Amazon’s success lies in its innovation, diversification, seamless execution, great customer service, and efficiency. The eCommerce leader has the most progressive and advanced fulfillment in the world.
FBA or Fulfillment By Amazon is a program and seller privilege that allows you to store your products in Amazon’s fulfillment centers. Amazon packs, ships, and provide customer service for these products. All you need to do is make sure that you pick products that sell quickly. This can keep you from paying storage fees. You’re also responsible for marketing and inventory management.
FBA gives you access to Amazon’s world class fulfillment resources, so it increases your order processing efficiency. This increases your customer satisfaction and rating, which could lead to increase sales, revenues, and profits.
But, keep in mind that Amazon has strict pack and prep guidelines for products under the FBA program. To prevent fulfillment, delivery problems, and returns, you have to know these guidelines by heart.
To understand these guidelines, let’s look at Amazon’s six-step FBA shipment creation workflow.
Step 1 – Set the quantity of the shipment. You have to specify how many products you’re going to ship to Amazon’s fulfillment centers.
Step 2 – Prepare your products for shipment. You have to bag and seal the product thoroughly to avoid damage and leaks.
Step 3 – Label your products. Amazon fulfillment centers use barcodes to efficiently identify products so you have to make sure to add Amazon barcodes to your product or packaging material.
Step 4 – Review your shipment plan and ensure that everything is accurate and correct.
Step 5 – Prepare the products for shipment.
Step 6 - Check the shipment summary page to review your shipment contents and track the status of your cargo.
Guidelines for Amazon FBA Labels
As previously mentioned, adding labels to your products is the third step in the Shipment Creation Workflow.
Amazon uses barcodes to identify products and streamline the shipping products. These barcodes also identify you as a seller, so you get paid for the sale. This is why you need to place a scannable barcode on each unit you send to Amazon. But, which barcode should you use?
There are many types of barcodes, namely UPC (Universal Product Code), EAN (European Article Numbering), FNSKU (Fulfillment Network Stock Keeping Unit), and GTIN (Global Trade Item Number).
If you’re an Amazon FBA seller, you need to focus only on two barcodes – UPC and FNSKU. UPC is the manufacturer’s code. It’s already on the product when you receive it from the supplier. Amazon allows sellers to use UPC for some product types.
But, using only the manufacturer's code can cause problems. You see, your competitors may also send in their products using a UPC barcode. This could be an issue because all the products that are labeled as “UPC only” are lumped together in one place.
When a customer orders your product, the warehouse attendant would just pick a random product from the bin. Your customer would end up receiving a product that your competitor shipped in, and that product may be defective or fake. This could heavily affect your order defect rate (ODR). You could get tons of negative feedback. You could lose the buy box and your sales numbers may significantly decrease.
This is why you should use Amazon’s code called FNSKU so you’re sure that your products are not bundled with counterfeit and defective items.
To get your FNSKU barcodes, log into your seller central account. Go to “inventory”. Click on the products that you’re shipping to Amazon. Click the drop down menu and choose “print item labels”. You can also use the FBA label service if you want Amazon to take care of your labels.
Labels should measure 3 1/3 inches x 4 inches.
Print the full set of labels (100 per page).
Do not place your label on the opening of the box.
Cover the UPC with the label containing the FNSKU to avoid confusion.
You should place a label containing the barcode on each product.
Make sure to place the label on the right product to avoid returns and complaints.
Amazon Packaging Requirements
A lot of things can happen when you ship a product from one location to another. Poor package handling could lead to product damage. This is the reason why you should prep and pack your FBA products thoroughly.
Here’s a list of Amazon’s packaging requirements that you should strictly follow:
Each box should have a shipment label and a barcode.
You have to use a unique FNSKU label for different product types, sizes, or color.
If you’re using FNSKU, cover the UPC using an opaque tape.
Amazon does not accept products that need to be assembled, such as mini-scooters or wheelbarrows.
Place the product in a bag and wrap it with non-adhesive tape. Make sure that the barcode is still scannable without opening the package.
If your product is sold as a set, you must mark it as set on its packaging before you send it to an FBA fulfillment center. You can place a sticker saying “sold as set” or “this is a set, please do not separate”.
