As your Amazon business grows, preparing items for FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) can quickly eat up a lot of your time. Amazon FBA is a game-changer that simplifies logistics and offers many benefits for sellers in a competitive market. Sellers handling hundreds or thousands of units each month know how demanding this can become. When you reach this point, you usually have two choices: hire a team or work with an FBA prep partner.

Initially, having a dedicated team is an appealing option because it gives you direct control over the preparation process. However, the complexities extend beyond finding and hiring a service; you also have to secure a warehouse, manage inventory, and bear the additional overhead costs. Additionally, you may have to redirect the time you save by employing a team towards managerial duties, leaving you in a similar bind as before.

On the other end of the spectrum are FBA prep partners. They’re a streamlined alternative for sellers aiming to automate their operations. Flexibility is critical to deal with the unpredictable nature of sales along with Amazon’s frequent policy updates. Prep partners offer this agility, accommodating fluctuations in sales and helping sellers adapt swiftly.

While they’re an attractive option, it’s essential to tread with caution, as not all prep centers uphold the same standards. You must conduct thorough research and vet potential partners based on key criteria. Keep reading to explore 10 factors you should consider when scouting a top-tier FBA fulfillment partner.

1) Experience and track record

A partner’s experience and history are fundamental indicators of their reliability and competence. A seasoned FBA prep partner has weathered the highs and lows of the eCommerce industry and understands the intricacies involved.

Those with an established track record have already faced and resolved many of the challenges new or less-experienced services might still struggle with.

Look for:

  • Case studies: These offer a detailed look at how the prep partner approached specific challenges and the solutions they developed. They showcase the provider’s problem-solving capabilities and adaptability.
  • Years in business: While longevity isn’t the sole determinant of a service’s ability, being in business for several years suggests stability and resilience.
  • Past and current clients:: Who have they served? Do they have experience handling businesses of your size or in your niche?

Experience and track record are crucial, but you should also dive deep into what that entails. Besides a long-standing industry presence, having a history filled with adaptability, satisfied clients, and successful problem-solving showcases a partner’s true worth.

2) Scalability

Every seller aims to expand their business, reach new markets, and increase sales. As yours grows, you’ll encounter varying order volumes and sales spikes. To manage these changes efficiently, you need a partner who can seamlessly scale their operations according to your requirements.

Look for:

  • Dynamic infrastructure: Does the prep partner have the physical space, staff, and technology to handle a sudden influx of orders?
  • Adaptability in operations: Can they quickly adjust their processes to accommodate larger order volumes without compromising service quality?
  • Previous experience: Have they successfully managed surges for other clients? Real-life instances offer valuable insights into their scalability.

A reliably scalable partner adjusts well to the increased demand and ensures every aspect of the process, from product inspection to dispatch, maintains its quality.

3) Quality assurance protocols

Amazon is known for their high standards when it comes to product listing and fulfillment. Any deviations can result in listing deactivations or, worse, account suspensions. Accuracy in FBA preparation is thus non-negotiable to succeed on the platform.

Amazon’s guidelines are designed to ensure a consistent and high-quality experience for shoppers, and you must meet them to maintain your operations. Mistakes can happen, but how they’re addressed makes all the difference.

Look for:

  • Regular training: Does the partner regularly train their staff on Amazon’s ever-evolving guidelines?
  • Checklists and inspection protocols: Do they have an established system to inspect each product according to Amazon’s requirements?
  • Monitoring and reporting: Do they have tools to monitor the prep process and identify errors in real-time?
  • Feedback loop: How do they incorporate feedback? Is there a procedure to analyze mistakes and ensure they don’t recur?

A prep partner can significantly smooth the way forward on your Amazon selling journey by ensuring adherence to quality standards and implementing robust error mitigation systems.

4) Transparency and communication

Transparency and open communication foster trust and facilitate smooth collaboration between you and your FBA prep partner.

Look for:

  • Open channels: Can you reach out to your partner easily? Whether through emails, calls, or a dedicated account manager, you should have direct and open lines of communication.
  • Regular updates: Your partner should proactively keep you informed at every stage of the preparation and shipment process.
  • Detailed reporting mechanisms: These provide insights into various aspects like inventory levels, processing times, and potential issues.

When problems arise (as they inevitably do), swift and transparent communication ensures they’re addressed promptly to reduce the potential negative impact on operations.

5) Technology integration

Embracing AI is now a crucial strategic imperative for Amazon sellers. Utilizing cutting-edge technology is essential to staying agile amidst the ever-changing landscape of eCommerce.

Look for:

  • Inventory management tools: Seek out partners who possess advanced inventory management tools that give you real-time insight into stock levels, inbound shipments, and more.
  • Compatibility: The prep partner’s systems should be compatible with popular eCommerce platforms and tools. This ensures seamless data exchange and efficient operations.
  • Automated processes: Automation can significantly reduce the chances of human error. Whether it’s labeling, packaging, or invoicing, automated systems enhance accuracy and efficiency.
  • Security protocols: Verify the service’s prioritization of data security. Ask about their measures against potential cyber threats, data breaches, and unauthorized access. Safe handling of your business’s sensitive information and that of your customers is mandatory.

Integrating robust technology streamlines operations offers real-time insights, and automates processes, ensuring the prep and shipment processes are efficient and free of errors.

6) Cost-effectiveness

Although seeking top-notch services is essential, ensuring you receive worthy value for your money is equally important to protect your bottom line.

