Frustration-Free Packaging: An [Updated] Guide for Amazon Sellers in 2020
Article by: Kyle Olson
Amazon is now reducing the dimensions for oversize/non sort items to be exempted from SIOC. Right now, if any one side is smaller than the 9” x 6” x 0.375”, it does not need SIOC even if the other dimensions are above 18” x 14” x 8”. The new rule is reducing the exemption (minimum SIOC dimensions) to 6” x 4” x 0.375”, so items that were previously exempt may no longer be. Here’s a message from Amazon:
“We are making a reduction in the qualifying package dimensions for a product to require certification as Tier 1 – Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP) or Tier 2 – Ships in Own Container (SIOC). Effective February 1, 2020, with a grace period until August 1, 2020, the minimum package dimensions that require certification of an ASIN as FFP or SIOC are 6″ x 4″ x 0.375″ (previously 9” x 6” x 0.375”). Any non-sort packaged item that is fulfilled through Amazon’s fulfillment network with any one or more of its dimensions less than 6 inches on it longest side, or less than 4 inches on its median side, or less than 0.375 inches on its shortest side is excluded from the SIOC chargeback.”
“If you ship your products in a small and thin package (longest side <6”, shortest side <0.375” or median side <4”), you don’t need to do anything at this time. However, if your package exceeds any of these limits on any side and is fulfilled in Amazon’s non-sort network, you must certify it as FFP (Tier 1) or SIOC (Tier 2), which was introduced in September 3, 2019.”
Amazon requires any product (a) larger than 18″ x 14″ x 8” and/or (b) weighing 20 lbs or more to be “designed and certified as ready-to-ship within Tier 1 (FFP) or Tier 2 (SIOC) of their Frustration-Free Packaging program.” The initiative is designed to reduce packaging waste and improve the unboxing experience for customers.
So what does Frustration-Free Packaging mean to sellers on Amazon?
And how do you go about making sure that your products are compliant?
We’ll answer these questions and many more in the guide below. Sit tight.
What is Frustration-Free Packaging?
Frustration-Free Packaging is that which is specifically designed to be unpacked without the hassle and generates minimal waste. Amazon deems the packaging “a critical component of providing a great customer experience and an important part of the sustainability mission at Amazon.”
Amazon first rolled out the Frustration Free Packaging program in 2008 to raise packaging standards for select brands. Since that time, the program has grown in scale and is now being extended to more products sold throughout Amazon by both 1P Vendors and 3P Sellers.
Why Should Vendors and Sellers Care?
The widespread rollout of Frustration-Free Packaging requirements indicates that Amazon is serious about improving packaging across their platform. Brands who ignore the requirements could be subject to chargebacks and other consequences which can stifle business. Taking care of product certifications early can be is best, especially as crucial high-traffic events approach. Additionally, participation in programs like Amazon Vine may be contingent upon product certification.
Other potential perks of the Frustration-Free Packaging program include:
- Decreases in packaging and shipping costs
- Happier customers and, thus, better reviews
- More environmentally sustainable footprint
- Greater Amazon search relevancy
- Additional messaging on product detail pages
- Much more…
What are the Packaging Requirements?
There are three certification tiers to Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging program:
- Tier 1 | FFP (Frustration-Free Packaging)
- Tier 2 | SIOC (Ships in Own Container)
- Tier 3 | PFP (Prep-Free Packaging)
If you product is (a) larger than 18″ x 14″ x 8” and/or (b) weighs 20 lbs or more, it must be designed and certified as Tier 1 (FFP) or Tier 2 (SIOC) within the program. Here are the requirements for each tier:
Tier 1 (FFP) Requirement: Easy to Open
According to Amazon, to qualify as easy-to-open “all contents of a package must be removable within 120 seconds” and require minimal use of cutting tools like scissors and/or box cutters. Additionally, packages with “blister packs, plastic inserts, packaging peanuts, shredded paper, or welded clam shells” are prohibited.
Tier 1 (FFP) Requirement: Recyclable Packaging
To qualify for Tier 1 (FFP), packages must be made of 100% curbside recyclable materials and be in compliance with all applicable packaging laws. Amazon lists the accepted materials as: “corrugated and other paper-based materials and/or plastic components marked with SPI codes 1 (PET), 2 (HDPE), and 5 (PP).”
Amazon notes that “printing and/or treatments must not affect recyclability of the package.” Plastic bags and twist ties are subject to more specific requirements outlined in Amazon’s full FFP document available here. Silica gel bags and plastic films that maintain product freshness are permitted.
Tier 1 & 2 (FFP) (SIOC) Requirement: Minimal Packaging
Amazon determines minimal packaging by “Box-Utilization Score,” a number achieved by calculating a product-to-package ratio (or the volume of the product, divided by the total volume of the packaging). The Box-Utilization Score must be “greater than 30% and 50% for fragile and non-fragile products”, respectively for Tier 1 (FFP) and Tier 2 (SIOC).
According to Amazon, fragile products include but are not limited to items containing:
- Glass, ceramic/porcelain/clay
- Liquid/semi-liquids; Solids that can become liquid at temperatures experienced during the distribution cycle (above 70°F or 21.1°C).
- Electronics easily damaged when dropped from 18 in. or 45.7 cm. without packaging.
Other Requirements and More Details:
For more specialized requirements and an outline of certification, look here.
How Do I Certify My Products?
To certify products in the Frustration-Free Packaging program, 1P Vendors and 3P Sellers must test the qualification of their product packaging with a third-party ISTA certified lab and submit the results to Amazon directly. However, prior to testing, it is important to “ensure you have performed the appropriate ISTA 6-Amazon.com test method and are confident that your product will pass.”
Amazon stresses that lab testing is only appropriate as a final step after already independently verifying that products meet packaging requirements. A list of third-party labs certified by ISTA to perform the appropriate tests methods has been provided by Amazon and can be viewed here.
Once a product receives a passing test report, it can be submitted through the Contact Us portal within Vendor Central and Seller Central. Products must be ready to be shipped immediately upon approval or risk losing certification. Every submission and approval should be tracked to ensure proper catalog coverage.
Amazon outlines the certification process along with program case studies here.
Final Thoughts on Frustration-Free Packaging:
Completing certification for Frustration-Free Packaging can seem confusing but as long as you follow the steps outlined above you will be able to take advantage of the benefits of easier-to-open and environmentally-friendly packaging. For more information, reach out to the team at Orca Pacific.