There’s something that I mention very often on this blog (for a good reason) and that is – AUTOMATING as many tasks and processes as possible in your business.
I’m sure one of the main reasons you started your own business was to get out of the rat race and to give yourself more freedom and time in your life. You won’t achieve this unless you automate and outsource as much as possible; otherwise you’ll simply trade in that 9-5 for an at home 9-5!
I won’t get into that all again now (as I said, it’s something I’ve mentioned many times in the past) as today I want to talk about something specific, something that ties in with all this automation and something that you should be using in your own business – Integrated Labels.
Order processing is one of the most time consuming jobs for any business and while initially it may be okay to copy and paste delivery addresses into Excel or Word; print them; cut them out and then tape them to your packages, as soon as you get even a small amount of orders each day, you’ll see that this is an unworkable system and not how you should be doing it.
Really there are only two good options here – Thermal Label Printers or Integrated Labels.
Label Printers vs Integrated Labels
I get a lot of emails from people asking me which is better, thermal label printers or integrated labels and honestly, there isn’t one right answer.
It depends on your personal preference and overall set-up but to quickly run through the main difference between the two:
Thermal label printers are specific printers that you use solely for printing labels.
So you need to buy a label printer (Dymo are the brand I always recommend) and the labels for the printer but no ink is needed due to the thermal printing used.
Integrated labels on the other hand work with your normal home/office printer.
How it works is that when you print out an invoice/dispatch note on an A4 piece of paper, there will be a peelable label on that same sheet that you can simply remove and place on the package.
It’s also a very simple system and has the advantage of keeping the invoice and shipping label together, which will help reduce order processing errors.
Amazon are a great example of a company that uses integrated labels.
There are also a number of variations with integrated labels – you can buy double label paper (the second could be a returns label) as well as different sizes for the label itself.
I won’t go into that in detail now though as you’ll know yourself what you need. I will just say that for the vast majority of you, the simple single address label will work just fine.
Of course one aspect of automation that you always have to consider is cost! But thankfully there is not much to worry about with integrated labels… as they cost very little and there is significantly less waste than if you’re creating homemade, cut-out labels.
So overall you’ll probably save money, not even considering the time savings. So it really is a win-win situation!
The Best Place to Buy Integrated Labels?
But having said that, we of course still always want to find the cheapest place to buy these labels from, so let’s check our 3 trusted sources for business supplies – eBay, Amazon and lastly ecommerce stores.
But before we start our price comparison, please bear in mind that as with everything, there is also the quality to consider – the thickness of the paper, the quality of the adhesive, the size of the label, single/double label etc. – all of these things will also impact the pricing so that’s another aspect to look out for.
Alright, without further ado, let’s get going!
Simply searching for “integrated labels” throws up a number of sellers with a large amount of sales and looking through them, I can quickly see that the average price for 1000 integrated labels is around the £26-£27 mark.
That is for a single label with a width of 110mm and a length of 80mm.
As with all packing supplies, it’s always much better to buy in larger quantities but even the 250 is very cheap, at only £9.89 delivered.
If you don’t mind a seller with a slightly lower feedback score (98.7% vs 99.6%) then cheap-integrated-labels manages to beat the price on a box of 1000 by a small margin:
And then as a final alternative for this same size single label, there is a new seller on eBay (only has a feedback score of 26) who is offering 1000 sheets for just £21.99:
It’s unlikely that this price will stay for too long as it’s most probably someone using the tried and trusted method of getting a new listing higher up in eBay’s search results (you can read my complete overview of this tactic here: How to Reach The #1 Spot on eBay’s Search Results) but there will often be such deals on eBay so it would make sense to buy enough to last you a while whenever they’re on offer.
Now we move on to Amazon and as you can see from the screenshot below, while the majority of listings are much higher at £31+, there is one seller offering 1000 sheets for £24.49 with free shipping, which is a fairly competitive price compared to eBay.
BUT, while it is from a trusted seller (4.7 stars and 10,000+ ratings in the last 12 months) they don’t yet have any feedback for this item so I would recommend staying away for now – it’s just not worth the hassle and risk of it not being up to par.
And lastly, let’s check on Google and see if any ecommerce stores can beat eBay’s pricing.
The first site I checked (http://www.integratedlabels.co.uk/) didn’t have the S11 size that we’re using for our price comparison, only S3, and even then their prices were easily beaten on eBay.
The next one is the eCommerce site from one of the eBay sellers, so it should be cheaper if they’ve simply removed the eBay fees… and at first glance it appears to be!
1000 sheets for just £19.25 is cheaper than the lowest price on eBay!
But as seems to always be the case, once it’s added to the basket, a new price comes up, including delivery and VAT, which puts it at £29.88.
To beat the eBay price of £21.99, you would need to order 5 boxes (5000 sheets at once):
But even then it is only just cheaper (when buying a 5x larger quantity) and the price breaks from that point onwards are minimal.
And after checking a few more ecommerce stores, it’s more of the same old story and exactly as we found in the Packaging Materials Price Comparison, eBay comes out on top for price.
That pretty much wraps everything up I think, and my conclusion is pretty simple:
If you’re an online seller, you simply MUST use either integrated labels or thermal label printers.
Integrated labels are a great option if you don’t want to invest in a dedicated thermal printer so all you need to do is –
First, found out what size label you need and decide on single or double label (if you also want to include a returns label with each package) and then – MAKE AN ORDER (from eBay!).
It’s as easy as that and then you simply don’t have to worry about it anymore, plus you’ll save yourself COUNTLESS hours spent creating shipping labels which you can then use on more productive and useful tasks.
I do have a couple of final tips for you though:
Use the Smallest Label You Can
This may seem very simple, but there is no need to waste money having huge labels that take up the entire shipping box!
Obviously you need to use your common sense here and avoid anything too tiny that could lead to shipping problems, but other than that I prefer a “just big enough” model.
Although this isn’t a big issue as most labels will be compatible with all the major shopping carts and order processing systems, it’s always worth double checking before your first order, just to be 100% sure and to save you having to mess around with formatting and print margins later on (as that kind of defeats the purpose of using these labels in the first place).
For both of these points, I’d suggest checking out this guide on cheap-integrated-labels.co.uk which lists the entire range, including sizing and the label code:
So use that for your preliminary research and to work out exactly what label you need, and then head to eBay to buy it for the best price!
And then lastly, my final tip:
Use a Laser Printer
If possible, you should always use a laser printer (rather than an ink jet) for your shipping labels.
This is because ink jet printers use water-based ink which will smudge in the rain, so it’s better to be safe and use a laser printer if you can.
Alright, that pretty much covers everything about integrated labels!
If you do have any questions or need my advice, just post below in the comments section and I’ll answer you personally.
Otherwise, until next time!
All the best,