Amazon FBA Inbound Shipment – How It Works and What’s Important
Amazon inbound shipment has become a relevant factor for sellers, but why exactly? Over 80 percent of third-party sellers on Amazon marketplaces use Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). This large number reveals one important thing: Despite all the complaints, the quality of FBA is so outstanding that most merchants prefer to rely on this service rather than build their own logistics. Once an order is placed, receiving, packing, shipping, customer service and returns are all handled by the online giant, while the sellers themselves stay out of the processes altogether.
In this setting, the only thing that Amazon sellers still have to do is to deliver new items to Amazon’s fulfillment centers before they go out of stock. So far, it sounds fairly simple: Send your products to Amazon – sell them – make money. However, sellers have to keep a few things in mind in order to enable a flawless inbound shipment to Amazon.
How to Send Your Shipment to Amazon
Once you have created SKUs in Seller Central and activated “Fulfillment by Amazon” for selected products, it’s time to focus on their shipment to a particular Amazon fulfillment center. The basic requirements for such inbound shipments include a shipping plan, proper packaging of the products and shipping with professional carriers. Amazon indicates that sent goods are usually available for sale within three business days of delivery. However, during peak sales periods such as pre-Christmas, Black Friday Week, etc., it may take longer, which the sellers should keep in mind when planning and managing their inbound shipments to Amazon.
Now how does Amazon FBA inbound shipping work? There are basically 4 options for creating a shipment:
- Send to Amazon: In this simplified workflow, shipments can be created by adding products to the “Send to Amazon” page in Seller Central or uploading a list of products to be shipped as an Excel file. Most small to mid-sized FBA sellers will probably work with this method.
- Send/replenish inventory: This option implies a legacy shipment creation workflow and should be applied in case you would like to use Amazon Global Logistics to ship goods from China.
- Shipping plan file upload tool: Amazon provides a file upload tool that is of particular advantage in the case of medium to large shipments. You can upload a csv.-file of the inventory, and, subsequently, the shipment is created automatically.
- Amazon Marketplace Web Service (MWS): Sellers who use their own inventory systems can integrate them using Amazon API for medium to large shipments.
In general, it is essential for sellers to follow the guidelines of their shipping plan. For example, they should not send goods to other logistics centers than indicated. You can find detailed information here: Sending products to Amazon. If you would like to get an impression of how to send your first shipment to Amazon FBA, you can watch corresponding videos by Amazon Seller University starting with this one: How to Get Started with Amazon FBA and Send Your First FBA Shipment.
|By working with the right partner, merchants can manage their FBA products much more easily than in Seller Central. This also applies to Amazon inbound logistics. The Plentymarkets system, for example, clearly visualizes all relevant steps of the inbound process.|
Amazon Inbound Process: Guidelines Sellers Need to Know
The requirements of the Amazon FBA inventory inbound process range from the right choice of boxes to weight and suitable packing material. In addition, depending on the type of shipment – for example, involving a carrier such as DHL, by truck, etc. – sellers need to pay attention to further guidelines. In the following, we would like to focus on the most important ones.
How to Pack a Shipment Properly
Amazon has clear guidelines as to how shipments to their logistics centers should be packed. of how shipments to a logistics center should be packed. Correct packaging is supposed to make the shipment intake easier and help avoid errors during this process.
In general, sellers should use a rigid, six-sided box with intact flaps. Acceptable standard boxes for inbound shipments to Amazon are regular slotted cartons (RSC), B flutes, ECT-32 (edge crush test), and 200 lb/inch2 (burst strength) boxes. The packing material around each individual item as well as between the items and the box walls should be at least 2 inches thick. In case the products are shipped in the manufacturer’s package, it is not necessary to take note of the 2 inches.
Box Dimensions and Weight
In general, boxes containing several standard-size or oversized items must not exceed 25 inches on any side. Exceeding the 25 inches is only permitted if the box contains items that are longer than 25 inches. Moreover, the boxes must not be heavier than 50 lb. Again, the only exception is if the weight of a single item exceeds 50 lb. In that case, the seller has to attach a label that designates “Team Lift” on the top and sides of the box. For items heavier than 100 lb, the attached labels should indicate “Mechanical Lift”.
Following Amazon FBA inbound shipment requirements regarding both the box dimensions and weight is crucial for Amazon sellers, since contravening the corresponding guidelines may result in blockage of further shipments.
Proper Labeling of Shipments
To facilitate a flawless FBA inbound shipment to Amazon’s fulfillment centers, all shipments have to be labeled properly. The corresponding guidelines include:
- Only one address label containing a complete delivery and return information should be attached;
- Each pallet must have overall 4 FBA Pallet ID labels centered at the top of each side;
- Each box of a shipment must have a unique FBA Box ID label;
- If there are several case packs of the same type in one box, the FBA Box ID label must be attached to the outside of the outer box;
- In the case of reused boxes, any old labels, barcodes, and markings must be removed (e.g. by means of an opaque tape or a black felt-top marker).
