Can you recall your favorite unboxing experience? What makes it memorable for you makes it memorable for your customers, too. This experience is part of the reason Amazon places such importance on how their merchants’ goods are packaged and delivered.
You need to be hyper-aware of the best ways to package your products for fulfillment, both to meet Amazon’s requirements and to wow your customers.
Amazon sellers must abide by the company’s fulfillment rules and criteria, including the unique packaging requirements if you use Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). In this article, we’ll talk about the key components of prepping your items for FBA.
Proper packaging presents your brand well
In addition to physically protecting your items, good prep and fulfillment also protects your brand experience.
What is brand presentation and why should I care?
Brand presentation refers to how you package products for sale on Amazon. High-end items like beauty products or other “luxury” names must be packaged carefully to ensure the brand is not damaged or misrepresented.
Brand presentation is important for several reasons:
First, your customers expect to receive these products in a manner that fits the price and prestige associated with the brand.
Second, if you’re a reseller, the manufacturer of the brand likely has a series of guidelines associated with their brand that all sellers must adhere to. Failure to comply could result in penalties or the loss of your reseller authorization.
Finally, Amazon FBA requirements dictate your items be well-packaged according to their standards. Failure to comply with Amazon’s packaging requirements will result in your items being turned away from the fulfillment center, forcing you to spend time and money to have items either sent back, disposed of, or properly prepped by Amazon.
How does packaging affect your brand?
If you sell a high-end beauty product, you may already be familiar with some of the more common packaging guidelines. If you sell quality goods yourself, it’s important to protect your brand and buyer experience with similar rules.
To give you an example of some of the guidelines we follow for MyFBAPrep sellers, here’s a few procedures we set up for select clients:
- Labels cannot be applied above any part of the brand logo
- Labels or stickers cannot be applied over the ingredient list
- Labels must be placed directly over the manufacturer’s barcode horizontally or vertically, depending on the orientation of the barcode
- Poly bags must be positioned so the tape is applied behind the product, not over the logo
- Items must be shrink-wrapped over the labels and under bubble wrap
Those are just some of the prep and packaging tactics we use to protect your brand experience. Now, let’s dive into the logistics of prepping items for FBA.
What barcodes and labels do you need for FBA?
Every single product you send to an Amazon fulfillment center must have a barcode. This is how Amazon tracks and identifies products all the way through the fulfillment process. The fulfillment center will not process a package that doesn’t contain one of the following barcodes.
1) Manufacturer barcodes like ISBN, UPC, JAN, or EAN
Manufacturer-affixed barcodes are just what the name implies: the barcodes assigned by the manufacturer of your product. You’re able to track your product virtually using the manufacturer barcode in your Fulfillment by Amazon settings.
Tracking by manufacturer barcode can also help you get items to customers faster, as FBA may choose to send inventory that’s closest to your customer in the event more than one seller is using that product. This decision is based on the manufacturer barcode to better manage inventory flow across regions.
If your products don’t have a manufacturer-affixed barcode, you can have one assigned by Amazon to ensure you’re compliant.
2) Amazon barcodes such as FNSKU
Any products not tracked using a manufacturer-affixed barcode must be assigned an Amazon barcode, called an FNSKU.
- Products not in new condition (such as used books)
- Products without a scannable UPC, EAN, JAN, or ISBN barcode
- Restricted products and/or dangerous goods
- Products with expiry dates (such as food and beauty items)
- Consumable or topical products
- Media products
- Products for children or infants
You can print your Amazon FNSKU yourself and apply them to your products, or Amazon can print and place them on your behalf for a per-item fee.
3) Transparency authenticity codes for brand-owned products
Transparency codes are item-level authentication labels that can protect brand owners and their customers from counterfeiting. You can spot a Transparency code by its “T” logo.
More about FNSKUs
Above, we discussed the various barcodes Amazon accepts. In this section, we’ll elaborate on the FNSKU, short for Fulfillment Network Stock Keeping Unit. The FNSKU is unique to Amazon, meaning you won’t see this number originating anywhere else.
Why do I need an FNSKU for Amazon?
Even if your product already has a manufacturer code, it still needs an FNSKU. The main reason Amazon requires an FNSKU is to ensure your inventory is tracked back to your seller account to avoid mix-ups when multiple sellers using one fulfillment center happen to have the same products for sale. In such cases, a manufacturer’s barcode alone can’t clear up the confusion.