Make sure that your boxes have six sides.
You should tape box openings so it’s secured.
Check each box and make sure that it doesn’t collapse when thrown or applied pressure.
Do the three foot drop test for your boxes. To do this, drop the box on each side to ensure that it doesn’t collapse.
You should bag products placed in thin boxes like chocolate boxes and granola bars. These boxes cannot withstand the three foot drop test and prone to damage.
Poly-bagged units must have a suffocation warning.
The print size of the suffocation warning should conform to these guidelines:
You have to make sure that your polybag is transparent and must be at least 1.5 mil thick (0.001 inch).
Make sure that your poly bags are sealed.
The UPC or FNSKU must be scannable through the poly bag.
If your products have a shelf life, your package must include the expiration date using the format MM-YYYY or MM-DD-YYYY.
You should not include marketing items such as price tags and pamphlets in the package.
If you’re selling knives and other sharp products, make sure that the blades are covered.
Pellets, powder, and other granular products can cause damage during shipping, storage, and handling. Pack these products well to protect handlers and Amazon associates.
Fragile products can break during shipping. This is why you should protect these products using bubble wrap. Place the barcode on the bubble wrap so you can scan it without opening the package.
The packed fragile units must pass the three foot drop test.
Jewelry must be placed in a pouch and then bagged using a transparent poly bag. You should place a suffocation warning on the poly bag.
Place the boxed jewelry in a small transparent plastic bag to protect it from dust.
Place expensive jewelry in a protective bag.
If you’re selling batteries, make sure that they’re secured and packed rigidly. You can place them in boxes and clamshell plastic. Do not pack the batteries using shrink wrap or zipper sealed bags.
Amazon FBA Shipping Requirements
Once you’re done checking the accuracy of your package and the box content information, you’re ready to ship your products to Amazon fulfillment centers. If you’re doing LTL (less than truckload), FTL (freight transport & logistics), and FCL (full container load) shipping, you need to follow these guidelines:
Only professional carriers can schedule an appointment and deliver products to the fulfillment centers. The appointment must be made at least 24 hours before the delivery. The carrier must notify Amazon if there’s a shipment delay because of bad weather.
You must provide a BOL (bill of lading) to your carrier. The BOL must have the following information:
Seller’s legal name
Complete address of the seller
Name of the carrier and its SCAC or standard carrier alpha code
PRO or shipper’s code number
Shipper load count or SLC
Unit or pallet information
Box and pallet count
Choose a carrier that’s compliant with the following requirements:
Tracking (PRO) numbers
Must communicate pallet and box counts before scheduling an appointment and shipment
Must provide a physical copy of BOL (bill of lading)
The vehicle delivering the goods must be well-maintained. The handlers should be able to safely unload the products.
A single LTL shipment should not be over five thousand boxes.
Shipment labels should be placed at the side of the box.
The tape used to seal the box should not cover the labels and warnings.
Do not bundle different products together. One box or pallet must contain the same items.
Follow these pallet guidelines:
Stack the products properly to ensure the safety of Amazon personnel.
Use 40 inches x 48 inches four way access wooden pallets.
Make sure that your pallets are in top shape. Amazon won’t accept broken pallets.
Ship items of GMA (Grocery Manufacturers Association) grade B or higher.
You can only ship grocery products using GMA grade 1A pallets.
You can ship health and beauty products using GMA grade 1B and 1A pallets.
Double-stacked pallets should not be higher than 100 inches.
If the pallet contains multiple SKUs, make sure that each SKU are placed in different boxes so it’s easy to identify them.
Stack your cartons evenly to avoid accidents.
Place labels on all four sides of each pallet.
If your pallet only contains one ASIN, place a “single ASIN pallet” label.
Amazon has the right to refuse the delivery of your products if you do not follow the FBA label and packaging requirements. You could lose a lot of money when this happens.
Not following Amazon’s pack and prep guidelines can also lead to product defects. This could increase your order defect rate (ODR) and can get your account suspended. If you want your online business to thrive, you should know Amazon’s prep and pack rules by heart.