The Ultimate Guide to Mailer Boxes


What’s both stylish and can be shipped directly in the mail? A mailer box!

These not-so-humble box mailers are not only durable (to keep your products safe), but they’re also highly customizable, so you can get your brand noticed and create memorable experiences for your customers.  

Mailer Boxes: Shipping Essentials for Ecommerce

In retail, mailer boxes can be used as gift boxes and for sending out promotional materials. They are easy to assemble and extremely effective for keeping ecommerce orders safe and secure. Mailer boxes are nothing new, but they’ve become more mainstream because of the thriving subscription box market. 

Subscription boxes, as we know them today, have only been around since 2004, but they are now a dominant feature of the ecommerce landscape. Consider this:

  • Fuel by McKinsey estimates the total market size of the subscription ecommerce market is about $12 billion to $15 billion.
  • A survey by Clutch found that 54% of online shoppers are subscription box service members.

Many of the products subscription services are shipping out arrive in mailer boxes. These boxes, usually custom mailers, are very versatile, so they can fit all kinds of items. Everything from razors and makeup, to video game accessories and dog treats, can be ordered through a subscription box service. All of these items can fit neatly and be attractively displayed in a mailer box.

Mailer boxes aren’t limited to subscription services. They’re commonly used to send out everything from books and business cards to jackets and computer keyboards. In other words, if you order things online, you’ve likely seen a mailer box. 

All of this translates to a tremendous amount of boxes arriving on people’s doorsteps. 

Let’s find out how you can get the most from mailer boxes and stand out from the competition. 

Building Your Brand with Mailer Boxes
building your brand with custom mailer boxes

Not so long ago, companies and their customers gave little thought to what kind of box their products were shipped in. They just wanted the item inside to arrive intact and to be what they expected. But times have changed. A company that ignores what their mailer boxes look like is missing out on a highly effective and lucrative marketing strategy. 

Sure, ordering online is convenient, but often, customers are looking for more. They want to be wowed by the complete experience, including the shipping mailer boxes their goods arrive in. 

Mailer boxes offer so much room for customization. Even if your company is just starting out, you can give your customers a special experience. Everyone from tiny Etsy stores to well-established brick-and-mortar stores use mailer boxes for shipping their products and increasing brand recognition.  

Mailer boxes offer a lot of flexibility. You can:

  • Come up with a unique design that promotes your brand. 
  • Make use of your logo, slogan, and brand colors.  

Remember to stay consistent with your branding across all of your marketing channels. Think about what colors you’re using on your website or what type of font you’ve used for your logo. You want people to see the mailer box and immediately identify it with your brand.   

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Social Media and Unboxing Videos

Nowadays, social media is a key component of any marketing campaign, and unboxing videos are examples of initiatives that can skyrocket the value of your brand.

If you think people aren’t watching someone else open a box, think again. Try a cursory search on YouTube for unboxing videos, and you’ll be surprised at how many videos pop up. These videos are strangely addictive and popular.  

What is the first thing people see in an unboxing video? You guessed it – the box! You don’t want to skimp on your mailer box design and miss the opportunity to create that valuable first impression.

social media and unboxing videos product packaging for customized mailers

Two of the most influential YouTube unboxing channels are Ryan’s World with 28 million subscribers and Unbox Therapy with nearly 18 million subscribers. That’s a crazy amount of people tuning in to see someone else open a box. 

Sure, people tune in to these channels to see the actual products being unveiled, but they’re also enjoying the accompanying excitement of unwrapping the layers of packaging. 

If you want to get noticed by customers (or influencers), the overall presentation is important–and yes, that includes the box! A beautiful custom mailer can enhance your customers’ experience and even give your products a higher perceived value. 

What to Look for in a Mailer Box

Now that we’ve established the branding importance of mailer boxes, let’s talk about what makes up mailer boxes. As with all custom packaging, you want your boxes to be top quality. 

Here are some things you should consider when buying mailer boxes:

1. Paper Grades

Mailer boxes are primarily used to mail items and therefore durability is a must. That’s the reason why these boxes are usually made of corrugated material. It’s important to pick the right manufacturing paper for your purpose and products. 

