Retailer Guide | Amazon
AMAZON'S FRUSTRATION-FREE PACKAGING PROGRAM
Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP) is a set of guidelines Amazon sellers must adhere to with their packaging. Our guide is here to help set your brand up for success when working with Amazon.
- Summary of Amazon's Goals
- What You Need to Know About PFP, SIOC, and FFP
- What is Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging Program?
- Benefits of the Frustration-Free Packaging Program
- ISTA Requirement and Testing
- Getting Certified: Self-Testing or Third-Party Testing
- How EcoEnclose Helps Brands Working With Amazon
Summary of Amazon's Goals
Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP) program has two primary goals - lower costs (through the decreased need for packaging and increased labor efficiency) and reduce consumer frustration with packaging.
Historically, two primary concerns customers have had with Amazon packaging were related to waste (such as the large shipping boxes containing a tiny product inside) and packaging recycling. As such, these sustainability concerns have become central tenants of Frustration-Free Packaging.
There are three tiers of FFP. The sustainability-related requirements of the highest (most stringent) tier are as follows: (1) packaging that is right-sized as much as possible for a 30% box utilization score, (2) packaging that is 100% curbside recyclable, and (3) packaging that can be shipped as is and doesn’t require an over box to ship.
How EcoEnclose Helps Amazon Brands
EcoEnclose works with many brands that sell through Amazon’s FBA services, and we are well-equipped to help companies work through these Frustration-Free Packaging requirements. Specifically, we can help your brand:
Develop primary packaging that is also shippable, so you can qualify for SIOC (Ships in Own Container), which is the second tier of Amazon’s FFP program
Developing a packaging strategy that is 100% curbside recyclable, including your shipper, void fill, tape, hangtags, notecards, and labels
Right-sizing your packaging by matching your products with the exact right custom box or bag size and minimizing the amount and weight of void fill that is needed
What You Need to Know About PFP, SIOC, and FFP
EcoEnclose is on a mission to make eCommerce a force for positive change for the planet and its people.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have some issues with Amazon, a platform that has built a culture of shoppers who expect free two-day (and now same-day) shipping and many who compare offerings looking for bottom-level cost alone (rather than quality, ethics, and more).
Most independently owned businesses have likely felt firsthand just how challenging these shopper expectations have made it for them to attract, convert and satisfy their customers. On top of that, many stories have been shared about how Amazon treats its warehouse workers, putting them on such tightly monitored quotas and schedules that they don’t even have time for a restroom break. Most independently owned businesses within our EcoAlly community that I have the privilege of interacting with treat their team members with dignity and compassion. This is one of the many reasons they find it difficult to compete within Amazon’s low-cost culture.
Despite these issues, I also fully recognize that - given its scale and ubiquitous presence in the minds of shoppers worldwide - Amazon has become a platform that many, many unique small businesses have come to rely on it as their primary sales platform and fulfillment network.
This fact is true for many of the sustainable brands we work with. Because of this, we receive lots of questions each week related to Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging Program.
Brands call us wondering if they can use EcoEnclose solutions to create a packaging strategy that can be Frustration-Free Packaging certified (yes!). Many wonder what the FFP program even is (read on!). Some aren’t sure how to get certified (you can do it yourself!). And some wonder if their packaging can be sustainable simply because they have designed it to meet Amazon’s guidelines (no, FFP is the bare minimum for sustainability).
This guide will help answer these questions and more for any brand using Amazon as their fulfillment arm.
First, what do we mean by “using Amazon as their fulfillment arm.” When selling through Amazon, small, independently owned companies can simply list and sell through Amazon but fulfill orders themselves or with a non-Amazon third party (FBM = fulfilled by a merchant) or can choose to have orders fulfilled through Amazon (FBA = fulfilled by Amazon).
Amazon’s FFP program is for those brands which fulfill through Amazon (FBA). These companies must consider if and how their primary packaging aligns with Amazon’s warehousing and fulfillment requirements.
That’s where Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging Program comes into play.
What is Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging Program?
Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP) is a set of guidelines Amazon sellers must adhere to with their packaging. The FFP initiative was established in 2008, partly in response to the “wrap rage” many of their customers were experiencing when they found their deliveries came in excessive, unnecessary packaging and void fill - making packages challenging to open and difficult to dispose of.
