How to Prep Private Label Products for FBA & Fulfill Merchant Orders
Some of the most popular questions I get when talking to other Amazon sellers are about how I prep and ship items for both Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and merchant fulfillment network (MFN). In this article, I am going to walk through many of my processes and procedures step-by-step. I want to make sure I set up other Amazon sellers for success as well as answer questions as they relate to these two processes. I have worked very hard to make sure my systems and processes are very simple and duplicatable. I hope you find them helpful in your online selling journey, and I hope this helps clear up any questions you have about FBA prep and MFN shipping.
How do you prepare products for shipping to Amazon?
There are two main things to consider when getting your products ready to send into Amazon FBA: What are Amazon's requirements and what are your requirements? Obviously, your requirements must be at least as strict as Amazon's, but they can also be more strict. I will give you a couple of examples.
The first example I will use is a book. Books are how most small Amazon sellers get started. Books are how I got started selling arbitrage on Amazon. The way it used to be with Amazon is that you could send in books stickered or commingled. Now everything in the book category has to be stickered.
Before this change, I chose to send in all my books as stickered. It would guarantee a person buying one of my books actually received the book I prepped and sent into Amazon's warehouse. This would reduce the number of complaints I would receive about the lack of quality due to another seller's handling of their books and choosing to commingle. Choosing stickered would also ensure I receive any and all compliments for superior quality.
Another example as it relates to books is shrink wrap. Shrinkwrapping is not required by Amazon, however, by choosing to shrink wrap my books, I would ensure the customer received the book in the same condition I shipped it. Shrinkwrapping also protected my FNSKU label preventing it from coming off my book and making it easier to scan once it arrived in the Amazon warehouse.
The second example I will talk about is the packaging. Generally speaking, Amazon will accept your items in whatever packaging they arrive in at their warehouse. What will help set you apart from other sellers and ensure your items arrive at the customer fully intact is packaging them with extra care. This can be done with packing paper or the inflatable airbags that Amazon uses themselves.
A few things to consider when packaging your items for shipping into FBA is how they will be handled and whether or not they will be susceptible to damage in one way or another. Taking extra precautions before sending in your FBA shipment will ensure your items don't get damaged en route to the customer.
One way private label sellers take care of packaging is by having their prep company or manufacturer design and package their items so they don't get damaged in transit. For arbitrage sellers such as retail and online, it is best to keep some type of extra packing around to help protect the items. Especially if you're selling used items.
These are just two of many different things you can do to help prepare your items for shipping to FBA. A couple of other things you can do to make sure your products are properly prepared for shipping into FBA are removing any and all stickers and labels on the products and making sure to cover the product barcode with your FNSKU label.
If you are not selling any kind of arbitrage, then you probably don't need to do much of this, however, prepping your products before sending them into Amazon is necessary regardless of whether you sell private label or arbitrage.
What kind of printer should I use for my FBA labels?
This is a very popular question I get and I get it very often. I started with a Dymo 450 Turbo and quickly upgraded to a Dymo 450 Twin Turbo. I have used a Zebra before, but my favorite printer is the Rollo. The reason I like the Rollo is that it is a stand-alone printer you can use with a tray to keep your labels in. Not creating a tray for the labels reduces the cost of the printer and makes the printer more compact. Another reason I like Rollo so much is that it's fast.
Sometimes people have trouble setting up these printers. The Dymo is pretty easy and mostly plug-and-play. If anything, make sure to download the Dymo Label V.8. This piece of software helps you create almost any type of label and customize them. It won't help you print Amazon labels, shipping labels, or FNSKU labels, but it is very helpful to have in case you need to create an address label or custom barcode.
The Zebra is especially difficult to set up. The one I have experience with is the ZP 500 Plus which is specifically designed for people with a FedEx account. Unfortunately, it is not very user friendly. If you do decide to get this one, you can download the installation guide here.
The Rollo printers are the easiest to set up. If you do have any problems getting it working, you can download the printer driver here. Other than setting up your printer and getting it working the only thing to do now is pick out your labels.
What type of labels should I use for FBA shipments?
This often throws people for a loop. How do I know which labels work for what purpose as they relate to FBA? The number one suggestion I always make is to not use the sheet labels on a traditional printer. Maybe I should have brought this up during the last section, but sheet labels are tedious and cause too many problems. Whatever you do, use one of the printers I recommended or at least the same style.
If you decide to use the Dymo printer, the two types of labels you can use are the 30252's and 30256's. The 30252's are best used for the FNSKU labels and you are usually able to set up the layout and format in whatever software you use to prep & list your items, whether Inventory Lab or TurboLister.
