Who knew that opening a package can matter this much? It has to matter because we all are fond of online shopping. We are talking about - Frustration-Free Packaging- we will discover what it is and significant aspects related to it.
What Is Frustration-Free Packaging?
Quick rewind first. Amazon launched its FFP (Frustration Free Packaging) program during November 2008. This initiative aimed to make it easy for customers to take out products from their packages.
Ever since then Amazon has applied thousands of ways to redesign packaging as Frustration-free, and have received positive feedback. Frustration-free packaging includes multiple sustainable packaging initiatives such as the following:
- Optimizing selection of boxes,
- Moving small items from boxes to flexible mailers,
- Launching fully recyclable mailers,
- Working with global vendor partners to develop ready-to-ship packaging.
You would be amazed to know but altogether this initiative has been successful in eliminating 244,000 tons of packaging material. In 2017 alone because of this particular initiative 305 million shipping boxes.
According to Amazon, Frustration-free packaging was created for customers. Making it easy to liberate products from their packaging and reducing waste. In 2008, the program was launched with only 19 worst offenders that included hard plastic cases known as “clamshells” which are commonly used in toy packaging. Fisher-price was the first brand to launch the packaging. The following example highlights how Fisher-Price designed a Frustration-Free packaging option for their product.
According to Fast Company, 165 billion packages are shipped in the U.S. every single year, with cardboard use equating to more than 1 billion trees! The truth is, as online shopping grows, so will our environmental impact—unless we change the way eCommerce is shipping goods soon.
What is the “Idea” Behind Frustration-Free Packaging?
The main ideology behind the FFP initiative is to offer optimal packaging experience by providing the following to the customers:
- Low Waste
Now we have learned what Frustration-Free packaging is, now let us move on to the next step.
Benefits of Frustration-Free Packaging
The major benefit of FFP is a guaranteed Amazon Buy Box Ownership, and increased Conversion percentage. FFP requires a separate ASIN to be created against the original product listing. Other sellers are restricted against the new FFP ASIN unless they go through the certification process themselves.
1. Reduction or Removal of Amazon’s Prep Chargebacks
When an ASIN is certified as FFP, Ships in Own Container (SIOC), or Prep Free Packaging (PFP), Amazon ensures your ASIN will not face any additional preparations. By this Amazon offers vendors the opportunity to avoid or remove prep chargebacks.
2. Chance to reduce package costs Standard retail packaging is designed to grab a customer's attention with marketing such as- full-color glossy printing, oversized to gain more shelf presence. Such costly features are not significant for the Amazon channel. Brands can reduce waste and costs related to packaging and simultaneously to improve sustainability. When packaging is optimized, it ultimately cuts off unnecessary marketing features and helps reduce waste.
3. Chance to cut down inbound transportation cost When product packaging is optimized, the package fits the total supply chain. Small packages decrease transportation costs (more units per pallet/truck/container). And as a matter of fact, shipment to the actual customer costs less, which leads to savings for both the vendor and Amazon.
4. FFP provides easy-to-open packages
Frustration-Free packaging makes the opening packaging experience better. How? There is no hardwiring and plastic wrapping that is difficult to open and may create a poor customer experience.
5. Free Vine Enrollment Along with FFP, you will get Vine enrollment, Amazon Vine is a program that enables a particular group of customers to post opinions about new and pre-release items to help customers make educated purchase decisions. Amazon will waive the Vine enrollment fee for each new FFP ASIN. Each Vendor is allowed a maximum of 25 free Vine credits per calendar year.
6. Give ‘More’ Option to the Buyer It all comes down to one thing- CUSTOMER SATISFACTION. This is what Amazon and sellers are chasing. When customers are happy, your business grows. Another thing just because you are FFP eligible, it certainly does not mean that Amazon will automatically ship your products in a 100 % recycled box. As such, your buyers will have more options to choose from, simple.
