How to ship inventory to Amazon FBA? Package like you mean it
Have you ever ordered a package from Amazon and had it show up mangled, or worse off, the product was broken inside? As a buyer damaged orders are incredibly frustrating. That’s why sellers need to learn how to correctly ship inventory to Amazon FBA by packing their products well to avoid unhappy customer reviews.
With Amazon FBA, Amazon handles all the difficult aspects of your business, like orders, shipping, returns, and even customer service. Your only job is to pack and ship your inventory to the Amazon FBA fulfillment centers.
Fulfillment by Amazon is designed to make your life easy, however, there are certain criteria you are expected to meet when it comes to packaging your products for Amazon FBA. Amazon offers sellers various packaging options depending on your chosen order fulfillment means. To learn more about how to properly package your products and keep your customers happy continue reading.
Why should you be concerned with how your inventory is packaged when you ship to Amazon FBA?
New sellers often make this critical mistake; they assume that Amazon fulfillment centers will care for their inventory when picking it up and packaging it for buyers. When in reality, if you don’t take the time to package your items adequately, there is a chance that your products could get damaged en route to the fulfillment centers or get lost. As you can imagine, selling damaged goods is bad for business since they can ruin the brand you’re working hard to build.
Something else to worry about is the FBA prep service fee per item that you might be forced to pay if you don’t comply with the packaging and prep requirements set by Amazon for FBA shipments. At the same time, it’s worth noting that Amazon reserves a right to refuse, return and repackage items that don’t meet their packaging requirement, which will incur certain non-compliance fees. If you don’t want to incur additional costs or risk your inventory getting lost or damaged, package it like you mean it.
What can go wrong with inventory en route to Amazon FBA fulfillment centers?
Amazon takes the packaging requirements they have in place seriously, and there are penalties for anyone who fails to comply. Amazon will not hesitate to dispose of your inventory or block future shipments to fulfillment centers. And as you can imagine, this doesn’t make for a very successful business model.
So, while it might seem tiring at first when you think about everything that could go wrong with the inventory that you ship to Amazon FBA fulfillment centers, it all makes perfect sense.
- Poorly packaged goods may get damaged in transit
- Poorly labeled inventory might get mixed up or lost on the way to the fulfillment centers or while already there.
Most Amazon sellers need to worry about inventory damage, and there is a lot that can go wrong depending on what you are shipping. Some items are harder to ship than others, so you must ensure that you package your inventory correctly to avoid damage. Examples of things that go wrong include:
- Candles shipped in padded envelopes might arrive shattered.
- CDs shipped in padded envelopes might arrive with crushed cases.
- Delicate items like makeup shipped in large boxes without bubble wrap, dunnage, and other leak-proof materials might arrive with shock damage.
It’s also worth noting that:
- Over-packaging goods are wasteful and damaging to the environment. Understandably, you want your inventory to reach the fulfillment centers in the right condition, but that doesn’t mean over-packaging.
- Poorly packaged items could negatively impact your reputation and brand. If Amazon decides to ship your items in damaged cases, this only attracts negative reviews on your seller account.
Amazon marks improperly labeled products as unsellable and will slap you with a hefty non-compliance fee. You don’t want that.
To avoid all these problems, stick to Amazon’s rules of packaging inventory for FBA shipment.
Reasons why you should follow a standard called “prep guidance”
Amazon Fulfillment Centers follow a standard “prep guidance” that instructs sellers on properly packing items for shipping. Correct packaging and prep help:
- Reduce any delays in receiving time of your inventory
- Protect your inventory while in the Amazon fulfillment centers
- Create a better customer experience
The Amazon prep guidance guides you on how to package and ship different products depending on the category. The categories include:
- Adult category – these are items that display potentially offensive material such as nudity and profanity.
- Apparel, fabric, plush, and textiles – clothing or fabric that could be damaged by dust, dirt, moisture, or liquid.
- Baby – items meant for children aged three years or younger or any packaging with cutouts greater than a square inch.
- Fragile – glass, other fragile goods, or a liquid in a glass container.
- Liquids – non-glass items like liquid or viscous items without a double seal.
- Perforated packaging – items that come in perforated packaging like chocolate boxes and candy display boxes.
- Powder, pellets, and granular – include items like sugar, facial powder, and powdered detergents.
- Sharp items – these are products like scissors and other sharp tools not already contained in protective packaging.
- Small items – products like jewelry, keychains, and flash drives
- No prep needed category – items like DVDs, video games, and books don’t require prep. Still, these items need labeling.
If you use the Amazon prep service, Amazon prepares all your eligible products for a per-unit fee. Once you enable the service, choose whether it will be you or Amazon who preps the items you send to the fulfillment centers. After you’ve built a shipment plan, Amazon will provide an estimate of the prep fees for the products in question.
But there are usually a few problems with the Amazon “prep guidance.”
- Sometimes the prep guidance is ignored.
- The fulfillment center sometimes runs out of appropriate packaging materials like the correct box size or envelopes.
- Sometimes the prep guidance is wrong with the Amazon system where some products don’t fall in any category or multiple categories.
How to protect your inventory en route to fulfillment centers
As an Amazon FBA seller, you must ensure that you prep your inventory in a way that it survives inbound shipping to the fulfillment center and shipment to the buyer. This means following certain prep guidance when prepping your inventory, like:
- Box fragile items like makeups with appropriate dunnage
- Shrink-wrap any items that might leak when squeezed
- Shrink-wrap also items that might accidentally open or spill, leading to a customer concluding that the item was sold used
- If you package your items in boxes, ensure that you use the correct size boxes so items inside are not crushed.
- If your items are in a box, seal the box appropriately to avoid any accidental openings
There are more than 2 million registered sellers on the Amazon platform, each shipping different products to the Amazon fulfillment centers. With that number, anything can happen to your inventory in transit to the Amazon warehouses or the buyer. Don’t assume your job is done after your goods are in transit.
Protecting your inventory ensures that your reputation as a seller remains stellar by ensuring that your customers don’t receive damaged goods. Improper packaging could also damage your reputation on Amazon because Amazon could easily dispose of your inventory or block you from ever shipping anything to their fulfillment centers.
If you need help appealing prep guidance or dealing with other Amazon shipping challenges, contact Riverbend Consulting.
Kelly Johnston is the glue that holds Riverbend Consulting together and was with the company at its founding. She survived 10 years in the digital salt mines of Amazon Seller Performance. Before that, Kelly held other e-commerce roles where she worked in content, sales, and operations. When not helping clients, Kelly is a talented artist. Collage and up-cycled assemblages are her current passions.
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