Corrugated vs Cardboard — Understanding the Differences Between These Packaging Materials

With More Sales and Shipments Comes Greater Responsibility

In 2018, nearly 1.9 billion people purchased goods online. By 2021, that number is expected to reach 2.14 billion. While there are plenty of in-store shoppers, the meteoric increase in online shopping over the years has led to the expectations around shopping changing — even for retailers with physical locations.

Whether customers are buying from online sources like Amazon or are ordering online from brick-and-mortar retailers, every consumer expects their products to arrive quickly — and in good condition. Have you considered the kind of packaging you’re using to ship your products? It’s an important decision because it could be the difference between a one-time customer and a lifetime customer.

In order for a customer to become loyal to you and your brand, they have to be satisfied with not only your product but also with the timeliness and method of delivery. Depending on the size and weight of your product, you have it shipped out in a padded or reinforced envelope/package or a box. For retailers using box-style shipping cartons, the impression the container makes when your customer first sees it is critical. The likelihood of someone ordering from you again if they receive your product in a damaged or mishandled container is slim.

Don’t let that be the case. If you ship products on a daily basis, make sure you know the difference between corrugated vs cardboard to ensure that you’re using the correct type of packaging material for your business. This will allow you to avoid all of the above while increasing sales, retaining customers, and providing a delightful customer experience.

What Are the Differences Between the Two Materials?

While both cardboard packaging and corrugated packaging look similar and might seem to accomplish the same tasks, they’re actually quite different in structure and purpose. So when it comes down to corrugated vs cardboard, which should you be using to satisfy your packaging needs — and those of your customers? Your choice of corrugated vs cardboard will make a significant impact on customers’ impressions, so it’s important to understand the differences between the two shipping container types.

A cardboard carton is made of thick paper stock or heavy paper-pulp. This material is used to make a variety of products such as small containers, product packaging, and even structural support for less rigid items like notepads, inserts that keep clothing items like button-up shirts from losing shape in their packaging, and more. Products can be shipped in containers made of cardboard, but it presents a risk to retailers as the material provides little protection and also requires extra material such as bubble wrap to ensure the products inside stay safe.

Corrugated cartons are made up of a few layers of material rather than just a single sheet. The three layers include an inside liner, an outside liner, and a medium that goes between the two, which is fluted. Corrugated is a resilient material that is also light weight — an important consideration for those shipping a significant number of packages. These containers will remain sound even when exposed to shocks, moisture, and sudden temperature changes. While no container is invincible to excessive force or prolonged and harsh conditions, corrugated provides a higher level of assurance that your products will move from your warehouse to their final destination in great shape.

Don’t Ship Your Own Packages?

While more and more companies are partnering with global retailers like Amazon and Walmart for order fulfillment and distribution, that doesn’t mean you can’t give corrugated vs cardboard some consideration. Those companies may ship your products for you (in corrugated), but remember — the product inside is still ultimately your responsibility. Your distribution partner holds responsibility as well in how your product was packaged and shipped, and the carrier will hold responsibility for how the package was treated. But you still have to ensure your product is carefully secured.

For example, many subscription-based retailers ship small products — which can often be delicate or valuable. These products can’t be shipped individually in a way that’s financially justifiable. Thus, they’re packaged in specially designed and engineered corrugated packages. Dividers, void fillers, and other supporting material — also made of corrugated — are often inserted into the primary package to ensure everything stays snug.

When to Use Corrugated vs Cardboard

When used in the proper circumstances, both cardboard and corrugated cartons can be useful as packaging options. For example, cardboard is an efficient option when packaging lightweight products such as light clothing or thinner items (hence the cardboard-style media mailers you’d find at the post office). Depending on the item, it should be understood that the product will be subject to handling and that this won’t result in damage. Carefully consider if cardboard is the right shipping material for your products.

Corrugated is used more often for packing and shipping items due to its strong and durable nature. Whereas cardboard and other materials are not impact-resistant, corrugated can withstand the rigors of moving from a warehouse to a mail processing center and ultimately to a delivery vehicle. The ability to provide cushioning for the contents inside is a significant advantage — even if the product itself is already packaged or wrapped.

If your product or brand also makes use of custom shippers or packaging, corrugated may be a better choice as it allows for just as much customization as cardboard while offering more rigidity. Die-cuts, custom opening folds and flaps, and other customization enable more unique design without risking the product contained within.

Another way corrugated packaging is used over standard cardboard material is for food packaging. This is due to the sustainability and cleanliness that it provides throughout the transportation process that brings produce to store shelves. And with the rise of online grocery shopping and meal services, companies are also using corrugated containers lined with insulating material to protect perishable goods in addition to dry ice used to keep contents cool. Learn more about why you should use corrugated packaging.

Work with the Packaging Experts

At Jamestown Container, our talented packaging specialists can work with you to decide between corrugated vs cardboard and create virtually any type of corrugated container to make a lasting impression — while protecting your products as they move from your warehouse to their final destination..

Contact us to learn more about the benefits of corrugated and how we can help you.

Jamestown Container Companies has been helping companies navigate their packaging and shipping challenges with innovative solutions since 1956. We're a family owned and operated organization, and we're dedicated to being a partner to all of our customers from initial concept to the moment their products reach their final destination.