They can decide whether they want FFP or standard packaging. On the other hand, trends indicate that more and more buyers can tend to choose the frustration-free packaging if they are given this option, due to the effortless opening and the reduction of the packaging waste. 7. Reduces Shipping Accidents The frustration-free packaging is lighter in weight, this feature makes it easier to handle. Easier to handle- fewer responsibilities of accidents during the shipping. Furthermore, the package also holds the item securely, preventing any damage during transition. This ultimately means fewer risks of getting complaints or negative feedback due to poor shipping.
Even with these amazing benefits, there continues to be only a small number of sellers who have adopted FFP. Do we wonder what might be causing companies to opt-out of this sustainable option? Here are a few potential reasons with counter-arguments:
- Brand quality: Packaging is a unique brand differentiator. Some brands may fear that by using Frustration-Free Packaging, they may create the appearance of low brand quality. (PS) Note: As a matter of fact, sellers can design their packaging of course within all guidelines.
- Product protection: Few brands may have a product that is fragile or tends to get destroyed during the shipping. Brands might be fearing that FFP simplifies packaging a bit too much and it will not protect your product en route
- Certification: Amazon Sellers have to initiate FFP and go through the certification process. For some brands, it can be a lot of time-consuming to design new packaging and hit drop tests.
Challenges Involved in the Frustration-Free Packaging
One of the main challenges in the process of Frustration-Free packaging is the lengthy development process. Amazon lab tests a product before determining certification and also provides an average timeframe of 10 days for the lab test certification. The product-to- package ratio must be greater than 30% and 50% for fragile and non-fragile products. For FFP packaging the ration must be according to the said percentage.
When would FFP enrollment be suitable?
There is no doubt in saying that this program would put pressure on Amazon sellers. The following are suitable situations under which you should apply for enrollment.
- Apply for enrollment when your brand has the ability and budget to create new custom packaging for its Amazon channel.
- If your brand is ready to commit internal resources to meet the specific requirements for FFP enrolment.
- Products that are manufactured over 9” x 6” x 0.375”
- Products which are not HAZMAT
What are the FFP Certification Requirements?
There are 5 to 6 requirements that are significant for FFP requirements. Read below to learn about the details of all the requirements.
1. Packaging Construction
A product packaging should be a firm 6-sided rectangular shape. It should be capable enough to survive a single delivery or LTL (Less-than-Truckload) shipping.
Following are the other requirements of packaging construction;
- Rigid envelopes,
- Padded mailers,
- Corrugated cartons,
- Package panel should be free & flat of protrusions, cut-outs, and windows,
- Hand holes cannot exceed a dimension of 3 x 1.5 inches with 1.5 inches as a radius.
2. Minimum Dimensions for Packaging
Another important thing to keep in mind is that the packaging should be able to meet a minimum dimension. Any product package with a dimension smaller when compared to the ones mentioned below can qualify for PFP- Tier 3, as it requires extra over boxing from Amazon.
3. Package Sealing Every open edge of a package should be sealed properly to make sure that the product is protected until it reaches the fulfillment center and the customer. A staple is not permitted as a method of sealing but is allowed on the manufacturer’s glue joint. Keep in mind that the locking tabs should also be sealed well with tape or glue. For an oversized product, non-metal bands or straps are allowed to give structural integrity to an outer shipper, ensuring that straps are fitted around the package.
4. Identification Labeling & Package Printing Product package labeling and marking should include contents as well as communicate handling instructions. Certified packages should also follow carton marking and labeling requirements written in the transportation manual and the shipment prep.
5. HAZMAT Certified Product Amazon does not offer certification for HAZMAT items (ASINs with UN numbers) or if the package has transportation regulated markings or symbols. 6. Product-to-Packaging Ratio The formula to create product-to-packaging ration is shown in the following image;
|Box Utilisation Score =||1080/1760 = 61%|
- Low Waste
- The packaging material should be a 100 percent “recyclable”
- Marking such as a recycled content statement or please recycle is recommended
- A shipper should be apt-sized to fit the content but should not exceed 2.0 inches of packaging materials
How to Enroll?
- Create a new ASIN.
- Complete an ISTA6 packaging test report from an ISTA certified third-party testing lab.
- Enroll ASIN and test report via case.
Why Should Vendors Care About the Frustration-Free Packaging?