What began as a voluntary initiative then became a mandatory one. Starting September 3, 2019, Amazon began requiring compliance with their FFP guidelines, levying a $1.99 chargeback per unit sold for retail vendors whose packaging is not certified.
There are three tiers of FFP certification, starting with the most basic - Prep Free Packaging (PFP), to the most advanced - Frustration-Free Packaging (FPF).
Amazon’s stated goal is that every product received and shipped by Amazon falls into one of these certification tiers to lower costs, lower packaging frustration, and decrease waste.
This table outlines the requirements of the three tiers within the Frustration-Free Packaging Program.
Packaging Requirements by Tier: Details
Tier 3: Prep Free Packaging (PFP)
Small products, whose dimensions are under 9” x 6”x 0.375”, are considered “sortable.” These items are not subject to FFP/SIOC requirements or chargebacks. Note that items over 6” x 4” x 0.375” (even if they are under 9” x 6”x 0.375” could achieve Tier 1 and Tier 2 certification status, even though they would not be penalized if they are not certified).
They are, however, subject to Amazon’s Prep Free Requirements and would be subject to potential preparation-related chargebacks.
Primary packaging must secure and protect products fully to certify as PFP. The only step Amazon’s team should have to take to place your packaged product into an “outbox” for shipping.
If your primary packaging isn’t Preparation Free Packaging (PFP) certified, and if Amazon has to fix problems with your preparation to ensure that the product will reach the customer’s doorstep safely and without damage, they will issue a chargeback. For example, if Amazon has to add bubble wrap to protect fragile products, they will issue a $1.14 per unit bubble wrapping charge. If they have to bag your item to prevent spillage or shield the product from dust, they will issue a $0.85 charge/per unit.
Tier 2: Ships in Own Container (SIOC)
Relevant for packaging over 6” x 4” x 0.375”. These packages would fall into Amazon’s “standard” category unless the longest dimension of the package is over 108” or the girth is over 165”. These larger dimensions fall into Amazon’s “oversized” category.
These packages are considered non-sortable, subject to SIOC requirements, and can be FFP certified as well.
This tier often referred to as ECR or e-commerce ready packaging, means that products are shipped to Amazon in packaging that can effectively be used to ship inside to the end consumer without having to repackage or overpackage it.
The SIOC certification process tests and confirms that the product is sufficiently secured and protected for transport in the packaging in which Amazon’s warehouse received it.
Sortable products not SIOC certified are subject to a $1.99 chargeback per unit sold.
Tier 1: Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP)
Relevant for packaging over 6” x 4” x 0.375”. These packages would fall into Amazon’s “standard” category unless the longest dimension of the package is over 108” or the girth is over 165”. These larger dimensions fall into Amazon’s “oversized” category.
These packages are considered non-sortable and are subject to baseline SIOC requirements. They can also achieve this highest level of Tier 1 FFP certification.
To be Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP) certified, packaging needs to meet the SIOC standards but must go even further. Specifically, FFP-certified packaging must be:
- Straightforward to open, taking a consumer no more than 120 seconds to open.
- Be made entirely of curbside recyclable materials, including corrugated and other paper-based materials, as well as plastic components marked with SPI codes 1 (PET), 2 (HDPE), and 5 (PP.)
Tier 2 (SIOC) and Tier 1 (FFP) Packaging Requirements
Tier 1 and Tier 2 certifications only apply to packages over 6” x 4” x 0.375”. They have the same basic requirements for packaging:
- Packaging must be a rigid six-sided shape and rectangular, capable of stacking on a fluid-loaded mixed trailer and surviving the parcel delivery network or Less-than-Truckload (LTL) shipping
- Smaller non-sortable products, which can be shipped in gaylords or carts, can be packaged in padded mailers, rigid envelopes or flexible poly packaging.
- Rigid Envelopes or Padded Mailers: When using these as your SIOC packaging, the longest dimension of the mailer can be no more than 18 inches. The total package can weigh no more than 10 lbs, and the volume of the entire package must not exceed 800 cubic inches.
- Flexible Poly Mailers or Pouches: When using these as your SIOC packaging, the longest dimension can be no more than 18”. The bag itself must be greater than or equal to 2 mils in thickness and/or must demonstrate a minimum tear strength of 130 grams. No holes larger than 0.25” must be present. Mailers must be right-sized, and there can be no more than 2” of slack fill (the difference between the actual capacity of the bag and the volume of product contained therein).
