4 steps to adapt to Amazon's Frustration-Free Packaging Program

4 steps to adapt to Amazon's Frustration-Free Packaging Program

Veritiv Packaging | April 12, 2019


Packaging guidelines that improve the unboxing experience, such as Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP) initiative, have been around for years. Up until recently, most e-retailers have treated these programs as recommendations. Now Amazon is turning some of their packaging guidelines into requirements, causing current vendors to quickly find a solution, while setting a new packaging benchmark that may ripple throughout the e-commerce industry.

Effective August 1, 2019, Amazon will require all packages larger than 18”x14”x8” or heavier than 20 lbs. to be certified through the FFP Program. Sellers that get certified before July 31, 2019 will receive a $1 one-time, per-unit credit. Vendors who fail to comply by August 1, 2019, will be charged $1.99 per unit.

Ultimately, Amazon’s FFP Program will benefit all stakeholders:

  • Optimize the unboxing experience by reducing excessive packaging and hard-to-remove security elements
  • Reduce material, labor, warehousing and shipping costs
  • Minimize shipping defects and damages that lead to higher return rates and operational inefficiencies
  • Improve sustainability by encouraging product designs that can efficiently ship in their own container

Many companies look to ISTA 6 testing as a quick fix to meet FFP requirements, but Jim Ollmann, Director of Packaging Testing & Engineering Solutions with Veritiv, says it will take more than that to fully comply and contain costs. “ISTA6 testing is only part of the equation,” he explains. “Brands may need to quickly re-engineer their packaging to meet the requirements so their sales channel costs are not negatively impacted.

If your business sells through Amazon or you’re considering e-commerce channels in the future, keep these four tips in mind to adapt your packaging to meet the FFP requirements and gain a competitive advantage.

  1. Check which ASIN numbered packages must be tested. Your company may have multiple SKUs with different ASIN numbers that share the exact same packaging structures. In most situations, only one ASIN will need to be tested, and the results will carry over to the other ASIN numbers with the same packaging. This means the testing and qualification process could be much simpler than expected.
  2. Prioritize ISTA6 testing based on sales volume. Once you have narrowed down the ASIN numbers that are eligible for Amazon’s incentive offer, complete ISTA6 testing for your best-selling products first. This will provide the greatest opportunity to benefit from the $1 Amazon incentive for products sold prior to August 1, 2019.
  3. Work with a packaging partner in the APASS Network that has multiple capabilities. When you’re ready to test, look for a packaging partner who is a member of the Amazon Packaging Support and Supplier (APASS) Network, a select group of companies that have received guidance on how to meet Amazon’s standards. Better yet, work with an APASS member that offers design and engineering in case your packaging requires modifications to comply with FFP requirements. “As an APASS member with design, testing and distribution resources, Veritiv is uniquely positioned to help customers find the right solutions and execute in a way that balances cost and performance targets,” says James Thebarge, Testing Lab Manager with Veritiv.
  4. Plan for scaling. While today’s needs are top of mind, consider how your packaging will scale as demand changes and your business grows. Ollman explains, “a packaging partner with a national footprint can help consistently deploy your new strategy across your entire enterprise.” These four steps can help your company successfully adapt and stay ahead of the curve before it’s required. “The goal is to minimize the time spent testing and/or developing new certified FFP packages,” says Ollmann. “That way, you can benefit from Amazon’s incentive offer and avoid being surprised on August 1 when the $1.00 incentive offer shifts to a $1.99 chargeback.”