The rise of online marketplaces has proliferated the growth of several small retailers who strive to fulfill customer needs with their product assortment.
Selling on the Amazon platform opens plenty of opportunities for sellers such as sales channels, distribution, product listings, and multiple ways to boost brand value. Globally Amazon has more than 300 million active customers and 1.9 million seller partners.
To sell their products on marketplaces, vendors face multiple challenges while sending their consignments to Amazon fulfillment centers.
This is why most of the sellers prefer to outsource their prepping activities to FBA prep centers. It ensures error-free and efficient shipment of their inventory cost-effectively.
Tips to Consider While Choosing the Right FBA Prep Center
The majority of retail business owners lack the infrastructure and resources necessary to adhere to the guidelines for prepping, packing, labeling product packages, and other outbound operations.
Failing to comply with Amazon’s prep guidelines can result in penalties and delays in shipment.
By hiring an FBA prep center, sellers can streamline all the tasks required to send their consignments to Amazon while complying with the regulations.
However, it is essential to find the right prep center that will cater to individual needs and fulfill orders effortlessly to Amazon.
Here is a list of things that sellers can consider when hiring the right FBA prep center for their business.
1. Adoption of the right technology
The success rate of an error-free faster fulfillment process depends on how FBA prep service providers manage their inbound and outbound operations efficiently.
While searching for a prep center, a retailer must emphasize the technological aspects of the fulfillment platforms that prep centers are using which are mentioned below.
- seamless onboarding of merchants
- creation of inbound consignments
- automated generation of shipping plans
- optimized picking and packing
- weight and dimensions compliance
- automated label generation and printing
- creation of shipping plans
A proper fulfillment platform will help prep centers to cater the individual needs of their customers.
It also helps them in managing multiple customers as well as achieve efficiency in inbound and outbound operations.
2. Previous shipment return rate
For evaluating an FBA prep service, retailers must consider their previous shipping rates. It means sellers need to check the total percentage of consignments that get returned out of the total shipment sent by the prep center to Amazon.
While sending inventory to Amazon, if there is any error on the shipment, then Amazon will return the consignment. And merchants have to bear the cost of that shipment return.
Hence, merchants consider previous shipping rates of the prep center to avoid extra costs in shipment return rate.
3. Level of visibility to the merchant
Merchants must consider hiring an FBA prep service that provides real-time visibility of orders, shipping plan, inventory levels, performance metrics, and more.
Prep services providing complete visibility help sellers track the details of the prepping and e-commerce fulfillment operations.
Thus, sellers will get to know every single detail of their shipment which significantly boosts customer experience.
4. Simplicity in the inbound process
There are a lot of FBA prep services that use manual processes while receiving orders from sellers which leads to errors. It initiates time-consuming back-and-forth communication.
However, there are FBA prep centers that use modern fulfillment platforms that ease the inbound processes and provide merchant visibility.
Prep centers having a seamless inbound process are successful in delivering efficient fulfillment operations.
Retailers should focus on this aspect when choosing a prep center as it will require minimal involvement from the merchant.
5. Continuous Amazon compliance
Amazon is continuously changing its FBA prepping guidelines.
Complying with the ever-changing Amazon guidelines should be the top priority of all prep centers. They should not expect the regulatory changes to be provided from the merchants’ end.
The fulfillment platform not only updates the guidelines but also should assist prep centers to implement them in operations.
It should directly link with Amazon Seller Platform API which will provide the information regarding prepping, packing, shipping, and labeling with Amazon compliance.
Failure in complying with regulations can cause shipment return which incurs a cost that merchants need to bear.
Hence, retailers must hire prep centers that focus on continuous Amazon compliance.
6. Inventory shelf life
The time taken by an Amazon prep service between receiving and shipping is referred to as inventory shelf life. It is a metric that indicates efficiency in prepping orders.
Depending on the shipping requirements, FBA prepping turnaround times range from a day to a month.
Merchants must inquire about the turnaround time of an FBA prep center to make sure that delays do not impact Amazon transactions.
The majority of prep services can prep orders for Amazon FBA in 24 to 48 hours. However, it is preferable to select prep services whose turnaround times are minimal.
7. Customization and flexibility
Modern prep centers focus more on providing maximum flexibility and customization to the sellers for prepping, packing, labeling and shipping while complying with the latest Amazon guidelines.
Amazon Prep service uses digital fulfillment platforms so that merchants can create their shipping plans and add required instructions for prepping the products.
They provide merchants with end-to-end visibility of fulfillment operations at every stage.
8. Value-added services
Some prep centers provide value-added services like inspection, bundling, kitting, batch, lot identification, etc.
Choosing an FBA prep service provider that provides all the above services will help retailers in reducing costs and accelerate the fulfillment process.
Then merchants do not have to hire another company that specializes in the inspection of inventory. It is helpful for merchants who sell products through online arbitrage.
However, prep centers offering bundling e-commerce fulfillment and kitting services make the moving of dead stocks faster.
Thus sellers can get higher order value and better customer satisfaction without incurring extra costs.
9. Data privacy and security
Data privacy and security is something that every prep center must emphasize to maintain the confidentiality of their customer data. It should be part of the SLA of every prep center.
Prep centers must store and securely transit merchant data such as no. of orders, inventory, etc.
They should be certified with ISO-270001 and SOC-2 standards. Hence, merchants should look for prep centers whose systems and technologies are compliant with the above security standards.
10. Warehouse capabilities
To keep certain product classes (like liquids, fragile goods, etc.) in perfect condition, specific warehousing requirements are essential.
Merchants selling perishable goods or fragile goods must inquire about the receiving and storage facilities of the prep centers. Lack of proper storage facilities might lead to damage and wastage of the goods.
Asking about the storage facility's size is just as important as its capabilities. Merchants should also check if the Amazon prep center can take in large volumes of inventory at any point for instance during peak season.
11. Speed and Processing Time
The time frame needed to prep the products is a crucial consideration when choosing an FBA prep provider.
Customers want their orders to be delivered within a specific timescale, thus retailers need to be aware of the prep time for their inventory.
Shipping costs rise in direct proportion to the distance that inventory will travel. Along with the expense, drop-off and inventory replenishment are further problems. Hence, the location of the prep centers needs to be considered.
Processing time generally varies from 24 hours to 1 month depending on the type and volume of the shipment. Hence, sellers need to choose the one which has faster speed and processing time.
Amazon sellers have sold more than 3.6 billion items in 2021 which averages to 7400 per minute. It showcases how much the Amazon platform is popular amongst sellers and customers.
For this reason, sellers are hiring prep centers for streamlining their fulfilling tasks while sending their inventory to Amazon warehouses.
Compared to doing all these activities individually, outsourcing to FBA prep centers is inexpensive and a great option for an error-free and seamless fulfillment process.
However, choosing the wrong partner will make the process slower, hence it is important to consider the above factors while hiring the best FBA prep services suiting business needs.