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What is a Shipping Label? How to Create a Shipping Label?


By Komal Puri | June 15, 2023

Shipping labels play a vital role in the world of logistics and e-commerce. They serve as a crucial communication tool between businesses, carriers, and customers, ensuring that packages reach their intended destinations efficiently and accurately.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the importance of shipping labels, learn how to create them, and discover best practices for effective labeling. We will also discuss cost-effective printing options, provide tips for writing a shipping label, and highlight the benefits of using technology solutions for seamless shipping label management.

What is a Shipping Label?

A shipping label is a physical or digital document affixed to a package or parcel that contains essential information about the shipment. It serves as a means of identification and provides necessary details for the shipping carrier, recipient, and any intermediaries involved in the shipping process. The label typically consists of barcodes, tracking numbers, addresses, and other relevant information that enables efficient and accurate handling and delivery of the package.

The primary purpose of a shipping label is to ensure proper routing and delivery of the package. It includes the sender's and recipient's addresses, which are crucial for determining the pickup and drop-off locations. This information helps shipping carriers sort and transport packages through various distribution centers and transportation modes, such as trucks, planes, or ships. Additionally, the label often contains a unique tracking number or barcode that allows both the sender and recipient to monitor the package's progress during transit.

Why are Shipping Labels Important?

Shipping labels are crucial for the smooth and efficient operation of the logistics and transportation industry. These labels provide vital information about a package, enabling accurate tracking, efficient sorting, and timely delivery. Firstly, shipping labels contain essential details such as the sender's and recipient's addresses, contact information, and barcodes. This information ensures that the package is properly identified and directed to the correct destination. Without accurate labels, packages could easily become misplaced or lost in the vast network of transportation hubs, resulting in delays, frustration, and potential financial losses for both senders and recipients.

Secondly, shipping labels often include additional information, such as package dimensions, weight, and any special handling instructions. This data helps carriers determine the appropriate transportation method, select the right equipment, and allocate the necessary resources to handle the package correctly. For instance, if a package contains fragile items, the label may indicate the need for careful handling or indicate that it requires specific temperature conditions. By providing this information upfront, shipping labels ensure that packages receive the appropriate treatment, reducing the risk of damage or loss during transit.

The Structure of Shipping Labels

A shipping label is much more than a sticker on a package. It serves as an information-rich document that guides carriers, enables tracking, and facilitates effective communication between senders, recipients, and shipping companies. By understanding the structure and significance of shipping labels, we gain insight into the meticulous logistics process behind every successful delivery, ensuring that packages arrive at their destinations safely and efficiently. Below mentioned are the the components of a shipping label:

  1. Sender Information: At the top left corner of a shipping label, you'll typically find the sender's information. This includes the name, address, and contact details of the individual or organization responsible for shipping the package. This section helps in identifying the origin of the shipment and allows for efficient communication between the sender and the shipping carrier, if required.
  2. Recipient Information: Located just below the sender's details, the recipient's information occupies the top right corner of the label. It includes the name, address, and contact information of the intended receiver. Accurate recipient details are crucial for ensuring the successful delivery of the package to the correct destination.
  3. Tracking Number and Barcode: One of the most critical components of a shipping label is the tracking number. This unique identifier allows both the sender and the recipient to track the package's journey throughout the shipping process. The tracking number is usually accompanied by a barcode, which is scanned by automated systems to record and update the package's location and status.
  4. Carrier Information: In the center of the shipping label, you'll find the carrier information. This section specifies the shipping company responsible for transporting the package. It includes the carrier's name, logo, and sometimes their contact information. This data helps the carrier's employees and automated sorting systems to identify and route the package correctly.
  5. Service Type: Next to the carrier information, the service type is mentioned. This indicates the level of service chosen by the sender, such as standard delivery, express shipping, or any additional services like signature confirmation or insurance. The service type ensures that the package receives the appropriate handling and delivery speed as per the sender's preferences.
  6. Package Weight and Dimensions: To facilitate efficient handling and determine shipping costs, shipping labels often display the weight and dimensions of the package. This information allows carriers to allocate the appropriate resources and assess any potential shipping restrictions or surcharges based on size and weight thresholds.
  7. Special Handling Instructions: Depending on the nature of the package or the sender's requirements, shipping labels may include special handling instructions. These instructions provide additional guidance to the carrier, such as "Fragile," "This Side Up," or "Do Not Bend." Clear and prominent labeling helps prevent damage to delicate items during transit and ensures proper handling.
  8. Return Address: Typically positioned at the bottom left corner of the shipping label, the return address provides a crucial point of reference in case the package cannot be delivered or requires return to the sender. This information assists the carrier in redirecting the package back to the sender if needed.

How to Make Shipping Labels

Creating shipping labels is a relatively straightforward process. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to make shipping labels:

  1. Gather the necessary information: Make sure you have all the required details for the shipping label, such as the sender's and recipient's addresses, contact names, phone numbers, and any additional information required by the shipping carrier.

  2. Choose a shipping label format: Determine the type of label you want to use. You can either print the labels directly onto adhesive label sheets or use specialized label printers if you have one available. Alternatively, you can also create labels electronically and then print them on regular paper to be attached to the package using clear packing tape.

