Probably the most frequent question I get from my clients is how to prepare and label products for Amazon FBA.
Amazon’s network of fulfillment centers is large, so they needed to develop a standardized system for receiving, storing and shipping out inventory.
In this guide, I break down the whole process of labeling and preparing products for Amazon’s warehouses, so that even a total newbie can understand it.
Before we begin, let me cover basic glossary of terms used in this guide:
FNSKU (also called Amazon barcode) – Unique number that is automatically assigned to every product that uses Amazon fulfillment centers. It helps Amazon track each unit of your product in their network of fulfillment centers.
It is important to note that FNSKU is different for every product ASIN, NOT for every product unit! So if you are shipping in 500 units of a single product then you will label each unit with an FNSKU label that is related to that product. In other words, you won’t need 500 different FNSKU numbers and barcodes for every unit!
Yes, I needed to address that because many of you asked!
UPC – stands for Universal Product Code consists of 12 numeric digits, that are uniquely assigned to each trade item.
ASIN – stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number. Each product has it’s own ASIN that is automatically generated once a product listing page has been created. You can find ASIN of a product in a link of a product listing page.
Barcode – a bunch of lines that are scannable with a barcode scanner. Barcode doesn’t necessarily refer to UPC. Both UPC and FNSKU can have a scannable barcode image. This image should clear this up for you.
Item condition – specifies whether a product is new or used
FNSKU vs UPC
There are two kinds of barcodes that you can use to identify your products:
- Manufacturer barcodes (eligible barcodes include GCID, UPC, EAN, JAN, or ISBN)
- Amazon barcodes (ASIN, FNSKU, or MSKU)
Don’t worry, you don’t need all of these.
First of all, let’s clear up the biggest confusion.
Do I need UPC or FNSKU?!?
As a private label seller, you need both.
UPC code is used for creating a product listing page. If you are a private label seller you understand that for every new product you launch a new product listing page must be created. While going through the process of creating a new product listing page you will notice this mandatory field:
Here you need to enter a unique UPC code number and select UPC.
FNSKU label is used for tracking products within Amazon network of fulfillment centers. FNSKU is automatically generated once a new product listing is created. More about printing FNSKU labels later in the text.
On a product packaging, you can have only 1 scannable barcode visible!
It can be either an FNSKU or UPC barcode (it can actually be something else as well, but for the sake of simplicity lets stick to these two).
I personally always use FNSKU labels.
FNSKU label should be placed on the outside of each product unit packaging. Like in this example:
Make sure that labels are scannable. Always check before shipping it out to FBA. Don’t place labels on edges or under a poly bag.
Where can I get UPC and FNSKU barcodes?
Cheap UPC codes can be bought at BarcodesTalk.com
The more you buy the more you save on a per code basis. At the time of writing this article, the price ranged from 5-0.15$ per UPC.
Why BarcodesTalk instead of eBay?
Their codes work 100% and are Amazon compliant!
In August 2002, changes to the GS1 US licensing agreement disallowed the subdivision and reselling of barcodes. Since Bar Codes Talk, LLC. purchased their company prefix from GS1 US in August 1994, they continue to be legally permitted to assign their numbers to other companies, businesses, organizations or people. They also remain exempt from paying renewal fees.
FNSKU label is free.
It is created automatically as soon as you create a new product listing on Amazon.
You can obtain it by going to Inventory / Manage FBA Inventory
Select a product for which you want to get FNSKU label / Click on the drop down menu / Select Print Item Labels / Click Go button
On the next page enter number of FNSKU labels that you would like to print and hit “Print Item Labels button”.
Why is there an option to print multiple labels?
As a private label seller, you want to input number 1 in the “Number of labels to print” field, in case you are going to include FNSKU label directly on a product packaging. This is the cheapest method, because FNSKU label will be a part of product packaging design, so you won’t have any additional labeling cost.
Otherwise, if you want to label each unit one by one then print as many labels as you want. If you want to ship in 500 units manually labeled then input 500 under “Number of labels to print field” and hit “Print Item Labels”.
Why would someone manually label every product?!?
That’s a good question!
In case you are using wholesale or retail arbitrage strategies where you don’t sell your own brands, then it’s obvious. You can’t control which labels are printed on product packaging. Usually, products have a UPC barcode printed, and as we covered previously you can have only 1 visible barcode on product packaging. So you would print each FNSKU label manually in order to cover existing UPC barcodes that are already printed on the packaging of a product that you are reselling.