Here are some common paper grade options for mailer boxes:

Kraft Corrugated Cardboard

paper grades mailer boxes kraft corrugated cardboard

These are the basic brown corrugated mailers we’re all familiar with. Kraft cardboard is an affordable option that gives you a rustic, natural look. Corrugated mailer boxes are made up of between 60-100% recycled material. 

Uncoated White Corrugated Cardboard

Some people prefer white corrugated mailer boxes. The look is cleaner, and graphics will stand out more with this choice. White corrugated packaging boxes also look high-end.

Clay-Coated Corrugated Cardboard

This corrugated packaging option gives you a smoother, brighter surface. It’s a little more expensive, so it’s a good pick for luxury brands.

Corrugated cardboard boxes also come in different thicknesses. Think about what you’re mailing. Is it lightweight? Fragile? Then decide on the flute grade (thickness) you need. Some common box mailer flute grades are E-flute 1/16 and B-flute 1/8.

Any kind of box can be dressed up or down, depending on your budget and the aesthetic you’re going for. A small budget is not an excuse to be boring. A simple brown box printed with your logo can create a lasting impression. 

Even if your budget is almost non-existent, you can customize your mailer boxes. Order a hand stamp with your logo or try a custom sticker. It’s all about making your boxes your own and reinforcing your brand. 

2. Closures

All of these boxes should be easy to assemble and need to be securely closed up somehow. Unlike regular shipping boxes that are often closed up with packaging tape, mailer boxes have some sort of tab-locking mechanism.  

Some mailer boxes come with additional protective dust flaps to keep dirt out. You can even choose a box with a tear strip for added security. If you’re mailing the box, you can further secure it with tape or hot melt glue, so it doesn’t pop open during shipping. 

3. Printing

You want your custom mailer box to create a good first impression as soon as it hits your customer’s doorstep. This means you want your text and graphics to look crisp and high-quality. Unintended blurry images are a no-go.

How good your graphics look comes down to the printing process you choose. There are several options out there, and there are a few factors to consider, namely your budget, any time constraints, the quality you’re looking for, and whether you are using your mailer boxes for shipping or retail packaging.  

You no doubt realize the important role colors play in evoking a certain mood or increasing brand recognition, so it’s vital to understand a little bit about how these colors are printed on boxes. 

There are two main color processes used when printing on mailer boxes: PMS and CMYK.

Pantone Matching System (PMS) 

PMS uses premixed ink formulas from Pantone, so you’re sure to get consistent colors across all types of mediums. With PMS, you get more vibrant colors. It is the best option if you’re using a lot of thin lines or metallic or fluorescent colors.  

If you’re using three colors or less, PMS is the cheaper option. But that doesn’t limit you to only three colors. You can “tint” colors to save money. For example,  if you’re using green, you can add a little white to come up with mint green.  


cmyk printing color process for print on mailer box with logo

CMYK is the other color option. It’s made up of four colors: (C) cyan, (M) magenta, (Y) yellow, and (K) black. This process creates the images out of tiny dots. It’s your best bet if you want to use full-color photos or need a lot of different colors. 

Now, on to the actual printing. There are two main options for printing on your custom mailer boxes: direct printing and pre-printing.  

Direct printing, sometimes called post-printing, is when you print directly on the box. This method is often used with corrugated boxes. 

  • Flexography (or flexo) is a popular option. With flexo, you’re printing directly on the box. Flexo is affordable, has good printing speeds, can be quickly set up, and works well on both rough or smooth materials. Flexo uses PMS colors, so if you’re looking for full-quality photo images, you might not get the results you want.
  • Digital printing is a printing method that’s gaining in popularity. It gives you higher quality than flexo. It’s fast but best for low volumes.
  • Offset lithography (or litho) falls under the pre-printing category. It’s usually used for printing on custom labels, which are then glued to the box. This option is great for higher-quality photos or if you want to add some embossing or foil stamping. Litho labels can cover the whole box or just a small section. It’s up to you. 
  • Foil stamping (or hot stamping) will give you an elegant, sophisticated look. Foil stamping is a printing technique that uses hot dyes to press a metallic print and foil onto the surface of the box. You can use a variety of colors, but a popular option keeps it simple – a black background with gold or silver foil. Foil stamping is usually found on the outside of the box. But why limit yourself? If you want something a little different, try it on the inside of the box.  

