Packing Slip vs Invoice – The Ultimate Comparison Guide in 2023
In order to achieve market preeminence, it is essential to implement an effective strategy for the fulfillment of e-commerce orders.
Packing slip and invoice are two of the essential components of the order fulfillment process. However, people often confuse one of these with the other.
Also, when it comes to online order fulfillment, these documents are often ignored, and WooCommerce business owners often fail to understand their value.
Understanding the importance as well as the difference between the packing slip and invoice is critical in order to fulfill your orders efficiently.
In this article, we will discuss what a WooCommerce packing slip and invoice are, their benefits, and also cover the packing slip vs invoice common differences in detail.
Let’s get started.
What is an invoice?
An invoice is a billing document you create in order to receive payments or submit as proof of the transactions made by the client/customer.
For WooCommerce stores where customers generally pay in advance, an invoice serves as a financial document to keep records and also serves as legal proof of purchase.
Online invoices are also known as electronic invoices and come in PDF format.
Why do you need invoices?
Even though you don’t have to generate invoices in order to get paid through WooCommerce stores, there are still a number of benefits that call for an invoice to be issued.
Let’s find out some of the benefits.
The first and foremost purpose of a WooCommerce invoice is to help keep records.
If you are doing a B2B model business and selling to medium to large companies, then their account section will always ask for an invoice for their record keeping.
Invoices are significantly important for you as well. If you keep a legal record of your sales transactions, you will be able to keep track of what products were sold to whom and remain organized.
Even if you are selling to individual customers, they will also want an invoice for their records as well.
Maintaining a level of professionalism
A professional invoice can have a significant impact on your customers. Even if you run a small WooCommerce shop, sending your customers an invoice shows that you are competent.
With a well-designed invoice, you can distinguish yourself from the competition and gain your customers’ trust.
Many businesses, including your WooCommerce rivals, overlook the opportunity that an invoice presents. An invoice is a part of your customer’s shopping journey, so you should not ignore it by any means.
Therefore, after a customer makes a purchase, you should send them an invoice. You can also automate the invoice creation process in WooCommerce with plugins such as Challan.
Showcases your brand and serves as a marketing tool
In WooCommerce, you can create custom billing templates/invoice templates where you can include promotional elements such as business logo, custom thank you note, upsell product links, etc.
Personalized contents always have the upper hand to impress customers and earn their trust.
A personalized WooCommerce invoice can aid in building a long-lasting relationship with your customers and overall grow your brand reputation.
Easy tax filing
It is always a good idea to keep a record of sales invoices for tax purposes.
Invoices are an important part of the paper trail when it comes to GST and income tax, especially when tax returns are filed. Invoices will help the business determine if there are any tax discrepancies.
As the owner of a WooCommerce business, it is essential for you to maintain an up-to-date record of all of your sales invoices in order to accurately report your income and guarantee that the appropriate taxes are paid.
An invoice serves as a legally binding record of an agreement between you and your customers, protecting you from the possibility of being sued for fraud.
The moment you create and send an invoice, you bind your customers with the agreement of the orders and transactions made. You or your customers cannot deny any part of it.
If there is a disagreement or discrepancies regarding a particular order, the elements of the invoice can be used as proof of record against such disputes.
Therefore, an invoice serves as a legal document for both parties.
An invoice is a crucial accounting tool that is often overlooked. Keeping accurate records of payments is beneficial for both buyers and sellers. As a result, you’ll be able to see where you stand in terms of finances.
Get paid on time
If you provide your products/services on a contractual basis, then invoices can come in mighty handy, saving you from chasing your clients for the payments.
To expedite the buyer’s payment process, the invoice contains essential information such as the due date for payment, the method of payment, information about the seller, and the value of goods or services provided.
Essential elements of an invoice
The WooCommerce invoice you create won’t serve you the benefits we mentioned above unless you include all the essential parts.
Here are the elements you must include in an invoice.
- Company logo
- Company information
- Customer’s information
- Invoice number
- Sequential order number
- Payment method
- Products purchased
- Price and quantity
- Tax information
- Subtotal and Total amount charged
- Terms & conditions
- Personal notes
What is a packing slip?
A packing slip is a printed shipping document where you mention the list of products you packaged and attach it to the shipping box.