Including an FNSKU on your items’ shipping label ensures your product won’t mistakenly be grabbed on another seller’s sale, and vice versa. And, since each FNSKU is matched with an Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN), there’s no need to use an additional label.
How do I get FNSKUs?
To get your FNSKU, go to your Amazon seller account and select the product you plan to sell via FBA to FBA (not Fulfilled by Merchant, or FBM). Launch the product on Amazon. Once your product is in your catalog, your product will be assigned a unique FNSKU. You then export the barcode-like code Amazon generates and affix it to your product before it goes to the fulfillment center.
What kind of packaging do you need for FBA?
Generally speaking, there are three main items used to package your FBA products, known as dunnage. These are boxes, poly bags, and bubble wrap. While it may be tempting to take a one-size-fits-all approach, different products require different packaging, and Amazon will hold you to it.
Amazon’s guidelines for boxes state they must have six sides, have openings or a lid that won’t easily open on its own (and if it does, there must be tape, glue, or staples used to keep it closed), and must not collapse with medium pressure on any side.
The Amazon FBA size limit was updated in 2021. A regular box prepared for FBA shipping carrying standard items should not exceed 18 inches on its longest side, 14 inches on its median side, and the smallest side should be under eight inches. If one side of the product does exceed the box’s corresponding side, a larger box can be used, but has to be categorized as “oversized.”
Your boxed items for FBA should also be under 50lbs, provided they don’t contain a single item that weighs more than 50lbs. This standard doesn’t apply to watches and jewelry, though; boxes containing these types of products must be under 40lbs. If your items weigh more than 50lbs, you must affix a label that states “Team Lift” on all sides of the box. If the item(s) exceeds 100lbs, you need to use a label stating “Mechanical Lift” on all sides of the box. Failure to do so will prevent fulfillment.
Amazon approves four types of boxes for FBA sellers:
- Regular slotted carton (RSC): Standard carton made from pre-creased and pre-cut corrugated sheets, this type has two openings and four flaps of similar width on each opening. This can be used for many types of product packaging and shipping.
- 200BH (Burst Strength) box: Corrugated box holding a maximum of 65lbs, passing the Mullen Burst Strength Test for applied pressure of 200lbs per square inch.
- B flute: Flutes are wave-shaped structures used between two corrugated cardboards to provide strength, protection, and cushioning to the cardboards used in a carton. These are great for supporting heavier items.
- ECT-32 (edge crush test) box: Corrugated cardboard box passing the Edge Crush Test with a 32 rating.
Tip: If your unit has perforated sides or openings, you need to be able to drop it from a height of three feet on each side and a corner. If the box is damaged from this test, you must place it within a poly bag with a suffocation warning label.
You can use poly bags for any product that doesn’t have a rigid geometric shape that would puncture the bag, like iPhone charging cables, a backpack, hat, or t-shirt. Pay special attention to these requirements when using poly bags for FBA shipments, which include:
- The bag’s sides much be at least 1.5mm thick
- The bag must be transparent with an X00-label manufacturer or Amazon barcode, scannable through the bag
- The bag must be fully sealed
- All bags with a five-inch or greater opening must have a suffocation warning printed or labeled on a prominent location and in large typeface
One of the most beloved packagings, bubble wrap is commonplace in FBA shipments, but it must be used in conjunction with poly bags or boxes. Unlike those packagings, bubble wrap can’t be used alone.
Amazon recommends bubble wrapping all fragile items or those prone to damage during the fulfillment process, as well as products that are too heavy and risk damaging other items during transport. If you use bubble wrap for your FBA products, make sure you:
- Tightly envelop your product in bubble wrap and tape it shut
- Label the exterior of the wrap with a scannable barcode
- Evaluate the bubble-wrapped package with a three-foot drop test
How to conduct and pass the drop test
If you’re wondering what the heck the “drop test” is, fear not; it’s actually pretty simple. We touched on it above in the boxes section, but will elaborate here.
You should complete a drop test any time you’ve packaged an item that’s fragile. Holding the bubble-wrapped item at a height of three feet, you drop the item five ways.
First, drop it flat on its base, then on its top, longest side, shortest side, and on a corner. If the product, its contents, and your packaging survive the drops, you’ve passed your drop test and did a great job with your packaging.
The drop test applies to any fragile products, heavy products, or items prone to damage during the transport or fulfillment process.
