Staring September 3, 2019, Amazon will require compliance with updated packaging guidelines: SIOC (Ships in Own Container, or minimum Tier 2) certification for larger products, or retail vendors will receive a $1.99/unit chargeback.  Here’s what you need to know to comply with Amazon’s Packaging Certification Requirements / Frustration Free Packaging Requirements:

As a 1P manufacturer selling on Amazon, you are well-aware of the many compliance guidelines and standards that must be met to utilize its platform … and that they are subject to change! Amazon packaging certification requirements may be complex, but it helps to understand all the related terms and the process for receiving certification.

Since Amazon will begin charging fees associated with non-compliance of Frustration-Free packaging on September 3rd for larger products, it’s important to get the packaging right, and start the process very soon. The testing and certification process can take up to several months, depending on the number of ASINs being certified. 

Although Amazon’s packaging guidelines are admirable from a climate and customer perspective, they may soon create significant headaches and chargebacks for those who weren’t early-adopters in certifying products under Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging

The Basics

Here’s a quick guide to the acronyms and terms you’ll see when navigating this program:  

Which Products Are Affected? 

The Frustration-Free Packaging/Ships in Own Container chargeback is applied only to packaged products that have not been certified as Tier 1 or Tier 2 (FFP or SIOC) and are greater than 18″ x 14″ x 8″ or greater than 20 pounds. The chargebacks will not apply to some product categories, such as the Pet category. However, manufacturers in all categories can watch the progress of this program and presume that something similar down the road may be implemented…so best to get ready now! 

Which Products are Unaffected (for now)?  

The following ASIN classifications are currently unaffected:

  •       ASINs that have any Hazmat classifications (ex. ASINs that include Lithium Ion batteries)
  •       ASINs in Prime Pantry, Amazon Fresh, or media 
  •       ASINs with its longest side less than 9″ or its shortest side less than 0.375″ or its median side less than 6″ (These are the minimum dimensions required to certify as Tier 1-FFP or Tier 2-SIOC).
  •       ASINs that are at least eight months old (i.e. more than eight months from the date the ASIN was set up) and have shipped fewer than 250 units in the trailing twelve months
  •       ASINs that are packaged for shipment to Amazon (ex. master carton) in an orientation that nests or interlocks the individual selling units to maximize freight cube efficiency 
How Much is the Chargeback? 

The chargeback will be $1.99 per unit. To help you estimate the cost of the impending charge until certification is received, Amazon has been assessing SIOC chargebacks (in waived status) to indicate which ASINs are impacted.  To see what your fees are likely to be, go to the general operational performance tab in Vendor Central and click on the SIOC tile. You can see detail into the chargeback data under the “view defect list” under “Total Chargebacks” on the operational performance tab in Vendor Central (example below).

Once you’re in the detail page, filter by chargeback type – SIOC and click “apply” (see below).

Why is Amazon doing this?  

Amazon Packaging Certification requirements are necessary because, in Amazon’s own word, the mission is “to optimize the overall customer experience by collaborating with manufacturers worldwide to invent sustainable packaging that delights customers, eliminates waste, and ensures products arrive intact and undamaged.” 

In addition to addressing environmental issues and improving the customer experience, Amazon is continually working to reduce prep and shipping costs. Overboxing items is expensive, in both labor and materials. Also, this could help Amazon fit more packages in a truck, which equates to a supply chain efficiency boost.   

Amazon has three levels of packaging certification for its vendors: 

Tier 1: Certified as FPP – Frustration-Free Packaging  

  •       No overbox required 
  •       Minimal damage/defect rates 
  •       No Amazon prep required 
  •       Easy open for the customer 
  •       Minimal packaging 
  •       Curbside recyclable packaging materials 

Tier 2: Certified as SIOC – Ships in Own Container 

  •       No overbox required 
  •       Minimal damage/defect rates 
  •       No Amazon prep required 

Tier 3: Certified as PFP – Prep-Free Packaging 

  •       Overbox is required 
  •       No Amazon prep required 
  •       Minimal damage/defect rates 

Note that product packaging smaller than the minimum dimensions of 9” long, 6” wide, and 0.375 high can only qualify for Tier 3 as it will require an Amazon overbox. Additionally, Hazmat classified products will not be eligible for any level of certification. 

The ultimate goal for vendors is to achieve Tier 1 certification. Although, items certified at Tier 2 will avoid the SIOC chargeback as well.

Refer to these official guidelines to find Amazon’s definitions and parameters for each requirement.  

Steps to Follow for Certification 

1. Testing 

To achieve certification at any of the levels, your primary ASINs must be tested with a third-party ISTA certified lab or APASS Lab according to desired Tier. For Tier 1 and Tier 2 testing, the ISTA6-Amazon (SIOC) test must be performed. For Tier 3 certification, the INSTA6-Amazon.com overboxing test method must be performed.  

After testing, you must submit the resulting ISTA6 packaging test report along with the enrollment and certification process through Vendor Central.  

Refer to this Amazon testing page to ensure that you are employing the correct test methods and report templates, which vary depending on weight and dimensions of the packaged product. This page also has an extensive video library illustrating the different test methods.  

2. Enroll and Certify 

Once testing is complete, enroll and certify your ASINs, following the process that is specified in this document. Note that the previous Amazon Packaging Certification enrollment portal is no longer operational. To enroll and certify your ASINs, you must now use the “Contact Us” function under “Support” in Vendor Central.

Primary ASINs must be individually certified, but secondary ASINs can be bulk certified. Secondary ASINs are those that retain the primary ASIN’s same shape, packaging design, material composition and have very similar sizing. See the form-factor certification rules for determining primary versus secondary ASINs. Each primary ASIN being enrolled needs its own enrollment template submission. 

3. Redesign, if necessary 

If you are unable to achieve packaging ISTA-6certification, you may want to consider a packaging redesign to comply and certify. This Amazon packaging design page and the APASS network should be helpful.  

Additional Tips 

If you haven’t already started working towards compliance, start now!  This process could take a while, and in the meantime, you’ll soon start incurring chargebacks.

Don’t attempt to short-cut the process. You must follow Amazon’s enrollment requirements properly. For example, use the required template for enrolling each primary ASIN (follow the example shown on the second tab of the spreadsheet). Amazon has even published very specific requirements for the naming convention when saving the enrollment template.  

Use Amazon’s published videos designed to help you with the process:  

          Walkthrough of the Vendor Enrollment Template

          Completion of the Vendor Enrollment Template for testing and certification 

          Vendor Enrollment ASIN detail assistance

          Packaging test method videos can be found when you scroll to the bottom of this page

It’s likely that this program will eventually be rolled out for almost every vendor on Amazon. For any future product launches where Amazon may be a sales channel, FFP/SIOC requirements must be evaluated.

Ideoclick is here to help. Contact your Ideoclick Client Success Manager if you have additional questions. If you aren’t a client, contact us to learn more about how we provide the full spectrum of operational and marketing services to build brand velocity on Amazon.