Great entrepreneurs everywhere are digging into the details of product choice, product descriptions, Buy Boxes and Amazon ads, only to have their Fulfillment By Amazon efforts stalled with something as simple as sending product to Amazon. Here are many, many sins that can sideline your products from being available on Amazon. The penalties for these actions can be as simple as a couple hours of time, some hefty fees or at the worst, getting you blocked from selling on Amazon altogether.
Even one of these sins will send your precious box of heaven off to the “problem-solving area” where it can sit in purgatory for 2 hours or 2 days. If you have multiple sins, you may have to pay your way out of the problem-solving area in the form of fees.
One Box, One Shipping Label
It doesn’t make it easier for Amazon if all your boxes are strapped or taped together, unless you’re sending a whole shrink-wrapped pallet. What does make it easy is an easily read shipping label—and only one. Recycling boxes is great, but be sure to mark out all the old barcodes with a black Sharpie, remove them or cover them up with permanent stickers or tape. If Amazon has to guess which label is the right one, your box is headed to the problem-solving area.
Put that shipping label in a safe spot. Here’s a list of un-safe spots:
- Over the box seam. Using the label to fortify the closure on the box only means that the label info, which is valuable to the Amazon receiving team, will be damaged when they cut it open.
- Over a corner. Scanners have come a long way, but they are not able to bend space. Give them a nice flat shipping label.
- Close to the edge. Amazon suggests 1.25 inches from the box edge if you can.
- Under tape. Don’t cover up your label with tape, it hinders their scanners.
Your Amazon shipment ID label is your passport into Amazon, and just as important as the carrier label (FedEx, UPS, USPS, DHL, etc.). Here are some tips to make sure you don’t get hung up in the problem-solving area:
- Each label is unique to that shipment, even if it’s the exact same thing, don’t recopy old labels.
- Multiple boxes? Make sure the right label is on the right box, especially if you’re mixing products.
- Your label should be 3 1/3 x 4 inches, printed on a thermal or laser printer. Don’t use ink jet printers.
Keep It Light
Yes, keep your boxes light, or at least under 50 lbs. If your product is more than 50 lbs. by itself, and less than 100 lbs., make sure you mark it “Team Lift.” More than 100 lbs.? Then mark it “Mechanical Lift.” If you don’t learn this lesson, and repeatedly send heavy boxes, you could be blocked from sending any inventory at all. No inventory, no sales.
The Insides Count
When you get a big box of packing peanuts at home, isn’t it a pain? The static cling has them sticking to odd things in weird spots. You can’t recycle most of them. And even the plant-based ones are a pain to get rid of. Amazon thinks so too. It also doesn’t like shredded paper, grass or other loose packing materials. To keep out of the problem-solving area, where there’s a special vacuum for that stuff, use air pillows, giant sheets of 60-lb. weight kraft paper or polyethylene foam sheeting.
It’s also okay to bubble wrap individual items inside a box. If those items are fragile, it’s good to affix the bubble wrap with tape to keep the item safe inside the Amazon warehouse. The trick here is to make sure that the item barcode and any expiration date info is visible without removing the bubble wrap.
Some products come with a perforation that allows retailers an easy display. Perforated boxes must have come apart in Amazon’s past, because now they are required to survive a three-foot drop test. The box can’t pop open when it’s dropped on any of six sides or on its corner (just how many times are they dropping things?). You might want to wrap those boxes in plastic to avoid the issue.
About Barcodes …
Every item inside the box needs a barcode, and only one. And those barcodes need to be unique to the size and color of that one item in the Amazon platform. When the staff scans the barcode, they will check to make sure the title in the computer matches the product they are scanning. Guessing games send your products to problem-solving purgatory.
If you forget to put the barcodes on, or your manufacturer doesn’t do that for you, then Amazon will happily do that for $0.20 per item.
If you’re sending an entire case of things, and want to sell those items individually, the outside of that box shouldn’t have a barcode. If it does, Amazon may ship an entire case to your unsuspecting customer that only wanted one, for the price of only one. If you’re selling a set of something, they need to be packaged together with any of these stickers:
- This is a Set: Ready to Ship
- Sell as a Set
Polybagging for Success
Your individual products need to be packaged to weather the warehouse. Nothing should be loose. If your product doesn’t come in a box or bag, then you’re going to want a polybag around it to keep the dust off and keep it all together. Liquids need to be polybagged. And make sure you bag smelly stuff—that keeps your perfume from seeping into products in the next bin. All bags should be snug around the product, sealed or taped within three inches of the product’s edges and allowing all the barcodes to be easily found, read and scanned.
Any polybag more than 5 inches wide needs a suffocation warning in large type. The bigger the bag, the bigger the type and nothing smaller than 10 pts.
There are many more requirements for pallets, hazardous products, and batteries. But these rules cover most products that people are fulfilling themselves. If you want to wade through the rules and regulations, there are several pages covering these topics in Amazon’s Seller Central Help section.
Rather than trying to pull this off yourself, you can hire professionals to prep your products for Fulfillment By Amazon. The service is called FBA Prep. Even if your manufacturer is handling most of the barcoding and packaging issues for you, having a pro handle the shipping means your cartons and shipping labels are perfect. When you get an alert from Amazon, you pass the request on to your FBA Prep provider, and you can return to promoting your products and managing your business.