Today, Amazon has more than 175 fulfillment centers in operation, 110 of which operate in North America. In 2019, Amazon shipped 2.5 billion packages across the United States alone, nearly matching the 3 billion packages sent with FedEx. For sellers using the Amazon platform, three types of Amazon fulfillment scenarios exist. Let’s take a quick look at what those are before narrowing our focus to how to meet the standards of products fulfilled by Amazon (FBA).
- FBA (fulfilled by Amazon): The seller outsources their inventory to an Amazon facility where the workers handle storage and customer shipment duties, while Amazon handles all returns, shipping, and customer service duties.
- FBM (fulfilled by merchant): The seller facilitates orders through Amazon’s website but delivers packages themselves, foregoing the use of an Amazon facility and, in the process, losing the advantage of offering customers the benefits of Amazon Prime service.
- SFP (seller fulfilled Prime): The seller ships products directly to Amazon customers using their own facilities. However, unlike with FBM, SFP users become authorized to carry Amazon Prime distinction after demonstrating that they meet Prime standards during a 300 order trial period (i.e., they ship 99% of their orders on time, they adhere to Amazon return policies, they have an order cancellation rate smaller than 0.5 percent, etc.).
With the FBM route, sellers have to fight for customer attention due to the lack of guaranteed free shipping and the absence of Prime customer service. With SFP, sellers need to have access to their own warehouse facilities and maintain strict productivity standards or else risk losing Prime distinction. Consequently, FBA is a very attractive option for companies to benefit from Amazon’s large shipment infrastructure and huge customer base.
Of course, to operate as an FBA seller, you need to adhere to Amazon fulfillment center guidelines. That includes following established package labeling requirements and printing expiration dates for FBA compliance. If these requirements are not met, Amazon may refuse the merchandise, return it to the sender, and impose a fee.
To avoid these penalties, follow these guidelines:
Base Package Labeling Requirements
For FBA sellers, it’s crucial to label shipments in a way that’s optimized for fulfillment center acceptance. Not only is proper labeling needed to ensure that your products are successfully received by the Amazon center, but it also helps your product become available for sale faster.
While certain products, such as pharmaceuticals, will have their own additional requirements, across the board, FBA labels must:
- Have a dimension of 3 1/3 x 4 inches.
- Be placed away from any seams or box openings.
- Prominently feature a return address and delivery address.
- Display both the FBA box ID label (generated through Amazon shipping plans) and the carrier label (UPS, FedEx, etc.) on a flat surface of the packaging.
The FBA box ID will feature a shipment identifying barcode, so it must remain uncovered for full scanability. To place these labels onto your packages, you can either print them out and tape them to the box or use a print and apply labeler for added speed, reliability, and convenience.
If you are packaging products with expiration dates, there is an extra set of labeling considerations that you need to be aware of.
The Basics of Printing Expiration Dates for FBA Compliance
For date-sensitive goods to be accepted at an Amazon fulfillment center, the product must have a remaining shelf life that allows for complete use plus an additional 90 days. Take a box of daily vitamins as an example: if there are 300 servings in the container, the shelf life must be at least 390 days from the date they are accepted at the fulfillment center.
Beyond this baseline requirement, date-sensitive products must also:
- Display the expiration date in 36-point font—or larger—on the master carton (i.e., the larger outer box containing the goods).
- Display the expiration date on each individual unit (lot numbers by themselves are not sufficient).
- Be in the YYYY-MM-DD format, if it is a medical device.
Fulfillment center guidelines also stipulate that shipped boxes cannot hold products that have more than one expiration date. While boxes can hold different products if they all share the same expiration date, you will have to use separate boxes to keep differing date-sensitive goods apart from one another.
How Can the Right Hardware Make FBA Compliance Easier?
Fulfillment by Amazon enables companies to take advantage of the storage capacity, return processing, shipping methods, and overall infrastructure of one of the biggest companies on the planet. However, the partnership only works when a company can successfully abide by the guidelines laid out by Amazon. Fortunately, today’s printing technology can streamline the labeling process, help you avoid incurring delays and fines, and generally make the whole process much easier for you.
For instance, EvoLabel machines can apply labels to cardboard packaging far faster than when done by hand. When printing expiration dates for FBA’s individual unit requirement, thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers can also be immensely helpful. Lightweight and highly mobile, these devices can print on both porous and non-porous substrates, depending on the model. If your operation needs to apply labels or date codes to a wide variety of packaging, directly printing on the product with a handheld TIJ device can make this process easier and more cost-effective.
Here at InkJet, Inc., we have been creating ink and selling printer hardware for nearly 30 years. Our printing experts can help you find the machinery you need to meet FBA requirements with ease, letting you reap the full rewards of partnering with Amazon.
To learn more about package labeling and printing expiration dates for FBA compliance, or for any other questions about printers, labels, or inks, contact InkJet, Inc. today by dialing (800) 280-3245.