There are multiple ways for online sellers to keep their brand at the forefront of their customer's minds, including social media, blogging, email and SMS marketing, loyalty programs, and more.
However, a common oversight is to ignore the importance of branded, custom packaging. It's a chance for customers to physically see your brand's aesthetic- often for the first time if you don’t have a physical retail outlet.
But, finding a company to create packaging for you can be difficult. Why? Because there are so many to choose from, all at different prices, some of which can be pretty confusing.
This begs the question: How best to find a packaging partner that won’t let you down and whose work is high quality so your brand doesn’t suffer?
The answer: Dive deep into online reviews.
In this instance, we’re looking at one popular custom packaging provider: Packlane, to give you the low down on:
- What is Packlane
- The box styles they offer and for how much
- Packlane's features
- What is Packlane Plus
- Packlane's pros and cons
- Packlane's shipping
- Packlane's payment methods and security
- Packlane's customer support
- Our Verdict
That’s a ton of information to get through so let’s jump in!
What is Packlane.com?
Based in San Francisco, Packlane was founded in 2015. It's aimed at eCommerce business owners and startups wanting to brand their packaging and enhance the unboxing experience.
Put simply, Packline offers an online service for businesses looking to design customized product packaging.
Customers can choose the dimensions, sizes, materials, and designs, and you can order as few as one unit all in just a few clicks with their 3D design tool.
At the time of writing, thousands of companies use Packlane, including L’Oreal, Google, New York Times, Benefit, Shopify, and smaller businesses of all types, including influencer marketing agencies.
Packlane’s website tells us they offer ‘full customization, instant quoting, and fast turnarounds' and that it's ‘the only company that provides a custom design lab, live preview, and instant quote, we not only give you the freedom to unpack your creativity and develop your own design, but we also help you do it efficiently.'
Customers can choose from four types of custom boxes:
…And we’ll go into more detail about these further down.
Once you've chosen the type of packaging you want, you can design it with their online design tool (no experience needed), see a 3D preview before it's printed, and make any last minute adjustments in the proofing process.
Packlane's Pros and Cons
While the advantages of using Packlane are evident to us, it’s still worth taking a critical eye to the platform’s pros and cons:
- You get access to an easy-to-use 3D design tool
- There’s a good choice of different packaging types and materials
- Packlane Plus is a handy option for growing businesses and big brands
- Being able to purchase low minimums is helpful for smaller businesses
- You can print on both sides of the packaging
- Packlane ships in the US and internationally
- Packaging made out of recycled and recyclable materials are available
- There’s a wallet-friendly option with suitable size variables
- Its website is accessible to navigate
- There’s a rewards and referrals program
- Customer support is easily accessible and often recognized for being extremely helpful
- The prices can mount up, especially if you’re a small business with few orders and a small budget
- Some reviews complain about poor-quality print
- Some reviews complain about poor quality customer service
- Some reviews complain about inconsistencies in the quality of products
Now you have an overview, let’s scrutinize the types of custom packaging you can choose from:
Packlane's Packaging Types and Costs
As we’ve already mentioned, there are four box types. Prices depend upon packaging sizes, quantities, and material type. It’s worth noting now that the prices we quote below are for plain packaged boxes. Prices rise if you add color, custom artwork, different finishes, or interior printing. So, the more you customize, the more you pay.
However, you’re not charged by how many colors you use. Instead, the price is determined by the amount of ink coverage, so if you’re opting for solid blocks of color, it’ll cost you more.
While we won’t go into prices in any major depth, we'll give you a bit of a sense of the basic costs. Helpfully, Packlane offers an online calculator, so it’s super easy to work out your expenses. Furthermore, you can work with this same calculator as you go about customizing your designs. So, rest assured, you’re never in any doubt about how much your packing will cost once it’s finished.
On a slightly different topic, when it comes to packaging sizes, these refer to the interior dimensions in inches. If you’re unsure about which sized package you need, there’s a calculator for that too (you can find it here).
This is a customizable and sturdy mailer box that comes in sizes starting from 4”x4”x2”, increasing right up to 14”x10”x4.” You can order as little as one unit all the way up to 2,000+ units.
To give you a sense of price, one 4”x4”x2” unit costs $68.65. Obviously, that’s a lot of money—however, the more packaging you order, the lower the cost. So, for 500 of the same sized unit, you're only looking at $0.93 per unit, or for 2,000 units, $0.76 per unit.
These prices reflect a mailer box made out of the classic matte white cardboard, printed with a satin finish. If you want a premium bright white box, it's more expensive at $0.91 per unit for 2,000 units. In contrast, a natural matte brown cardboard box is $0.75 per unit.
