Posted on September 9, 2020 by Dennis Salazar

E-commerce packaging – vision versus reality in DTC packaging

Understanding E-Commerce Packaging Costs

Every year we receive well over 2,000 phone and web inquiries from first time entrepreneurs and start-ups. I am amazed at the wide variety of questions they ask and how eager they are to share their “vision”.

That vision often includes to the smallest detail, their packaging. For some of these new company or new product launch people, they have been imagining their packaging for weeks, months, or maybe even for years. They know what they want but truly do not realize the feasibility, both from a cost and availability standpoint.

Our task in many of these cases is to help the customer get a firm grip on e-commerce packaging reality. As we often say, given enough time and volume, almost anything is possible. The question is whether it can be manufactured the way the customer wants or has envisioned it. In some cases, what they have in mind is indeed possible but not affordable at their stage of business. Here are the most common obstacles to achieving the e-commerce packaging you had your heart set on:

Packaging Order Volume

Yes, it is unfair and unfortunate but what is doable by the truckload is not always available at our customer’s current order quantities. A common request is “I want the same packaging that is used on the iPhone.” That is very doable if you are Apple buying overseas in massive quantities but not nearly as possible if you want 2,000 boxes to launch your product. Availability and MOQ can be problematic in many ways. In some cases, the obstacles might be the board or material minimum, the equipment/production minimum, the cost of special tooling, or the set-up time.

Cost per unit

Every product and order you ship out has a cost/price point. If your product sells for $200.00, you can obviously afford to spend more on packaging compared to a product selling for $29.95.

The comparison we usually use is a custom dress shirt versus a tee shirt. The customers for these two different items have different expectations. We offer a wide variety of tee shirt packaging options for that very reason so we can help our customers choose the best solution for their specific product and customer.

Structural design

We can create packaging that presents and displays almost any product at all. (see this post) However, we cannot produce “one size fits all” packaging for a variety of product shapes and sizes, as well as the number of items that are shipping together. If you have flexibility in design, we can probably create something that will work for you, most of the time. Let us talk specifics about your application to determine what is best for you and your application. The 80/20 rule almost always applies so we help customers focus on the volume which is where their profit or loss is most likely to happen.

The Best Unboxing ExperienceGraphic design

Even though we are not graphic artists, we have a good handle on costs, minimums and what will and what will not work. The vision may be for four colors, printed inside and out, with screens, spot varnishes and maybe some debossing or embossing. That is probably way too much for the exterior of an e-commerce shipping box that is going to be covered with tape and labels. Even though it would look great, it is probably going to be much more expensive than you budgeted for.      


In some scenarios, and on some designs, there simply may not be enough time available to create the box you envisioned. This is especially true as we approach that year-end holiday packaging rush. It is unfortunate but some people either start too late or take too long to be able to produce the sophisticated packaging they want. We never accept or suggest an order expedite charge because we believe they are unfair to the person who ordered on time and is waiting in line. This year is going to be especially troublesome due to the pandemic so please read the first “related post” below.      

Keep in mind we are not here to say “no” and we say yes, the vast majority of the time. Our goal is always to make the most effective, best looking custom packaging the customer wants at an affordable price per unit. Many times, that is accomplished by offering our customers an alternative different than what they initially had in mind.

It all begins out with a no cost, no obligation telephone or email application review. Help us to understand what you have in mind so we can better help you. Call us at 630-551-1700 or contact us at . If your packaging vision is doable, I can assure you we know how to make it happen. Also, please visit our gallery to see just a few of the companies who have trusted us.


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