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A Closer Look at FBA Inspections
One of the ways that Amazon sellers try to reach their full potential on Seller Central and land the coveted Buy Box is by opting to use Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) rather than managing the process alone. Choosing to outsource order fulfillment to the online retailer puts your products inside an Amazon FBA warehouse where they can be picked, packed and shipped by an Amazon employee. Unlike a 1P relationship, an FBA seller retains complete control over pricing and inventory management while relying on Amazon logistics for the rest.
Obviously, the decision to use Amazon’s FBA service comes with added costs. In addition to paying standard seller fees on orders, Amazon will also charge a fulfillment fee based on the type and size of the product. Storage fees for the space that inventory takes up in Amazon’s fulfillment centers are yet another cost that results from using an FBA model for sales. However, some of these costs would simply originate elsewhere, such as from in-house employees or a different logistics provider. By partnering with Amazon on fulfillment, sellers enjoy an easier path to Amazon Prime status for their products, reduced customer interactions and more streamlined processes for returns. But the key to a successful FBA relationship is a complete understanding of the rules governing the FBA process. Many FBA sellers rely on Amazon FBA Prep services, FBA inspections, or both to avoid any unforced and costly errors.
What is an FBA inspection?
Amazon FBA Inspections ensure that products arriving at any of the company’s fulfillment centers meet Amazon’s strict Fulfillment by Amazon requirements and quality standards. For sellers managing relatively small amounts of inventory, it can often be completed internally.
However, larger sellers may turn to third-party FBA prep services or a quality inspection company to ensure compliance. This can be particularly critical if the inventory is imported from overseas or when the seller’s product line is highly diverse, resulting in a complex set of rules governing different goods. Regardless of how it is accomplished, a successful FBA inspection requires the inspector to thoroughly understand Amazon’s FBA requirements and experience working with warehousing, logistics, fulfillment and quality control.
Benefits of an FBA inspection
Amazon does not require an FBA inspection for items before they are sent to an Amazon fulfillment center. Still, failure to meet the compliance guidelines or repeated mistakes can become much more costly than a proactive approach to Amazon’s FBA program.
A well-designed inspection protocol can ensure Amazon FBA Requirements are met and help sellers to avoid a devastating account suspension. This type of inspection can also include a quality control aspect that results in fewer defective products and can reduce customer complaints and poor reviews.
Amazon’s packaging and labeling requirements are intended to increase shipping efficiency and protect items during shipment. An FBA inspection can provide confidence that products are labeled appropriately for acceptance into the warehouses and that they are ready for packing and shipping to the buyer’s destination. In addition, a product that arrives quickly and in good quality is less likely to be returned, which can help sellers maintain the health of their Amazon accounts.
What an Amazon FBA Inspection Service includes
When selling via FBA, sellers face a substantial number of requirements that must be met before shipping inventory to Amazon’s fulfillment centers. As mentioned, FBA inspections help sellers avoid having their products refused, returned, or repackaged for failing to meet the company’s quality and preparation standards. In some cases, mistakes in this area can even lead to a fee for failing to satisfy Amazon product compliance rules. A thorough FBA preparation plan and inspection process will focus on the general guidelines that all FBA goods must meet and any specific packaging requirements according to the product or category.
First and foremost, every product in an Amazon warehouse must have a unique FNSKU (Fulfillment Network Stock Keeping Unit). An FNSKU label identifies a product as a Fulfillment by Amazon product and by an SKU. Sellers who market similar items, where the only differences between the products are size, shape, or color, must give each product variation a new FNSKU. For tracking purposes, each package must also have an exterior barcode or label, which can be scanned. The label must be accessible and readable.
In addition, the packaging rules can vary slightly according to the product type. An item must be prepared for shipment according to all applicable categories’ regulations if it fits multiple categories. Amazon may impose further requirements such as additional taping or case quantity limits to ensure products can be fulfilled efficiently and delivered in good condition. Goods with expiration dates must include the date in MM-DD-YYYY format on both the individual unit and the shipping container.
Typically an FBA inspection is customized for a seller’s products and may vary depending on the area of emphasis. In some cases, inspectors can make sure that items include all parts necessary for final assembly after delivery to the customer.
They may also verify that the product is packaged appropriately. When sold together, loose products must be contained within one package. Units that are sold as sets with many pieces within one box must be marked with a label that says “Sold as set” or “Do not separate.” Any boxes used must be satisfactorily strong, while products in poly bags or bubble wrap have unique specifications concerning size, labeling and protective ability. Sharp or exceptionally fragile items may need to be double-boxed to meet the Amazon FBA requirements.
Following an FBA inspection, sellers can expect to receive a comprehensive Amazon FBA inspection report confirming compliance and identifying any deficiencies. This may note any quality concerns with the manufacturing process that could lead to poor customer satisfaction or a lack of conformity from one item to another. Typically it will also evaluate how well the manufacturer is conforming to Amazon’s labeling requirements and legibility, such as FNSKUs, expiration dates, or size requirements. A measurement section may explain any measurement issues found in the products or problems with the carton weight and dimensions that may not align with Amazon’s FBA rules. Many third-party inspection services include pictures within the detailed reports to make addressing the issues simpler and faster, saving the seller additional time and money.
Who Needs FBA Inspection Services?
For any brand, change is difficult. Most have an established fulfillment strategy for their direct-to-consumer website, business-to-business customers, and other marketplaces. So the possibility of changing an established plan for a single platform is unsurprisingly met with hesitation and frustration.
Still, for nearly every seller on the marketplace, success on Amazon depends on utilizing Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). Not only can it level the playing field against a brand’s biggest competitors, it often improves customer service and minimizes costs. In addition, shifting fulfillment responsibilities to Amazon allows sellers to focus on their true strengths and product quality while capitalizing on the advantages that come with FBA.
Using FBA allows the product to be Prime eligible which we’ve seen increase sales by 50-100 percent. It also results in dramatically cheaper shipping for most products. Amazon is the largest shipper in the U.S. This allows them to have the lowest shipping rates in the country, and luckily they pass these along to FBA customers in the form of low shipping rates. This considerable cost difference requires an FBM brand to either increase its price or be willing to accept much lower (or even negative) margins. As mentioned, when using FBA, Amazon will also answer most customer service questions and take responsibility for any late-arriving shipments. This allows businesses to focus on making great products rather than responding to “where is my item?” questions all day. Finally, it has become clear that Seller-Fulfilled Prime (SFP) is not a realistic option. The shipping is so expensive that it’s rarely viable for products with price points of less than $100, and the shipping restrictions are so difficult to meet that it often results in account suspensions.
Beyond these challenges that an Amazon business faces, poorly-managed inventory can negatively affect a company’s bottom line. Fortunately, proactive Amazon FBA inspections can provide cost-saving logistics solutions. Qualified inspectors have experience with Amazon’s FBA guidelines to ensure that products remain in stock for customer orders and that businesses can avoid the expensive fees Amazon can charge for non-compliant inventory.
As the dominant e-commerce platform, selling on Amazon is a high-stakes undertaking for any business. Getting started is relatively simple, but finding success and maintaining it is much more complicated. Finding a successful FBA partner to assist with inventory inspections can create a quality customer experience and help sellers establish and maintain a healthy Amazon seller account.
Amify can keep your Amazon growth on track
The experience and expertise of Amify’s team can help your company optimize inventory for an Amazon FBA warehouse and source packaging solutions that will keep your costs down and customers happy. Schedule your account consultation today and learn whether a product inspection service is right for your brand and how a results-oriented partner can put your Amazon business on the right track.
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