Amazon FBA Prep Service Explained

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As an Amazon seller, you should always be on the lookout for new opportunities.

You need to look out for things that can make your business better. Amazon has a lot to offer in this regard. Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is arguably the best offer that they have to sellers.

The Fulfillment by Amazon service takes a great deal of work away from the hands of the sellers. It frees them up from doing certain tasks, allowing them to focus on how they can improve their business.

A vintage car with a few cartons back in the boot.

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But you have to remember that Fulfillment by Amazon has packing requirements that are strict. Properly packing the products ensure that there will be no delays in transactions, not to mention additional costs.

As a seller, you will have options as to who will be the one to do the FBA Prep Service for you.

Amazon FBA Prep Service Explained

A Guide for Shipping From China to USA

As mentioned earlier, Fulfillment by Amazon has certain requirements when it comes to the packaging of the products that are going to be shipped and stored in their fulfillment centers. These packaging requirements must be followed strictly or that can cause delays, which in turn will cost you money.

You have three choices when it comes to FBA prep:

  • You can do it yourself
  • You can pay Amazon to handle it for you
  • You can outsource it to a third party company

Each option has its advantages and disadvantages. You need to pick the option that would match the needs of your company.

FBA Product Restrictions

A Guide for Shipping From China to USA2

Before going any deeper regarding the packaging requirements for FBA, it’s important to discuss the product restrictions first.

Yes, you read that correctly. There are certain product restrictions on Amazon. Not all products are suitable for Amazon FBA. It’s important to know if the product you intend on selling falls under the restricted category or not.

Here are some of the products that are prohibited under Amazon FBA:

  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Tires
  • Gift certificates, and other similar stored-value items.
  • Items with unauthorized marketing materials like stickers
  • Products that have not been prepared according to FBA requirements
  • Batteries that are packaged in a loose way
  • Products that are damaged

In regards to damaged products, it is okay to sell products with damage under the used category, just as long as it has the right label.

Here are other restricted products:

  • Products that do not match what was registered with Amazon
  • Illegally manufactured products

There are other products that Amazon may determine to be prohibited. In other words, Amazon reserves the right to deem which are articles are prohibited under their program.

So, what happens to the restricted products that get shipped to Amazon FBA?

Products that fail to comply with these restrictions can be refused, returned, and even disposed of. What’s worse is that your future shipments may be refused by Amazon because of your failure to comply. Your selling privileges could also be suspended and you may be charged with fines.

It is so much easier to just follow the rules set by Amazon and know beforehand if your product would be restricted in any way or not.

Packaging Requirements

A Guide for Shipping From China to USA (5)

Now that you know that your product is suitable to be sent to an Amazon Fulfillment Center, you need to know the packaging requirements that have been set by Amazon.

This is important because products that arrive at fulfillment centers without the proper preparation and labeling will be charged with a fee.

You should follow these packaging requirements when you are sending to a Fulfillment Center:

  • The FNSKU that you use on each product should be unique and should only correspond to a single unique product.
  • Each unit should have its own barcode that is scannable and should be easily accessed.
  • Remove any other barcodes that are on the exterior of the shipping boxes and if they cannot be removed, just cover them.
  • Amazon will not accept products that need to be assembled in order to be sold.
  • Products that are placed in packaging that is not secured should be secured with tape or some other means.
  • Footwear should be packaged in such a way that none of its material is exposed.
  • Units that are sold as a set should be clearly marked as such so they are not separated.

Guidelines for Boxed Units

For units that are boxed, these are the following requirements:

  • The box itself must be six-sided.
  • The box opening should not open on its own easily.
  • If the lid opens on its easily, then it should be secured with tape.
  • The box should be sturdy enough so it will not collapse when medium pressure is applied to it.

Guidelines for Poly-bagged Units

If poly-bags are used for protecting units, then the poly-bags must meet the following requirements:

  • Poly-bags with openings that are 5 inches or wider must have suffocation warnings.
  • The bags must be 1.5 mil thick minimum.
  • The bags should be transparent.
  • The poly-bags should be sealed.
  • The poly-bag should not project more than three inches more than the dimension of the product.

For Case-Packed Products

These are the packaging guidelines for products that are case-packed:

  • Products that are in a box must have matching SKU.
  • Products in a box should have been placed there by the manufacturer.
  • There are 150 units per case limit for packing.
  • Smaller case packs can be put together in a larger master carton.