  3. Use shipping software or online platforms: There are various shipping software and online platforms available that can help streamline the process of creating shipping labels. Services like USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL offer their own online shipping tools that allow you to enter the necessary information and generate labels easily.

  4. Use word processing or graphic design software: If you prefer to create labels manually, you can use word processing software like Microsoft Word or graphic design software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. Set up a document with the correct label dimensions, typically 4x6 inches or 8.5x11 inches.

  5. Enter the sender and recipient information: Fill in the sender's and recipient's addresses, contact names, and any additional details required for shipping. Ensure that the information is accurate and complete to avoid any issues during delivery.

  6. Include shipping carrier information: If you're using a specific shipping carrier, include their logo, barcode, tracking number, and any other carrier-specific information required. This information can usually be obtained from the carrier's website or by using their shipping software.

  7. Add any additional information: Depending on the shipping requirements, you may need to include additional information such as customs forms, shipping instructions, or special handling instructions. Ensure that all necessary information is included on the label.

  8. Customize the label design: If desired, you can add your own branding elements, such as a logo or company name, to the label. Use the design software to format and customize the label to align with your preferences.

  9. Test print and adjust: Before printing the final labels, do a test print on regular paper to ensure that the layout and alignment are correct. Make any necessary adjustments in the software to ensure that the labels fit correctly on the label sheets.

  10. Print the labels: Once you are satisfied with the test print, load the label sheets into your printer and print the final shipping labels. Ensure that the printer settings are configured properly for the label sheets you are using.

  11. Attach the labels: Once printed, carefully peel off the labels from the adhesive label sheets (if applicable) and affix them securely to the packages. If using regular paper, attach the labels to the packages using clear packing tape to protect them from damage during transit.

Remember to comply with any specific requirements from your chosen shipping carrier and follow any regulations related to international shipping or hazardous materials if applicable.

Shipping Label Best Practices

To ensure the successful delivery of packages, it is essential to adhere to shipping label best practices. These practices include:

  1. Accuracy is Key: When it comes to shipping labels, accuracy is paramount. Ensure that all information on the label is correct and up-to-date. Double-check recipient details, including the name, address, and contact information. Any errors or omissions can lead to delayed deliveries or even lost packages. Additionally, use legible fonts and large enough text sizes to ensure the information is easily readable.
  2. Consistency in Label Format: Maintaining consistency in label format is essential for efficient processing. Adhere to industry standards and guidelines for label size, color, and layout. This consistency helps automated systems and human handlers quickly identify and sort packages. By using a standardized format, you minimize the chances of misinterpretation or confusion during the shipping process.
  3. Clear and Concise Information: Shipping labels should contain all the necessary details in a clear and concise manner. Include essential information such as the recipient's address, sender's address, tracking number, and any other relevant identifiers. Avoid including unnecessary information that may clutter the label, making it difficult to read or scan accurately.
  4. Adequate Label Protection: Protecting the shipping label is crucial to ensure its legibility throughout the transportation process. Consider using protective pouches or transparent adhesive covers to safeguard the label from water damage, smudging, or other external factors. Proper label protection ensures that the information remains intact and accessible, even if the package is exposed to adverse conditions.
  5. Use Barcodes and QR Codes: Barcodes and QR codes are powerful tools for enhancing efficiency and accuracy in the shipping process. By including these scannable codes on your shipping labels, you enable carriers to quickly and accurately track and process packages. Barcodes and QR codes play a crucial role in streamlining operations and minimizing the potential for human errors through automated sorting mechanisms.
  6. Customized Branding: Shipping labels offer a valuable avenue to enhance your brand's identity and curate a delightful customer journey. Incorporate your company logo, color scheme, or any other brand elements that align with your overall branding strategy. The inclusion of this personalized touch possesses the ability to make a memorable impact on your customers, amplifying brand recognition and fostering long-term relationships.
  7. Adequate Label Placement: Proper label placement on the package is crucial to ensure optimal readability and scanning. Affix the label on a flat, clean surface that is free from any creases, folds, or overlapping tape. Avoid placing the label on seams, corners, or areas where it may be obscured or damaged during handling. Ideally, place the label on the largest side of the package to enhance visibility.
  8. Testing and Quality Control: Before mass-producing shipping labels, conduct thorough testing to ensure their readability, scannability, and durability. Check the labels under various lighting conditions and scanning devices to identify and rectify any potential issues. Implement quality control measures to catch any errors or inconsistencies before the labels are used in actual shipping operations.

By implementing these shipping label best practices, you can streamline your shipping process, minimize errors, and enhance customer satisfaction. Accurate and well-designed labels not only ensure smooth logistics operations but also reflect positively on your brand. Remember, investing time and effort in creating high-quality shipping labels is a small yet significant step towards delivering an exceptional customer experience and fostering long-term relationships with your clients.

What’s the Cheapest Way to Print Shipping Labels?

Printing shipping labels can be cost-effective when utilizing the right resources. Many carriers and online shipping platforms offer free label printing services to their customers. These labels can be printed using standard inkjet or laser printers.