In addition, for a flawless Amazon FBA inbound shipping process, all items must have a scannable barcode. This can be manufacturer barcodes (eligible barcodes: UPC, EAN, JAN, and ISBN), Amazon barcodes (e.g. FNSKU) or a transparency authenticity code (for brand owners) to prevent product counterfeiting. More information about the requirements for Amazon inbound shipments can be found here: FBA product barcode requirements and Shipment label requirement.
Further Tips on Packaging
Amazon provides further information about what is considered suitable packing material by the shipping giant. Among others, the tape should be strong and designed for shipping.
Suitable packing materials:
- Bubble Wrap;
- Full sheets of paper (heavy-weight kraft paper is recommended);
- Inflatable air pillows;
- Polyethylene foam sheets.
Not suitable for packing:
- Packing peanuts (e.g. composed of biodegradable material or cornstarch);
- Foam strips;
- Crinkle wrap;
- Shredded paper;
- Thermocol chips;
Finally, to check whether your shipment is packed properly, you can carefully shake the prepared box. In an ideal case, the content does not move.
Avoid Mistakes: How You Shouldn’t Pack
There are a number of rookie mistakes that should be avoided, since many of them are not tolerated or can disturb the inbound shipment intake process of Amazon. These include, for example, the usage of point-of-sale containers that are considered part of the item being sold. Moreover, pallet-sized boxes with a removable lid (so-called “gaylords”) and bundling several boxes together are not allowed. Finally, the box surface must not be provided with strings or straps and over-wrapped with plastic or paper.
What Amazon sellers should additionally keep in mind is that the boxes are often stacked during shipping or in the logistics center. Hence, to avoid damage, it is essential to choose the right box size. If the box is too large, the empty space should be filled with a sufficient amount of packing material.
In general, products should be packed in a way that they are delivered intact and properly prepared to Amazon fulfillment centers facilitating a fast and flawless inbound shipment intake process. You can find detailed information about packaging guidelines here: Packaging and prep requirements.
What’s Inside? Information About the Box Content
Of course, Amazon’s Inbound and Outbound Logistics would like to know in detail what is inside any shipment. In particular, accurate content information should allow the delivered products to pass efficiently through the FBA network and to become available for sale faster. If this information is missing, Amazon will manually collect it when the shipment arrives at the fulfillment center – not for free though. The seller will be charged a per-unit fee of $0.15 from January to October and $0.30 in November and December. Moreover, by not providing accurate information about the box content, the seller does not only slow down the inbound process in Amazon logistics centers – thereby making it more expensive – but also risks getting his or her future shipments blocked.
Sellers should therefore rather choose one of the options available on Amazon. Basically, box content information can be submitted during shipment creation in Seller Central or via the Amazon Marketplace Web Service (MWS). Which method to use depends on the selected workflow for shipment creation.
- Workflow “Send to Amazon”: For multiple boxes with one SKU or multiple units of the same SKU, the information can be added under “create packing template” > “Box content information”.
- Workflow “Send/replenish Inventory”: Here, sellers select “Work on shipment > Shipment packing options” after step 5 of shipment preparation. The information can be provided via the web form, by uploading a file, or using 2D barcodes.
- Workflow “MWS”: All those who use the API for their inbound shipment to Amazon select “CreateInboundShipment” or “UpdateInboundShipment” and set the “IntendedBoxContentsSource” of “InboundShipmentHeader” to “FEED” or “2D_BARCODE”. “NONE” is preset by default, which, however, implies that the seller will be charged a fee for manual processing.
Click here for more information and frequently asked questions around this topic: Provide box content information.
Parcel, truckload or container shipment?
The type of shipment also has an impact on which guidelines sellers have to keep in view during the inbound process at Amazon fulfillment centers.
- Parcel shipments are usually smaller deliveries via a carrier partner such as DHL. You can find detailed information about parcel shipments here.
- Truckloads are suitable for larger deliveries and typically imply the usage of pallets.
- Container shipments are part of maritime freight transport, which is associated with different specific requirements.
Information on truckload and ocean container shipments can be found here:
How to Cancel an FBA Inbound Shipment to Amazon
It may happen that you have already initiated an inbound shipment, but, for some reason, would like to cancel it. To this end, you can click on “Void shipments and charges” at the bottom of the workflow page. Importantly, voiding cannot be applied to individual shipments, but rather will cancel all created shipments. Moreover, all FBA Box ID and carrier labels created for voided shipments can no longer be used.
Whether you will get a refund of charges from Amazon partnered carriers or not depends on the type of shipment and the time-point. If you cancel small parcel shipments within 24 hours after having accepted the shipping settings and charges, you will get a full refund. For pallet shipments, however, you have a timeframe of only one hour, otherwise, you will void the shipment but not the carrier charges.