The mailer box can be shipped without you needing to buy or design further packaging and is suitable as a gift or subscription box that can be sent as it is in its own right
Made from SBS paperboard, the product box can be used to package products sold on your store shelves or online. It’s excellent for beauty products, health supplements, and chocolate.
Still, it’s not sturdy enough to be shipped without spending funds on additional packaging.
The minimum unit order is 25, with sizes ranging from 2.25”x 2.25”x 6” going up to 4”x4”x4.” To give you a sense of prices, 25 units of the 2.25”x 2.25”x 6” product box will cost $6.57 per unit.
The only type of material available here is SBS uncoated white paperboard.
These are corrugated, strong cardboard shipping boxes aimed at businesses wanting to ship items in bulk or fragile and heavy products.
Here the minimum order quantity for a box is one, and sizes vary from 6”x6”x6” up to 12”x12”x12”, with one 6”x6”x6” unit costing $69.22, decreasing to $1.25 per unit for 2,000.
You can choose from a classic matte white cardboard shipping box or a natural matte kraft one. Both are printed with a satin finish.
Econoflex Shipping Box
These boxes are simultaneously Packlane’s most budget-friendly and eco-friendly packaging..
Made from 100% recycled and recyclable materials, these shipping boxes are available in sizes ranging from 6”x6”x6” up to 12”x12”x12”, with one 6”x6”x6” unit costing $0.43.
The boxes are suitable for shipping items of differing sizes and are a wallet-friendly alternative to some of the more expensive options mentioned above.
If you’re after a try-before-you-buy option, you could order a sample kit. Each kit contains pre-designed swatch cards of the corrugated cardboard materials used by Packlane in both its Standard and HD Gloss print finishes. You’ll also receive samples that feature the colors you can print onto your design and one Shipper, one Mailer, and one Product box.
Packlane’s main feature is its online design tool. From here, Packlane customers can customize their chosen packaging using its straightforward interface.
- Simply click on the type of packaging you want from the four types already mentioned.
- This will take you to a page where you can see more info about the kind of products your packaging choice is best for. You’ll also see more details about the different sizes, a drop-down unit quantity menu, and the corresponding unit prices.
- Now, select your packaging type, size, and quantity.
- Then, click the ‘Design’ button; this should take you straight to the design page.
- You can have some fun now. Again, from the design page, you choose the size of your package and which material you want it to come in. After that, you can start designing.
There are five design functions for all but the Econoflex box, which has four.
The functions are:
- Select color: Color is digitally printed in CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black), and you can pretty much choose any color you want. You can design custom boxes with block color or colored print and designs.
- Add an image: Here, you can upload images or graphics, for example, a company logo.
- Add text: Pick from 41 fonts and decide where you want your text to go. You can select either black print or click on the CMYK palette for different color options.
- Request dieline: If you have a template to ensure the correct layout of your final design, you can use this too. Alternatively, you can request a dieline from Packlane, who will create one for you for free.
- Upload dieline: The same applies as above. This means once you have your dieline, either because Packlane has created it for you or you already have a dieline that an outside designer or agency has created for you, here is where you upload it.
Lastly, in each instance above, there’s a drop-down menu so that you can select exactly where on the box you want to place your colors/images/text/dieline and so on.
If you want to share your design with colleagues, simply click the Share button on the design editor page, and you can share your creation via a URL or a 3D URL. You also have the option to shorten both URLs too. Alternatively, you can download a snapshot of your design.
The best way to test the design tool’s user-friendliness is to give it a try yourself. Anyone can do this on Packlane’s website; access isn’t restricted. Neither do you have to sign up for a Packlane account to check out this feature. However, you can only save your designs or make a purchase once you’ve signed up for an account.
Alternatively, if you would rather leave your design to the experts, Packlane can match you with one of 99design’s graphic design pros. Prices start at $349.
Once you’ve completed your design, Packlane will email you a digital design proof within 24 hours for you to check and sign off.
Approve or reject your proof until you see fit– voila, that’s it!
What is Packlane Plus
Packlane Plus is designed to offer the same types of packaging as mentioned above but for high order numbers, with a minimum order size of 2,000 units. Packlane Plus also unlocks different types of branded packaging such as:
- Rigid paper mailers for lightweight items
- Custom bags for goodie bags or in-store purchases and trade shows
- Custom pouches for Ecommerce or retail and display
- Customizable tissue paper
Some bulk orders also qualify for packaging add-ons such as dividers, void fill, inserts, and custom tape. Not to mention, Packlane will source other types of packaging on your behalf if you’re looking for something outside what it offers on its website. They also work with structural engineers to design something that is unique to your specific needs.
