What Is a Shipping Label? How Does It Work?

A shipping label is a critical aspect of delivering products from the source to the destination securely and on a schedule, but it’s such a minor component of the complete supply chain process that it’s easy to underestimate its significance. It is, nevertheless, critical for both logistics and distribution, and it aids in product delivery and fulfillment optimization. Shipping labels are an important aspect of e-commerce operations, but they’re not always as straightforward as they appear. If you make a mistake with the information provided on shipping labels, it may become complex and expensive, ineffective, and even stop products from being shipped, regardless of the size of your business. This damages the brand’s reputation and user experience and ultimately misses out on sales. In this article, we are going to explain everything you need to know about shipping labels and how it works.


What exactly is a shipping label?

What exactly is a shipping label?

Shipping labels are parcel identification labels that include important details about the shipment. The information on shipping labels varies depending on the shipping provider, but they all contain almost similar information, such as pickup location and destinations, contact information, size and volume, and tracking information. A shipping label’s primary goal is to ensure that your shipment arrives at its desired location quickly without any hindrances. Shipping labels are expected to be highly efficient at conveying a great deal of information in a compact manner. The contents of the parcel, package, or box are specified on these labels, which are attached to the outside of the shipment. Other than the origin and destination addresses, these labels also include vital information regarding any inspections that may be conducted as part of the logistics process. These are quite useful for following the progress of an order that has been placed.


How do shipping labels work?

The information on a shipping label is used to guide shipments to their final destinations, monitor them through every step of the process, and guarantee that the right shipping method is used. Because they are supposed to be interpreted by both people and machines, they must be simple and easy to understand. Because each shipping carrier creates their shipping label to operate with their specific collection and distribution procedure, you must follow their layouts. Each section of the label provides details for separate phases of the delivery process. The barcode enables you, the shipping carrier, and the customer to track the shipment, which will ultimately prevent it from mysteriously disappearing during transit.

The shipping carrier generates the majority of the information automatically. The following is the most important information you will require:

  • Name and address of the sender

  • The name and address of the recipient

  • The chosen shipping method and service such as Express, Overnight, Priority, Standard, etc.


A shipping label’s layout

Shipping labels differ depending on the carrier. However, there are a few elements that appear on all labels, irrespective of shipping carrier:

A shipping label's layout

1: The sender’s full name and address.


2: The recipient’s full name and address


3: A MaxiCode which is a machine-readable code that can be scanned from any direction.


4: The Routing Code instructs the sorting department how and where to transmit the shipment.


5: The Postal Barcode representing the shipment destination zip code


6: Tracking Number provided to the customer for them to track the status of their shipment.


7: Service Method – the carrier’s selected method of delivery

How to generate shipping labels?

How to generate a shipping label?

Although you can purchase shipping labels in person at a shipping carrier’s office, we, like the major shipping carriers, are equipped to do everything online. There are two methods for creating a shipping label online:


Option 1: Create a shipping label using the shipping provider’s portal. Every major shipping carrier provides online methods to assist you in creating printable and downloadable shipping labels that comply with their guidelines. If your shipment volume and costs are both minimal, this is a decent choice. But this method gets unmanageable quickly as your order volume increases.


Option 2: Automate shipping label creation, printing, and placement by using a shipping solution like ReachShip. After creating a shipment, ReachShip users can quickly generate a shipping label right from their dashboard without having to switch from one portal to another. You can also create and print shipping labels, as well as keep track of all your shipments. ReachShip centralizes and automates all of your shipping needs. It covers purchasing and printing shipping labels from all of the major carriers like UPS, USPS, FedEx, DHL, and MyPost, as well as scheduling shipment pickups.

How to print a shipping label?

Shipping labels can be downloaded straight from your ReachShip dashboard or shipping carrier portal and printed on any printer. You will, however, need to stick or attach them to the packaging of your shipment. This is where a specialized thermal label printer can help. There are two widely used and universally acceptable methods for printing shipping labels:


Inkjet or laser printers – Inkjet printers work fine when you are just starting out but they consume a lot of ink which can be expensive for a new business in the long run. In addition, some glue is required to attach the printed labels on the packaging which is an additional cost.


Label printer with thermal transfer – These printers are specifically intended for label printing and are the most popular alternative worldwide. They don’t need ink or even glue; all they need is label printing paper.

Where Should Shipping Labels Be Placed On The Box?

There should be no shipping labels placed inside the package or box at all. They should be positioned on the side typically on the most exposed and largest visible area of the package to ensure that they are visible and can be scanned without mistakes. When shipping labels are placed on the corners, they might distort and become difficult to see and scan.


Can I make a shipping label by hand?

Can I make a shipping label by hand?

The address of the sender and receiver can be handwritten. However, the shipping carrier must still create a shipping barcode for the delivery process to begin. Additionally, handwriting all of your shipping labels can be exhausting if you are shipping huge quantities on a regular basis.


Is it possible to generate a shipping label for free?

A shipping label can be generated for free. But you will not be able to ship the package until the postage has been paid.


Wrapping Up

The shipping label is an important part of the order fulfillment process. Even if a single error happens on your shipping label, your package may never reach its intended recipient. We recommend that you use a shipping solution such as ReachShip, which will automatically create shipping labels while also streamlining the entire delivery process. If you have any questions regarding shipping labels, please let us know in the comments section below.


Further Reading

4 Best Options to Ship from the USA to India

UPS Next Day Air Saver Overnight Shipping Explained. Ship Quicker and Cheaper!

What is a Packing Slip?

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