Selling products on Amazon is one thing. You have to get your products to your customers, and this means packaging and shipping.
What are you your options for Amazon packaging? Does Amazon offer tracking for your packages? What are the specific rules for Amazon packaging?
We plan on covering all this and much more for you in this blog. Keep reading to learn how to make Amazon and your customers happy with proper Amazon package design.
Amazon is great about helping sellers with packaging based on how your specific order fulfillment system. Those who choose Fulfillment By Amazon, FBA, there are requirements necessary for getting products to the various fulfillment centers. Realize something vitally important here before we get started completely: Amazon does reserve the right to refuse, return or repackage any products that do not meet their specific product packaging. Additionally, you could face fees for your noncompliance and even lose your storefront.
Amazon has a good many rules and regulations for sellers. Customers expect frustration free packaging for their orders. It is your responsibility to follow these requirements on how packaging and shipping to get your products to the customer.
Amazon allows its sellers three options for order fulfillment.
- FBM – Fulfilled By Merchant
- SFP – Seller Fulfilled Prime/FBM
- FBA – Fulfilled By Amazon
There is already a blog available for you on FBA. No matter if you choose FBA, FBM or SFP it is absolutely vital you keep to the precise requirements for Amazon product packaging.
There is no need to detail Amazon’s program. There is a full blog dedicated to FBA already. However, it is a good idea to hit some of the high points.
- You are assessed fees but have great privileges.
- You can sell to Prime customers.
- There is free shipping on your products.
- Amazon handles customer service and returns.
- You can process orders on other platforms.
It is ultimately easier to use the Amazon FBA. There is no charge to start an account, and the fees are quite reasonable.
Amazon has certainly made it possible for a huge number of businesses to reach customers at one time never possible. This does beg the question – what is the cost of this to you, the seller?
Recently, Amazon began assessing fees on sellers who fail to comply with guidelines on product packaging. Amazon’s reasoning behind this decision is sound – reducing costs and wastes with excess packaging. All the excess only caused logistical problems in the warehouse, delivery and with Amazon tracking.
Thus, the decision came down on frustration free packaging. Small items moved from boxes to flexible mailers. Amazon boxes were matched to product weight and size. Fully recyclable materials are the norm, along with working with partners on ready-to-ship packaging options.
The result? Amazon assesses all sellers $1.99 on all products that are not compliant with the product packaging requirements.
Amazon has great fulfillment for products, but why is packaging such a big deal?
Product packaging matters
Why does packaging matter? Simple.
Good product packaging gets your products ranked higher and better for customers on results pages. Amazon results pages on products are highly competitive with sellers constantly refining and updating their pages and products.
There are several reasons why all of this matters to you, Amazon and your customers. The two important are Amazon will return your products or dispose of them entirely. This is certainly not something you want under any circumstances. Other reasons include:
- Poor packaging affects ratings
- Future shipments can be refused at the fulfillment center
- Products marked as unsellable
- Noncompliance fees
- Products can be lost in transport
- Products can be mixed with others and get lost
If you want your products to stand up, out, earn more clicks and sales than your closest competition, you need to have an edge.
That edge comes from product packaging design!
You get a quality package for your customers, and you will build a brand that customers will return to again and again.
Think about some of the biggest brands around – “Golden Arches,” the “Swoosh,” the red can with the white stripe. Without saying the brands, you know exactly what these products are based on their packaging.
You may not reach the level of product branding these three have, but this does not mean you cannot develop a package that your customers will want and love.
Here is another example of product packaging as branding. Think about a certain phone manufacturer. A plain, white box with the phone resting in a plastic shell. The box is sturdy and has an exceptionally simple design. The package has few additional markings or even much of a name on the outside. Instead, the image of a fruit.
That is incredibly effective for a product package.
Amazon takes its packaging seriously. So seriously in fact, they enlisted some outside help in developing their packaging system, the ISTA.