To help you pass the drop test, make sure you’ve wrapped your product securely in bubble wrap. Wrap the packaging around your product tightly, leaving as little extra space between the bubble wrap and the product as possible. In some cases, you may need to enfold your item in multiple wrap-arounds. Then, tape the bubble wrap closed at all entry/exit points, and ensure each corner is securely wrapped.
Prepping kits and bundles
Selling products as part of a bundle (or kit) is a great way to differentiate your product offerings and remain competitive as a seller.
What is bundling or kitting?
Bundling or kitting is when you take two or more complimentary products and bundle them together in one listing, like shampoo, conditioner, and a wet hairbrush, or sunscreen plus after-sun lotion. Amazon limits what can and cannot be bundled together in their Product Bundling Policy.
If you sell your items as a unique bundle, they must be prepared in that bundle before reaching the FBA fulfillment center. This means your products are securely packaged together in advance of arriving at the fulfillment center, labeled and ready to go. Why? Because your bundled items will have a unique barcode for each bundle type — one that differs from those items when sold individually. In fact, your bundled products will generate their very own FNSKU (and ASIN).
You’ll need to ensure you’ve packaged your bundled items appropriately, following the same general guidelines for packaging as you would for individual items with one key difference: creating that new, unique barcode for the FBA fulfillment center teams to scan.
For example, if your bundle contains two or more fragile items, you’ll need to wrap each one in bubble wrap, but instead of placing a label on the individual items, you’ll put both into a poly bag or box and then affix your label to the exterior of the sealed poly bag or box for ease of scanning. This makes it clear the multiple items are sold as one bundled product.
Why to outsource Amazon prep
In virtually every case of FBA prep, having a partner is a great way to optimize your workflow. You can outsource FBA prep, find a partner that can scale with you, and direct your time and money saved back to your business.
Need more convincing that outsourcing is the right way to go? Read on to learn how a great FBA prep partner can help you advance your business.
1) Ensure proper item preparation
Have you ever started packing an item and realized it should be in a different box? Or that it needs bubble wrap, and you’ve just run out?
If you want to forego the guesswork and manual labor of preparing your items for FBA, an FBA prep partner is just the ticket.
A prep partner will inspect your items and take inventory of what was received to inform you of lost or damaged items, as well as prepare each item according to both your unique needs (e.g., including a custom insert or bundling items) and the Amazon’s specific requirements.
Better still, they stay on top of changes to FBA regulations to ensure you’re always up to date on what is and isn’t required for your goods.
2) Save time to invest back into your core business
Preparing your items for sale on Amazon takes time, no matter your efficiency. As an eCommerce professional, your time is better spent focusing on how to grow your business, not how to bubble wrap a fragile product for sale. In fact, as you grow, eCommerce logistics will likely turn into an entirely other business model that you never signed up to run, but are stuck with.
An FBA prep partner can reduce the manual labor associated with prepping your items while also crafting a shipping plan to iron out all the details on your behalf. That includes creating labels so you can simply sit back and track your items from prep to arrival at your customer’s door.
3) Leverage cost savings and efficiency
In business, an investment must have an expected (and beneficial) return. A prep partner is one such investment that enables growth throughout your company.
Improperly packaged items can result in damaged goods during the fulfillment and transport process, which translates into losses for you and your business. Plus, if you use too much packaging, you’re practically giving away money.
A prep partner knows exactly how to prepare each of your items, often in less time (more efficiently) and at a lower cost, as they’re able to source packaging materials in bulk.
Further, a prep partner means you allocate fewer resources — time, money, and people — to prepare your products for fulfillment, so you can refocus those resources on revenue-generating activities.
Wrapping up — Invest in proper Amazon prep for seamless sales
Preparing items for FBA and following Amazon’s unique requirements can be a daunting task. Understanding the basics of packaging types and how they apply to different products can help you streamline your operations if you manage this in-house. As you scale your business though, partnering with an FBA prep service can remove this burden for you and optimize the process of getting your products up for sale and out the door.
About the Author
Rachel Go is the marketing director of MyFBAPrep, a nationwide and international network of prep centers with 50+ warehouses, 1 million+ square feet of operating space, and the ability to reach any US customer (or FBA center) in 1 – 2 days. MyFBAPrep provides access to strategic warehouse locations and a wide variety of eCommerce services with a single partnership, along with white glove customer service and best-in-class technology. Sellers can send items into a single MyFBAPrep location and let us handle shipment splitting, prepping, packaging, and shipping across their sales channels.