Amazon Frustration Free Packaging

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Introduction

Consumers desire the best of both worlds – products shielded from damage as items travel through the supply chain to their doorsteps and orders shipped with the least amount of packaging possible.

Sadly, most eCommerce packaging doesn’t satisfy this need today. Rather, eCommerce packaging is a retail-ready package stuffed into a plain corrugated box similar to an Amazon box with a few extra pillows to reduce the blows the product may receive during shipping.

Because of this, over-packing is now a major issue in the eCommerce industry and has initiated a drive to deliver a fresh packaging experience to consumers globally.

Due to the limitless rise of the eCommerce sector a solution had to be sought out. For example, statistics from the US Commerce Department reveals that in 2019, eCommerce sales alone accounted for $601.75 billion, or 16% of the total retail market. And represented over half of all growth in retail revenue in the same year.

Internet Retailer also revealed that in 2019, the overall value of consumer sales on Amazon.com in the United States hit $221.95 billion. This was 25.3% higher than in 2018 and ultimately accounted for 36.9% of all online retail in the United States.

Being such a major player in the eCommerce space, and driven by its vision to be customer-obsessed, plus a core value of ownership, the online retail giant, Amazon, over a decade ago, set out to transform the way its packaging and its vendors packaging affected the environment.

Amazon sought to achieve this by introducing the Amazon Frustration-Free initiative in 2008.

As of 2017, the initiative had canceled-out over 215,000 tons of packaging materials. Amazon also avoided the use of 360 million boxes in the same year and 500 million boxes by 2019 and decreased total packaging waste by 16%.

11 years later from the launch of the Frustration-Free Packaging in 2008, Amazon took the next step to further the initiative and began charging its vendors $1.99 for any primary ASIN that doesn’t satisfy its Tier 1 and Tier 2 Frustration-Free Packaging guidelines on the 1st of August 2019.

While it’s tempting to believe that this shift is solely a strategy by Amazon to cut down its operating costs, there’s a lot more to it.

It provides you with an opportunity to re-examine your business’s entire packaging system to identify excellent cost-saving ideas and give your consumers a more sustainable packaging experience.

The Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging guidelines are extensive and this piece is crafted to assist you to have a better understanding of Amazon’s requirements. The idea is to make packaging redesign a lot less daunting.

With that said, let’s dive right into it.

Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging Explained

Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP) is a set of rules that Amazon sellers must follow regarding their packaging. The frustration-free packaging program was introduced in 2008 to combat pollution, improve the customer’s unpacking experience, and reduce over-packing.

The FFP is Amazon’s response to consumers demand and seeks to achieve these 4 primary goals:

  • Ensuring packages are easy to open to create a quality customer experience
  • Reduction of waste by shipping items without Amazon boxes
  • Manufacturing packaging 100% recycling material to cut down on environmental impact
  • Making sure that the packaging is protected adequately against damage

In short, Amazon aims to drive the logistics industry towards cost-effective, protective, low-waste, and easy-to-open packaging.

The Scope of Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging

In the fall of 2018, Amazon sellers got their lists of affected ASINs. And the initial phase of the frustration free-packaging chargeback applied to items sold and fulfilled by Amazon in the United States and Canada in the below categories:

  • Soft goods like apparel, luggage, and shoes
  • Durable goods such as consumer electronics and toys
  • Consumables like cleaning products and diapers

Keep in mind that as of now Amazon Fresh Products and Hazmat aren’t a part of the certification requirements.

You will need to test and certify all primary ASINs so you can group them as either Tier 1 – FFP or Tier 2 – SIOC. The products that belong to Tier 1 and Tier 2, do not need additional preparation from Amazon and are free from the chargeback. But other products are grouped as Tier 3 and are subject to the fee.

Here’s an interesting Amazon Frustrating-Free Packaging program fact:

Frustration-Free Packaging Tiers & Qualifications

 

 

The FFP program constitutes of 3 main Tiers:

  • Tier 1: FFP (Frustration-Free Packaging)
  • Tier 2: SIOC (Ships in Owners Container)
  • Tier 3: PFP Prep-Free Packaging

Here’s an illustration of the 3 Tiers and their primary requirements:

TIER 1: FFP Frustration-Free Packaging Certification Requirements

  • No preparation from Amazon or over box needed.
  • Acceptable minimum size is 9″L× 6″ W ×0.375″H
  • Minimal packaging, easy-to-open
  • 100 percent recyclable material
  • ISTA – 6 SIOC compliant
  • No chargeback

