Whether you’re just getting started with Amazon FBA selling… or you’re an experienced seller looking to make a transition in your business… you might be wondering: what is FBA prep exactly?
In this article, we’re going to cover how it works and the pros & cons of using an FBA prep service to handle the prep duties of your inventory – from receiving, inspection, storage, packaging and labeling.
Use this outline to skip to any section of this page:
- What is FBA prep?
- What do prep centers do?
- How it works step-by-step
- Pros of FBA prep
- Cons of FBA prep
- Does Amazon offer a prep service?
- Should I use an FBA prep service?
What is FBA prep?
The term “FBA prep” refers to product packaging and labeling – according to Amazon’s FBA prep rules. Although it’s a crucial step in the fulfillment process… there’s actually a lot more to preparing your products for FBA than meets the eye.
In short, FBA prep involves readying your products for shipment to Amazon’s warehouses. This includes making sure your products are sorted, labeled, and packaged according to Amazon’s strict guidelines. While some sellers choose to do this themselves, many opt to outsource FBA prep to a third-party company that specializes in this type of work.
Keep in mind – most manufacturers aren’t able to prep your products correctly for FBA, which can lead to costly errors that result in your products being rejected by Amazon or returned by customers. In some cases, it can even lead to your account being suspended.
Many Amazon sellers make the disastrous mistake of “going easy” on FBA prep – only to discover using a cheap FBA prep company (or relying on false promises from a manufacturer that claims to do FBA prep for an extra fee) results in a giant hit to their bottom line. That’s exactly why it’s more important than ever to find a reliable, trustworthy FBA prep service you can count on to keep your operation running smoothly without error.
Want more details? Check out our beginners guide on FBA prep for choosing the best service.
What do prep centers do?
While FBA prep can seem daunting, one way to ease the burden is to outsource your FBA prep to a dedicated 3rd-party service. These companies specialize in getting your products ready for Amazon fulfillment, and they can prove helpful when it comes to meeting deadlines and staying organized. However, it’s important to choose a reliable service that you can trust with your inventory. Before you outsource your FBA prep, do some research and read reviews to find a company that will meet your needs.
FBA prep services can do far more than just prep your inventory as well – including climate controlled storage, drip-feeding your products to Amazon warehouses, FBA removal orders, and logistics/forwarding on-demand. In fact, many sellers prefer to use their FBA prep service as a major extension of their entire supply chain – often acting as the primary medium between your supplier and Amazon.
For example, ZonPrep.com can handle everything listed above – along with online arbitrage, private label and wholesale, fragile items and custom jobs, and virtually every specialized need for Amazon sellers across all product categories.
How it works step-by-step
To start, an FBA prep service will receive your inventory at their warehouse. Make sure the company has plenty of loading docks (at least 8), forklifts to accept and unload inventory, and ample storage space in their warehouse (at least 80,000 square feet). You want to make sure your prep service can handle large volumes during peak selling seasons, where multiple Amazon sellers are at the same warehouse.
Upon unloading inventory, your FBA prep center will inspect your inventory according to your expectations. As long as they do it right, you’ll have a full understanding of every item in the shipment – no surprises once products arrive at Amazon.
From there, you can simply choose to keep your inventory at the warehouse or have it shipped off.. If you store your inventory, make sure you clarify with your prep service regarding climate-control conditions you may need.
At your command, your prep service will begin packaging your inventory according to your specific needs – and ideally, you want a company that will work hand-in-hand with you regarding specialized projects.
FBA prep services have a good understanding of labeling requirements, so there’s not much work on your end. Just make sure your prep service has decent turnaround times of 3 days at most – otherwise delays can begin to occur.
At this point, you can now have your inventory shipped to Amazon, have it drip-fed (portion by portion), or forwarded to different locations. Throughout this process, your prep partner should have a system you can monitor step-by-step (that’s another aspect you’ll want to clarify beforehand).
Pros of FBA prep
While it’s possible to do FBA prep yourself, there are several reasons most Amazon sellers prefer to use a prep service. First of all, it can be more cost-effective to outsource the work. A prep service can remove the workload off your shoulders and prevent your company from having to rent out warehouse space, hire a team, and manage the entire process – helping you focus your time on more important tasks to scale your business faster.
Also, prep services are far more efficient and skilled at performing the entire process of receiving, inspection, storage, packaging and labeling – as opposed to a brand new system you would need to implement yourself.
Cons of FBA prep
Unfortunately, not every FBA prep service can offer 100% reliable, dedicated service year-round. This is true for every business in every industry of course. But before you allow a service to handle your inventory, it’s always safe to use caution and do your research. This is because you are dealing with a lot of money – money that can impact your Amazon business significantly.
Also, some FBA sellers choose to have their inventory in their control – instead of handing it over to a different company to handle. This can be more costly and less efficient, but it can provide a sense of security in your business. If you are a small Amazon seller with low revenue and orders for inventory, you might not be ready to outsource your FBA prep yet. You should keep an eye on your revenue growth and size of inventory – because when the time comes, you may want to switch over to outsourcing your FBA prep.
Does Amazon offer a prep service?
Amazon, on the other hand, provides its own FBA preparation services, with costs and turnaround periods that are frequently unacceptable for most Amazon sellers. In fact, the vast majority of FBA businesses choose to avoid this option because it usually fails to scale-out better than using an FBA prep service.
If your goods reach Amazon’s warehouse and still need prepping, it depends on your specific situation as to whether or not you can use Amazon’s prep services. But even if you can use them, there are problems: hefty penalty charges and an increased late delivery rate. If you’re already well-prepared, then these difficulties won’t arise. Once again, this is another reason most FBA merchants prefer to partner with a prep service.
Should I use an FBA prep service?
Outsourcing to an FBA prep service can save you a lot of time and money. By outsourcing the preparation and fulfillment of your orders, you can focus on expanding and scaling your business. FBA prep services can handle a wide range of items, from tiny jewelry pieces to huge pieces of furniture. This way, you don’t have to worry about the hassle of managing everything in-house (and if you haven’t yet, check out our guide on Amazon FBA Prep: In-House or Outsource to a Prep Service?)
In addition, outsourcing to an FBA prep service can help you speed up the process and lower your costs. So if you’re looking for a way to streamline your Amazon business, outsourcing to an FBA prep service is a great option to consider.
At the end of the day, when it comes to approaching FBA prep… the most important thing is to find a reputable company that has a good track record. You also want to make sure that the company has experience with your specific type of business – such as the product category, the volume you’re selling, and more.
In addition, you’ll want to get quotes from several different companies so that you can compare prices. Each company has different pricing structures, so you’ll need to compare each one (although this can be a time-consuming process and most FBA prep companies cost relatively-similar in the end). Once you’ve done your research, you’ll be able to make a wise decision about which FBA prep service is right for you.