If you are a private label seller then the only reason to manually label products is that you have printed UPC barcodes on packaging and you want to cover it with FNSKU label. Some sellers use Amazon FBA and other offline distribution channels to sell their products. Usually, in offline channels, it is required that products have a scannable UPC barcode. In that case, 1 batch of inventory would go to offline distribution channels with UPC barcode visible, and other would go to Amazon FBA with FNSKU barcode visible (in that case you would cover UPC barcode with FNSKU label).
However even if you are using both online and offline distribution channels, I would recommend that you have different packaging for each. On one, you would print UPC barcode and other FNSKU label.
This way you will save on labeling cost and time.
My recommendation is to always print labels directly on product packaging.
How to prepare and label products
Besides labeling, products that are sent to Amazon FBA centers need to be prepared according to Amazon’s rules. Please take a look at this page to learn more about how to properly prepare each product unit for FBA.
What is Stickerless, Commingled Inventory?
By default, your seller account is set to use the manufacturer barcode (UPC) to track your eligible inventory throughout the Amazon fulfillment process.
Items in your inventory that are identified and tracked using manufacturer barcodes are commingled with items of the same products from other sellers who also use manufacturer barcodes for those items.
If you choose to use manufacturer barcodes, when customers purchase a product from you, Amazon can send the item that is closest to them, even if you didn’t send it to the fulfillment center. When that happens, you get the credit for the sale, and Amazon transfers an item from your inventory to the seller whose inventory was used to fulfill the order. In addition, if you use the manufacturer barcode, you don’t have to apply an Amazon barcode to each item yourself.
This is not relevant to you in case you are the only seller of your private label product.
Just use UPC for opening a new product listing page and apply FNSKU label to each product unit.
Difference between case-packed and single packed?
Can someone do this for me?
Of course! If your margins are high enough to afford it!
There are 2 options.
You can either let Amazon do all the preparation and labeling work or you can use a third-party company that specializes in preparing and labeling products for Amazon FBA.
As for a third party company you can check out FBAInpsection.
However, I highly recommend that YOU do the process of preparing and labeling because it’s very easy and you will save a lot of money, thus have higher profit margins.
Prepaid shipping labels
Now that you have prepared each product unit, it’s time to prepare your inventory for shipping it out to Amazon FBA.
Log in to your seller central account and head over to Inventory / Manage FBA shipments / Continue with shipping plan
Go through the process of creating an inbound shipping plan. This way you will notify Amazon about the upcoming shipment, so they can expect your products and plan storage levels accordingly.
Whether you have decided to go with a case packed or individually packed, either way, you will have to put your products into big brown boxes. This is called secondary packaging.
Once you come to the end of the inbound shipping plan creation process, Amazon will calculate to which warehouses your inventory should be sent. If you are sending over 100 units then Amazon will most certainly calculate to ship the inventory to several different warehouses across the US.
Pack your product in secondary packaging (a.k.a. big brown boxes) accordingly.
Now it’s time to buy and apply prepaid shipping labels on these brown boxes.
You see, Amazon has partnerships with several major shipping couriers, so you can get cheaper rates for US ground shipping when sending your inventory to Amazon FBA warehouses.
Once your inbound shipment plan is created click on Work on shipment and go through the process of buying prepaid shipping labels.
Apply the shipping labels to your brown boxes and call the shipping courier to pick up the shipment. Or if you are using third-party preparation companies then send them the prepaid shipping labels so they can label them on your behalf.
Basically, what you have done is paid in advance for shipping of your inventory from your US address to Amazon FBA centers.
Shipping products from outside of US directly to Amazon FBA centers
This is something I don’t recommend you do, especially if you are just starting out or if it’s your first shipment.
Although you can do it, I always recommend that you add an additional layer of protection and have someone inspect your products and clear customs on your behalf before shipping the inventory to FBA.
Amazon won’t accept products that are not customs cleared!
Also, in case a supplier sends you products that don’t exactly match your product listing description, then your account will be in BIG trouble.
Way to much risk in my opinion!
That’s it! Did you expect more? 🙂
I could go on and on about labeling and preparation, but I want it to keep it simple!
BONUS TIP: If you are wondering which elements you need to include on your product packaging, the easiest and fastest way is to spy on your competitors’ products. Simply order several products from top competitors who are selling a similar product to yours and take a look at what they have included on their packaging. Try to order from an established brand who has been around for years.
I always remind my clients to re-read the latest Amazon policies at least once a month. Amazon updates policies very often. Make sure to bookmark the following this page and the following links so you can reflect back in future.
Amazon labeling policies, best practices and recommendations:
- Packaging and Prep Requirements
- FBA Product Restrictions
- FBA product barcode requirements
- Use an Amazon barcode to track inventory
If you have any additional questions about labeling and preparing products for FBA, let me know in the comments below!