TIER 2: SIOC Ships in Own Container

  • Ships in own packaging
  • Requires protective support material against damage
  • Acceptable minimum size is 9″ L × 6″ W ×0.375″ H
  • No preparation from Amazon or over box needed
  • ISTA-6 DIOC compliant
  • No chargeback

TIER 3: PFP Prep-Free Packaging

  • No Amazon prep needed
  • Acceptable minimum size is less than 9″ L × 6″ W ×0.375″ H
  • Amazon over-box is necessary for shipping
  • ISTA – 6 DIOC compliant
  • Chargeback

Chargeback Information

From the 1st of August 2019, Amazon began charging a $1.99 fee on all units sold and fulfilled by Amazon for packages bigger than 18″ ×14″ ×9″ or weighing over 20 pounds that isn’t a Tier 1 or Tier 2 certified primary ASIN.

Benefits of the Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging Certification

Amazon’s FFP program offers vendors certain perks that can help save costs and improve customer experience:

Reduction/Elimination of Amazon Prep chargebacks

If an ASIN meets the certification guidelines of Tier 1, Tier 2, or Tier 3, Amazon makes sure your ASIN isn’t sidelined to include surplus Amazon Prep applied. Vendors can eliminate prep chargebacks like this.

A Decrease in Packaging Costs

Regular retail packages are most times designed to capture the attention of customers by the use of full glossy color printing, an oversized package for greater shelf presence, or via cutouts. windows and other expensive packaging features that aren’t required for Amazon visitors.

By adhering to the Amazon FFP guidelines and getting rid of irrelevant packaging marketing features, sellers can eliminate or reduce waste, boost sustainability, and save costs.

Opportunity to Cut-Down on Inbound Transportation Costs

When you optimize your package for Amazon fulfillment, your package gets “sized right” for the entire supply chain. A compact package equates to a lower transportation expense (more product units per pallet, per truck and per container).

Amazon also spends less to ship that same item to their customers. Reducing transportation costs for both Amazon and the vendor.

Frustration-Free Packaging Benefits by Tiers

Tier 1 (FFP)

  • Reduction/Elimination of Amazon prep chargebacks
  • Opportunity to cut-down on inbound transportation costs
  • A decrease in packaging costs

Tier 2 (SIOC)

  • Reduction/Elimination of Amazon prep chargebacks
  • Opportunity to cut-down on inbound transportation costs
  • A decrease in packaging costs

Tier 3 (PFP)

  • Reduction/Elimination of Amazon prep chargebacks
  • Packaging for Intended Purpose

Traditionally vendors used the same package design for eCommerce and retail shelves. But the rising demand by consumers for sustainable packaging and the growth of eCommerce convenience has initiated a refined focus on how products are delivered to customers.

Amazon’s frustration-free packaging regulations require sellers to design their packaging for the purpose it serves to optimize costs. Simply put, design different packaging for items sold via eCommerce channels versus the retail shelves.

Design your packaging in line with its intended flow via the supply chain in mind, from the get-go, to optimize user experience, production, and cost savings.

How to Design FFP-compliant Packaging For Intended Purpose

To design FFP-compliant packaging, you must focus on satisfying the requirements of 3 primary areas:

 

 

Design your Packaging for the Consumer, Your Operations and the Environment

The perks of redesigning your packaging for the items you sell on Amazon are many and as you reevaluate your current retail packaging design for a more eCommerce relevant option, you’d be pleased to find out that you can:

  • Boost your branding by focusing your resources for a more sustainable packaging
  • Discover new expense cut-downs by “rightsizing” your packaging design around your product, eliminating erroneous shipping costs due to dimensional weight shipping and reducing waste.
  • Increase consumer experience by removing “wrap rage” and designing a more user-friendly design that’s easy to open.
  • Grow sales by satisfying the expectations of eco-conscious consumers

What is Easy-to-Open Packaging?

An easy-to-open package requires minimal use of cutters or scissors and does not have plastic inserts, packaging peanuts, welded clamshells, shredded paper, or blister packs. The consumer should also be able to remove the item from the packaging under 120 seconds.

The Acceptable Product to Package Ratio

A crucial requirement of Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging is that your design must meet the recommended ratio of the volume of the item to the overall volume of the packaging.

