Keys to smooth inbound shipment and potential sources of error
Up to 89% of third-party merchants on the online giant’s marketplaces use the Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) programme because they rely on its high quality and reliability. Amazon takes care of warehousing, pick & pack, shipping, customer service and returns management. However, in order for products to be consistently available for purchase, FBA sellers still need to ensure that fresh goods arrive at the logistics centres on time.
The effort seems quite manageable. For a smooth inbound shipment to Amazon, however, there are actually several guidelines and requirements that sellers must observe. This includes, among others:
- Packaging guidelines,
- Preparation guidelines,
- the provision of information on the box contents,
- Shipping conditions and
- the delivery planning.
Why exactly should sellers pay close attention to Amazon’s guidelines and requirements? On the one hand, violations of these can lead to direct, undesirable consequences, ranging from refusal to accept goods to additional charges to blocking future deliveries to the logistics centre. In addition, non-compliance increases the likelihood that this complex process will be delayed and further errors will occur in the process.
There are several problems that are already identified and reported to sellers at goods receipt. According to Amazon, this includes the following points:
- lack of tracking information,
- missing or wrong labels,
- missing packaging,
- unauthorised packaging materials,
- The number of items in the consignment does not match the delivery schedule,
- damaged products,
- expired best-before dates,
So, by taking time and thoroughly studying the guidelines and requirements, sellers can already eliminate many sources of error and enable a smooth inbound process.
Detecting errors in the inbound shipment to Amazon
If sellers have done their best and fully complied with all of Amazon’s terms and policies, discrepancies may still arise over which they have no control. For example, it may be a booking error by a logistics centre employee. Another possible scenario is that products are lost during inbound shipment. If such discrepancies remain undetected, it can be costly for sellers at the end of the day. It is therefore essential to check the consignments received and booked in at the logistics centre and to claim a refund if necessary.
To do this, sellers select the shipment to be checked in Seller Central under “Manage inventory > shipments to Amazon” and call up the “Contents” tab under “Track shipment” in the shipment creation workflow. Now the status of all units as well as possible discrepancies between the products sent – according to the delivery schedule – and actually booked in can be viewed on the “Consignment overview” page. If sellers discover that items are missing or damaged, they can request an investigation.
In the “Status” column, sellers can read various status messages for each product. The message “Action required” indicates existing discrepancies and entitles sellers to investigate. If products are missing after the inbound process has been completed, this must be confirmed by selecting the following from the four available options:
- “Investigation into missing units”: The units were included in the shipment and Amazon should investigate.
For the search request, proof of ownership (e.g., a proof of purchase or an invoice from the supplier) must also be uploaded, showing the date of purchase, the product names of the missing products and their number of pieces. For reconciliation, a waybill must be provided as proof of delivery for truckloads, showing how many parcels were included in the delivery and the total weight of the delivery when it was picked up by the transport service.
To ensure that existing problems are solved as quickly as possible, further information can also be useful. Amazon gives the following examples:
- All known discrepancies: Did you or the supplier ship more, less, or even the wrong products?
- Description of the shipping box: Indication of characteristics such as size, colour, etc.
- Product codes: Do the UPC, EAN or JAN on the products correspond to the information in Seller Central?
- Lack of preparation measures: Inadequate preparation of items for shipping can lead to delays in receiving goods.
- Now sellers can preview the application, check all the information and submit it to Amazon. Afterwards, they receive a case number and can use it to view the current status, including messages about the case, at any time.
Automated analysis of inbound shipment errors
The described manual check for lost products in the inbound shipment to Amazon and a corresponding case opening can be time-consuming and can also lead to errors. Especially with higher-order volumes and large numbers of SKUs, it is hardly possible to thoroughly check the details of all shipments after goods receipt. But one thing is clear: every undetected error in inbound shipping means lost money for Amazon FBA sellers. It therefore makes sense to resort to automated analysis of errors in the inbound process.
SellerLogic’s Lost & Found tool can automatically monitor and analyse all inbound shipments. If an error is found, the tool creates a new case that contains all the necessary information and can be submitted to Amazon in just a few steps. In addition to inbound shipments, the Lost & Found analysis covers other sources of error and detects, for example, overcharged FBA fees or missing refunds from Amazon:
- the items damaged or lost in the warehouse;
- Items lost in an Amazon warehouse because a customer return was scanned at receipt but not posted to inventory;
- Items in saleable condition which have nevertheless been destroyed without the express consent of the Seller and before the expiry of the 30-day period.
SellerLogic Lost & Found also provides texts for the applications and subsequent communication with Amazon. In addition, depending on the case type, the tool can detect errors up to 18 months retrospectively and significantly minimise financial losses for FBA sellers.
Conclusion: Dealing with lost products in inbound shipments to Amazon
Many third-party merchants on Amazon use the FBA programme – and rightly so because it saves time as well as capacity and offers customers the best service. FBA sellers “only” have to ensure that their goods arrive at the logistics centres on time. Even if it has been perfectly prepared for shipping, the complexity of the inbound shipping process means that there are several sources of error, such as products being lost. If such cases are not detected, no refund is made and sellers lose money. It is therefore worthwhile to rely on automated solutions such as SellerLogic Lost & Found and thus efficiently carry out error analysis and the corresponding application.