Amazon and the International Safe Transit Association
Jump back to 2017. Five billion products left Amazon warehouses under the Prime label alone. You can multiply that number a few times over to take the rest of their product shipping into account, and you quickly understand why Amazon takes its packaging seriously.
Damages during shipping is expensive and ultimately detrimental to the overall success of your business. Most online merchants have taken to product package testing because of this. The adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is very well used for packaging and package testing.
Amazon needed, and found, a sound partner for product packaging testing.
The International Safe Transit Association, ISTA, works with Amazon. Their combined goal is FFP, Frustration Free Packaging, within the ISTA – 6 guidelines.
The ISTA – 6 guidelines are specific for Amazon packaging. There are one of two specifications to test. Do you know what they are?
Ship in Own Container
Products sold through Amazon in packaging that is durable enough for shipping without repackaging can be sent to customers without another, larger container. Frequently, this refers to larger products but some smaller qualify as well. As a shipper, it is strongly recommended you have one or both of these tests performed on your product packaging. A test fails when the product is damaged or the package is significantly damaged.
All SIOC, Ship In Own Container, packages have a minimum of a single test. Products marked with fragile require five tests. Besides the test report, a photo documentation and laboratory results are strongly recommended.
Smaller products you may choose to sell and ship often require a second container for appropriate shipping. The products will open require outer and inner packaging – typically Kraft paper or air pillows. Any samples you send to a lab for testing should be well packed if the lab applies new packaging requirements by the ISTA.
There is no exact number of samples you should send off for the Amazon packaging requirements, but a good rule is three of each of your products you plan on selling. Any defects of the products, leaks, damage, tampering or the like can lead to a test failure. Any packaging needs complete redesign before retesting.
Element (www.element.com) offers package testing for Amazon sellers. They use a similar test battery that is close to a transit route. This determines if the product packaging will meet the FFP and the ISTA – 6 standards. There are individual tests for certain products, but as a general rule, the following tests are common:
- Temperature and humidity
- Drop and free fall
- Shock and vibration
- Compression testing
You know what blister packaging is. Blister packaging is the plastic package your small products, like thumb drives, are packaged in for retail sale. Blister packaging is quite annoying. You have to cut through and throw away a plastic container of the size of a standard sheet of paper, 8.5”x11,” for a gadget that is literally the size of your thumb.
There are two different, yet important, reasons: In a standard store, the blister packaging is advertising, designed to catch your eye, and the package is a theft deterrent. The blister package is difficult to open and certainly will not fit in a pocket for easy theft.
Your Amazon e-store, or any e-commerce location, is different. There is no need for branded advertising or marketing with blister packaging with shelves on shelves of products. It is much more common for sellers to have problems with the actual shipping of your products to your customers, and Amazon works to reduce costs to you. You can then pass on savings and get better profits!
Amazon product packaging is a great system. There are drawbacks, like there are with any system. You need to be aware of those.
What are the drawbacks you can encounter with Amazon product packaging?
You give up control to a degree
So far, it sounds like the Amazon product packaging is a great deal for you and your products. Stop for just a second, and consider something important. You are building your business using someone else’s platform. You are playing in Amazon’s playground, and this means you have to play by Amazon’s rules.
Consider certain retail giants and membership club locations. These merchants have strict rules and regulations for their vendors and vendor products. Some of these companies who sell under their their own private labels have sizes and quantities that cannot be easily compared to other, similar products.
This is fine if you own a huge corporation creating products under your own and private labels. However, you and your small business could not exist were it not for Amazon.
These large corporations with specific brands have specialized teams creating product packaging for their overall brand and for the customer. Think about what we mentioned above about the new phone – that is an example of quality product packaging.
Amazon’s rather stringent requirements mean additional expenses to you for package creation.
Consider electronics and highly fragile products. These products require special packaging to protect them. This may even include investment in specialized packing materials, storage space and additional time necessary to package fragile products correctly.
What this means for you, your products and your packaging
Like we say above, you are playing in Amazon’s playground. You play by their rules, or you will lose your opportunity to play.