If you decide to use the Rollo printer, you can use just about any label you want. These printers are adjustable and you just need to get the type of labels which stack, unless you have something to support a roll behind the printer.
If you are able to navigate the complexity of the Zebra printer, then I suggest using the 4" x 6" labels, at least for shipping and FBA labels. I am not sure if or which labels you need to use with the Zebra printer for FNSKU labels. As I mentioned before, this printer is a bit more difficult to navigate.
Overall, the labels and printer you use to prep and ship your FBA labels are up to you. I always recommend using whatever is easiest for you. As far as the formatting and printing of the FNSKU labels and shipping labels, this is usually very easy from either Amazon Seller Central or the listing software.
Does UPS provide anything for free for FBA sellers? Yes. Once you set up a UPS business account, UPS offers shipping labels (for standard printing) for free. They also offer smart pickup for a small fee.
How do I prepare and ship items for the Merchant Fulfilled Network?
If you're thinking that some of the things we talked about for FBA apply here, then you are correct. Packing and care going into each item being sent to a customer are important whether it is shipped from Amazon or from you, the seller. There are a few things that are different between shipping merchant fulfilled orders and FBA shipments, though.
One of the main differences is that an FBA shipment will have multiple labels, including an FBA label. Many people may not realize that the FBA receiving label is one of the main reasons every Amazon seller should have a prep company. If you are sending items in from your manufacturer or arbitrage, then you cannot ship directly to Amazon's warehouse. All FBA shipments have to have the FBA receiving label. Merchant fulfilled orders do not require that label.
Another difference between merchant fulfilled shipments and FBA shipments are the quantity. FBA shipments are generally easier because the preparation and packaging to ship into an Amazon warehouse are filled with repetitive tasks. Since merchant fulfilled shipments are only one order at a time, this is not really the case. This does not mean you cannot prep merchant fulfilled orders in advance if you're dealing with large quantities of few SKU's.
One thing I like to do to prepare merchant fulfilled orders is to place the item in a shipping box and have it ready to be sealed. Then when a merchant fulfilled order comes in, I can print the packing slip and shipping label, seal the box, and send the order off. It helps save time and minimizes room for error.
What is the process for shipping orders to Amazon customers?
The basic process is very simple. You will get notified in Seller Central that an order has been placed. The way I normally handle these orders is each morning at the same time. That means if another order comes in after I finish, it usually gets handled and shipped the next day. The reason I do it this way is to minimize confusion and maintain a good count of the current stock and number of orders.
Once you get notified of the orders, you can just click on them in Seller Central. After your current orders are displayed and awaiting shipment, I like to click the checkbox to select them all. From there, I print the packing slips and then click "Buy Shipping". Whether you get cheaper shipping or not is pretty irrelevant, unless you're a very large company. Amazon Buy Shipping allows you to ship orders to customers and not have to deal with the responsibility of lost or damaged orders. If anything happens to the product during shipping, Amazon takes responsibility if you use their "Buy Shipping".
If you have a Shopify or other type of e-commerce website, then I highly recommend Pirate Ship for a shipping solution. Their prices are very competitive and there is an integration for Shopify as well as an import feature for the other e-commerce solutions. I do not recommend using this for Amazon regardless as it adds too many steps to the process and does not offer the same safety and security as Amazon Buy Shipping.
Once you print the packing slip and buy the shipping for your orders, I take both stacks of paper to a table and lay everything out in order. First the product, then the box, then the paperwork. I take whatever quantity is to be shipped and box it up nice and neat. I tuck a packing slip inside the box. Then I put the shipping label on the box, making sure the name on it and the packing slip match, and seal the box.
After all the orders are properly boxed and sealed, I either schedule a pickup or take them to the nearest drop-off. I definitely prefer to use USPS if I am shipping from the house as it is free and easy to schedule a pickup. If there are too many orders, you can tell them to pick them up at your door or inside or leave special instructions. The problem arises when it is around the holidays as they are not required to fulfill those pickups around the holiday season.
For UPS and FedEx, pickups can be scheduled for a fee. Both of these services require a business account in order to schedule a pickup. If all else fails, just take the packages to the nearest drop off and learn to navigate the pickups at a later date. It is more important to get orders and FBA shipments out the door than it is to try and take shortcuts. If your vehicle isn't big enough, get an UberX or hire the kid next door with the pickup truck. This is now about keeping the momentum going than making excuses as to why you can't get orders out the door.
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