Also known as a packing list, this piece of paper contains some additional important details such as company address and customer’s address, invoice number, purchase order number, etc.
Here’s an example of a WooCommerce print packing slip made with the Challan plugin –
When a customer receives a package, the packing slip confirms what products are wrapped in the box. They can verify from the packing slip whether they have received everything they ordered or not.
Packing slips are equally important for you as a WooCommerce owner. If you have a separate inventory or shipping department, they can use the packing slip to accurately determine what products need to be packaged and shipped for that particular order.
Why do you need a packing slip?
Do you feel a print packing slip is unnecessary for your WooCommerce business? Well, you need to think twice, and below, we will explain why.
If you have a separate packaging and shipping department, then you can send them the packing slip to make sure they know what products to collect from the inventory for that particular order.
Even if you don’t have a separate department, a packing slip will still help you determine what products to include in the shipment box.
Checking the packing slip before closing a package can ensure that all the items in an order are contained within the package.
This enables you to verify that the customer’s package contains not only the correct quantity of items but also the correct kinds of items that they ordered.
In order for you to keep the quality of your services at a consistent level, it is essential for you to verify the integrity of an order before sending out a shipment.
Track all items in the order
If an order is large or contains a wide variety of SKUs from different warehouses, it may require multiple shipments. That means you need to ship items of a single order in different boxes.
A packing slip can help immensely in such situations. Because packing slips document the quantity of items as well as their location within an order.
By using a packing slip, you can stay organized and keep track of which items are contained within which packages as well as the date when each item was shipped out to a customer.
This will help you to ensure that the correct items are included in each shipment and also will make sure that customers receive their entire orders.
When you include a packing slip inside the package, your customers can check and verify if they have received everything they ordered. A packing slip also reminds them of what they actually ordered in the first place.
In addition to that, if any of the items don’t match or go missing, or are damaged, then your customers can use the WooCommerce packing slip to find the missing/damaged products and contact you to resolve the issue by refunding or reshipping.
Therefore, a packing slip can help you earn your customer’s satisfaction.
Ensure quick delivery
Generally, packing slips are placed inside the box, and shipping labels are attached outside the box.
In case the shipping label gets damaged during the shipment process, and the shipping courier companies can’t read the address, they are allowed to open the box and search for clues to return your package.
So if you include the packing slip inside the box, the shipping company will find your customer’s address in it and will be able to deliver the package to your customers instead of returning it to you.
This will save ample time. Your customers will receive the package on time, and you won’t have to deal with repackaging, refunding, or shipment delays.
Just like personalized invoices, a custom packing slip can also play as a marketing tool.
You can include brand elements such as logo, tag line, color pallets, etc., to customize your packing slip and show off your professionalism.
For creating WooCommerce packing slips, you can use the plugin Challan to further customize your document to impress your audience.
Elements of a packing slip
Despite the fact that the list of items on a packing slip can vary based on the type of business and product, most professional WooCommerce packing slips will contain the following:
- Customer’s shipping and billing address
- Your company/warehouse address
- Invoice number
- Order number
- Order Date
- List of products
- Product’s SKU
- Quantity of each item
- Product weight and dimension
- Total items
Packing slip vs invoice
Is a packing slip the same as an invoice?
Even though there are some similarities in terms of contents, packing slips and invoices serve different purposes.
In this section, we will talk about packing slip vs invoice in detail, and at the end of our discussion, we will include a comparison table for you to understand them well.
Packing slip vs invoice – Document category & type
An invoice is a billing document. It can be created before or after a transaction takes place.
You can create an invoice to ask the client for payment or submit it as proof of payment. It primarily serves as a financial document for record-keeping and resolving legal issues.
A packing slip is a shipping document. You must create it only after the order has been confirmed. Packing slips help you or your shipping department gather and include the items for the orders.
In addition to that, this document tells your customers what products are included in the package.
Packing slip vs invoice – File format
An invoice can be both printable and virtually downloadable.
Online stores generally create the invoices in pdf format and attach them in the email. You can also print it out if the receiving company/customer requires you to submit it in printed format.
The primary purpose of packing slips is to identify what items are included in the shipping package.
