You have decided to use Amazon FBA for your business fulfillment requirements and now you have arrived at the point where it’s time to package your first shipment. You want to make sure that there are no delays, no unforeseen costs, and that your goods arrive at their destination in the same condition they left your business.
WHY DOES CORRECT PACKAGING MATTER?
It is not just a matter of packing your products into a box and sending it to Amazon. Amazon has some very specific packaging requirements for their FBA clients. While they may seem onerous at first, when you think about it from a business perspective they are just common sense.
- Poorly packaged goods can be damaged in transit.
- Poorly labelled goods may get lost or clients may get the wrong order.
- Over packaged goods are wasteful and impact on the environment.
- Poor packaging has an impact on your business reputation.
Amazon takes its packaging requirements seriously. There are penalties for suppliers who fail to comply. For example Amazon may dispose of your inventory and may block future shipments to its fulfillment centers. Improperly labelled products may be marked as unsellable. And on top of that, you may be charged a non-compliance fee.
AMAZON FBA PACKAGING REQUIREMENTS
It is easy to be overwhelmed by the detail of the requirements of Amazon FBA packaging. But if you break the requirements down into a set of simple headings they make a lot of sense and the Amazon website has a comprehensive help service called Seller Central which provides advice on packaging and prep requirements.
The website also has some helpful video tutorials to illustrate the packaging requirements with links to more detailed technical information when required for particular types of products.
It’s important to be aware that Amazon specifications may change and be sure to stay in touch with any new requirements.
There are many sources of excellent third party guidance on Amazon FBA packaging as well as Amazon’s own extensive documentation. These often include helpful summaries and simple checklists that step you through the process. We recommend that you read such guidance in conjunction with Amazon’s source material for completeness.
Amazon’s specifications cover general packaging requirements and requirements for particular categories of shipments including loose products, requirements for items sold as sets, boxed units, and particular packaging materials.
GENERAL PACKAGING REQUIREMENTS
- Each unique unit or product type (eg size or color) must have a unique FNSKU.
- Each unit must have an exterior scannable barcode with corresponding human-readable numbers that are easily accessible.
- You can either use manufacturer barcodes (eg GCID, UPC, EAN, or ISBN) or Amazon barcodes (ASIN or FNSKU).
- Existing barcodes on the outside of shipping boxes must be rendered unscannable. This can be done by covering the redundant code with tape or by using a black felt-tip to block it out. This ensures that the incorrect barcode cannot be accidentally scanned.
- Each unit, including multiple volume book sets, must be contained within a single, secure package.
- Units may not include multiple pieces requiring assembly by Amazon.
- Units not contained in secure packaging must be bagged or secured with tape.
- Footwear must be packaged with no shoe material exposed, either in boxes or in poly bags. Poly bags must have a suffocation warning (see below for detailed packaging requirements for poly bags).
AMAZON FBA GENERAL LABELLING REQUIREMENTS
- Product labels must all include the exact same product title.
- Use no more than 50 characters.
- Capitalise the first letter of each word but do not use ALL CAPS.
- Symbols and special characters are not allowed.
- Promotional titles are not allowed.
ITEMS SOLD AS SETS
Units that are sold as sets must be marked as sets on their packaging and labelled clearly to that effect, for example,“Sold as set” or “Set. Do not separate.” Units labelled as a set must be sealed so that they cannot be separated.
ITEMS SOLD AS BOXED UNITS
- Boxed units must be six sided and must have openings that will not easily open on their own.
- If the box can be easily opened on its own, adhesives or staples must be used.
- The box must not collapse when medium pressure is applied to any of the sides.
- If the boxed unit has perforated sides or openings, it must pass a 3 foot drop test. This consists of one drop on each side and one drop on a corner.
- If the product does not pass this test, it must be placed in a poly bag with a suffocation warning.
- Boxes containing multiple standard-size items must not exceed 25 inches on any side. The limit may be exceeded if the box contains oversize units that measure longer than 25 inches.
- Boxes may not exceed the standard weight limit of 50 lbs unless they contain one single oversized item that exceeds 50 lbs.