- Any package panels must be flat and free of protrusions, windows, and cut-outs. Access holes/hand holes are allowed but cannot exceed dimensions of 3”x1.5”.
- Packages must be adequately sealed across all edges to ensure the product remains protected while in the fulfillment center and throughout its distribution to the customer.
- Staples are not allowed as a sealing method but are permitted on the manufacturer's glue joint.
- Locking tabs are acceptable but must then be adequately sealed with glue or tape.
- Sealing mechanisms must be tamper-evident.
- Oversized packages (packaging with the longest dimension over 108” or the girth over 165”) can leverage straps or bands to provide structural integrity to the outer shipper, as long as the straps are tightly fitted around the product.
- Packages must be marked and labeled to indicate contents and communicate special handling instructions. All certified packages must also follow Amazon’s labeling and carton marking requirements.
- Box-Utilization Score must be greater than 30% and 50% for fragile and non-fragile products. Fragile items include glass, ceramic, porcelain, clay, liquids / semi-liquids, and more. Note that if a product has 50% or greater of its total pieces containing fragile material, it is considered fragile.
- Box utilization is a measure of the ratio between the product dimensions and the packaging dimensions.
- The “product” is defined as the total cubic volume of the primary product and the included components necessary for the function/use of the product.
- The “packaging” is defined as the total cubic volume of the outer packaging
- The product-to-package ratio is then calculated as the cubic volume of the product divided by the cubic volume of the packaging.
Note that hazardous materials (HAZMAT-classified products or products with any transportation-regulated symbols or markings) cannot be certified as Tier 1 or Tier 2 (but can achieve Tier 3 PFP certification).
Packaging Requirements by Tier: Summary
Benefits of the Frustration-Free Packaging Program
When Amazon first introduced its FFP program in 2008, Amazon set it up with an incentive approach - vendors and products that met these standards were offered monetary rewards for doing so.
Then, in 2019, Amazon transitioned to a more punitive system. At that point, all non-sortable ASINs became subject to chargebacks if they didn’t meet Tier 3 (PFP) certification. All sortable ASINs are subject to chargebacks if they do not meet Tier 2 (SIOC) certification.
Given this, the most immediate and obvious benefit for brands to package according to these standards is to avoid the $1.99 chargeback per unit shipped they would otherwise face.
Summary of Benefits of FFP Packaging
There are no chargebacks associated with not meeting Tier 1 certification. So what are the benefits of achieving this highest level of Frustration-Free Packaging certification?
By doing everything you can to make your product and primary packaging appropriate to ship in, you can drastically reduce the amount of material and, therefore, the cost of your packaging.
FFP-certified packaging gives you an official label you can use in your customer communications. It allows you to be searchable for users that filter on FFP when searching for the right products to purchase.
According to Amazon, FFP certification is designed to make the customer experience as positive as possible. Accordingly, brands that align their packaging with the Tier 1 FFP certification may give their customers a more positive unboxing experience, which builds long-term brand loyalty.
That said, it is essential to note that consumers often see the positive experience as tying back to Amazon rather than the storefront within Amazon they purchased from.
When given an easy unboxing experience, these customers may also be more likely to post positive reviews, which are critical to an Amazon storefront’s long-term success.
Tier 1 certification means curbside recyclability. However, it is important to note that recyclability should be considered an absolute bare minimum and does not qualify a packaging solution as being eco-friendly. If you currently use virgin, non-recyclable packaging, then the move to FFP-certifiable material is a step in the right direction. But, FFP-certified packaging, and Amazon’s packaging strategy in general, relies heavily on virgin tree paper - much of which is from uncertified sources.
We encourage our brands - those who are authentically committed to sustainable packaging and not simply trying to meet baseline sustainability guidelines - to prioritize packaging made from recycled content, with as little material as possible, and designing packaging for recyclability. If you focus on all three of these features in parallel, you can develop truly eco-conscious packaging while still achieving FFP’s minimal eco requirements.
Amazon FBA sellers should ensure their packaging meets Tier 2 and Tier 3 standards. Meeting these standards will save them money on packaging costs and help them avoid chargebacks.
Most EcoEnclose brands are likely already meeting Tier 1 standards, and there is no real downside to achieving Tier 1 certification. However, the ecological requirements of FFP mean that it should be considered a baseline starting point, not a sustainability win.
