E-Commerce Packaging: Retention & Suspension vs. Air Cushion

Posted by CS Packaging on Jul 20, 2023 10:50:00 AM

retention packaging

Suspension packaging and air cushion packaging are both modern alternatives to packing peanuts and other messy materials in the shipping process, and have become quite popular in the e-Commerce world.

And if you need protective packaging for your shipping needs, you may be wondering which of these two options is superior. In fact, you may be wondering if either of them are superior, and when it’s appropriate to use one over the other?

In this post, we'll try to answer some of those questions while providing additional information about these two types of protective packaging.

What Is Suspension Packaging?

Retention & suspension packaging places the item on an insert that's suspended in the shipping container away from the edges. A thin film is then wrapped around the item to hold it in place during shipping. This combination of retention and suspension helps protect the item from damage by placing space between the item and the edges of the shipping package.

This type of packaging is widely popular among the e-Commerce market, especially for parts and products that tend to be more fragile. And there are many other benefits associated with suspension packaging aside from its safety.

The Benefits of Suspension Packaging

Suspension packaging is used to protect a wide range of products. Not only can it protect your valuable electronics, but it can also provide reassurance that delicate gifts or decor will arrive in tip-top condition. Suspension packaging has several benefits, including: 

  • FlexibleAlmost any product can benefit from being suspended away from damaging edges of the box and held in place with a protective film, making retention & suspension packaging a one-size-fits-all solution. 

  • Simple Suspension packaging folds easily and doesn't require any special machinery to use. The simplicity means you'll be shipping your products more effectively, with less training and fewer expenses. 

  • Affordable Some other forms of secure shipping require expensive foam that takes up large amounts of storage space, or specially made components made with costly die-cutting procedures. Retention & suspension packaging is much more cost-effective, consisting only of easily stored cardboard and plastic film.

  • CleanRetention & suspension packaging lifts out just as easily as, if not easier, than traditional foam supports. Because it's just cardboard and a thin film, it also leaves much less mess than foam does, resulting in happier and more satisfied customers.

  • SustainableCardboard is healthier for the environment than foam is, which already gives suspension packaging an edge on sustainability. Using less material overall further amplifies that benefit.

What is Air Pillow Packaging?

This type of shipping packaging material is becoming increasingly common as a replacement for packing peanuts, so you've likely seen it before. It comes in rolls of flat plastic that have pockets in it, which create a pillow of air when inflated. This pocket of air cushions the item during shipping and keeps it from jostling around while in transit. 

This is also a common form of protective packaging that you’ll find in e-commerce. It’s great for holding delicate products in place, and comes at a lower cost than many other types of packaging.

Air pillow packaging also has several other benefits. 

The Benefits of Air Pillow Packaging

Air pillow packaging also has several other benefits, including the fact it is:

  • LightweightThe design of air pillow packaging makes it a good choice for shipping methods where extra weight can mean extra expense. This leads to more affordable shipping for both you and your customers.

  • AffordableThe cost of shipping can be lower due to reduced weight, but the packaging material itself is also very affordable compared to foam or peanuts.

  • Compact In addition to saving you money on shipping, air pillow packaging can save space in your warehouses. Because it comes uninflated, the packaging is simply a large roll of plastic. This means it takes up much less space than foam or packing peanuts.

  • Environmentally FriendlyNot only does the compact size mean less space taken up in landfills, but there are green options available that will biodegrade as well.

  • Clean  Speaking of packing peanuts, nobody enjoys the mess they make when you pull your product out of a box packed with them. Foam peanuts end up all over the floor and cling to the product. By comparison, air pillow packaging is clean and unobtrusive. 

When to Use Suspension Packaging Vs. Air Pillow Packaging

Both types of packaging are ideal for several products available through e-commerce. However, how do you know which one to choose for your product?

The answer to this question is dependent on a few factors. What you’re shipping, how far you’re shipping it, and how delicate the product is are the most important. 

As a general rule of thumb, you should use suspension packaging when your highest priority is to minimize the risk of damage. Air pillow packaging, on the other hand, is best when shipping lightweight products that don’t take up a lot of space in the package. 

Which Should You Choose for e-Commerce?

You may have noticed that several of the benefits of the two options overlap. The reality is that both products are viable options for the e-commerce market and provide an ideal solution to protect your product between Point A and Point B.

The choice is less about which one is superior and more about which one fits the item you need to ship best. Think about how your product is shaped, how much it weighs, and how it fits in the box. In fact, if you look at the various protective shipping packaging options available on our website, you may find that another option entirely fits your needs best. 

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(Editor's note: This blog was originally published in June 2019 and was updated in July 2023 to reflect current information.)

Topics: Product Packaging, eCommerce, Protective Packaging, Industrial Packaging