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Go Green, Save Green with Frustration-Free Packaging
Traditional packaging was designed to showcase products on a store shelf, not protect the item as it makes its way through a global e-commerce supply chain. But the growing e-commerce industry has changed the way retailers view packaging priorities.
The effort has been boosted by Amazon’s 15-year push for Frustration-Free Packaging and increasing pressure on companies to minimize excess packaging material. And as an Amazon seller, you can’t afford to be left behind by spending too much on packing and shipping while your competition finds ways to spend less and make customers happier. Fortunately, we’re here to help get you up to speed.
What is Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging?
In 2008, Amazon launched Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP) to promote its commitment to reducing waste and enacting environmentally-friendly policies. The program encourages sellers to change how items are packaged by focusing on the realities of e-commerce rather than the traditional emphasis on how an item might appear on a shelf in a brick-and-mortar store.
According to Amazon, Frustration-Free Packaging is designed to adhere to four primary tenets. Every package should be:
- Low Waste
- Cost Effective
The problem with standard packaging
As the leading online marketplace, Amazon believes that the tenets of Frustration-Free Packaging will result in a better unboxing experience for customers and reduced waste for the planet. Simultaneously, program participants, such as vendors and sellers, will enjoy lower costs due to the minimal packing materials.
As the e-commerce industry exploded, so did the amount of waste it produced. As online shipments became a larger proportion of sales for many businesses, moving them around the world became more expensive, particularly items that were not designed to be transported that way.
With growing concerns about sustainability and poor packaging design contributing to unnecessary costs, it was only a matter of time before Amazon and sellers would both realize the value of revamping their approach to packaging. Furthermore, the link between online sales and customer reviews resulted in buyers who struggled with hard-to-open packaging could quickly share their frustrations with prospective buyers everywhere.
Frustration-Free Packaging Certification
Initially, Amazon Frustration-Free packaging certification eligibility was open to any seller who could meet stringent packaging requirements. Not surprisingly, Amazon FFP certification aligns with the previously-mentioned tents and featured standards for each area.
FFP packaging must be easy to open and require minimal scissors or a box cutter. In addition, the packaging cannot contain blister packs, plastic inserts, packaging peanuts, wire ties, shredded paper, or a plastic clamshell. By avoiding these obstacles, Amazon expects that the contents will be removable from the package within 120 seconds.
Despite being easy to open, packaging must protect its contents during transit. In many cases, Amazon packaging certification eligibility requires ISTA 6 compliance. Originally this required independent testing at an International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) lab. Later, a self-administered drop testing process was implemented as an option for some non-fragile products. This allows sellers to document how a packaged product performed when dropped repeatedly from varying heights and submit the results to Amazon. In addition, fragile products can be submitted to the Amazon Packaging Lab for testing rather than using an ISTA lab.
Frustration-Free Packaging certification also requires all the packing materials to be made of 100% curbside recyclable materials to reduce packaging waste. Acceptable materials include corrugated and other paper-based materials or plastic components marked with SPI codes 1 (PET), 2 (HDPE), and 5 (PP).
After a successful rollout, Amazon launched an E-commerce Ready Packaging (ECR)
program in 2014. This allowed product packaging that meets ISTA 6 requirements but is not fully recyclable to be considered for a lower tier of the packaging certification program, known as Ships in own Container (SIOC). Similarly, items that need Amazon over boxing but no other packing materials are called Prep-Free Packaging.
In 2021, Amazon began an incentive program for Vendor Central sellers to meet the FFP or Amazon SIOC requirements. And while there are currently more than 2 million FFP-certified products for sale on Amazon, the company is not now taking new requests for certification. However, the Frustration-Free Packaging initiative is still underway via an expanded incentive program. This is likely because most online retailers understand the advantages of optimizing their packaging for e-commerce demands and better sustainability.
Amazon’s general packaging rules
Beyond its FFP and other packaging certification tiers, Amazon takes product packaging very seriously. When selling via Amazon FBA, sellers must follow all general requirements for shipping inventory to Amazon’s fulfillment centers and realize that the company can refuse, return, or repackage any product that does not meet its standards. Occasionally, these mistakes may also lead to a fee for failing to satisfy product compliance rules.
First and foremost, every product 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. Each package must also have an exterior barcode or label, which can be scanned for tracking purposes. The label must be accessible and readable.
In addition to the above requirements, packaging rules can vary slightly according to the product type. If an item fits multiple categories, it must be prepared for shipment according to all applicable categories’ regulations. Amazon also has specific rules for the different types of packaging options.
Amazon may also impose further requirements such as additional taping or case quantity limits to ensure products can be fulfilled efficiently and delivered in good condition. Items with expiration dates must include the date in MM-DD-YYYY format on both the individual unit and the shipping container. Approved supplies can be purchased directly from Amazon to simplify the packaging demands for sellers.
The benefits of sustainable packaging
Although Amazon’s FFP certification is currently unavailable for products that haven’t already received the designation, it should not be a surprise that many online retailers are moving away from standard packaging, regardless of which channels they use to sell.
More efficient packaging reduces the expense of packing materials. Sellers who ship their products can improve their bottom line by spending less on bulky, unnecessary packaging and creating right-sized packaging that protects items sufficiently during transit without the requirement of over boxing. Of course, it’s essential to consider how packaging may impact a customer’s perception of the value of your product. While an item may be able to ship in a poly bag, a branded and well-designed box could still be the most appropriate option.
As mentioned, easy-to-open packaging is also critical in e-commerce since buyers can easily complain if their purchase is difficult to unbox. In addition, certain customers, such as older shoppers, may be more vulnerable to struggling with packaging that isn’t accessible. Ensuring your products arrive safely and can be enjoyed immediately will improve the customer experience and result in better seller feedback and more sales.
Finally, many shoppers want to buy from companies that take an environmentally friendly approach to their business. Customers who connect emotionally with a brand name have three times higher lifetime value. And according to Deloitte research, 80 percent of consumers would pay more for products if the company committed itself to being socially responsible, environmentally responsible or paid higher wages. Avoiding packaging that is difficult to dispose of or not environmentally friendly should also be a consideration for sellers seeking to maximize the quality of their reviews. Investing in high-quality packaging for fulfillment is one of the best ways to protect a brand’s reputation.
Think outside the box with Amify
Reaching your company’s full potential will take more than just implementing a frustration-free packaging program. But you can uncover the fastest and most efficient way to optimize every part of your Amazon business by partnering with the experts at Amify.
Contact us today to learn why so many brand owners chose us to help them navigate the challenge of reaching the right Amazon customers and achieving their e-commerce goals.