What we are sharing with you about packaging is certainly not mean to turn you away from Amazon and using its platform for selling your products. It is perfectly acceptable to sell on Amazon, advertise on Facebook and create apps for iOS. Using the Amazon platform means you need to balance the value you receive with the requirements you must meet.
It is up to you to decide what is best. Change your packaging, or use Amazon.
It is our opinion allowing Amazon to handle your e-store, products, packaging and shipping for you is the best decision you can make over the lifetime of your business.
How does Amazon accomplish this? After all, Prime members qualify for next day product arrival. There has to be a system in place with tight logistics.
Inventory Management System and Amazon FBA
Amazon is incredibly efficient with their fulfillment centers and order processing. The secret lies in how Amazon requires packaging and labeling. All products that come into an Amazon FBA center is scanned, packaged and labeled for storage. When a product order comes in, the Amazon associate will know exactly where the product is located in the center, can pick it and ship to the customer.
The price of this efficiency is strict requirements on packaging and labeling. Any errors upset the system and cause backups. This is why there are fees on you if you fail to follow these requirements precisely each and every time.
How does Amazon make this work? The secret is the SKU.
The Amazon SKU
SKU means Stock Keeping Unit. All products warehoused in Amazon Fulfillment Centers have an SKU. The SKU is your inventory system, and it lets you know when you are low on product. This means the SKU serves you and Amazon equally and with tangible value.
Every individual product you may have in your e-store will have a unique SKU. Any variance in your products by size, color or other factor requires an SKU. Here is a specific example:
- In your e-store, you have a selection of 25 different wigs, and each has a different length, style and color. This means each individual wig you sell will have its own SKU. 25 individual wig styles means 25 individual SKUs.
This is an Amazon specific SKU for products in FBA. FNSKU, Fulfillment Network Stock Keeping Unit, are also unique and unique to a single product. Individual sellers who have a similar product but differ in some way will have individual FNSKUs.
So far, you have learned a good bit of the information you need for understanding Amazon product packaging. It is time to get your products ready for packaging.
Getting packages ready for the fulfillment center
It is important to note that packages and label products must be labeled correctly before sending the products out to the fulfillment centers. Any products sent without the necessary information attract the attention of Amazon. That attention brings penalties and fees – the Unplanned service fees.
These fees mean Amazon had to repackage your products to meet the specific requirements. The fees add up quickly, cut deeply into profit margins and could jeopardize the overall success of your business.
The following information covers general requirements on product packaging. It is important to note other special requirements depending on the product type. This includes loose products, sets, boxed units and packaging materials. Each of these will be covered in detail.
There is information necessary on product packages when sent to the Fulfillment Center. Here is the display information needed on each product package:
- Official business address
- Contact information – Phone number and/or e-mail address
- Your specific barcode – more on that in a moment
Amazon Packaging Requirements
Anytime you are sending products to fulfillment centers, these rules need to be followed. These are not idle recommendations, but these are strict requirements that Amazon holds its entire e-seller community to upholding.
These requirements start with your labeling.
You want your products to the Fulfillment Center in the best possible condition. Therefore, your labels should be unique. Labels cannot be copied, altered, reused or used on another product package or packaging. Print labels in bulk if possible. Additionally:
- Labels should be Amazon standard: 3 1/3” x 4”
- Never paste over where box is opened
- Labels should be on flat side of boxes
- Barcodes should not fold over corners or edges
- Labels should be on a plain side of a box
- No coverings that could interrupt the scan at the warehouse
- Master cartons should have a unique FBA shipping label
The product label
A product label goes on each individual product. Most of the products from China have product labels already in place from the manufacturer. If your products need to be repackaged or need packaging that covers that manufacturer label, another label is necessary. It is good practice to add labels after products are packaged.
Do not skip or overlook a single label at this time or any time for that matter. Amazon will assess you in fees, slow your product shipping and cost you significantly over time.
These constant reminders may seem unnecessary, but the goal is to help you maximize your profits and have a successful business.