Additionally, the benefits of FFP certification to one’s sales and brand are not proven or obvious. As such, if the time required to achieve Tier 1 certification is not something you have, don’t beat yourself up over skipping this step.
ISTA Requirement and Testing
To be certified, packaging must undergo transit testing, conducted according to the International Safe Transit Association test methods:
- ISTA 6-Amazon.com (SIOC) used for Tier 1 (FFP) and Tier 2 (SIOC) testing.
- ISTA 6-Amazon.com Over-Boxing method used for Tier 3 (PFP).
These ISTA 6-Amazon.com tests were developed by ISTA in cooperation with Amazon and have been designed as simulations that challenge the capability of the package and product to withstand common transport conditions.
Sortable ASINs, which are only subject to PFP requirements, must pass ISTA 6-Amazon.com Over-Boxing tests.
Standard packages (subject to SIOC requirements), defined as packages weighing less than 50 lbs and with dimensions over 6” x 4” x 0.375”, need to pass the Type A ISTA 6-Amazon.com tests. There are four required testing steps for most types of packaging, ranging from vibration to shock to atmospheric conditioning.
Oversize packaging (subject to SIOC requirements), defined as packages weighing more than 50lbs or whose longest dimension is over 108” (or whose girth is over 165”), needs to pass Type B through Type F testing.
This table from Amazon summarizes what tests your product and packaging would be subject to.
Getting Certified: Self-Testing or Third-Party Testing
There are three options for certifying products:
Perform your own Vendor Drop Test to test and register non-fragile ASINs weighing less than 50 lbs.
Most brands we work with decide to go the self-test route. Vendors can perform a self-test on non-fragile ASINs under 50 lbs to certify them for the FFP or SIOC program.
Learn how to self-test at Amazon.
Our, read a quick summary on how to self-test.
- A chair
- A Tape Measure
- A Marker
Step 1) Number your package.
- Place your package on the floor with the largest face down and measure the package with the tape measure.
- Stand in front of the package so that the smallest face of the package is facing you.
- Start with the largest surface and label it 1. Turn the package to the right and label the medium-sized surface number 2. The other large surface is number 3, and the other medium-sized surface is number 4. The two small surfaces are numbers 5 and 6.
- If you are testing a padded shipping bag, number it as if it had six faces.
Step 2) Take two photos of your numbered package.
- The first photo should show 1, 2, and 5.
- The second photo should show faces 3, 4, and 6.
Step 3) Perform the drop test.
- Decide on a wall where you can measure the drop height and mark off 18” and 36”, which are the two heights that Amazon’s template asks you to drop from.
- Then follow Amazon’s instructions on how the item should fall to the floor in each of the drop tests.
- The package must fall on each corner, edge, and face.
Step 4) Inspect the packaging and your product. You want to ensure the product is in excellent condition and that the product did not pierce the packaging. Dented corners and small tears in the packaging are fine, but the package must be in satisfactory condition, and the product must be pristine.
Step 5) If your packaging has passed, take four photos for the evaluation form.
- The entire contents of the box or package.
- Product photographed close up.
- Two photos that prove the condition of the package and product.
Step 6) Fill out and submit the Amazon Drop Test Evaluation form. Here is an example of a completed form:
Amazon Packaging Lab
Send your fragile products that weigh no more than 50 lbs to the Amazon Packaging Lab.
Fragile products cannot go through a self-certification process. For fragile products that weigh less than 50 lbs, the Amazon Packaging Lab is available to all vendors to complete the ISTA 6A testing method.
Learn how to submit your products for testing at Amazon.
Find and work with an ISTA-certified third-party testing lab for testing and registering fragile and non-fragile ASINs.
For products over 50 lbs, vendors must look to a third-party lab for their certification. Multiple third-party labs worldwide can help test and certify your SIOC and FFP packaging.
EcoEnclose Is Ready To Help Your Brand
Amazon’s FFP Program is set up so storefronts can use various packaging solutions and work with many potential packaging partners.
We believe that brands that sell through Amazon FBA and work with EcoEnclose for their sustainable packaging are particularly well positioned to achieve Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 certification.
Here are specific ways we’ve helped brands for Amazon:
Our packaging is recyclable, and all of our paper-based packaging is designed for curbside recyclability, an essential requirement for Amazon’s Tier 1 Frustration Free Packaging Certification.
We work with every brand to right-size your packaging - and your boxes in particular - for your specific products, allowing for very high box utilization.