Look for:

  • A clear fee structure: Every cost should be explicitly outlined. Ambiguities or hidden charges can disrupt your budgeting and planning.
  • Detailed breakdown: You should understand what each fee corresponds to, be it storage, labeling, packaging, or some other service. That clarity ensures you know exactly what you’re paying for.
  • Comparative analysis: Once you understand the charges and services, compare them to those of other providers. Factor in aspects like service quality, additional benefits, and customer reviews to determine which partner offers the best value for your money.

When selecting a prep partner, the cheapest service isn’t always the best one. Instead, you need to balance cost with the quality and range of services provided.

7) Geographical location

With over 25% of abandoned carts in eCommerce due to dissatisfaction with delivery speed, fast shipping provides a significant competitive advantage.

Look for:

  • Proximity to fulfillment centers: Ideally, your prep partner should be close to one or several of Amazon’s key fulfillment centers. That proximity means shorter transit times and lower shipping costs.
  • Strategic positioning: Certain regions offer better transportation infrastructure, such as major highways, airports, or ports.
  • Multiple locations: Some larger prep partners operate multiple facilities, which offers flexibility, especially for those who have a diverse customer base spread across different regions.

Amazon Prime members expect quick deliveries, and how well you meet those demands can greatly influence buyer satisfaction and reviews. A prep center’s location affects the time and cost required to send products to Amazon’s fulfillment centers, so be picky in that regard.

8) Storage solutions

Sales are often unpredictable. During certain times, you might have excess inventory for various reasons — maybe a product didn’t sell as expected, or you stocked up in anticipation of a special event. Whatever the reason, efficient storage solutions help maintain product quality and ensure they’re ready for shipment when needed.

Look for:

  • Storage options: Does the prep partner possess both short- and long-term storage solutions? Understanding the options available is critical, especially if your sales volumes fluctuate seasonally.
  • Terms and conditions: It’s not just about space availability; the terms of use are equally important. Understand how products are stored (e.g., temperature-controlled environments for sensitive products), how they’re accessed (and by whom), and what security measures are in place.
  • Legal compliance: Make sure the prep partner adheres to state, regional, national, and international laws regarding storage. This can pertain to safety regulations, hazardous materials, and even environmental guidelines. Assess the security measures in place to protect your inventory.
  • Cost implications: Obtain a clear breakdown of the costs associated with storing your products. The provider may base it on the volume of items, duration of storage, or a combination of factors.
  • Rotation and accessibility: If you store items for an extended period, understand the system for product rotation to avoid issues like expiration or degradation.

Flexible storage solutions act as a backup plan for unsold inventory, safeguarding against potential losses and maintaining product quality.

9) Turnaround times

The speed with which a seller can process, pack, and ship products directly impacts customer satisfaction and brand reputation. Efficient turnaround times can thus mean the difference between a successful sale and a lost customer, especially when buyers are comparing options.

Look for:

  • Standard processing times: Learn the prep partner’s average time to receive your inventory, then pack, label, and ready it for shipment. That gives you a baseline for planning and forecasting.
  • Peak season efficiency: It’s essential to know how the prep partner’s turnaround times change during busy periods. Do they have the resources to handle increased volumes without significant delays?
  • Express options: Sometimes, you have to expedite specific shipments due to a special promotion or replenish fast-selling stock. Check if the provider offers express or priority processing options for these situations.

While pricing, product quality, and marketing are major contributors to eCommerce success, you can’t overlook the speed of processing and delivery. A prep service that ensures efficient turnaround times, even during peak seasons, can be invaluable to keep buyers happy and loyal.

10) Customer reviews and references

Past experiences from other sellers offer a candid view of what to expect from a prospective prep partner. Along with understanding their strengths, you also identify any recurring challenges or areas of concern. Past client reviews help set clear expectations and reveal potential pain points before entering into a partnership.

Look for:

  • Online reviews: Search for patterns. Is there any repeated praise or criticism about specific aspects of the service? This can highlight unique advantages or areas in need of improvement.
  • Diverse feedback: A company may perform exceptionally well in one area and lag in another. For instance, they might offer rapid turnaround times but falter when it comes to handling fragile items.
  • References from the partner: A confident FBA prep partner should have no reservations about providing references. Reach out to these connections and have a frank conversation.

Customer reviews and references act as a magnifying glass, honing in on the actual performance and reliability of an FBA prep partner. While promotional materials highlight where the provider excels, client feedback contributes to a balanced view that helps you make an informed decision.

Wrapping up — The right FBA prep partner is worth the effort

Thriving in Amazon’s FBA program involves multiple strategic decisions, and selecting the right FBA prep partner is a crucial one. By focusing on aspects like experience, scalability, turnaround times, and past customer feedback, you can narrow your candidate list and choose one that builds a successful and efficient operation for your business.

The aim is to find not merely a service provider but a partner who aligns with your business values and goals. Cultivate a lasting and fruitful collaboration by conducting thorough research and prioritizing transparency and performance in your chosen service.

About the Author

Tom Wicky

Co-Founder / CEO


Tom is an entrepreneur, startup advisor, and management consultant with over 20 years of senior management experience.  He is the Co-Founder and CEO of MyFBAPrep, the largest worldwide 3PL ecommerce warehouse network.  He managed the digital assets of local media companies across Europe as part of a $2 billion private equity investment led by Macquarie Bank. At the beginning of the Amazon FBA Marketplace, Tom built a data automation platform used to programmatically generate, manage and optimize over 1 million product listings on Amazon. He is a Boston sports fanatic and a recovering hot sauce junkie. Tom speaks Spanish and German and lives in Florida with his wife and three children.