Ports remain clogged, labor is still short, and various raw materials continue to be endangered – which makes a company’s inventory invaluable. That means businesses are seeking every possible avenue to get their available products packed up and through the shipping network quickly, efficiently, and with cost in mind. To do that, flexible mailers are being increasingly used to improve throughput, save on shipping expenses, and preserve the environment. But how?

Reducing Your Dimensional Weight (DIM)

Freight costs are an all-time high thanks to the cost of oil, shipping rate increases, and new surcharges. Reducing your DIM weight can help you chip away at those expenses. It imperative to determine the best way to reduce the size of your parcel – without compromising protection. Padded mailers can provide the right level of cushioning, and “right size” your packages so you can fit more on a truck, and in turn, save on overhead.

Going Green – Less Is More

Disposing of excessive volumes of packaging imposes a burden on consumers. Using fewer materials to achieve the same result will provide a better user experience and generate less total waste in our landfills. Flexible mailers allow companies to reduce the amount of material used to ship a product when compared to a box solution. On top of that, mailers can be manufactured with varying degrees of recycled content and can be conveniently recycled.

Building a Brand Identity

Look for mailers produced with substrates that are not only environmentally friendly but provide ideal on-pack printing capabilities. Whether it’s a company logo or an advertising tagline, studies suggest 55% of consumers admitted to providing repeat business to brands with custom packaging, and the unexpected increase in demand for sustainable printed packaging is fueling innovation in this area. Premium branding matters, and it is the key to improving your customers’ experiences.

Beyond the obvious benefits above, testing is the key to identifying what solution (shipping box or mailer?) is the right fit, while determining which packaging offers the biggest ROI. Work closely with your packaging partner to audit your existing packaging strategy to zero in on the areas that require the most improvement. Consider all of the variables where a new package can impact your business -- product damage, cost savings in freight, impact on sustainability, and any other business goals important to your team. Studies show nearly 30% of businesses that improved their packaging saw increases in revenue.

Finding a Good Fit

If you have determined that migrating your packaging materials from boxes to flexible mailers is a realistic business decision, start your journey toward selection by considering the pros and cons of your current process.

1. Consider the product you are packaging. Choosing flexible mailers may be a great solution if your product is not fragile or very large, or heavy. Are you using corrugated boxes with void fill?

2. If the item does not require boxed protection, the cost of box, interior packaging, tape, and the associated freight of the box item may come at a higher total cost than a flexible mailer.

3. Switching to a flexible mailer can help streamline operations and increase throughput; in some cases, as much as a 50% reduction in packing time vs. a laborer manually erecting a shipping box and packing up its contents.

4. If you are fulfilling orders with speed in mind, especially during peak, flexible mailer options with automated bagging equipment may be the solution. You would be able to pack faster without hiring additional personnel. If you are already struggling to hire, this can take the pressure off filling new positions and re-position staff to areas where they can offer greater value.

5. Like many companies managing inventory to coincide with market changes, if you are experiencing SKU proliferation, you may now use a select few box sizes for a large product mix to reduce cost per box. The box sizes may be tougher to optimize, increasing shipping costs due to increased dimensional weight. This is where a flexible mailer can simplify the process.

What if Flexible Mailers Are not a Viable Option?

Although flexible mailers are widespread and easy to use, sometimes they aren’t the right fit for a customer’s needs. If this applies, you can still improve your process. For example, choose premium in-the-box protective packaging to ensure your product arrives to your customer without damage. There are both bottom line impacts to damage as well as a risk to customer lifetime value.

Ideally, you are running all available tests to get enough data to make sound decisions. Various material options are now available — from fabricated foam to air pillows, so work with packaging experts to help figure out the best solution for your needs. Always ask your supplier to provide a life cycle assessment (LCA), which measures the impact of the packaging on the environment from raw material to disposal.

Damon Lucenta is Senior Manager, Pregis Innovation Headquarters Packaging Services.

This article originally appeared in the September/October, 2022 issue of PARCEL.