Amazon states this as:

  • Non-fragile Items: must have a score greater than 50%
  • Fragile Items: most have a score above 30%

Here’s an illustration of the product to package ratio requirement:

Length
  Height
  Width  Total Volume
Packaging Measurements  22”   8”   10”   1760”
Product Measurements  20”   6”    9”   1080”
Packaging Utilization Score   1080/1760=61%

Material Requirements

Amazon also has requirements for the packaging materials you’re to use to satisfy FFP guidelines:

  • Able to survive LTL shipping or a single parcel delivery network
  • Hand holes are acceptable but not more than 3″×1.5 with 1.5″ radius
  • No cutouts, protrusions or windows
  • Rigid envelopes or padded mailers
  • Rigid 6 sided rectangular corrugated
  • It must pass the Amazon’s ISTA-6 SIOC test
  • Only use plastic films with SPA codes 2 and 4 if the item needs dust and abrasion protection
  • You can use barrier bags/films, and silica gel as an alternative for maintaining freshness and quality

Restricted Materials

Amazon doesn’t accept the below packaging as they are amongst the least sustainable and most frustrating packaging for consumers to open:

  • Polybags
  • Twist ties or wire ties
  • Staples
  • Bundling of multiple packages
  • Clamshells
  • Additional Design Options

The Frustration-Free Packaging requirements also permit these design options:

  • Non-metal bands or straps that tightly fit around oversized items
  • Sealing looking tabs with tape or glue
  • Labeling and printing must detail handling instructions, indicate contents and adhere to the requirements stated in the Vendor Central shipment manual

The Required Testing & Certification

According to the Nielsen Global Sustainability Report, 66% of consumers worldwide are willing to pay for more sustainable packaging. And 53% of consumers will pay more for eco-friendly packaging.

Data like these motivate Amazon to ensure the sustainability of all packaging before fulfillment, and this is achieved through the ISTA-6 SIOC test.

The ISTA-6 SIOC test involves a free-fall drop test and vibration testing to imitate the supply chain demand test for the likelihood of damage.

Packaging testing differs depending on the size of the product to be tested. Amazon puts packages into 3 categories based on weight and dimensions per region:

  • Oversized
  • Standard
  • Tier 3 (PFP)

Where Can I Carry Out the Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging Test?

You can carry out the ISTA-6 SIOC test at any ISTA certified facility or APASS lab. Visit this link to locate an ISTA facility to carry out your testing.

How to Certify Your Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging

After redesigning and testing your new packaging, you must show proof to enable Amazon to certify your package as Frustration-Free. This phase is carried out directly with Amazon via the Vendor Central Portal.

To show proof and certify your packaging design as SIOC or FFP:

  1. Navigate to Vendor Central
  2. Click support, then contact us
  3. Choose your business group
  4. Locate the Amazon Packaging Certification support subject
  5. Submit the ASINs form and your completed ISTA-6 packaging test results for each primary ASIN.

Keep in mind that certification is intended to be final. And once it’s done, Amazon will classify your items right away. So if your packaging isn’t ready for shipping to Amazon Fulfilment Centers, don’t enroll your products, as you could get decertified and will have to run a test and recertify all over again.

How to Differentiate Your Brand

Amazon’s recommendation states that products must be shipped in 6-sided, rigid rectangular containers (corrugated). However, since a huge part of your brand’s experience in eCommerce depends on the packaging, how do you stand out?

Here are a few tips:

In-box Print

Since the exterior of the corrugated box has to satisfy a lot of design guidelines, you may discover that you’re limited on how to distinguish your item from your competitors on Amazon. But with using interior box printing, you get to add brand statements, 6-color printing options, logos, and craft a unique experience of your business for consumers.

Ensure Your Packages are Return-Ready

Over 30% of eCommerce products get returned, and the demand for free and easy returns is increasing.

So take advantage of such consumer demands to ensure that your new eCommerce package design satisfies the FFP guidelines and permits easier returns.

Use self-seal makers for example or corrugated boxes that have 2 strips of tear tape to meet the acceptable product to package ratio and an easy return process.

Designing a return-ready package will also decrease the amount of packaging material that’ll be utilized in the return process, ultimately decreasing costs and over-packing.

Showcase Sustainability

You can show your loyalty to the environment and draw the consumer’s attention to your use of sustainable packaging materials. To take it a step further, use water-based ink in your plastic packaging and films to showcase your sustainability factor.

Conclusion

It’s a fact that Amazon began issuing chargebacks for non-compliant packaging on the 19th of August 2019 and that can’t be changed. However, you can take advantage of the situation to re-evaluate your brand’s packaging process and discover ways to boost sales plus enhance the customer’s unpacking experience.

If keeping up with Amazon’s Frustration-Free packaging guidelines seems daunting, you can always partner with a packaging solutions partner to satisfy Amazon’s requirements.

If you have additional tips, questions, or personal experiences with following the FFP guidelines feel free to share them in the comment section below.