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Why You Need Prep Services More Than Ever

Recently, correspondence went out to all FBA sellers alerting them about the new requirement to itemize the contents of boxes that are sent to the fulfillment centers.

Nothing stops a flow of shipment preparation like having to list exactly what is in each box, especially when you have more than say, 50 varied items in your shipment.  However, this is exactly what Amazon is asking it’s sellers to do, and there’s only a couple more months left until this change becomes mandatory.

First, The Benefits

Knowing what is in each of your boxes is a tedious process, but it helps you account for each item in your shipment and minimize loss.  Also, in the event that a box goes missing, you will know exactly what didn’t get delivered and use that info to facilitate getting reimbursed (if you use Amazon-partnered carriers when you ship, as we recommend everyone do).  We’ve seen this happen many times, and knowing the box contents has helped us pinpoint exactly what SKUs we needed to be compensated for.

Also (theoretically speaking, of course), the box contents should help the fulfillment center associates get accurate counts of what’s in the boxes, minimizing extra units being found, or not enough units being counted (if you haven’t had this happen to you, you’re one of the lucky ones). Not having to “acknowledge” more units send in than listed or submitting an investigation to find units you know you shipped is time you can spend doing something else.  And being able to speed through the receiving process should hopefully help your items be available for sale much quicker.

The (Obvious) Drawbacks

Time.  I really don’t need to write a paragraph on this.  However, if I were to add an additional drawback, the overwhelming choice would be sanity.

What Can You Do

Now that we know the deadline is on the horizon, what can be done to make things easier?

  1. Ship sooner.  The 4th Quarter begins October 1, so why not get ahead of the season by getting most of your shipments out earlier?  This way, they are in the warehouses and available for sale when the Christmas rush hits, and you won’t be losing any profits due to last-minute delays.  This is one thing that should be done regardless of the new rules that are being implemented.
  2. Use the web form in Seller Central.  This may be the most tedious way to enter information, but there are ways to make it simpler.  When packing your boxes, try to make the box contents & box attributes identical, so that there’s less information to enter on the form.  Having 5 boxes with identical weights & dimensions is much more efficient than having 5 boxes with different products that all have to be individually listed.
  3. Upload an Excel file.  This option is great if your shipments usually consist of the same products each time.  However, if you  never know what you are going to ship on any given day, this can become more tedious than using the form provided when you create your shipment in Seller Central.
  4. Use 2D bar codes.  For this, you will need a separate application or website to construct and print these bar codes.  This is most effective for large organizations that already have these processes integrated into their work flow.  You can elect to employ this step, but it still adds time to your total preparation.
  5. Cry, pout, yell, scream, and/or Do nothing.  This is by far the easiest choice, and one that will undoubtedly be adopted by many, many sellers, either on purpose or inadvertently.  However, beginning November 1, 2016, Amazon will begin charging a 15¢ per unit fee to manually process your products (this fee is reduced to 10¢ for items received January through October of each year).
  6. Completely opt-out of shipment preparation.  In many cases, this may turn out to be the smartest choice.  For just a few cents more than the regular Amazon manual processing charges, Profit Gopher can receive, inspect, label, box, and ship your items to the Amazon fulfillment centers.  Since your time is money, letting us do the heavy lifting can free you to do more things, such as counting your money!  🙂

Like it or not, listing box content information is here to stay.  Whichever method you choose, make sure it’s one that you are comfortable growing with, and will be a seamless integration into your current workflow.

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