If you’re an Amazon FBA seller, expanding your customer base to more countries is a yellow-brick road to business growth. But it’s a path with some challenges and a weed or two growing up through the cracks.
To succeed using Amazon global selling, your packaging, documentation, and oversight need to comply with:
- Amazon FBA guidelines on products, packaging, and labeling,
- Export regulations in the country of origin,
- Import regulations in the destination country,
- And contractual requirements from your domestic and international freight providers.
Let’s take a look at the top seven guidelines to follow when sending your FBA goods to a foreign Amazon warehouse.
#1 Ship Permitted Goods
First things first:
—it’s important to know what products you can and can’t ship across borders. Things like ceramics, alcohols, textiles, and even toys might be on the destination nation’s no-fly list. So while your homemade absinthe-infused bonbons might be a local legend, they might also get you in serious trouble if you try to sell and ship them overseas. It’s your responsibility to know what’s permitted and what’s not.
While you’re likely already familiar with Amazon’s restricted products list within your country, global sellers need to:
- Consult the restricted products list of the new target Amazon marketplace,
- Check on your country’s export limits for goods,
- And research any import restrictions by product type for the destination country you plan on sending your FBA shipment to.
Additionally, find out if your products require special preparation or handling in the new jurisdiction, such as:
- Product testing,
- Warning labels,
- And/or Laboratory certification.
#2 Pack Them With Care
Packaging for Amazon FBA goods across borders is critical to both customs clearance and warehouse acceptance. Each internal product unit needs to be ready to send out to a buyer using Amazon’s warehouse storage and selection processes.
To have your goods accepted at arrival, they need to comply with both external and internal packaging guidelines, including:
- FNSKU label for each unit – A unique barcode available via the Amazon product listing through your seller account. If you stock a sweater in different colors and sizes, each of those variants will have its own specific FNSKU that needs to be visible for easy scanning.
- FBA carton label – Once your shipment plan is approved, shipping labels will be generated, which may also act as carrier labels depending on your shipment plan. Place one on each carton or box.
- Type of packaging – Amazon has detailed requirements and suggestions for everything from cardboard weight to which products require black versus clear poly bagging. You’ll need to peruse the Amazon seller pages to determine the right kind of packaging for your specific goods.
Finally, be sure to work with your shipping and freight partners to ensure your products’ packaging conforms to their labeling and packaging protocols.
#3 Use True And Accurate Weights
It might be tempting to tip the scales and save a few bucks, but trust us, accurate weight is your best bet for a successful shipment. While an ounce or two won’t impact a palette of goods on an ocean voyage, multiple or consistently inaccurate weights can lead to refused shipments, suspended listings, or hits to your seller rating.1
Understand the weights of your products individually and as per-unit packages, of your boxes, and your total shipments. This is critical information at the Amazon warehouse to balance payloads for ground freight and shipping costs for both you and your customers.
#4 Stick With Your Approved Shipment Plan
Sticking with your approved shipment plan allows the complex system of moving parts to function smoothly, meet your customer’s expectations, and get your products to your customer without a hitch.
Amazon will refuse warehouse deliveries for:
- Wrong address – A box of dishtowels destined for Warehouse A ends up at Warehouse B. Even if the two warehouses are down the street from each other, those textiles will be headed back home to you as a refused shipment.
- Poor timing – Your goods don’t just have a shipment plan timeline to adhere to, but a delivery appointment at the receiving warehouse. The travel between destination port and warehouse also needs to include making a delivery appointment.
- Inconsistent weight or cartons – They’re looking for a match between the number, size, and weight of boxes in front of them to your shipment plan. Too far off, and the goods could be headed back to where they came from.
Whether you’re shipping goods from a foreign supplier, a local warehouse, or your garage, you need to ensure the work is done with some checks and balances. A validation checklist should include double-checking the shipment plan, the labeling, and the security of the packaging by at least two parties.
#5 Use Shipping And Freight Partners With Amazon FBA Expertise
Unless you’re chartering a yacht to take your goods across the pond yourself, you’ll be contracting third-party companies to deliver your shipment to the right Amazon warehouse and fulfillment center.
It’s critical to work with companies that have experience and stay up to date with Amazon FBA guidelines. They will need to:
- Schedule a delivery appointment,
- Deliver everything in perfect condition,
- And understand what actions are available if Amazon refuses the delivery.
#6 Use Freight Forwarding VS. Supplier Shipping
Working with FBA experts needs to start at the source, with the internal and external packaging plus the initial valuation, inventory, and accurate description of the goods.
If your goods are being shipped to the Amazon warehouse from a supplier, you may want to add freight forwarding to their journey. While suppliers may be familiar with international FBA shipments, they don’t have the training to guarantee the proper use of export codes, methods, and reporting that will:2
- Keep you covered legally,
- Prevent your shipments from being turned away at the warehouse door,
- And find you the most economical options.
#7 Partner With An Importer Of Record (IOR)
This list would go on as long as Pi if we listed every possible rule you may need to follow as a global Amazon seller. Beyond Amazon guidelines and the export regulations in your own country, the combination of customs inspections, clearing, costs, and processes in the destination port and country may include practices that are known only locally, as well as what you could research from afar.