Each individual product or variant of your products need a product name and their individual SKU. The product name will come from your manufacturer in China, and the SKU created.
Amazon needs a way to read each individual product SKU quickly and easily. How is this done?
The product barcode makes all the difference.
FBA Fulfillment Centers use barcodes extensively for identification and inventory tracking. Each product you send to Amazon must have a barcode.
There are six basic different barcodes that are available:
- UPC – Universal Product Code
- EAN – European Article Number
- GCID – Global Catalogue Identifier
- JAN – Japanese Article Numbering
- ISBN – International Standard Book Number
- ASIN – Amazon Standard Identification Number
Any of these barcodes come from the manufacturer and are included with the labels. These 10 to 13 digit codes are unique to the individual product. Again, this is a way for Amazon to scan, store, pull and ship all their products at all fulfillment centers with incredible efficiency.
Barcodes that are not approved or are not the official product barcode must be rendered unscannable. Cover the code with tape, or mark with a black felt-tip marker completely and fully. Any way to render the barcode unscannable is acceptable.
There is some individual information about barcodes to know:
- Individual products, including multiple volume book sets, must be contained within a single, secure package.
- Products may not include multiple pieces requiring assembly by Amazon.
- Products not contained in secure packaging must be bagged or secured with tape.
FBA Product Title
FBA product title rules are very strict but not impossible to follow or understand. Here are a few things to remember:
- Use the same product title for all product labels
- 50 characters maximum
- Capitalize the first letter of each word
- Do not use ALL CAPS
- Use numerals
- Spell out measurements
- No symbols or special characters
- No promotional materials or eye catching title
- No merchant names unless the product is private label
FBA Packaging Procedures
Labeling and shipping your products to the Fulfillment center is not difficult either. Sourcing Nova has a complete article on this topic in rich detail.
Amazon will pre-select the best warehouses for your products. You can elect to change this with Inventory Placement Service, IPS. Doing so sends all of your products to a single Fulfillment Location, and may drastically increase your shipping costs.
Amazon Product Packaging Checklist
There are additional requirements for preparing products for shipping to the Fulfillment Centers. The requirements are further broken down for specific products that require specialized preparation. Like always, paying attention to these requirements is very important.
When choosing the best for your products and brand image, you are making a decision on how to sell products and make a profit. This means you need the smallest package possible for a cost and shipping saving measure.
This information checklist lay out the absolute requirements you need:
Specific product types
Each product has different instructions depending on the product type. The following have explicit instructions:
- Liquids, gels and pastes
- Pellets, powders and granular products
- Glass, ceramic, plexiglass, breakable or fragile products
- Sharp objects
- Apparel, clothing and fabric
- Footwear may have no material exposed in boxes or polythene bags
- Jewelery or accessories
- Baby and adult products
- Small products
- Single address label with delivery and return information
- Separate label for each box in your queue
- Four labels per pallet – One on top center of all sides
- Details – Need to match in the following:
- Merchant SKU
- Packing options
Amazon has very strict box rules. Boxes must meet the following criteria:
- If you are using an old box, remove all old labels and markings
- Openings must not open easily on its own
- Cannot exceed weight limit of 50 lbs.
- Jewelery or watches cannot exceed 40 lbs.
- Multiple standard-size products may not exceed 25” on a side
- Boxes may exceed 25” if there are oversized products longer than 25”
- Each box on a pallet must have a specific label
- Two inches of cushion between product and inside of box
- Contents should not move inside of the box
Amazon recommends the following as standard boxes
- RSC – Regular slotted carton
- B Flute
- ECT-32 – Edge Crust Test
- 200BH – Burst Strength (200 lbs/ sq. inch)
There are only certain packaging materials allowed for Amazon FBA and Fulfillment Centers. Specifically:
- Polyethene foam
- Inflatable air pillows
- Bubble wrapp
- Full sheets of paper – heavy Kraft paper is ideal and recommended
A special word on polyethylene bags
Polyethene bags have even more specific instructions because of the hazards associated with the bag. In fact, these bags are required for specific products, and Amazon will share information if required on ASINs.