Keep in mind that these printing techniques aren’t mutually exclusive. Feel free to mix things up to grab your customers’ attention. 

If you want to get extra fancy, you can even combine direct printing with a litho label. Or if you want to splurge, go with two-sided printing. Whatever you choose, try to get the highest quality that’s within your budget. You don’t want to skimp on the appearance of your mailer boxes. You want them to look sharp and stand out. 

4. Finishes

Beautiful printing can be eye-catching and stand on its own. But if you want to elevate your product packaging design even more, consider adding a coating or other finishing touches. They can give your box a polished, high-end look.

Aqueous Finish

One popular and relatively affordable coating option is an AQ finish. This vegetable cellulose coating was introduced in the 1970s. The coating makes a box look shiny and smooth and protects it from smudges and scratches. You can opt for a glossy or matte finish – or even satin, which is somewhere in between.  

Another benefit of an AQ finish is it’s eco-friendly. Since it’s water-based, it’s nontoxic and can be easily recycled. 

UV Coating

This is a clear liquid coating that’s applied and then dried with ultraviolet light. This coating will give your box some added texture. You may want to opt for a spot UV varnish where it’s only applied to a specific area of the box. This is a great way to make a desired design element pop, such as your logo or slogan.  

To recap, here’s a table of the features and qualities to look for in mailer boxes:

What to Look For Feature/Quality Mailer Box Description

Paper Grades


Kraft corrugated cardboard Basic brown box for a rustic, natural look
Uncoated white corrugated cardboard White mailer box for a cleaner look
Clay-coated corrugated cardboard Smoother, brighter surface but more expensive than other options
Closures Protective dust flaps To keep the dirt out
Tear strips For added security
Printing Flexography (flexo) Popular direct printing technique that uses PMS colors
Digital printing Higher quality than flexo, best for low printing volumes
Offset lithography (litho) Pre-printing technique used for custom labels
Foil stamping (hot stamping) Direct printing technique that uses hot dyes
Finishes AQ finish Vegetable cellulose coating protects the box from smudges and scratches
UV coating Clear liquid coating applied and dried with UV light

Keep Your Custom Mailer Box Eco-Friendly

There’s no denying that e-commerce is booming. LimeLoop compiled data from the major shippers (USPS, FedEx, and UPS) and estimated that around 165 billion packages are shipped in the U.S. each year. But with all of these online sales comes huge amounts of waste heading to our already overflowing landfills.

This is concerning to customers and businesses alike. You can’t go a day without hearing distressing news stories about climate change or other impending environmental disasters. Sure, consumers love to buy the latest and greatest, but they’re also concerned about the environmental impact of their purchases. 

One study found that 74% of consumers were willing to pay more for sustainable packaging, and a quarter of these were willing to pay an increased cost of 10% or more. 

There’s no way to get rid of packaging completely, but customers appreciate companies that make an effort to be less wasteful. So give customers what they want. Box mailers not only look good, but they’re also one of the more eco-friendly options for packaging

Here are some reasons why:

  • Most mailer boxes are made from post-consumer recycled materials.  
  • Mailer boxes can be recycled again and again. They’re easy to break down, which encourages people to make an effort to put them in a recycling bin. According to the EPA, in 2018, approximately 32.1 million tons of corrugated boxes were recycled, which was a 96.5% recycling rate for corrugated cardboard boxes. That’s keeping a lot of packaging out of our landfills.
  • Mailer boxes are easy to ship. They’re relatively lightweight and stack neatly in a truck, so it takes fewer trips to get them to their destination. Additionally, they’re usually shipped flat to retailers, which saves considerable space.
  • Mailer boxes are usually made of corrugated cardboard materials, which biodegrade much faster than other shipping materials. Plastic, for example, can take upwards of 500 years to biodegrade. Embracing eco-friendliness isn’t lost on consumers. In a survey by consumer research firm Toluna, 66% of respondents said that paper or cardboard packaging is better for the environment.
  • Retail and shipping mailer boxes are mostly made from materials sourced from sustainably managed forests. Look for companies that have FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) certification for their corrugated mailers.
  • Mailer boxes are sturdy enough to repurpose. You could use beautifully colored mailer boxes to store old postcards and other small mementos.

