Everything You Need to Know About Packing Slips

Packing slips, delivery notes, picking slips, bill of lading, purchase order slips — there’s a lot of documentation and ecommerce management that retailers need to know. But what’s the difference between a packing slip and a picking slip? And when it comes to a packing slip vs. bill of lading, how do the two compare? What IS a packing slip in the first place?

Below, we dive into packing slips, the definition, and how it compares to the other important documents that merchants need to create, review and sign.

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Packing Slip Definition / What Is a Packing Slip?

The definition of a packing slip is a written list of items that are included in a package or shipment. Sometimes people call it a packaging slip, shipping slip or order slip, but it’s more commonly known as a packing slip. You’ll see us use those terms interchangeably. A packing slip is a shipping document that serves as a paper trail or record of what should be in the shipment.

Packing slips may also contain additional information, such as the name and address of the recipient, amount due or paid, extra charges and fees, and a packing slip number. The shipping slip is often supplemental to an invoice or purchase order.

What is the purpose of a packing slip?

As noted, a packing slip essentially serves as a recorded list of everything that should be included in an order. The shipper can use the these to ensure they’ve added everything to the shipment, and the recipient can reference it to ensure that everything has, in fact, been included. If the order arrives in several packages, for instance, an order slip can be helpful in keeping track of what’s arrived and what hasn’t.

When shipping internationally, customs may use shipping slips and invoices to estimate the value of the contents and apply the associated fees.

But the order slip is useful for more than just quality assurance and record-keeping. Smart brands also use these as an additional branding opportunity. You can create a design that’s synonymous with your brand and use microcopy to convey your voice.

What is the packing list?

The packing list is exactly what it sounds like: an itemized count of the exact products that are included in the package. This helps the recipient see what to expect, and it also lets handlers know what’s inside so that they can appropriately handle the package.

The packing list describes how much of each item is in the box, as well as its general dimensions and weight. Prices are typically not displayed on the packing list. The packing list is also called the bill of parcels or the unpacking list.

Are packing slips required?

Packing slips are required for businesses that sell and ship physical products. Service-based businesses, for example, may send invoices. But often times these are obsolete, as service providers sell services rather than products.

Can a packing slip be used as a shipping label?

Technically speaking, yes, you can use a packing slip as a shipping label. The package will need to go through extra processing through the carrier, who would have to create the shipping label and associated rates based off the provided slip. So if you’re seeking the best shipping rates, this approach would do you a disservice.

Some tools will automate the creation of the order slip, shipping label and invoice when an order is placed. This is the most efficient option, especially for busy retail operations management teams.

Packing Slip Template: What to Include

There are many downloadable packing slip templates available online, some free and some paid. If you’re using an automated tool, you’ll likely have several templates to choose from there as well. Regardless of how branded your shipping slips will be, templatizing them for a consistent look will help operations be more efficient and become familiar to repeat customers.

What to include on a packing slip/order slip/shipping slip:

  • Order date
  • Purchaser name
  • Purchaser address
  • Recipient name
  • Recipient address
  • Itemized list of what was ordered
  • Itemized list of what’s included in the shipment (your packing list)
  • Itemized list of what will ship separately
  • Quantity of items
  • Weight of items
  • Your company name
  • Your company contact information
  • Packing slip/order slip/shipping slip number


Packing Slip Comparisons

Packing slips, purchase orders, invoices, bill of lading — the list of required paperwork for ecommerce businesses almost seems endless. So what are the differences, and when do you use a packing slip vs. bill of lading? Or a picking slip vs. a packing slip? We’ve distilled most of the comparisons below:

Packing slip vs. invoice / What is the difference between an invoice and a packing slip?

So, what’s the difference between an invoice and a packing slip? While a packing slip is included with the shipment, the invoice is a billing document which is sent to the individual responsible for paying for the order. In some cases, this is also the package recipient. But in others, the package recipient may be different from who’s paying for the products.

Much like an order slip, the invoice will include the name and address of the person/company who paid for the order, an itemized list of what is included in the order and how much each product cost, and a unique identifying number. This itemized list does not include any out-of-stock items that were ordered and not paid for.

Invoices will also include a statement of payment terms, including how the customer can pay and when payment is due. If the customer has already paid, the invoice will show the payment method and date. Internationally, invoices are subject to different standards. For customers in Europe, for example, you’ll need to include a VAT identification number.

What is a commercial invoice and packing list?

Speaking of international, global merchants selling to U.S. customers may use a commercial invoice and packing list. The commercial invoice and packing list are used for customs declaration to assign value and associated taxes and fees. If a commercial invoice and packing list aren’t included in the shipment, customs officers may value the package higher than its actual worth, potentially subjecting customers to higher import fees.

The commercial invoice should be more thorough, including where the products were made, the full name and address of the seller, the full name and address of the buyer, the full name and address of the recipient, quantity of units for each item, and unit value in U.S. dollars and the origin currency. You’ll also need an itemized list of the merchandise included; be more descriptive here, including what it is, what it’s made of, and what it’s used for.

It’s important that your commercial invoice and packing list match.

Packing slip vs. bill of lading: What’s the difference?

When it comes to the packing slip vs. bill of lading, let’s first define what a bill of lading is: A bill of lading, or BOL, is a document that essentially transfers ownership of items from the seller to the buyer. An invoice is an accounting document, whereas a BOL is a legal document. Typically, the carrier creates the BOL.

The BOL serves as confirmation that a shipment was delivered. It lists the items in the shipment, including the quantity, as well as an identifier for the carrier. The carrier signs the BOL upon shipment pickup, and the recipient signs the BOL upon delivery. Any discrepancies with the order should be noted on the BOL, and if any handling instructions on the BOL were clearly ignored, the recipient reserves the right to refuse the package.

The BOL is also important for retailers when receiving shipments from suppliers. Often, employees sign for packages, so it’s up to them to be diligent in checking that what’s on the BOL matches the packing slip and what’s in the actual shipment.

Packing slip vs. picking slip

It’s not a typo; a packing slip and a picking slip are actually two different things. While the former is sent to the customer, the picking slip (or pick list) is an internal document sent to the operations team, or whoever’s responsible for assembling the order.

Like the packing slip, the picking slip will include an itemized list of products ordered, including quantity. The picking slip will also list the warehouse location and SKU number.

The picking slip helps your operations team and order management system and team stay organized and streamlined as they fulfill orders. It also creates another paper trail against which you can compare numbers for inaccuracies, which can help to reduce shrinkage.

Packing slip vs. purchase order slip

A purchase order slip isn’t always used by direct-to-consumer sellers, but those who sell business-to-business may be familiar with it. It’s also commonly used by manufacturers and suppliers.

The purchase order is essentially the very first document a seller creates to document the proposed transaction with their customer. It lists what was ordered, the quantity and the unit cost, as well as payment terms. If the buyer agrees to the purchase order, it becomes a legally binding document for both parties.

Delivery Note vs. Packing List

The delivery note is a document that the recipient signs when the shipment is delivered. The carrier then provides the delivery note to the seller, which then serves as proof of delivery. The delivery note will list what and how many of each item was delivered.

The delivery note is less detailed than a shipping slip; it doesn’t necessarily include prices or the billing address. It’s focused on listing the items and quantity so that carriers and customers can cross-check the actual package with the delivery note.

How do I print a packing slip?

Figuring out how to print a packing slip really depends on where you’re selling and which tools you’re using in your tech stack. Here are a few helpful resources to get you started:

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