Companies interested in Packlane Plus receive customized prices with volume discounts from their dedicated account manager and experienced packaging expert. You’ll also get access to other printing methods, such as flexographic and lithographic printing.
Packlane Payment Methods and Security
The company accepts popular payment methods, including Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and it has an SSL certificate to help reassure customers that their payments are secure.
Packlane Customer Support
There are FAQs on Packlane’s website covering all aspects of Packlane and Shiplane’s products and services. You’ll also find guidelines about the artwork, covering topics such as CMYK print guidelines, general artwork guidelines, Packlane Plus print guidelines, and more.
You can contact Packlane’s customer support team by submitting a request through its website. However, there were no details at the time of writing about response times or customer service hours. There’s also a handy blog that includes customer stories, eCommerce insights, and custom packing tips.
You can also connect with Packlane through its social media accounts: Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Lastly, there’s an Inspiration Gallery on Packlane’s website. The Inspiration section is pretty fun because you can select the industry you’re interested in:
- Branding and promotions
- Food and drink
- Health and beauty
- Subscription boxes
And then, this populates examples of branded packaging created by Packlane customers to give you a flavor of what you can do. In each instance, when you click on a brand’s image, you’re taken to a separate page where you can see what kind of packaging they used, its dimensions, what material it’s made from, and other design details.
Packlane and Shipping
Packlane also offers shipping-related software called Shiplane. Shiplane offers its small and mid-sized customers discounted postage (of up to 80%) when you use USPS (United States Postal Service) to ship in the US with the carrier’s high-volume commercial pricing.
Shiplane comes in especially handy for businesses that self-fulfill their orders. All you have to do is input your orders with a downloaded file from your other eCommerce store and upload it as a CSV file. Or you can type them directly into Shiplane’s interface. Then, you choose your shipping method, buy your postage, print your labels, and you’re all set.
At the time of writing, shipping costs weren't available on the Packlane website. However, there aren’t any monthly fees or memberships; you just pay as you go. In addition, Packlane automatically sets up a USPS account on your behalf, so you don’t have to do that either.
If you partner with Packlane and Shiplane, Shiplane will also send order tracking emails on your behalf to your customers, giving you more time to spend on growing and promoting your business instead of having to handle the day-to-day operational stuff.
You may still have some questions about Packlane, so here are the answers to a few of the most commonly asked questions:
How soon will I receive my orders?
Packlane’s website states that ‘eligible orders will be shipped in 10 days or less with priority turnaround options’. A dig around its FAQ section explains that what this actually means is that there are three options to choose from once you’ve chosen your packaging and sorted out your design:
- Economy: 10-21 business days
- Standard: 8-11 business days
- Rush: 6-8 business days
Holiday shipping and production timelines do vary and are often extended due to the high influx of orders during the fourth quarter of the year.
But, this all depends on your order size, i.e., the more you order, the longer the printing takes, and the figures above do not include shipping transit times, where turnaround times can be as long as 1-2 weeks. During the busy holiday season, order turnarounds may also take longer.
When you’re on your checkout page, Packlane will give you an estimated shipping date.
I signed off on my design proof but want to make more changes, can I?
The short answer here is no, that’s not possible. Once sign-off has taken place, no changes or cancellations are accepted by Packlane. So it’s super important to check your proof and perhaps ask a business colleague or friend to cast an eye over it too.
Is there a rewards and referrals program?
Yes. It’s called PackPerks. You’ll need to create a PackPerks account and earn Boxcoins for different actions, including signing up for an account, making a VIP order, sharing and following Packlane on social media, and so on. You can then redeem your Boxcoins for dollar or percentage discounts on your next order. You also receive $50 for referring a friend who orders and earns VIP status via the PackPerks program; the more Boxcoins you earn, the higher you go, from Bronze to Silver to Gold.
Can I just use Shiplane but not Packlane?
Yes, you can. It’s possible to ship packaging you’ve bought elsewhere and still use Shiplane. All shipments are through USPS, although Packlane says that it is ‘planning to expand to other carriers soon.’
Generally speaking, we’re all in favor of custom packaging. It’s a great way to raise brand awareness and engage with customers. That said, it can be expensive. But, on the plus side, Packlane is easy to use, and you can have fun creating your own attractive packaging. It’s also positive that you don’t have to bulk order.
However, if you’re a small operation with low order numbers, you may find its costs daunting at first. But if you know you’re going to grow, Packlane might be an investment worth considering, provided you work with the numbers to ensure your budget stretches far enough.
Are you thinking about using Packlane? Or are you considering alternative packaging solutions? Either way, let us know about your experiences in the comments below.