Poly Mailer Thickness
Our poly mailers are 2.5 mils, exceeding Amazon’s thickness requirements for flexible packaging.
Choosing Your Sustainable EcoEnclose Packaging
Here are some ideas to kick your progress off if you're looking to sell through Amazon FBA.
Jewelry, Cosmetics, Essential Oils
Your goods may be small enough to be considered sortable and aren’t subject to Tier 2 or Tier 1 requirements.
If so, focus on Prep Free Packaging Certification, using our jewelry boxes, retail boxes, or clear poly bags with suffocation warning. Don’t forget to include all necessary void fill within your retail boxes to ensure your products are well protected and do not require Amazon’s warehouse team to make adjustments or repairs during the fulfillment process.
If your products are over 6”x4”x0.375”, padded mailers or custom shipping boxes a great packaging solution to achieve Tier 1 or Tier 2 certification. Bubble mailers can help you achieve Tier 2 certification, but not Tier 1, because bubble mailers require thin-film recycling rather than curbside recycling.
Books and Art
Your goods may be thinner than 0.375”, in which case they are too small to meet Tier 2 or Tier 1 requirements. If so, focus on Prep Free Packaging Certification, using our clear bags with suffocation warnings, corrugated pads for rigidity, or rigid mailers.
If your products are over 6”x4”x0.375”, we recommend custom shipping boxes to achieve Tier 1 or Tier 2 certification.
Accessories, Apparel, Outdoor Gear
Achieve Prep Free Packaging Certification by utilizing our 100% recycled clear poly bags with suffocation warnings.
You can also achieve Tier 2 or Tier 1 certification with well-sized and fitted poly mailers, padded mailers, or custom shipping boxes. Be sure to tape these boxes securely using tamper-evident water-activated tape.
Kits, Bundles, Collections of Goods
Candles, Pottery, Fragile Goods
These items almost always need to be in ship-ready, right-sized custom shipping boxes.
While Amazon allows for bubble wrap, you can achieve Tier 1 certification by using the right amount of GreenWrap to secure and protect your goods. Other void-fill solutions can include corrugated bubble wrap, corrugated pads, and Flexi-Hex.
Remember that fragile goods must be tested by Amazon’s Packaging Lab or a Third Party ISTA Certified Lab, and cannot be self-certified. Additionally, vendors must provide five samples for testing for their fragile items. A fragile package is defined as one in which more than 50% of its contents are considered fragile.
Helpful Tips and Tricks
Outer labeling should adhere to Amazon’s standards, which allow their team to quickly identify, scan, and verify the product and its contents.
Print Inside Your Box
Because you are more limited with what you can do, design-wise, with the outside of the package, this is an excellent opportunity to print the inside of your box. The print stays clean and fresh and allows you to distinguish yourself and your storefront from the broader Amazon experience.
If your certified Amazon packaging is with Padded Mailers, Rigid Mailers, or Poly Mailers, it will be difficult to print the inside of your packaging. But you can still achieve a beautiful internal unboxing experience with custom-branded tissue paper, personalized notecards, or stickers.
Right-Size Your Packaging
Right-sizing allows you to achieve Amazon’s box utilization requirements. As importantly, it will keep your packaging costs low, minimize your material and environmental footprint, and reduce storage and transportation costs. With EcoEnclose’s extensive selection of mailer and clear poly bag sizes and our custom box program in which shipping boxes are custom cut to your specified dimensions, we make right-sizing easy for all brands.
Strong Packing Tape
When shipping through Amazon, your packaging will go through many steps, conveyors, and hands before reaching your end customer. Because of this, it is essential to use strong, tamper-resistant tape. We strongly recommend water-activated tape, whose bonding process is highly secure and whose reinforcement can withstand a lot of wear and tear.
We're Here To Help You
As always, we are a click or phone call away - contact us anytime for a consult. We encourage you to order free samples of your desired packaging solution to help you test and finalize your strategy and be used for your self-certification process. Once you pass your self-tests, you can confidently place your entire order.
- Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging Program Certification Guidelines
- ISTA: Ships in Own Container (SIOC) for Amazon.com Distribution System Shipment
- Amazon: Test and certify
- Amazon: Standard Operating Procedure for Testing and Enrollment of Fragile ASINs at Amazon Packaging Lab
- ISTA: Find a Lab or Services
- Amazon Packaging Support and Supplier Network (APASS)