We’ve been comparing lots of packaging supplies that have that ‘similar but different’ thing going for them. Water activated tape vs carton sealing tape. Foam vs bubble. Stretch wrap vs shrink wrap. But now, here’s a biggie—especially when it comes to the e-commerce world: boxes vs mailers.

Both are shipping containers, both are protective, and both are great choices. But they come about their strengths in different ways, and have much different uses (and limitations). If you’re wondering which one is right for your business and your products, this boxes vs mailers comparison will help you make the right decision.

Corrugated Boxes

Made from corrugated board (fluted paper sandwiched between two sheets of liner), these guys are the strongest and most reliable shipping carton you’ll ever come across. They’re used to ship nearly anything you can think of, whether that’s electronics, bulk clothing, consumer goods or produce. It’s no wonder corrugated boxes are the staple of the packaging industry.

Corrugated boxes come in many styles:

Once assembled, their internal space is ideal for shipping products that need ample cushioning from the outside world. Void fill materials—such as bubble wrap, foam rolls or packing paper—are required to pad out the remaining space and ensure your goods are as protected as possible.

The biggest drawback of boxes is their higher shipping costs, thanks to the use of dimensional weight by delivery services. It’s an involved evaluation system that can lead to costly shipping charges if efforts aren’t made to minimize box size and weight.

Read our 5 Ways Online Stores Can Manage Dimensional Weight Costs blog to learn more.

Best used for… products that are larger, heavier, oddly-shaped or fragile.

Mailer Envelopes

Thanks to the rise of online shopping, mailer envelopes have become a popular option for shipping customer orders. Space in delivery vehicles is now at a premium, and with the use of dimensional weight shipping charges, bubble mailers and their siblings are a great way to minimize costs.

Mailer envelopes come in many styles:

With their low profiles, mailers are best used for products that don’t need a lot of space or protection during delivery. Mailers with protective lining such as bubble wrap or shredded material are often sufficient for books, movies, music and artwork. Mailers without lining work well for items that are already boxed, or aren’t fragile without extra protection (like clothing).

Read our Shipping with Mailers: What’s Right for Your Products? blog to learn more.

Best used for… products that are smaller, lighter, flat-profiled, or soft but not fragile. 

Boxes vs Mailers: What’s the Best Choice?

The answer lies in your personal preferences (such as eco-friendly packaging) and your business needs (such as a reduction in dimensional shipping weight).

Ask yourself these qualifying questions:

  • Are you shipping large, bulky, heavier items or small, low-profile, lighter products?
  • Are you creating an unboxing experience or wanting shipping convenience?
  • Are you looking to choose the most eco-conscious option?
  • Are you trying to reduce your shipping costs?

Provided your products fit and are protected well, corrugated boxes are always a great choice. But mailer envelopes are a great alternative if you don’t need a lot of shipping space. Both have their strengths and advantages, and it’s up to you to identify your preference when it comes to boxes vs mailers. Whatever you choose, both our stock boxes category and our mailer envelopes category have the variety of styles and sizes your business needs.