Alternatively, some carriers provide thermal label printers, which can be a more economical option for high-volume shipping operations. Additionally, businesses can explore third-party label printing services that offer competitive rates for bulk label printing.

How to Write a Shipping Label

When writing a shipping label, it is essential to include accurate and complete information. Start by clearly printing or typing the recipient's address, ensuring proper spacing and alignment. Include the sender's address as well, typically in the upper left corner or on the back of the package.

Write the tracking number clearly and legibly, both as a barcode and in human-readable format. If there are any special delivery instructions or handling requirements, clearly indicate them on the label. Finally, review the label for accuracy and ensure it meets any specific carrier requirements or regulations.

Extra Labeling Information to be included in Shipping Label

In addition to the shipping label, there may be cases where extra labeling information is required. For example, if a package contains fragile items, it is advisable to affix a "Fragile" label to alert handlers.

Similarly, for packages containing hazardous materials, appropriate labeling following regulatory guidelines is necessary. By providing this extra information, businesses can help ensure the safe and secure transportation of their shipments.

What Are Return Shipping Labels?

Return shipping labels are pre-paid labels that are used to facilitate the return of a package or item to the original sender or seller. These labels typically include the sender's address, the recipient's address, and any relevant tracking information.

Return shipping labels serve as a convenient way for customers to return items they have purchased. When a customer wants to return a product, they can request a return shipping label from the seller or retailer. The label is then provided to the customer either physically or electronically (via email or a printable PDF), depending on the return process established by the seller.

The customer can affix the return shipping label to the package they are returning, ensuring that the package is properly addressed for its journey back to the seller or retailer. The label usually includes a pre-paid postage, meaning the return shipping costs are already covered by the seller.

Return shipping labels help simplify the return process by providing clear instructions and a convenient way to send back the item. They also allow sellers to track the returned packages and process refunds or exchanges more efficiently.

It's important to note that the specific details of return shipping labels may vary depending on the shipping carrier, the seller's policies, and the nature of the return. Different sellers or retailers may have their own guidelines and requirements for returning items, so it's always advisable to review their return policy for accurate information on how to obtain and use return shipping labels.

How Do Return Shipping Labels Work?

Return shipping labels work by providing the necessary information and instructions for the shipment to be sent back to the seller or retailer. They typically include the seller's or retailer's address, the customer's address, and a unique tracking number. The label is usually attached to the package containing the returned item.

Shipping label FAQs

i) Where do you get a shipping label?

Shipping labels can be obtained from various sources, depending on the shipping carrier you're using. Here are a few common ways to get shipping labels:

Online: Most shipping carriers provide online platforms where you can create and print shipping labels directly from their websites. You typically need to have an account with the carrier and input the necessary shipment details.

Shipping carrier offices: You can visit the physical offices or service centers of shipping carriers like USPS, UPS, FedEx, or DHL to obtain shipping labels. The carrier's staff can assist you in generating the label based on your shipment details.

Third-party shipping solutions: There are also third-party platforms and software that allow you to create shipping labels. These services often integrate with multiple carriers, giving you options to choose from.

ii) Are shipping labels free?

In general, the cost of shipping labels depends on the shipping carrier and the service you choose. Some carriers may provide free shipping labels for specific services, such as priority mail or certain types of prepaid labels. However, for many shipments, you'll likely need to pay for the shipping label. The cost typically varies based on factors like the package's weight, dimensions, destination, and the shipping service you select.

iii) Can I handwrite a shipping label?

While it's generally recommended to print shipping labels for clarity and legibility, some shipping carriers may accept hand-written labels under certain circumstances. However, handwritten labels can be prone to errors or may not meet specific carrier requirements, potentially causing issues during the shipping process. It's best to consult the guidelines and policies of the shipping carrier you're using to determine whether they accept hand-written labels and under what conditions.

iv) Can you tape over a shipping label?

Yes, it's perfectly acceptable to tape over a shipping label to protect it from damage during transit. In fact, it's often recommended to use clear packaging tape to secure the label to the package. This helps ensure that the label stays in place and remains readable throughout the shipping process. Just make sure that the tape doesn't cover any essential information on the label, such as the barcode or tracking number, as these need to be scannable by the carrier's equipment.

v) Unlock Effortless Shipping Label Success with FarEye

FarEye is a leading technology solution that streamlines the management of shipping labels and enhances overall logistics operations. With FarEye's advanced capabilities, businesses can generate and print shipping labels seamlessly. The platform integrates with various carriers, ensuring accurate label generation.

FarEye also provides real-time visibility into shipment status, allowing businesses and customers to stay informed throughout the delivery process. With the utilization of FarEye's groundbreaking technology, enterprises can elevate operational efficiency, mitigate errors, and elevate customer satisfaction to unprecedented levels.

Komal puri

Komal Puri is a seasoned professional in the logistics and supply chain industry. As the Senior Director of Marketing and a subject matter expert at FarEye, she has been instrumental in shaping the industry narrative for the past decade. Her expertise and insights have earned her numerous awards and recognition. Komal’s writings reflect her deep understanding of the industry, offering valuable insights and thought leadership.

Komal Puri
Sr. Director of Marketing | FarEye

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