Posted on June 26, 2020 by Dennis Salazar

Boxes or Envelopes? DTC Packaging Options for E-commerce  

It can be a little overwhelming when you start considering your many packaging options. RSC style boxes or die cut mailer boxes? What about envelopes? Paper or plastic, padded or unpadded? These are just a few choices that are available to you but if what you seek is retail display type packaging, there are even many more options. In this post, we will focus completely on shippable, DTC packaging.

Which is the best packaging option for me?

Our branded packaging experts go through a list of questions designed to help you determine the best product for YOUR specific needs. The factors and variables that must be considered include but are not limited to the following:

The product – is it fragile, does it require protection or cushioning?

The presentation – is the goal to simply transport and protect, or is the “unboxing” experience important to you?

The price point– The customer’s expectations are different for a $20 tee shirt compared to a $100 custom tailored dress shirt. Obviously at $100 you can also afford to spend more on packaging than if your product sells for $20.

The initial order volume – Unfortunately, every packaging product has a minimum that may or may not be realistic for you, especially if you are just starting out.

The graphic design – There is a big difference in MOQ and cost between a four-color digital print versus a 1 color flexographic print.

These are just five of the most basic points we would discuss with you to quickly help determine which product and type of packaging is or is not available for you and your product.

No ordinary RSC shipping boxE-commerce Packaging Mailer Box Options

One of the first decisions that need to be made is box or envelope? Let us discuss the box option first. There are many variations available such as FOL (full overlap) end load, front lock, top tuck, etc. but most come down to a choice between RSC and die cut mailer boxes.

An RSC (regular slotted container) is basically a standard or moving box with four flaps on top and four flaps on the bottom. Both top and bottom “seams” are taped together to hold them closed. The slam on these is that they do not open and look like “premium” boxes for e-commerce. Check out the first related link below to see how an inexpensive inside print can suddenly change that. Notice how many RSC style boxes you are probably now receiving that feature an inside print to achieve that desirable upscale look. These boxes can be run in a low 1,000 MOQ, and do not require a cutting die or other expensive tooling. In addition, print plates for RSC boxes are typically less expensive compared to those required by die cut mailers.

A die cut mailer is the most common type of box for e-commerce and subscription boxes. It is all about presentation and is designed to open much like a cigar box in that it has an attached back hinged lid. Some of the features vary and include things like peel and seal closure, easy open strips, inserts for product retention, etc.

Our MOQ for die cut mailer boxes is also 1,000 per size or print, the print plates are typically around $500 per color, per side (inside and/or outside). We have over 200 available stock cutting dies but if one does not work for you, a custom cutting die can cost near $1,000. These pre-press costs may be cost prohibitive for someone just starting out and ordering at MOQ quantities.

E-commerce Packaging Mailer Envelope Options

e-commerce envelopes and boxesMuch like the grocery store used to ask – paper or plastic? Unlike boxes that can be printed digitally in small quantities, there is no way to do a short run (hundreds rather than thousands) of plastic mailer envelopes, cushioned or not. Most poly envelope products have a 25,000 MOQ for custom printing, however we recently added the ability to DIGITALLY print poly mailers at a much lower 2,500 MOQ. On the plus side, poly mailers are considered water resistant, but in normal usage, so are paper mailer envelopes. The biggest advantage of poly mailers is the great graphics and edge to edge flood coats we can print on them. If a bubble lining is added inside which raises the prices considerably, they can offer enough cushioning and protection for almost any non-glass application.

For paper mailer envelopes, our unpadded version is by far the most popular product we offer. The recycled content varies from 50 to 100% depending on the color. They are available in flat or gusseted, fully 100% recyclable at curb side, and can be inexpensively printed in low one case (200 to 500 envelopes) minimums. It is not available with cushioning inside, but most mailer applications do not require cushioning.

For envelope applications that do require cushioning, we NEVER suggest paper out/poly bubble in, or paper mailer envelopes with heavy, messy, paper shred. The good news is that we will soon be adding a revolutionary paper envelope with a biodegradable and recyclable inner cushion liner. More to follow but we are extremely excited to add that to our long list of green e-commerce packaging solutions.

We hope the information above proves useful for you but keep in mind, this is only a snapshot of what we offer for e-commerce applications. Please do not hesitate to contact us via email, or call us at 630-551-1700 for a no cost, no obligation review of your needs with one of our branded packaging experts. We are very confident we will be able to show you the best option at the lowest possible cost.


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