived!” Thrilled, she opens the front door and notices that the cardboard box looks battered and a little misshapen. Once inside, she cuts through the tape, opens the package, and sees a long, jagged crack running across her brand-new TV’s screen. Excitement turns to disappointment, frustration, and anger.
Nobody wants to have an experience like this. And when they do, it has a lasting influence on their perception of a brand. say they’re unlikely to buy from a company again after receiving a damaged package.
How can you keep shipments safe and retain customers? In this article, we’ll explore the causes and consequences of damaged packages, as well as how you can help prevent them.
What causes damaged packages?
The most common causes of damage are improper packaging, issues during transit, mishandling at the sorting facility, and moisture. Let’s dive into each one.
The wrong packaging labels, materials, and size
Would you go scuba diving without a wetsuit? Hit the ski slopes without a warm, waterproof jacket? Hike a mountain without shoes? Just like we need the right clothing and gear to safely explore different terrains, customer orders need to be protected by the right packaging.
Different products require different types of packaging materials. For example, non-fragile items like clothing can be sent in poly mailers, while fragile or expensive items should be placed in sturdy cardboard boxes.
But whatever type of material you choose, you shouldn’t cut corners. Cheap materials are more likely to tear or be crushed, while high-quality materials can better withstand rough handling.
Imagine putting a wine glass into a five-gallon paint bucket and shaking it up. The results wouldn’t be pretty, right? A similar thing happens when you pack products into boxes that are too large.
When a box is too big and doesn’t include the right cushioning, the product inside shifts around during handling and sometimes breaks. Ideally, products should fit snugly into their packaging, with materials like bubble wrap filling up any empty spaces.
Package handlers don’t have x-ray vision—if you don’t label packages as “fragile,” they won’t know that the contents are breakable. By failing to include handling instructions on packages, businesses leave product safety to chance.
Damaged in transit
In addition to weather, carriers play a role in a package’s safety on the road. Customers tend to attribute damage to rough handling by the carrier, with citing this as the reason their package arrived damaged.
Mishandled at the sorting facility
The road isn’t the only place packages can run into trouble. They can also get damaged at sorting facilities, where fragile packages may be crushed by heavier ones.
Water or humidity
Water (including humidity) can be a huge problem when packages aren’t water-resistant and sealed tightly. Moisture can weaken the stability of cardboard boxes and cause damage to the items inside.
How damaged packages affect your ecommerce business
You’ve already made the sale, and the package is in the hands of the carrier. Nothing left to worry about, right? Actually, your ecommerce business should still care what happens to customer orders once they’ve left your facilities.
- Lost time. It takes time to process and ship orders. If you have to do it twice for one customer, you’re not operating as efficiently as you could be. Plus, when droves of frustrated customers call to complain about their damaged package, your customer service team has less time to address other questions or concerns.
- Lost trust. Online shopping is a risk, and many people aren’t willing to give a brand another chance after a bad experience. If customers get a damaged package, they might decide not to shop with you again.
- Damaged reputation. One damaged package could result in a lot more than just one lost customer. If someone takes to social media, leaves a critical online review, or tells their family and friends about their bad experience, the negative word-of-mouth marketing will take a toll on your reputation, making it difficult to attract new customers.
- Cost of product replacement. When you have to pay not only for a replacement product but also the shipping costs to get it to the customer, your finances take a hit.
Who is responsible for damaged packages?
Who’s responsible for package damage? While carriers often accept liability for packages that are damaged due to mishandling, your business is responsible for damaged items that were packaged poorly.
Regardless of who is officially liable, the customer perspective remains the same: they want your store to make things right. expect to get a replacement or refund within one week of notifying a merchant that their package was damaged.
Your best course of action is to partner with reliable carriers, submit claims when you think damage is their fault, and take the lead in making things right with customers when a carrier denies responsibility.
5 ways to avoid damaged packages
Package protection is a big priority for customers— package safety over free 2-day shipping—and it should be just as important to your business. You can take steps to avoid shipping damage by improving communication with customers and carriers, using the right packaging, providing strong delivery options, tracking packages, and getting shipping insurance.
1. Improve communication
To help avoid package damage, you should maintain open lines of communication with your carriers. Make sure they understand your packaging requirements and handling instructions, including instructions for orders that are fragile or have special handling needs.
You should also give customers an easy way to get in touch with your business if something goes wrong with their delivery. Direct them to your return policy and encourage them to report any issues as soon as possible.
2. Improve packaging
Don’t just throw products into a box, slap on some tape, and call it good. Instead, your business should be deliberate about the packaging materials and techniques you use. Test different types of packaging, seeing which are most effective at protecting products. Follow these tips to reduce shipping damage:
- Use sturdy outer packaging
- Keep items secure with packing material (paper, bubble wrap, molded plastic, etc.)
- Seal packaging tightly to prevent water damage
- Train staff to package items properly
- Conduct regular quality checks
3. Provide several delivery options
With the rise of , businesses are becoming adept at offering different ways for customers to shop. If you have a brick-and-mortar location, consider offering a buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) option. Not only will this eliminate the chances of a product getting damaged in transit, but it will also save money on shipping and logistics costs.
4. Use package tracking software
Tracking packages using can help you better understand why orders get damaged or delayed; once you see patterns, it’s easier to improve processes. Additionally, if packages are being mishandled at any point in the supply chain, you can use tracking data as evidence when addressing issues with carriers or distribution partners.
5. Insure your packages
What happens if a carrier refuses to compensate you for a damaged package? What if the package is delivered on time and intact, but gets stolen by a porch pirate? Shipping insurance protects you from these worst-case scenarios, offsetting the cost of damaged products.
How to manage damaged packages
The five tips above should help you significantly reduce the number of damaged packages your customers encounter. But what about the ones that slip through the cracks? When you receive a complaint about a damaged package, there are steps you can take to reduce the pain. So what should you do? Acknowledge the customer’s frustration, investigate the issue, and promptly offer a refund or replacement.
Acknowledge the customer’s frustration
Make sure your customer service team is trained to handle complaints about damaged packages. They should respectfully acknowledge the customer’s frustration and explain the steps you’ll take to resolve the issue.
Investigate the issue
Next, follow the process your business has established for handling complaints. In the case of package damage, the process might look something like this:
- Document. Gather all relevant information, including the customer's name, order number, description of the damage, and any supporting photos or evidence.
- Investigate. Begin an internal investigation to determine the cause of the damage. Check the packaging process, the carrier used, and anywhere the package may have been mishandled.
- Contact the carrier if necessary. If the damage happened during transit and the carrier is liable, contact the carrier to report the issue, providing all relevant information and evidence.
Offer a refund or replacement
Whether or not the carrier compensates you for damage, you need to make things right with the customer. Provide one or more of the following:
- Refund. Give a full or partial refund for the damaged items.
- Replacement. Ship the customer a replacement at no additional cost.
- Store credit. Offer a credit for future purchases.
- Discount. Offer a discount on the customer's next order.
Prevent damaged packages with EasyPost
With the right know-how and tools, you can avoid damaged packages. And EasyPost can help! EasyPost’s shipping APIs make it easy to partner with the most reliable carriers, track packages in real time, and protect packages with affordable shipping insurance.