Polyethene bags are not always necessary, but their use is worth the additional protection during transport to the fulfillment center. It is important to remember – What you think or want is irrelevant. What does matter is your customer. Think about the customer, and how they would like products packaged for shipping. Do that.
- Each bag must be 1.5 mil thick
- Each bag must be made of a clear poly
- Each bag must be completely sealed
- Each bag must not protrude past three inches of the product packaged
- Each bag must have scannable barcode or FNSKU scannable through the bag or labeled outside of the bag
- Each bag must prevent spills and leaks from damaging other products in the shipment
- Each bag must protect products from dust or dirt
- Each bag must keep loose items from being separated
Polythene bags can suffocate. Each individual bag must have specific information in a clear and obvious location as a warning if the bag has a five inch opening or larger. Amazon will assess you for unpacking and repacking with correct bags if the following are not adhered to strictly.
There are print font sizes depending on the individual bag size.
- 29” or less – 10 point font
- 30” to 39” – 14 point font
- 40” to 59” – 18 point font
- 60” and up – 24 point font
All bags must have a variation on the following statement: Warning: This bag is not a toy. To avoid suffocation, keep away from small children and babies. Do not leave in cribs, beds, carriages or playpens.
It should go without saying, but it is worth saying anyway. These bags represent serious hazards and dangers to your customers and families. Failure to follow these requirements could result in lawsuits – lawsuits you are virtually guaranteed to lose. Do not take any shortcuts with poly bags.
Miscellaneous product packaging requirements
- Wrap each item separately
- Use strong shipping tape
- Each assortment type, size and color, has a unique FNSKU
- No loose products (More on this later)
- Expiration dates marked in the following: MM-DD-YYYY or MM-YYYY
- No marketing materials
- No string or paper overwrap
Packaging materials to avoid
Amazon will not allow any of the following packaging materials. You will be assessed fees for unpacking and repacking if used:
- No packing peanuts
- Foam strips
- Crinkle wrapping
- Paper shredding
- Any styrofoam at all
Product condition can be on the label if there are variants among the products. Some sellers will send both new and gently used products to Fulfillment Centers. If so, there should be a label with description of the product condition. All new products should have one SKU, while gently used should have a different SKU. With individual item packaging, each product’s condition must be included on the product label.
- This labeling helps the warehouse sort and store products. This way, your customers can choose new or gently used products. Amazon will know precisely which to pull, process and ship using this system.
FBA product packaging for certain categories
- Loose products – If sold together, they must be in the same package
- Sold as set – Sets with multiple pieces need one of two markings
- Sold as set
- Do not separate
Large product shipments need carton labels and should be packed on a pallet. The heaviest carton label is 30 kg (66 lbs). Boxes between 15 kg (33 lbs) and 30 kg (66 lbs) must be labeled as “heavy weight” and be seen from top down and side angles. Each carton must have one shipping ID.
Cartons are to be loaded on pallets. Do not stack cartons in columns. Interlock where possible.
Pallets must have specific labeling due to size. Each individual pallet must include the following:
- Seller name
- Addresses – Sender and recipient
- Must have similar products when sent in bulk
- Mixed products must be labelled ‘mixed SKUs’
- Must be wrapped in clear plastic stretch wrap and marked “Do not break stretch wrap”
- No damaged pallets accepts – can be rejected at your expense
- Max weight is 500 kg (1,100 lbs.)
- Max height of 1.8 m (6 ft.) to include the pallet
Pallets coming directly from China, which your products will, and shipped directly to Amazon need the specific details.
This is one of the longs pieces done, but it is one of the most important by far. Do you know what specific products you want to source from China? Sourcing Nova consistently meets of the Amazon packaging requirements no matter the size of the product order.
Are you ready to start sourcing your products? Leave us a note below, and we can get started.