One of the most common questions I am asked is “How can I reduce the number of splits in my Amazon shipments?”
Having put thousands of shipments together in my time, I have some advice. It does not cure splits entirely, but it makes it better than it might otherwise be.
Why Listing Software Bungles The Job
I never liked splits. But I never realized how good I had it until a client was using Accelerlist and showed me an ordinary 60-book shipment that went to 20+ warehouses. 20+!
Many people use software like Accelerlist, Inventory Lab, or ScanLister to create really robust SKUs and track data associated with their inventory. I know that all three are aware of the problem of splits, but only Scanlister (as far as I know) solves the problem in a way that I find satisfactory. But maybe that’s just because it fits in to my existing workflow!
In any event, “live” listing softwares tend to break up shipments because they are querying the API for every item, essentially asking it without any context “Where do you want this?” Naturally Amazon chooses some place that would be the most convenient for it.
However, once it realizes that you have a whole shipment, it starts being more reasonable about where it sends things. That’s why if you use a listing software, you can tell it to “batch” list (the exact terminology varies) so that it asks Amazon only once, “Where do you want all this stuff to go?”
The Secret – Manual Shipping Plan Set Up
But you don’t have to use software, and in fact for the fewest possible shipments, I recommend that you don’t. Here’s how you should do it instead.
Caveat: Every time I mention this in forums, someone always tells me “some people have gotten in trouble with that.” But I’ve done it this way for years and I’ve never seen so much as an error message, so I don’t know why. It says right on the shipment page that you can change your inventory “Up to 5% or 6 items.” Why wouldn’t you?
Not knowing how you list, I am not sure exactly when in the process this happens, but at some point your listing software will upload all your listings and descriptions to Amazon. They will appear in your Manage Inventory page.
Bonus Pro Tip: Make sure you don’t have any open shipments on the Manage FBA Shipments page, because Amazon will helpfully try to add to them. If Accelerlist has built them for you, a) there’s a setting to turn that off, and b) get rid of them. Unfortunately there’s no wholesale way to get rid of old open shipments, you have to open them and individually delete all the items in the shipment. If you have a lot, just go back a month or so. Amazon doesn’t usually try to add to them after that point.
Step 1: Open Your Manage Inventory Page
Select all the items you want to ship.
Step 2: Select “Send/Replenish Inventory”
Step 3: Assure Amazon that you mean what you say
Step 4: Create a New Shipping Plan
Also, make sure the address is correct. Otherwise who knows where your shipments will go!
I also often get asked what the difference between case-packed and individual is, and the answer is in the form of a rule of thumb: Unless you bought inventory by the case from a supplier (usually a qty like 25, 36, 50, 100), you are shipping individual items.
Step 5: Set QTY
Here’s the secret: EVEN if you are sending multiples, set the QTY for all items as 1, unless they quantity for any single item is greater than 6. If it is, put the correct quantity in, but ONLY for those items with greater than 6.
This is because Amazon’s biggest trigger for splitting shipments is to have more than one of an item. Why would you put more than one of the same thing in a single warehouse? You should put one on the east coast, one on the west coast, and maybe one somewhere in the middle. Which is exactly what will happen if you don’t tell Amazon that you’ve only got one. (At this stage).
Now, it gets tricky when you have more than 6, because 6 is as much editing to the qty as Amazon will let you do, later in the shipment. So in those cases you put in the correct numbers, and if you’re lucky you can still fiddle with it later for a more advantageous split.
Step 6: Tell Amazon You’ll Be Labeling
Step 7: Click continue instead of printing labels
Step 8: Create Shipments
Now I apologize because at this point I either had to get my butt in gear to make the truck or I forgot to keep screenshotting, so I had to find screenshots of some other shipping plans/splits.
Some other examples:
Although I hear rumors that if you keep your shipments under a certain number of items, you’ll get one shipment, I find that the opposite is true. The big shipments tend to be one nice big lump to a local warehouse, and a handful of items Amazon wants on the west coast for some reason.
Two or three warehouses is the most common split we see. Rarely ever more.
Step 9: Modify your QTYs if necessary
So now if you’re shipping more than one of any item, you want to open up your shipments and edit that.
See? Easy as can be.
Step 9b: If you have QTYs greater than 6.
Edit: Don’t do this. I have found the specific policy that prohibits this strategy: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/help.html?itemID=GLMEBQLNBY97ANYY&
If you have say, 8 of a given item, then in Step 5 you told Amazon that you have 8. So what likely happened is that 5 of those items are going to a local warehouse, and the other three are going to the west coast, SMF, DFW, PHX or similar. So if you want to, you can edit the shipment so that the shipment that travels the furthest is as small as possible. So you go into your big shipment, and change the qty from 5 to 8. Then you go into the small shipment and you change the qty of that sku to 0 (deleting it, effectively). Repeat for as many SKUs as you are able. You can’t add a sku to the big shipment that wasn’t already there, but you can edit all the skus that are in both shipments, essentially pulling them out of the small shipment and shifting them to the big one. You still wind up sending at least one box out west, but it is as small (and cheap) as it possibly can be.
This sort of thing happens the most with Retail Arbitrage, where people are buying Disney toys by the dozen. But it also happens with small replenishments for private labels and once in a while we see it with textbook arbitragers. So it’s good for everyone to know how to do this. You might wonder why you don’t just tell Amazon that you have the correct QTY to begin with and then do this shifting. That’s because if Amazon thinks there is only one of each item they are MUCH more likely to reduce the splits. The more multiples, the more warehouses. That’s just how it works. They don’t want to have to cross-ship, so they put the onus (and the cost) on you. You also reduce the number of individual items that get sent west (ie, the items that you won’t be able to shift back to the big shipment) because when Amazon sees that they already have stuff going west, they are prone to add to it– kind of like balancing a load.
It Takes Time But It Saves on Shipping
A lot of people might scoff at this method. Especially if you’re often shipping scads of multiples, it is VERY tedious to be editing in the shipments. But I find split shipments to be more tedious still– extra boxes, extra labels, extra box contents to set up– I would rather spend 20 extra minutes on my butt at my desk tweaking the quantities than an extra 30 minutes out in the warehouse stacking and restacking things to make sure they’re in the right shipment.
Not to mention what it saves on shipping! Those west coast shipments, they cost a lot! If you can ship to a local warehouse, the cost is at least 30% less, plus it gets there faster. The fewer items you can ship west, the better.
Now that I have this blog post to point to, I anticipate sending a lot of people to it, so please let me know if there is anything unclear or difficult to understand.