- Boxes containing jewelry or watches must not exceed 40 lbs.
REQUIREMENTS FOR POLY BAGS
- This requirement is for poly bags that are used to protect product items.
- Poly bags with a 5 inch opening or larger (measured when flat) must have a suffocation warning either printed on the bag or attached as a label.
- Amazon has precise requirements for minimum suffocation warning label print size corresponding to the length plus width of the bag.
- The thickness of the bag must be at least 1.5mm.
- The poly bag must be transparent.
- The poly bag must have a barcode or XOO-label that is scannable through the bag or have an XOO or ASIN label on the outside of the bag.
- The poly bag must be completely sealed.
- The poly bag or shrink wrap must not protrude more than 3 inches past the dimensions of the product.
- All products in a box must have a matching SKU and condition and must have been packaged by the manufacturer.
- Boxes with the same product must contain equal quantities of that product in the box and contain no more than 150 units per case.
- When receiving this type of shipment the fulfillment centre scans one unit from the box and the box is placed in the inventory.
- In some cases multiple case packs may be packed into a larger box called a master carton. The above requirements apply at the case pack level.
- Products that expire must include the expiration date on the master carton in 36-point or larger font and on the individual units.
- Expiration dates must be in the format MM-DD-YYYY or MM-YYYY.
- The expiration date must be accessible to Amazon during the receiving process even when the product is subject to additional packaging requirements (e.g: for fragile items).
There are specific wrapping and preparation specifications for particular products in addition to the above requirements. These products include:
- Products containing liquids
- Pellets, powders, and granular products
- Glass, ceramic and other breakable or fragile units
- Plush units
- Sharp units
- Clothing, fabric, and textiles
- Baby products
Specific wrapping requirements for each product can be found on the Amazon Seller Central website above.
APPROVED PACKING MATERIALS
Approved standard boxes include:
- Regular slotted carton
- B flute
- ECT-32 (edge crush test)
- 200BH (burst strength)
Approved packaging materials include:
- Foam sheets or cushioning
- Air pillows
- Bubble wrap
- Full sheets of paper
You can obtain Amazon-preferred poly bags, boxes, stretch wrap, bubble packs and other materials directly from Amazon. US based sellers can also get free supplies from UPS, FedEX and USPS provided the seller is using those services to send products to Amazon fulfillment centers.
Once you have familiarised yourself with the requirements, it is time to get started. We recommend that you:
- Make yourself a checklist of the packaging requirements that apply to your shipment. That way, you won’t overlook anything and you can step yourself through the processes easily.
- Make sure you have plenty of time for that first shipment. Don’t rush it. The processes will become second nature over time and you will need to spend less time on it in the future.
- Make sure that you have the right basic equipment: In addition to your packaging material, Xero’s 12-step Amazon seller checklist recommends that you have available a laser printer, shipping labels, and accurate scales with which to weigh your packages. Larger shipments will call for more sophisticated equipment, but this should provide reassurance to small startups that preparing packing for shipment to an Amazon FBA center doesn’t need to be complicated.
THIRD PARTY PACKAGING AND PREP SERVICES
If you can’t afford the time or if you are having trouble with the technical requirements, there is the option of hiring a third party service to do all the shipping preparation for you. But don’t underestimate the importance of careful research to ensure that you are hiring an experienced company that has a successful track record of dealing with Amazon requirements. This option may not be cost-effective for smaller sellers but for larger businesses it may well be worth pursuing.
If you are interested in this route then check out this link for an assessment of the 11 best service providers. Your choice of service provider should be based on quality and cost but there are also some pragmatic considerations such as where your business is based or where your supplier is based, particularly where your supplier may be in a third country.
Alternatively, Amazon will also provide packing and prep services for a fee as part of its wrap-around FBA services. Check out this link for more information on FBA Prep and pack services.
Are you looking for a simple and effective accounting system to support your e-business on Amazon? A2X Accounting provides Amazon sellers with automated accounting by posting easy-to-reconcile summary invoices to Xero. A2X enables you to account for your Amazon revenue and expenses quickly and easily.