Whether or not you sell on Amazon, there is much to learn from the evolution of their Frustration-Free packaging guidelines, which aim to drive down packaging waste, fulfillment time, and postage costs across the billions of packages they ship each year.
You can think of Amazon's guidelines as fitting into four themes that we'll explore in this article:
- Pre-packed products
- Products that ship in their own containers
- Packaging that's easy to open
- Packaging that's easy to recycle
In 2019, Amazon started enforcing these guidelines with sellers. Three certifications are available. The most basic certification is Prep-free Packaging (PFP) which certifies that a packaged item can ship safely in an Amazon overbox. Ships in Own Container (SIOC) certifies that a product arrives to Amazon ready to be shipped safely without an Amazon box. Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP) builds on SIOC and adds parameters for recyclability and ease of opening.
If you sell on Amazon, you can now use Lumi Experts to meet these standards. But even if you don't sell on Amazon, there are key learnings that could help you save on packaging, fulfillment, and shipping costs.
When your products are individually stored in protective packaging, they can be picked from the warehouse and put into a box or mailer with little to no additional void fill or packaging.
This type of packaging is often referred to as inner packaging — for example, clear bags around apparel or folding cartons around individual candles. Inner packaging has to protect the product in two phases: when it's stored in a warehouse, and when it's shipped in a box or mailer, either alone or with other products. When done right, pre packing products can speed up fulfillment times and cut down on packaging costs.
One common example is apparel, pre-packed in sealed plastic bags. Outdoor Voices uses this strategy for their apparel, with the addition of colored stickers which denote size. In fulfillment, these ready-to-ship apparel items just need to be placed in a kraft mailer. The clear bag protects the apparel from dirt, liquid, or snags in storage and in shipping.
Outdoor Voices stores apparel in ready-to-ship, clear bags that are placed in a kraft mailer for shipping. In storage and in shipping, the bag protects apparel from dirt, liquid, or snags.
Products that ship in their own containers
To refine your packaging even further, you can store products in the same packaging that it ships in. When your products are already stored in shippable packaging, your fulfillment team only needs to grab the item and put a shipping label on it.
When your products can ship in the same packaging they're stored in, you drastically lower the amount of time and packaging it takes to get your items out the door.
This strategy is ideal for brands with predominantly single-item cart sizes or brands that have predetermined SKU assortments or kits. For example, Rothy's skips the common box-in-a-box practice in the shoe industry and only uses a shipping box.
Rothy's ships their shoes directly in the shipping box. By skipping the box-in-a-box, Rothy's can save 50% on packaging.
Packaging that's easy to open
When a product is easy-to-open there are as few packaging barriers as possible from the outside of the shipping container to the product itself. According to Amazon, for packaging to be easy-to-open, customers should be able to get to the product in 2 minutes or less, with little-to-no need for scissors or box cutters.
Making your product easy-to-open will quickly weed out laborious retail packaging like plastic clamshells or wire twist ties. In fact, designing your packaging to be easy-to-open is often an exercise in restraint. Sonos is a great example. The electronics industry is notorious for foam inserts, twist-tied wires, clam shell packaging, and plastic bags for each component. Sonos skips those sticking points, making their speakers properly protected and easily accessible.
Sonos slips their speaker into a non-woven bag and places it between two custom molded paper inserts. In the bottom of the box, wires are contained in another paper insert with no additional baggies. Customers don't need scissors throughout the entire unboxing.
Plus, Sonos also moved their lengthy legal information online so they could eliminate the paper booklet from their unboxing. This switch saved them $640,000 and 207,000 pounds of paper each year.
Packaging that's easy to recycle
When it comes to packaging, recyclability is the most important sustainability factor to consumers. After your products are packaged, shipped, and opened, your customers are left to bear the brunt of disposal, so it's critical that the most sustainable practices are easy and available.
While the strategies above can already cut down on material usage, choosing curbside recyclable materials makes your packaging even more sustainable. Availability and scope of curbside recycling programs varies widely from city to city, but our parameter for Curbside Recyclability is based on availability in the US. At Lumi, for a material to be curbside recyclable, it must be able to be collected curbside at the homes of at least 50% of the U.S. population. That means that corrugated boxes are curbside recyclable as well as paper and rigid plastics (typically #1 PET and #2 HDPE) — no plastic films (#4 LDPE). Lumi ID is a tool that customers can scan to find out what items are recyclable in their region.
The CPG industry is often plagued with plastic films in sneaky places. But by eliminating liquid from common personal care products, By Humankind is able to use paper products for all single-use packaging.
When customers are done unboxing a By Humankind package, they're left with a few pieces of paper packaging that are easy to recycle curbside.
You don't have to ship with Amazon to save money with their packaging strategies. If you do sell with Amazon, Lumi offers packaging engineering services to help you achieve the guidelines of the FFP program.