When these types of products are received in a fulfillment center, only one sample will be scanned and then the whole box will be stored. This is why all the products within the case should be the same.

Regarding Product Expiration Dates

There are products that would have expiration dates. For these, here are the guidelines that need to be followed:

  • The expiration date should be written clearly on the master carton and on the individual units as well.
  • If a product has a container that requires additional prep like a jar, for example, the expiration date label should be readily accessible.
  • Format for expiration dates: MM-DD-YYYY or MM-YYYY

If your business is all about selling topical or consumable products, then you should familiarize yourself with Amazon’s policy regarding expiration-dated inventory. All products that are for human and animal consumption are considered to be subject to expiration by Amazon FBA.

Choosing the Right FBA Prep Service

As you can tell by now, the requirements set by Amazon FBA for the products shipped to them are quite strict. It is possible to handle all the prepping on your own but it can be troublesome.

It can really be a problem when your inventory is running low and orders are piling up. Rushing in to fulfill all orders can take time.

This is where getting a company to do all your FBA prepping can help. But this decision is not something that you should make right away.

You really have to consider its implications. Keep in mind that you are handing over a major aspect of your business to a third party. Are you prepared to do that?

Why Outsource?

As explained through the various restrictions and guidelines for packaging FBA prep can be confusing. It is easy to get it wrong and when that happens, the worst thing is that Amazon completely rejects your project or at the very least it can cause delays.

Sometimes, you will not be able to afford a delay in keeping your inventory updated.

So, why should you outsource your FBA prep?

Handing it Over to the Experts

Because there are so many rules and regulations concerning packaging and labeling products for Amazon FBA, it is easy to get confused and mess it up. This is especially true with new sellers.

By handing it over to third-party companies that specialize in FBA prep services, you are letting experts handle things for you. That means there will be less likelihood of errors and delays.

Doing it on your own might be okay in some instances, but this is a business and learning from your mistakes should not be your route when there are other options available to you.

Because the rules of Amazon are stringent, you will find yourself spending most of your time inspecting labels, preparing packages, and doing things connected with preparing your products for FBA, while having little time for other important aspects of your business.

Some of the biggest sellers prefer to outsource their FBA prep. For example, Danny McMillan, the host of Seller Sessions, prefer to outsource as his time is at a premium and because his seller business is already scaling.

There is the temptation to do everything yourself. You want to see to it that everything is done right but if you get the services of experts, you can rest easy knowing they know how to handle things.

In the long run, getting the services of a FBA Prep Service company is going to be the economical choice. As your business expands and you handle more inventory, you might have to lease a warehouse and then hire people to prep your products. That will cost you a lot of money.

How to Pick an FBA Prep Service

How do you choose an FBA prep service? Here are the factors that you need to consider when making your choice:

Cost

This is going to be the main concern for most people when picking an FBA prep service. If the cost is going to be too high, then it might not be worth it even if it comes with all other benefits.

A prep service company can charge you with a monthly fee or they can do it per item. While a monthly fee would work better for a seller that handles a large volume of inventory, a per item charge might be better for a seller who is just starting out.

Then you need to find out what is included in the charge. Some companies might charge extra for additional packaging like using bubble wrap for example. You also need to find out if there is a minimum amount of items that you have to send in.

Some companies will also have a charge for the storage of your items in their warehouse. These are just a few of the things that you must know when it comes to the charges of  FBA prep service companies.

Location

Another important factor that you need to consider when choosing an FBA prep service is a location. There is a good chance that the supplier of your items is located in China. In that case, you have to think strategically as to where would be the best prep service company.

For example, it would be a good idea to choose a company that is located near the port where your shipment would arrive. Or you can just choose a company that is located in China as well.

truck

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In some cases, it is a good idea to choose a company located near your home. If the source of your items is local, that would mean less shipping cost on your part.

You should avoid trying to find a company located near a Fulfillment Center, which you assume is where your items will be sent. Amazon may require you to send to a different FC and they may even change that, from shipment to another.

There is no way that you can determine the FC as they make the decision based on internal qualities.

Sales Tax

This one is for sellers who source their items from  American online retailers. If you buy your items from these sources, you would normally have to pay a sales tax.

But if you pick a prep service company located in a state that does not have a sales tax, you can save money. If you ship it directly to the prep service company, you do not have to pay the sales tax.