There is no doubt in saying that Amazon is seriously taking Frustration-Free Packaging, it indicates that Amazon wants to improve packaging across its platform. Brands who ignore such requirements can be subjected to chargebacks and can face other consequences.
What Products Have Been So Affected till Now?
Amazon’s Ships in Own Container/ Frustration-Free Packaging chargeback has been applied to products- below mentioned:
- Products that have not been certified as Tier 1/Tier 2 (SIOC or FFP)
- Exceed 20 lbs or 18 inches x 14 inches x 8 inches.
The chargebacks do not apply to certain product categories such as ‘Pets’. But as an Amazon seller, you should be updated with the policies to make sure that you are going on the right track and do not call for unwanted problems.
What Products that Have ‘Not’ Been Affected?
The ASINs that are unaffected currently include:
- ASINs coming under Amazon Fresh, media, and Prime Pantry.
- ASINs, which have Hazmat classifications (the ones with Lithium-Ion batteries).
- ASINs with the longest side less than 9 inches or the shortest side less than 0.375 inches or its median is less than 6 inches.
- ASINs, which are 8 months old in minimum and have shipped 250 units or even less in the last 12 months.
Amazon Packaging Certification Guidelines
1. Envelopes For thin items and documents, envelopes are allowed by Amazon. To improve the sorting process during the distribution cycle, envelopes cannot be plain (or unbleached) paperboard. For an envelope to accommodate its shipping label, it must meet a minimum size requirement.
- United States: An envelope’s dimension should be larger than 6.5 inches x 4.5 inches x 0.375 inches.
- Europe: An envelope’s dimension should be larger than 7.7 inches x 4.9 inches x 0.63 inches.
- Japan: An envelope’s dimension should be larger than 10.24 inches x 7.8 inches.
- China: An envelope’s dimension should be larger than 6.5 inches x 4.5 inches x 0.375 inches.
2. SIOC (Ships In Own Container)
A package that ships to a customer without any additional packaging is classified under SIOC. A package which ships SIOC might experience different levels of cosmetic damage because it moves through distribution cycles.
3. Package Shape
A package must be easy to handle for Amazon’s team to stack, store, transport, and ship. Amazon recommends rectangular-shaped product packaging with squared corners.
Frustration-Free VS. Standard Packaging
Sellers are confused about whether they should opt for FFP or not. They are quite satisfied with the older version- Standard packaging. We thought why not give you guys an insight so that you can make a wise decision, that is why we brought you some main differences, check out the following:
- Package volume: Okay, so the first thing customers will notice after getting a frustration-free package is the volume of the parcel. Because FFP does not contain useless components, it is much smaller and lighter than the standard packaging. Due to its smaller size, the shipping costs are cheaper, so clients are more incentive to pick this type of box.
- Package components: Regardless of what the size of the package is, the main thing your clients will appreciate is the “easy access” of it. They no longer have to struggle to open one box after box. There will be no unnecessary package components that will get tossed in the trash. Indeed, while standard packaging may have up to 24 components, its FFP counterpart usually has only 4! See the difference, amazing.
Package costs: Thanks to its lower volume, fewer components, and lower cost materials, the frustration-free packaging is more cost-effective. A great choice for both your business and your customers.
Final Thoughts on Frustration-Free Packaging
Yes, the FFP reduces human efforts, saves time, packaging material, cost, and ultimately the environmental impact. The situation points to the application of FFP as the need of the hour. With millions of tons of packaging waste contributing to landfills every single year, a step towards a sustainable solution is worth appreciation.
Amazon is the “leading brand” in the eCommerce world and it has certain responsibilities too. They are on a mission to optimize the customers' experience by collaborating with all the manufacturers worldwide and creating sustainable packaging, which eliminates waste, offers protection, and delights customers (which is super cool for sellers as well).
It all begins with an idea to reduce- and an idea like this can shape the whole online shopping experience. The packaging material, which leads to the reduction in packaging logistics, shipping, recycling, waste disposal, and hence the overall carbon footprint, yes, the frustration-free packaging is pocket-friendly too!