Therefore, a packing slip must be a printed document that needs to be attached to the shipped package.
Packing slip vs invoice – Use cases
Whether you offer products or services in your WooCommerce store, you always need to create invoices when there’re any orders and payments involved.
As we have mentioned before, you can create WooCommerce invoices before or after a customer pays for the orders.
The selling scopes a WooCommerce platform offers to business owners are endless. It lets you sell any type of product or service. You can sell both physical and virtual products in your WooCommerce store.
Moreover, you can sell a single product or multiple products or have a WooCommerce membership website where you can sell monthly subscriptions/packages or even sell online courses.
No matter what you sell in your WooCommerce store or what type of products (physical/virtual) and services you sell, you need to create an invoice for every order you receive.
On the other hand, you can only create packing slips when there are some physical products involved. You need to create packing slips in order to let your customers know what products they should expect in the shipping box.
You don’t need packing slips if you are selling virtual products.
Packing slip vs invoice – Sender and receiver
You, as the seller, are responsible for creating both the packing slip and invoice. However, to whom you send these documents can vary depending on customer types.
If you are selling to a company, you need to send the invoice to the accounts department, and their inventory department will receive the packing slip.
Also, if you have a separate packaging department, then you need to forward a copy of the packing slip to them first so that they can arrange all the products according to the packing list and finally ship it to your customers.
If your customer is buying the product for someone else or wants someone else to receive the products from a different location, then your customer will receive the invoice, and the receiving person will get the packing slip.
Packing slip vs invoice – Contents
Packing slip and invoice have some common contents or elements inside them. For example, both invoice packing slip have your company/warehouse address, customer’s billing and shipping address, product list, product’s SKU, invoice and order number, order date, etc.
However, a packing slip doesn’t need to have price summaries such as payment method, tax amount, sub-total, and total price. Packing slips also don’t contain added components such as customized footers, thank-you notes, signatures, etc.
On the other hand, an invoice doesn’t need to include product weight and dimensions.
Packing slip vs invoice – How it works
Now we will show you when you need to create a WooCommerce invoice and when you will need a packing slip with a practical example.
Suppose you have a customer named Mikael Edington, and he has decided to buy some products from your WooCommerce store.
Here’s how the process works –
- Mikael adds some products to your WooCommerce store’s cart and jumps to the checkout page to complete the order.
- Mikael completes the order by filling in all the details and paying using one of your payment methods.
- The payment platform will verify the payment and notify your WooCommerce system that the transaction was successful.
- As soon as you receive confirmation from the payment gateway provider, you need to create an invoice and attach it to the order confirmation email that Mikael will receive.
- After sending the invoice, you must start the order fulfillment process. You need to create a packing slip and send it to your warehouse/shipping department if you have any.
If you do the packaging yourself, you still will need the packing slip to organize the products Mikael ordered and put the packing slip paper with the products inside the shipment box.
- Suppose Mikael has bought the products for his friend Flora and wants you to ship them to Flora’s house. In that case, you need to send the package to Flora with the packing slip inside. However, Flora won’t receive the invoice; Mikael will.
What happens if Mikael represents his company ‘Ceresco’ and wants you to send the products to the company’s warehouse?
If you are selling regular eCommerce products and accepting payment in advance, then Mikael will receive the invoice, and the warehouse will receive the products along with the packing slip.
However, if you are sending a Pro-forma invoice, then you need to send the invoice to the accounting department of Ceresco and send the products to their preferred location along with the packing slip.
Packing slip vs invoice – Visual comparison
We will now take a look at the invoice and packing slip we created for Mikael Edington. We used the Challan plugin to create both the packing slip and invoice.
Here’s the personalized invoice for Mikael Edington.
And this is the packing slip for that exact order.
The header section, which includes your address, Mikael’s addresses, invoice and order number, date, etc., of both the packing slip and invoice, looks similar.
However, the main differences are in the body, including the product item table and the footer section.
The WooCommerce invoice product item table includes individual prices, subtotal and tax costs, and tax percentages for the products. It also has a price summary section and footer with custom notes, paid stamp, and a signature.
The invoice doesn’t have product weight and dimensions.
The packing slip, on the other hand, doesn’t need price and tax information. Therefore, it only has weight and dimensions for the products.