All of that knowledge and hands-on monitoring fall under hiring an Importer Of Record (IOR). An IOR will:
- Reside or serve as a registered entity in the destination country,
- Ensure product compliance with national and local import laws,
- Serve as the legal guardian of the goods while moving through customs,
- Manage the goods through customs, including paying duties, taxes, and fees,
- Complete the necessary documentation, including commercial invoice,
- And assist with any delays or obstacles arising with storage, the customs process, or the goods themselves.
Although it helps to understand everything you can about the destination country’s customs and import guidelines from a distance, the most efficient route to ensuring customs compliance and operational excellence is by partnering with a knowledgeable, responsible, and thorough IOR.
Risks Of Non-Compliance For Sellers
Amazon is on the cutting edge of fulfillment and customer service, including the use of robotics in many warehouses, and they require strict adherence to the practices that help them meet their standards.
As an Amazon FBA seller, you’re required to contractually agree to meet all local regulations that pertain to the goods you sell.
These regulatory exercises include:
- Import/export penalties – There are significant penalties—including financial consequences and possible jail time—for failing to comply with customs regulations. This includes failing to notify if you’re aware of others’ non-compliance and failing to maintain specific, required record-keeping. That’s why acting as an Importer Of Record (IOR) is serious business.
- Product testing – You know how one sad story in the paper about a product going bad can lead to a council member proposing a law to ban the item and prevent that tragedy from happening again? Multiply that by every jurisdiction you send your goods through. You may be liable for product testing and labeling for any product locally determined to present any type of risk.3
- Product hazards – “Local regulations” encompass both national and smaller municipal laws. This means if you ship any products to California, you’d better be aware that non-compliance with CA Prop 65 can cost you up to $2,500 per day, per violation.
An IOR can help you figure out if there are also testing or inspection practices that essentially create regulations that aren’t stated in the law in a given location, which could lead to delays costing storage and penalty fees.
Especially around the holidays, timing is critical for your business.
If your units or boxes aren’t correctly labeled both by shipment and by product, they may result in delays that impact your customers. Significant errors are going to prompt a refused shipment at the warehouse, which can throw off your sales timeline in addition to costing you the return shipping or rerouting fees.
Plus, minor issues with labeling or packaging could contribute to check-in delays, regardless of whether or not the warehouse accepts the shipment.
Damage To Your Reputation
Even if your business isn’t built on repeat customers, each interaction with a customer and with Amazon contributes to ratings which can affect not only future sales but also your spot on search results and your chance at Buy Box showcasing.
Three key ratings can be jeopardized by not following FBA guidelines:
- Feedback rating – This is what customers can see. Your feedback rating is based on a 100-point percentage scale and represents how customers have rated transactions with you.
- Negative feedback rate – Amazon uses this rating internally to classify customer feedback as one element in a seller’s rating. You’re doing great at 0% to 2%, but if you hit 5%, it starts to become a problem.4
- Seller rating – Amazon seller ratings are a composite of several performance factors, averaged over the last 365 days of your transactions. These include:
- Products delivered on time,
- Canceled orders,
- Negative feedback rate,
- Response time to customer inquiries,
- And A-to-Z return claims.
Another outcome of incorrect unit labeling is that customers don’t get what they ordered. With enough returns based on receipt of the wrong product, your listing may be suspended.
Shipping Freeze Or Suspended Account
Shipping the right amount of goods at the right time isn’t solely for the benefit of your customers and your bottom line—it’ll also keep you in Amazon’s good graces. When you vary from an approved shipment plan by either sending more or less inventory than submitted, Amazon may:5
- Refuse or reroute your goods to other warehouses,
- Freeze your shipping privileges,
- And/or suspend your account.
What may seem like a simple adjustment on your end—like splitting a shipment into a few different segments or deleting one set of goods from a multi-location shipment plan—could result in severe consequences for your business. With frozen privileges or a suspended account, you may need to submit a business plan of action to Amazon to assure them of your future compliance to follow DDP shipping terms.
Quick tip: If you need to make any changes to an approved shipment plan, start over! Remove all shipments from the plan and start from scratch with a new one.
Masterfully Navigate Amazon FBA Requirements with Zee
Where there are great rewards, there are great responsibilities. Whether you’re already running a single-region Amazon business, or ready to start up as a new seller, FBA compliance is a critical part of your planning and operations. Taking it global means doubling down and getting acquainted with a whole new set of national and local regulations, fees, and practices.
Zee is a practiced, trusted partner to Amazon FBA businesses operating in multiple regions. We are logistics masters, helping you get your goods from their starting point to the right warehouses. Our relationships with reliable shipping providers allow you to take advantage of low rates from operators familiar with FBA guidelines, and our Importer Of Record (IOR) services ensure your goods make it through customs. If you have ever wondered, “Do I need a broker to clear customs when shipping FBA goods?”, think again. Think Zee.
Connect with us today to find out how we can help you grow your business across borders.
- SoStocked. 14 Mistakes Sellers Make When Shipping to Amazon FBA. https://www.sostocked.com/shipping-to-amazon-fba/
- eComEngine. 5 Critical Factors for International FBA Compliance. https://www.ecomengine.com/blog/fba-compliance
- eComEngine. Understanding Amazon Seller Ratings. https://www.ecomengine.com/blog/amazon-seller-rating