Warehouse Facilities

It is also important that the FBA Prep Service company that you pick has adequate warehouse and storage facilities.

This might seem contradictory to the actual purpose of Prep Services which is to get your items ready and prepared for sending to Amazon FBA. There are sellers who are now using prep service companies for storing their items.

There are two main reasons why some sellers are doing this. First of all, it can be cheaper to store your inventory at the warehouse of the FBA prep service company than to keep it stored in an Amazon Fulfillment center.

What some sellers do is they keep the bulk of their inventory in the warehouse of the Prep Service company and then send items to Amazon FBA based on their sales volume. That way, they can avoid their inventory being stuck in the Amazon warehouse where they can be eventually be charged with Late Storage Fees.

For example, a seller could send 2,500 items to the prep center but he only sells 500 units each month. He will only send 500 items to Amazon each month and hold back the rest at the prep center.

Another reason why some sellers prefer to keep their items at the prep center is because of   Amazon’s policy when it comes to suspension. Just in case you get suspended, you may want to get your items shipped back to you.

You need to go through these items and make sure that they are still in good order. When you do get reinstated, you will have to ship back the items to Amazon, which means packaging and labeling them all over again.

Needless to say, the whole process is costly and troublesome and the best way to avoid it is to keep the bulk of your inventory stored in your prep center.

Now, before you decide that you want to use the storage facility of your Prep Service company, you have to be sure first that they have a fast turnaround time. They should also have insurance, so your items will be protected in case there is a fire or some other incident that can cause damage to your items.

Climate Control

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It is trickier if you are selling food products or some other items that are perishable, then you have to make sure that your Prep Service company has a climate controlled warehouse. This is important so that your products are nor ruined.

Actually, this can be applied not just when you are selling perishable items. If the Prep Service company is located in a state that is hot or has weather that changes often, then having a climate controlled warehouse is also essential.

Inspection

A businessman pointing at the Quality

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Another important factor to consider when you are picking a Prep Service company is how they inspect your items. Ideally, the company should perform inspections of your items on top of packaging and labeling.

Inspection is crucial if you have your products coming in directly from your supplier from China.

Just remember, this is not the same as product inspection which should be done by the manufacturer. This is just to ensure that the quality of the products which will be shipped to FBA has the right quality.

Even if your supplier does a pre-shipment inspection of your products, there is still a good chance that there will be stocks that have problems and your Prep Service company performing can help identify those products with problems.

It is worth noting that some suppliers may not perform inspections as strictly as you might want them because finding defective items will only eat away at their margin.

Processing Time

Another important factor that you need to think about when choosing a prep center is their processing time. How long will it take for them to process your inventory and get it shipped to Amazon FBA?

As mentioned earlier, you may want to store your items at the Prep Center for several reasons, but if they have a slow turnaround time it might mean you will have a problem meeting your sales volume.

Ideally, you want your prep center to turn around units in no more than 48 hours. Most companies will provide their turnaround time right away. Some will even offer a guarantee, which is very reassuring.

If you don’t see the information right away, then you need to make sure that you ask.

Other Things to Consider

There are other important things that you need to consider when you are picking which FBA Prep Service company to go for.

The company should have a good reputation among clients. This is easy to check now because of the internet. You can do your research. You don’t just check the reviews they have on their own site. You can do some searching on the internet for what past or clients are saying about the service of the company.

You also need to consider how comprehensive the whole service is. For example, FBABEE, which is a full-service Prep and Ship service that is based in China and the US will perform the following for all of their clients as part of their basic services:

  • Pick Up Your Goods
  • Carton Inspection
  • 14 Days Storage

As a client, you can get add on services depending on your needs. These add on services include:

  • FNSKU Labeling
  • Bundling
  • Packaging
  • Poly Bagging

Not all sellers would have the same requirements because it would all depend on the kind of product that they have. As a seller, you need to know what you and your products would require before you start searching for an FBA Prep Service company.

Conclusion

Choosing to outsource your FBA prep can save you from a great deal of trouble. It may even allow you to save money. By outsourcing, FBA prep can make your business run smoother.

So, you have to make sure that you choose the right company or it might cause more problems than it will solve.

Do not hesitate to ask questions. When the information that you need is unavailable on the website of a company, then ask them directly. Remember, you will have to build a relationship with the Prep Service company that you pick, if they are unwilling to answer your questions or if they are dismissive of your concerns, take that is a bad sign.

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