The packing slip doesn’t necessarily need any paid stamps or custom notes, which is why this document has no footer.
Packing slip vs invoice – Comparison table
Let’s have a look at what we have learned about packing slip vs Invoice in a nutshell.
|Document category||Billing document||Shipping document|
|Document type||Can be both downloadable pdf and printed||Must be printed|
|Product type||Can be both virtual and physical||Must be physical|
|Triggers||The payment platform triggers invoice creation||Shipping/order fulfillment technology triggers packing slip creation|
|Time of creation||Can be created before or after payment/order confirmation||Must be created after order/payment confirmation|
|Document use case||Serves as a financial document||Serves as a shipping list document|
|Price summary||Must include subtotal and total prices||Doesn’t require e price summary|
|Tax information||Required||Not required|
|Product weight and dimensions||Not required||Required|
|Total items quantity||Not required||Required|
|Personalization||Highly customizable||Limited customization|
|Recipient||The customer who pays||Who receives the package|
|Company’s recipient||The accounts department||The warehouse|
|Confirmation||Confirms that an order has been placed successfully.||Confirms all products of that order are present in the package.|
|Refund issue||Required to issue a refund||Not required|
How to create packing slip and invoice in WooCommerce
WooCommerce stores generally sell their products internationally, and you can receive an order any time of the day or night. And busy WooCommerce stores receive orders in bulk numbers every day.
Therefore, it’s not a viable option for you to create invoices manually one by one. You need to automate this process.
Even though the default WooCommerce system doesn’t offer invoice creation, a number of plugins are available for you to do the work.
One such plugin is the Challan. It is available for free in the WordPress repository, and the great news is that it can create both packing slips and invoices for your orders.
Challan PDF invoicing plugin
Challan helps you automate the whole process of invoice creation. As soon as a customer completes an order, the plugin automatically creates an invoice for that order and attaches it to the order confirmation email.
In addition to that, you can download invoices, packing slips, credit notes, and shipping labels from individual order pages.
Challan also has a paid version with added features.
Challan pro lets you customize your packing slip and invoice extensively. You can create custom billing templates adding custom meta fields and additional elements such as a paid stamp, thank you notes, custom footer, term pages, authorized signature, etc.
Challan pro also offers an array of custom templates for you to personalize the appearance of your invoices. You can also add a custom background image for your packing slip and invoice template.
Overall, if you are running a WooCommerce store, then Challan is the best solution to create and send packing slip and invoice.
- Easy-to-use user interface.
- Enables you to create invoices, packing slips, shipping labels, and credit notes.
- Automatically attaches invoices and even packing slips to the order confirmation emails or to your chosen emails.
- You can customize WooCommerce email templates to automatically forward the packing slip to your shipping department.
- Supports adding custom elements such as thank you notes, paid stamps, custom footers, etc., along with the essential elements.
- Allows you to extensively customize packing slip and invoice with CSS and background images.
- Supports adding custom fields such as product and order meta data.
- Offers a range of premade template layouts for invoices.
- Supports adding product attributes such as SKU, category, description, etc., in the packing slip and invoice.
- Allows you to attach static files such as terms & conditions documents.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Yes, a packing slip plays an important role in confirming all products a customer ordered are packaged and delivered. Customers also can check and verify if any products are missing or not from the packing slip.
A packing slip doesn’t necessarily need to mention the price, but it must include the product list, the sellers, and the customer’s address.
You need to put the packing slip inside the shipping box.
Even though both the documents have some similarities in terms of elements/contents, they serve completely different purposes. An invoice is a financial legal document for both parties, and a packing slip is a shipping list document that serves as a packaged products’ checklist.
Your job is only half done after you successfully managed to impress a customer to make an order in your WooCommerce store. You need to fulfill the order efficiently in order to earn your customer’s trust and loyalty.
Both packing slip and invoice have remarkable importance in the order fulfillment process. These documents help you stay organized and show your professionalism.
We hope this article on packing slip vs invoice help you understand the importance and difference between these documents.
You May Also Read
- How to Create WooCommerce Custom Invoice Template
- 12 Essential Elements of an Invoice and How to Create One in WooCommerce
- How to Print a Packing Slip in WooCommerce