Posted on October 4, 2023 by Dennis Salazar

E-Commerce Packaging – Preproduction and Postproduction Costs

We recently worked with a new potential customer who wanted desperately for us to help reduce the box weight for his new low-cost, free shipping product. The problem is that his total cost/profit estimates were based on a lower shipping weight rate, and the finished product and packaging exceeded that bracket. So, he was asking us to help him reduce that so his product would qualify for the lower shipping rate.

We considered making the packaging dimensionally smaller. Then we looked at using lighter, thinner board and even though we were concerned about potential damage, we were unable to take enough weight out of the package to reach the bracket he wanted. You can only make a box so small and so lightweight that eventually it will begin failing in shipment. Unfortunately, we could not undo his prelaunch estimating mistake. It is extremely rare for us not to be able to provide a solution to any problem, but it happens.

If you are relatively new to the e-commerce business, keep in mind there are two different costs you have to keep in mind to avoid a costly error. Those are preproduction and postproduction.


Most of our customers want flexographically printed DIE CUT corrugated boxes. Depending on the size and shape of the box you need, this may require a custom cutting die with a substantial price tag. We have over 240 stock cutting dies, including the most popular sizes available for you to use at no cost. If, however, you want a custom size, expect to pay between $1,200 and $1,500 per box size. One possible solution if you need several different box sizes is a combination of our stock and your custom purchase to minimize the overall expense.

Another unexpected expense of flexo printing is custom print plate. Depending on the size of the box and ink coverage, a flexographic print plate can cost between $500 and $600 per color. Some box graphic designers create beautiful artwork with as many as 3 or 4 colors, inside and/or outside. Print plates can add up very quickly, to thousands of dollars when multiple box sizes, multiple sides, and multiple colors are desired.

There are printing options other than flexo available, but each has its own advantages and disadvantages. The two most used options are digital printing and litho labels, and the first related post below provides more information on those two options. We can review your application and available artwork, to help you determine the best print process for your graphic design. Also, keep in mind in place of a costly die cut mailer box, perhaps an RSC style box can help minimize your costs with no cutting die, and less expensive print plates required. More info on the link below on that as well.


Once you boxes are made, you own them and have to determine how to best get them to where your orders are to be packed and shipped. That could be your facility, or perhaps to several different 3PL, co-packer, or fulfillment operations scattered around the country. Postproduction expenses begin with shipping the bulky, flat boxes to where you need them. We currently manufacture our boxes at 12 different plants around the country so some discussion and pre-planning can help minimize those costs.

Inbound freight can be an issue, but outbound shipping expenses can crush your bottom line. This is the shipping cost from wherever you package to your customers’ door. This adds up, whether you are charging your customer or offer free shipping   Once again, an early conversation about box size or box weight can save a lot of headaches later. I find it ironic that someone can worry about spending an extra thirty cents for a box, but with a bad design, can end up spending several dollars more per box to ship it to a customer.

You can’t beat experience!

We work with many incredibly talented, creative people, who know much more about what they do than we ever will. However, we have literally decades of packaging design experience, and this is all we do. We design hundreds and produce millions of DTC e-commerce boxes every year, so we have picked up a few secrets and techniques along the way.

Contact us via this web site or call us at 630-551-1700 so one of our trained and experienced branded packaging advisors can assist you. The overall goal never changes – to produce the most effective and attractive, lowest overall cost, e-commerce packaging in the market. We look forward to working with you on your project.


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