5 most common causes of damaged packages and how a 3PL can help you prevent them

January 13, 2022
damaged cardboard shipping box
When dealing with product returns, the phrase that every ecommerce business dreads to hear is that “the item is broken.” Unfortunately, damages are an all too common issue for online retailers. Product and packaging damage happens, and when it does, it negatively affects both your customer’s experience and your business’s bottom line. Not only is it a headache for ecommerce companies to send a replacement item, but unsellable inventory can accumulate to become a hefty financial burden.

In fact, in a recent survey we conducted, 52% of Amazon sellers are actively seeking significantly better quality control measures in their supply chain logistics. The journey from manufacturer to a customer’s doorstep can sometimes be a long and arduous one, with many stops along the way. As the number of touchpoints increases, so do the chances of the product being damaged.

Although avoiding any and all damages is virtually impossible, some companies find that choosing the right third-party logistics (3PL) provider to support their supply chain needs can help them significantly reduce the likelihood of damages to their products and packaging.

In this blog, we explore the most frequent causes of damaged goods and packaging, and how a 3PL can help you prevent these issues from happening in the future.

5 Most common causes of damages

  1. Poor packaging: If the product has not been packaged properly – i.e. there’s too much space in the package, not enough filling, or a lack of additional prep service for particularly fragile items, like glass or porcelain – products have a greater chance of breaking during travel.
  2. Mishandling: During order fulfillment, packages are moved by fulfillment center associates, delivery drivers, multiple transportation legs, and sometimes even warehouse robotics. Occasionally, a package will drop, fall, or be mishandled during this process, causing damage to the package and its contents.
  3. Weather: If a product has to travel a far distance, it could encounter multiple temperature changes, causing there to be moisture build up within the package. In addition, inclement weather during the delivery process presents an increased risk of damage.
  4. Improper storage: When storing inventory at warehouses or fulfillment centers, if pallets or shelves are overloaded, items not stacked properly, or if unsuitable packing materials and pallets are used, products could get crushed.
  5. Shipping label damage: If the package’s shipping label is damaged and the customer information is not legible or the barcode is no longer able to be scanned, the package will not be unable to be delivered to its destination.
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How a 3PL can help you prevent damages

Partnering with a 3PL provider can help your ecommerce company prevent or mitigate many of the causes of damaged packages – if you choose the right 3PL. Indeed, if you want to ensure your products are delivered in perfect condition, it’s critical to select a 3PL that has extensive expertise in logistics (including all things picking, packing, and shipping) and a superb reputation for quality. Some 3PLs – like Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF), which has a 99.98% undamaged package delivery rate* – work closely with you to make sure you maintain the highest levels of customer service and satisfaction. With the right 3PL, you can reduce damages by leveraging:
  • Quality checks every step of the way: Working with a 3PL that is thorough and has quality measures and trainings already in place can help detect any damages to packages before they arrive at your customers’ doorsteps.
  • Improved packaging: Your 3PL can provide packaging recommendations and best practices based on your product type so that your orders arrive in perfect condition. For instance, did you know that with MCF you can request prep services and special packaging for certain products? If you find frequent damages with specific products, you can work with our team to discover what packaging works best to meet your needs by submitting a seller support case (login required).
  • Closely monitored damage claims: Many 3PLs have the capability to track damage claims for you, or even check any customer feedback that mentions a damaged good so that you gain visibility into your customers’ experience and can identify any problem areas.
  • Carrier capabilities: Many of the causes of damaged packages come down to the carrier used by the 3PL – and not the 3PL itself. Unless, of course, your 3PL is a carrier, like MCF. Partnering with a 3PL that has carrier capabilities is beneficial, as they can control the quality of delivery services and rapidly issue refunds and deliver replacements for any damaged goods.
  • Optimized inventory management: Reducing the number of touchpoints and distance your products have to travel can help avoid damages – and a 3PL can help you streamline the management of your inventory across your supply chain. For example, with MCF, your inventory is automatically distributed across our fulfillment network, positioning it as close as possible to your customer – thereby minimizing shipping distances and times and reducing the risk that a damage could occur during fulfillment.
If your packages do get damaged, it’s important to have a 3PL partner that you can get in touch with easily so they can help handle the issue effectively. To learn more about MCF’s damage policy, go here.


Damage to packages – which is typically caused by improper packaging, mishandling, or other factors like weather – is a perpetual problem for ecommerce companies. Fortunately, working with a 3PL partner can unlock benefits that improve damage rates like optimized inventory management, enhanced packaging, and better quality control from carrier capabilities. By partnering with a 3PL, you can generate and execute a plan to reduce your damage rate and improve your customer experience.
*MCF's 99.98% undamaged package delivery rate applies to small- and medium-sized businesses.
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