Eco-friendly doesn’t have to mean dull and monotonous. Sure, simply adorned kraft mailer boxes may convey the look you’re going for, but if you want to add more zing, there are many options. Today, you can find water-based, soy-based, and even algae-based inks that look beautiful and are good for the environment. So don’t let environmental concerns limit your color palette. 

Mailer Box Design: Be Sure You Get What You Want

size graphics colors logo spelling box design considerations for shipping

With so many options for your custom mailer boxes, you want to get exactly what you want. No matter if you work with a designer or decide to go it alone, you want to make sure your mailer box design will fit your needs.

Are small mailing boxes the right size for your products? Make sure you can fit all of your goods comfortably. You don’t want a fit that’s too tight or to have your items swimming around in there. How about the graphics? Are the colors right?  Do your custom mailers with logo look good? Is everything spelled correctly?

When ordering custom mailer boxes, make sure to check the final proof. You can look at an online proof with a flat view, or perhaps a 3D mockup will help you visualize the final product. If you’re ordering a lot of mailer boxes and you have time, you may want to order a physical sample, so you know exactly what you’re getting.

Your shipping mailer boxes are the face of your business, so make sure you get everything just right the first time. You’d hate to order 1,000 boxes with your company name misspelled or the wrong URL emblazoned on the side. 

What Goes Inside Your Box

What Goes Inside Your Box void fill packaging inserts paper foam

Mailer boxes are durable, but that doesn’t mean you can simply toss your items in and throw the box in the mail. There are certain things you may want to include inside.

Let’s start with protecting your product during shipping and fulfillment. Some items will fit perfectly snugly in the box and not need added padding, but for many items, you’ll need some sort of void fill to cushion your product so it’s not rattling around inside. 

Here are some common options for void fill:

  • Packaging paper. This is an excellent way to fill space and protect your items. You can wrap individual items or ball the paper up to cushion your goods. Packaging paper looks decent and is recyclable.
  • Crinkle paper. You’re probably familiar with the basic kraft crinkle paper. Color options are almost limitless. 
  • Tissue paper. This is a simple, affordable option that can elevate the look of your packaging. It’s not the best for fragile items but works well for items like clothing.
  • Cardboard inserts. Custom-designed inserts will protect moderately fragile items. Inserts are made to fit a particular item, so it’s best to use them on the products they were made for. 
  • Foam cushions. If you’re shipping something fragile, this will help protect your items from scratches and breakage. You can cut the foam to shape to make it more useful. One big drawback is this type of cushion is not environmentally friendly. 
  • Air pillows. These aren’t the most beautiful, but they’re lightweight, easy to store, and get the job done. 

In addition to protecting your products, throwing a few added goodies into your mailer box can make the experience more personal for your customers. That’s something most will appreciate. According to one study, consumers were 80% more likely to make a purchase when companies offer personalized experiences.  

So don’t waste the opportunity. It doesn’t take much to make your customer feel special.  Here are a few things you could include in your box mailers:

  • Enclose a personalized thank you note. Or if you haven’t printed anything on the inside of a box, write “thank you” inside the top of the box. 
  • If possible, use your customer’s name. In an Accenture survey, 56% of respondents said they were more likely to shop in-store or online at a retailer that recognized them by name.
  • Toss in some coupons. People love discounts.
  • Include small samples for other products. Your customer will feel pampered and special, and it’s a great way to introduce them to some of your other products.
  • Add little toys, candies, or stickers. If you’re going for sophistication, this may not be the look you’re envisioning, but sometimes, a little frivolity is appreciated.
  • Encourage your customers to share their experiences on their social media channels. Put your social media handles on the box with a hashtag you’d like to see trending. 

As with all marketing endeavors, presentation counts with mailer boxes. Of course, you need to work within your budget, but that shouldn’t stop you from adding a little something extra. Who knows? You might get lucky and a social influencer may share an unboxing video of your product.  

Perhaps more likely, customers will spread their impressions through word of mouth.  According to the American Marketing Association, almost 75% of consumers identify word of mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decisions. And what better way to get them talking than getting them excited about your beautiful packaging? 

Corrugated Mailers in Action: A Little Inspiration

Having a lot of options is usually a good thing, but it can also feel overwhelming.  Sometimes, it helps to look at what others are doing. 

