What is a packing slip? What to include + template

2022-11-23

Written by David Renwick

It’s only natural to forget about the humble packing slip. As the world has increasingly transitioned to being digital first, many customers and businesses alike tend to forget about this important part of the shipping process.

But packing slips are still critical for your warehouse team as they help to verify they’ve picked the correct items before they're packed and shipped – avoiding costly mistakes.

In this article, we’re going to explain what packing slips are, how they compare to some of the other types of shipping documentation and give you a handy downloadable template. If you want to ship smarter, we’ll also look at how shipping automation can make the process of generating packing slips as easy as clicking a button.

What is a packing slip?

A packing slip is a document which contains a complete list of all the items included in a package. You’ll typically find information like the origin and destination address, as well SKU numbers, weights and dimensions and details on the order itself – the included items and the quantities.

For the business shipping the order, the packing slip is an important document for checking that all items are included. The same goes for the customer – they can use the packing slip to see whether their order is accurate.

What is the difference between an invoice and a packing slip?

You’re likely wondering what the difference is between an invoice and a packing slip. While these two documents look quite similar – and include some of the same details – they’re both designed for different purposes.

Packing slips cover the physical items being shipped, while invoices contain details like how much each product was sold for, payment methods and dates.

Usually, packing slips and invoices are intended for different recipients. Invoices are sent to whoever is responsible for the payment, while packing slips are sent to the person who receives the package. If you buy something for yourself online, you’ll likely get both documents, while if you buy something for someone else, you’ll get the invoice and they’ll get the packing slip.

How are these documents generated?

  • Invoice: Generated by a payment platform.
  • Packing slip: Generated by shipping software.

What is the difference between a shipping label and a packing slip?

Shipping labels and packing slips are commonly confused. Packing lists outline all the items included in a package, while shipping labels provide all the information a courier needs to deliver a package.

Why are packing slips important?

There are a few reasons packing slips are an important tool for eCommerce businesses. Primarily, packing slips bridge the gap between the digital world of eCommerce and the physical world in which packages are delivered.

Here are some of the reasons packing slips are useful:

  • 🔎 Increases order accuracy – Before a box is taped up and sent out the door, warehouse staff can use the packing slip to ensure that each item ordered is inside the box. This is especially important when customers order multiple items of the same SKU.
  • ✔️ Helps customers confirm their order – The packing slip is a physical representation of the eCommerce order. When customers receive their order, they can use the packing slip to verify they’ve everything. Packing slips become especially useful when orders are split across multiple shipments.
  • ✈️ Helps with international shipping – When shipping orders to international destinations (cross-border), customs agencies can use packing slips to work out the value of a shipment. Typically, however, customs will instead prefer to use a commercial invoice.

Do I need a packing slip when shipping?

There’s no legal requirement to include packing slips when you’re sending out an order. As we’ve seen, it’s more that they’re a useful tool for inventory management and your customers.

What should you include on a packing slip?

We’ve put together a packing slip template you can download further on, but here are the main items you'll want to consider when putting together your packing slips:

  • Basic order details such as order date, contact information, order number, destination address and origin address.
  • Shipped items – A list of each item included in the package, with quantities.
  • Out of stock or unshipped items – A list of each item ordered but not dispatched with this order.
  • Item SKUs – Useful if anything goes wrong.

Packing slip template

Packing slips should include the destination shipping address, order details like the number and other relevant information – as well as an itemised list of what’s included in the shipment (and what isn’t).

Look at the template example here. You’ll notice that the ship quantity for Blue T-shirts is 0, which means the warehouse may be out of inventory and the product will need to be sent in a different shipment.

Packing slips and packing lists: Other considerations

Packing slips aren’t a complicated part of shipping, but here are some other things to consider:

Don’t miss the branding opportunity – You don’t want to go all-out with packing slips, but they’re a good opportunity to add your logo and make your contact information as accessible as possible. Every touchpoint is important!

Are you minimising the amount of admin you need to do? – Packing slips are one of those shipping and fulfilment tasks that don’t take much time to manage on their own, but when you need to manage 10 the time adds up! This is where shipping solutions like Starshipit can help. More on this below...

Auto-create packing slips with shipping automation

Shipping automation is a great way to reduce the amount of admin you need to deal with when fulfilling orders. You can also use shipping automation to handle your packing slips.

Using Starshipit, you can create custom packing slips which you can use with Shopify or any other eCommerce platform. You can configure everything right from the settings page.

Here’s an example of how packing slips work in Starshipit: Once your orders have been automatically imported into Starshipit, your Warehouse Manager bulk prints the packing slips. A dispatcher then takes a packing slip and collects the items listed. They scan the barcode on the packing slip to find and print the relevant label in Starshipit.

In this way, Starshipit handles all the writebacks to each platform and lets you focus on getting your orders out the door.

Wrap up

And that’s packing slips! While not super complicated, these little documents are a useful part of the shipping process and can help you to ensure order accuracy for your team, and peace of mind for your customers.

The process of managing packaging slips can be made even easier when using an end-to-end shipping solution like Starshipit. Get in touch with us today to find out how with a free demo – or hop right into a 30-day free trial!

David Renwick

David Renwick

David is Starshipit's Content Marketing Lead. When he's not whipping up a fresh new product update or chatting to customers for an exciting case study, you'll typically find him scoping out coffee spots and talking about what's on at the movies.

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