Amazon’s fulfillment network is legendary in terms of size, efficiency and speed. Sorting and sending thousands of items every day, the scale of the operation at Amazon is often described as phenomenal. In some ways then, it is not so surprising that around 40 percent of these items are actually sold by third-party vendors, taking advantage of Amazon’s shipping and handling service. eBay sellers can too join the leagues of these third-party vendors and use Amazon fulfillment for orders, without having to sell on Amazon itself. Read on to find out more.
The two ways eBay sellers can use Amazon fulfillment services
Some eBay sellers choose to also sell items on Amazon. Products are stored at Amazon warehouses, advertised on Amazon’s website and then are directly shipped to the customer when purchased. This system is called fulfilled-by-Amazon (FBA). But this isn’t the only way eBay sellers can ship items with Amazon. The second way is called Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF).
With MCF, it is possible to sell items on third party websites (such as eBay) and have Amazon send the item to the buyer. In this scenario, Amazon acts as a warehouse and shipping facility. Customer service and returns are still handled by the seller. Here’s how the process works:
- eBay seller opens a Merchant account on Amazon
- eBay seller sends selected inventory to Amazon fufillment centre
- eBay seller creates listing as normal
- Item is purchased via eBay
- eBay seller submits order request for shipment
- eBay seller chooses delivery option for item
- Amazon picks, packs and ships the order to customer
- eBay seller provides tracking and customer service to buyer
- If a return is needed, eBay seller assists buyer as normal and directs return either to Amazon or seller. Amazon will receive returned merchandise and process back into inventory.
The small print of Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment
Amazon’s shipping and handling cost per item depends on a number of different factors including size, weight and number of units per order. The chosen speed of shipping is also critical.
The three different levels of shipping are:
- Standard (3-5 business days)
- Expedited (2 business days)
- Priority (next day)
Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment is currently available in the USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Japan. Using this type of service is also known as ‘drop-shipping’ or product sourcing. eBay sellers are allowed to use product sourcing services as long as the seller can guarantee that the item will be delivered to the buyer within 30 days of the end of the listing. Regional rules may vary.
To be able to use MCF, inventory has to be listed as available for sale on Amazon unless the seller has a Professional Merchant account. This type of Amazon account has a fixed monthly subscription fee – for users of Amazon.com, the cost is currently $39.99 a month. With a Pro Merchant account, sellers can exclusively sell items on a non-Amazon site (such as eBay) without also listing on Amazon.
The advantages of using Amazon MCF for an eBay business
While to some sellers the concept of outsourcing shipments may seem a little strange, there are a number of reasons why Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment would be helpful to an eBay business.
- Efficiency. Amazon claims that MCF will improve customer experience with faster delivery. With such a reputation for shipping speed, reliability and accuracy, they may have a point.
- Convenience. Some sellers find the shipping and handling part of eBay selling time-consuming and stressful. Outsourcing this leaves more time for other important selling tasks.
- Peace of mind. Leaving shipping and handling in the hands of a large, experienced corporation is a relief for some sellers.
- Consistent customer service. All customers will receive the same shipping standards, as guaranteed by Amazon. It may lead to more repeat buyers and therefore more sales.
- Storage. Part of the MCF service is warehouse storage for items, with no minimum inventory requirements.
- Stay exclusive to eBay. With the Pro Merchant account, sellers do not have to sell items on Amazon even when using MCF.
The downsides of using Amazon MCF
As much as the positives sound great, there are still some reasons why sellers may avoid signing up to MCF.
- Branded packaging. Items sent via MCF are packaged in Amazon-branded boxes and mailers. There is currently no option to use plain or brand neutral packaging. Products do come with an invoice listing the sellers name but this still may be confusing to buyers.
- Early deadlines. The cut-off time for order delivery is 1pm EST. For some sellers, this is considered inconveniently early.
- Premium pricing. Depending on the type and quantity of items sold, some sellers may find Amazon’s MCF pricing more expensive than regular shipping services.
- Less personal touch. Many buyers shop on eBay because they enjoy the marketplace of small independent sellers. Receiving a package via an automated service (with Amazon packaging!) takes away from this experience.
- No room for error. After submitting an order request, a seller has just 15 minutes to cancel while the status of the order is in planning.
- No direct link. At this time, there is no direct connection between Amazon’s MCF and eBay. There are however some third party software options that do provide further integration and automation.
Final thoughts on using Amazon Multi-Channel Fufillment as an eBay seller
For eBay sellers wanting to streamline their shipping and handling side of their business, Amazon offers a reasonable solution with the Multi-Channel Fulfillment service. There are some definite disadvantages (most notably, the lack of choice regarding packaging) but for some sellers, the advantages will far outweigh them.
One of the other significant issues with MCF is the seemingly high prices, however, it is a common seller mistake to misunderestimate time and money spent on shipping and handling. When evaluated properly, with all expenses included, Amazon’s MCF pricing may seem less extortionate. Nonetheless, much like other services available for eBay sellers, Multi-Channel Fulfillment is not the perfect solution for every eBay business. The unique nature of the eBay marketplace means that every business works slightly differently and hence the usefulness of the MCF service varies wildly between sellers.