Amazon Vendor Central Business Value
Amazon Frustration Free Packaging
Section 2: Certification Testing
Transit Testing for Certification Packaging
• So, what exactly are the tests that are done for transporting your product in the correct and approved packaging.
• Well, Amazon says that “tests must be conducted according to the International Safe Transit Association test methods: ISTA 6-Amazon.com (SIOC) used for Tier 1 (FFP) and Tier 2 (SIOC) testing, or ISTA 6-Amazon.com Over-Boxing method used for Tier 3 (PFP).
• These ISTA 6-Amazon.com tests were developed by ISTA in cooperation with Amazon and have been designed as simulations that challenge the capability of the package and product to withstand common transport conditions.”
• In short, what this means, is that Amazon and ISTA will drop your packaged product, toss it around a bit, et cetera to ensure that the packaging holds up and your product doesn’t get broken or damaged in the process.
• The two test methods mentioned beforehand are summarised even further as follows:
* Project 6-AMAZON.COM-SIOC, Ships in Own Container (SIOC) for Amazon.com Distribution System Shipment – Project 6-AMAZON.COM is a general simulation test for “Ships In Own Container” (SIOC) packaged-products shipped through Amazon’s distribution system to final customer destinations. This test is for packaged-products shipped by Vendors to Amazon.com Fulfillment Centers and delivered to final customer destinations via Parcel or Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) outbound shipment methods. It challenges the capability of both package and product to withstand transport hazards normally encountered during handling and transportation. Amazon.com Vendors with items intended to utilize Ships In Own Container (SIOC) are encouraged to use this test to understand the protective performance of their packaging. 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.
* Project 6-AMAZON.COM-Over Boxing, e-Commerce Fulfillment for Parcel Delivery Shipment – Project 6-Amazon.com-Over Boxing is a general simulation test for e-Commerce fulfillment. In comparison to items ready to ship in its own packaging (Test Project 6-Amazon.com- SIOC), this kind of e-Commerce fulfillment comprises an individual retail packaged-product weighing 70 pounds (32 kilograms) or less being placed into a master shipping container (Over Box) either by itself with the addition of dunnage(air pillows, etc.) or with multiple individual retail packaged-products with dunnage for shipment from Amazon.com to an end consumer through a parcel delivery system. This test challenges the packaging and/or products, whether primary package or transport package, ability to withstand the general damage-producing motions, forces, conditions, and sequences of this environment.
• Now, we will be going through each of these two documents in more detail in the coming section, but for now, another thing for you to bear in mind are the Package Size Categories.
• Packaging testing varies depending on the size of the item being tested.
• Packages within Amazon are separated into three categories based on dimensions and weight per region: OVERSIZED, STANDARD, and TIER 3 (PFP).
• Let’s look at the chart Amazon provides for us so we can see what they mean:
Certification Testing Success Criteria
• Before we get into the nitty gritty in the next section, how does Amazon measure success on these tests? Well, let’s look briefly at their success criteria.
Designing Your Packaging
• We know that more details will come out when we review the ISTA 6-Amazon.com (SIOC) used for Tier 1 (FFP) and Tier 2 (SIOC) testing, or ISTA 6-Amazon.com Over-Boxing method used for Tier 3 (PFP) Test Method documents in the next section, but let’s get you started with some pointers on how to design your packaging for Amazon, especially if it has to undergo any of these tests at an ISTA lab to get certified in order to avoid chargebacks.
• Let’s start with what materials you can use to make your product packaging out of and some other requirements:
* Your Product Packaging must be 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;
* Packaging can be rigid envelopes or padded mailers;
* Packaging can be rigid 6 sided rectangular corrugated containers;
* It must obviously pass the Amazon’s ISTA-6 SIOC test or the ISTA-6 over-boxing test;
* You can only use plastic films with SPA codes 2 and 4 if the item needs dust and abrasion protection; and
* You can use barrier bags/film, and silica gel as an alternative for maintaining freshness and quality.
• Amazon does not accept the following packaging as they are amongst the least sustainable and most frustrating packaging for consumers to open:
* Twist ties or wire ties;
* Bundling of multiple packages; and
• And while we’re on the subject of packaging that causes too difficult or problematic or time consuming for the customer to open, resulting in some severe frustration their side, what does constitute an easy-to-open package then?
• 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.
• Wow! Less than two minutes does seem fair though.
• Amazon does allow the following for your packaging though:
* Non-metal bands or straps that tightly fit around oversized items;
* Sealing looking tabs with tape or glue; and
* Labeling and printing must detail handling instructions, indicate contents and adhere to the requirements stated in the Vendor Central shipment manual.
• Then, of course, Amazon does not want your product drowning in packaging, literally rolling around in a vast box because the packaging is too large for the product.
• This brings us to Amazon’s Acceptable Product to Package Ratio.
• As we know, 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%; and
* Fragile Items must have a score above 30%.
• And this is a table of the product to package ratio requirement:
• Look, we get it. What a lot of work and things to adhere to but there are some really great pros to redesigning your packaging for the items you sell on Amazon, especially when making it more eCommerce suitable, such as:
* Boosting your branding by focusing your resources for a more sustainable packaging;
* Discovering new expense cut-downs by “rightsizing” your packaging design around your product, eliminating erroneous shipping costs due to dimensional weight shipping and reducing waste;
* Increasing consumer experience by removing “wrap rage” and designing a more user-friendly design that’s easy to open; and
* Growing sales by satisfying the expectations of eco-conscious consumers.
• Now, we get that Amazon has all these acceptable packaging requirements but this is the chance for you to stand out on the massive eCommerce platform. Let’s give you some ideas.
* 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 – yeah, we figured you hadn’t thought of this. 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.
Starting the Packaging Certification Process
• Before we jump into the details of all of this, we just want to outline the basic steps to this entire packaging certification process so that it doesn’t seem so daunting when we’re wading through the nitty-gritty.
• You can always step back and look at these steps so you can see it’s just a few steps really.
• We’ll list them for easier reference:
1. Look through the ISTA6-SIOC or ISTA6-OB Overview Documents to determine which product type or types your product packaging falls under and which tests they would undergo;
2. Select the Parent ASIN for each of your products;
3. Design the packaging that will beat the tests for your product type, or amend your current packaging so that it will pass these tests successfully;
4. Contact an ISTA Lab (we’ll explain how to do this in the next section) and book your products in for testing;
5. Ship your packaged products off to the lab and await the results of the tests;
6. Upon completion of the testing, you will receive the ISTA 6 Report from the lab for each of your products;
7. If you have failed, go back to step 3.
8. If you have passed, complete the Vendor Enrollment Form (which we will go through in the last section of this course);
9. Contact Amazon and submit the ISTA 6 Test Reports and your Vendor Enrollment Form.