Here are some mailer box examples that will get your creative juices flowing and give you a good jumping-off point to come up with your own mailer box design:

1. Lily and Onyx

Lily and Onyx example custom mailer box

Lily and Onyx curates locally and internationally crafted goods that promote things like mindfulness and the “California” lifestyle. Their mailer boxes stay on brand. You can see the above packaging uses simple, tasteful, soothing colors, and typography that reflect the boho vibe the company is going for.  

As with their products, Lily and Onyx’s packaging has a natural look. You won’t find any wasteful packaging here.  

2. Love With Food

love with food reference printed mailer boxes with branding

Love With Food, a snack delivery service, proves you don’t have to send out high-end goods to use stylish mailer boxes. Their service starts at just $7.99 a month, but they don’t skimp on their boxes. Their custom mailer boxes are bright red with white lettering, which reflects the branding on their website. The simple but bold color combination is sure to grab attention.  

3. Vegancuts

vegancuts beauty makeup snack customization boxes with logo

Sometimes, simplicity is the perfect reflection of your brand. Vegancuts offers snack, makeup, and beauty boxes. All of their offerings are 100% vegan and cruelty-free. They’re not about unnecessary excess, which is beautifully reflected in the simple line drawings and script on their printed mailer boxes

4. FabFitFun

fabfitfun mailer box kraft

Simplicity is not the name of the game for everyone. Popular lifestyle box subscription service FabFitFun is all about living life to the fullest. Their custom mailers are anything but subdued. Each season, they send out a new box with a new design. The boxes vary by the season, but they usually use several colors with images that cover the box inside and out. 

5. greenUP Box

greenup box custom printed logo inside outside printing for packaging

What would you expect from a subscription box dedicated to reducing waste and plastics? Probably exactly what greenUP Box is sending out. Not only are their products all eco-friendly, but so is their packaging material.  

The leaf-covered design and earthy green color of the box are reminiscent of nature. The box and the crinkle paper inside can be easily recycled, so no waste here.

6. American Influencer Beauty Bundle

American Influencer Beauty Bundle customized packaging boxes mailer

Sometimes, it’s all about the glam factor. American Influencer Beauty Bundle is a bi-monthly subscription service that gives customers exclusive access to influencer beauty products. Their shiny mailer boxes have a luxurious look that appeals to their customer base looking for the latest beauty trends. 

7. Smartass & Sass

Smartass and Sass custom printed mailer boxes with slogan logo brand

As their name suggests, Smartass & Sass is all about “snark, sass, and sarcasm.” Their custom-printed mailer boxes might not appeal to everyone, but they reflect the company vibe and cater to their customer base. Spend a few seconds on their website and you just know this is a fun company with a certain brand of humor. 

Smartass & Sass uses boxes that look bold but are quite simple. It has kept the box for their secondary packaging to a single bright blue color with their name and a geometric pattern on top. They put their website address on one side and their catchphrase, “classy, sassy, and a bit smartassy,” emblazoned on another. Inside, they kept it plain to keep the emphasis on the quirky products you’ll find in the box.  

Every month has a different theme, so you never know exactly what you’ll get, which adds to the excitement. They even share unboxing videos on their website of past boxes, so you get an idea of what kind of experience you can expect when this box lands on your porch.

Put the Spotlight on Your Brand With Mailer Boxes

Put the Spotlight on Your Brand With Mailer Boxes

You’ve got a desirable product, so don’t leave your packaging decisions as an afterthought. Packaging should be a critical part of your marketing plan. It’s often the first thing your customer sees, so you want to get it right and make a great first impression. Think about what your company represents, and make sure your packaging reflects that.

A thoughtfully designed mailer box can up your game and boost your brand identity – and, in turn, increase your sales. Remember, customers are looking for the whole experience, so make your mailer box memorable and special. A quality mailer box can both ensure your goods get to your customers in one piece and – just as importantly – have them coming back for more.  

Refine Packaging is the top choice for the world’s Inc 5000 and Fortune 500 companies. With super fast production times, affordable pricing, and a sky’s the limit attitude, we’ll help you turn your custom packaging into a competitive differentiator. Contact us today and a dedicated packaging specialist will guide you through every step of the custom packaging process without breaking a sweat.

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