For more information and frequently asked questions regarding this topic, click here: Send to Amazon: Change or cancel your shipment.
Amazon FBA and Inbound Shipment: Potential Errors
Not everything always goes smoothly. In the first place, errors can occur when shipments are not in line with Amazon’s guidelines. In this case, a lot can go wrong when it comes to shipment intake. According to the Inbound Performance Summary, possible problems include:
- Missing tracking information;
- Missing or incorrect labels;
- Wrong packing material;
- Number of items does not match box content information;
- Damaged products;
- Expiration date of products is exceeded;
- Products that are not allowed for sale;
Sellers can avoid all these errors by carefully studying and following Amazon’s inbound shipment requirements. However, even in case a shipment is prepared perfectly, there are still sources of errors on which the seller has no impact. For example, an error can arise during the shipment processing by Amazon employees.
After Shipment Arrival: Controlling and Reconciliation
Once the shipment has been received at an Amazon logistics center, sellers can and should have a look at the details of the inbound process. For this, they can select “Inventory > Manage FBA Shipments”, go to “Track shipment” in the shipment creation workflow and click on the “Contents” tab. The latter now displays the status of all units received. Any discrepancies between the original shipping plan and actually received content can also be viewed here. If items are missing or damaged after the inbound process at Amazon, there is an option to request an investigation. In case any Amazon FBA inbound shipment is lost during the process, the seller will be refunded the value of the product.
You can view the status column describing the state of each product. The status “Action required” means that there is a discrepancy allowing you to request an investigation. To submit the request, select one of the available options under “Action required”:
- “Units were not shipped”: You confirm that units were not shipped at all or another product was shipped instead.
- “Research missing units”: You confirm that these units were included and ask Amazon to start corresponding investigations.
- “Extra units shipped”: You confirm that extra units were included in the shipment.
- “Investigate excess units”: You confirm that these units were not included in your shipment and ask Amazon to start investigations.
In addition, Amazon often requires further documents, which can be uploaded by clicking on the “Choose file” button and then on the “Upload” button. These documents are supposed to help investigate possible errors during the inbound process at Amazon. Such documents primarily include the proof of inventory ownership (e.g. an invoice from a supplier) and, in the case of truckloads, the proof of delivery (e.g. a bill of lading). Additional information can also help find out the reasons for the discrepancies. In this regard, Amazon suggests:
|Information type example||Description|
|Any known discrepancies||Did you or your supplier ship more or fewer units than you originally expected? Did you or your supplier ship the wrong product?|
|A description of the shipping boxes||Our team does a physical check of the fulfillment center, so information about the color, size, or any distinguishing marks on your shipping boxes can help us find them more quickly.|
|Product codes||Verify the UPC, EAN, or JAN on your products. Does it match the product code shown in Seller Central?|
|Any prep activity that was missed||An item that was not properly prepped before being shipped can cause delays in the receiving process, as we must prep the item for you.|
Afterwards, the seller can preview the request, review the information and finally submit it.
Automatic Analysis of Amazon FBA Inbound Shipment Errors
Instead of digging through tons of shipments and units in Seller Central, marketplace sellers can have their FBA shipments monitored automatically. In particular, sellers with a certain volume of orders and a huge number of SKUs, need to keep their inventory up to date virtually all the time and thus quickly reach their limits in terms of time and staff. At the same time, it is not an option to simply accept that products are damaged or lost at Amazon without receiving a reimbursement. As we all know, nobody wants to burn through money.
With the SellerLogic’s Lost & Found tool, all inbound shipments to Amazon can be monitored and analyzed automatically. For each error found, a separate case, which contains all the necessary information, is created and can be transmitted to Amazon with just a few clicks. The tool even provides the corresponding request texts.
In addition to the above described discrepancies during inbound shipment, the Lost & Found tool identifies Amazon FBA errors of further types, including:
- Items have been damaged or lost in the outbound process;
- Incorrectly calculated FBA fees, e.g. due to incorrect product dimensions;
- Missing returns for which Amazon has initiated a refund to the customer.
These errors cost FBA sellers several thousand dollars a year on average. Lost & Found finds such cases up to 18 months retrospectively.
Conclusion: Inbound Shipment to Amazon
FBA is not as simple as it sounds. Although sellers can send their goods directly to a logistics center, following the guidelines regarding shipment dimensions, packing material, labeling, etc. are quite a challenge. The key here is to be well prepared or to work with professionals.
The same applies to the tracking of corresponding errors. If Amazon is responsible for an error, sellers are entitled to a reimbursement from the online giant, as long as the item is no longer sellable. To create the claims efficiently, sellers should definitely use a professional tool such as SellerLogic Lost & Found.
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