Selling on Amazon can be a bit of a complex beast. And getting your order management process straight is crucial for a thriving eCommerce biz. SO. We put together this post to:
- Get you up and running on Amazon
- Help you decide whether you should let Amazon fulfill your orders
- Demystify the three main selling options: Fulfillment by Amazon, Fulfillment by Merchant, Seller Fulfilled Prime
- Show you how to become a top seller (or at least a highly rated seller!)
- Walk you through the basics on how to optimize your order management on Amazon, from bulk shipping to pick lists and invoices
- Show you how to integrate Amazon with eBay and Shopify for streamlined order management
Let’s get started!
In this guide:
- How do I start selling on Amazon?
- Should I let Amazon fulfill my orders?
- Fulfillment by Amazon
- Fulfillment by Merchant
- Seller Fulfilled Prime
- How order management software helps with FBA
- How order management software helps with FBM
- How order management software helps with SFP
- How do I become a top seller on Amazon?
- Can I bulk ship Amazon orders and import tracking numbers in bulk to Amazon?
- How do I create a pick list for Amazon orders?
- Can I print invoices for Amazon and eBay at the same time?
- What is the best way to integrate Amazon with eBay and Shopify?
First things first, you need to have a think about what you want to sell. Amazon has two different seller memberships which we’ll get into below. So basically, you have more than 20 product categories available to you. And if you decide you want to go for a Professional Seller subscription, you get at least another 10 product categories open to you.
If you want to take a look at the different categories, and the selling requirements for each, Amazon have broken it down on this page.
Pick a selling plan
Amazon has two selling plans on offer, to suit all needs:
This plan is essentially a pay-as-you-go set-up. You pay $0.99 per item sold in addition to referral and closing fees. This plan is good if you’re looking to sell less than 40 items a month.
You’re free to sell an unlimited number of products for $39.99 a month. Referral fees and variable closing fees on your sales will also apply. This subscription is ideal if you’re planning to sell more than 40 items a month.
Set up your account
Once you’ve chosen which plan you wanna go for, head here to get registered on Seller Central.
Once you’re all set up
It’s a simple 4 step selling process from there:
1. List your products
If you’re a Professional Seller, you can add batches of items in bulk to Amazon Marketplace. Unfortunately, if you’re an Individual Seller, you’ll need to go through and list products one at a time.
If you’re selling products that are already on Amazon, life does get easier. All you’ll need to do is put in how many items you have in stock, the condition of the items and the shipping choices.
If you’re selling products that aren’t on Amazon, you’ll need to allocate SKUs to each item and write out your item descriptions. It’s worth taking advantage of Amazon’s trust factor here. Customers don’t tend to be nervous about buying stuff through Amazon, as they’re seen as reliable. So try not to introduce unnecessary friction into the shopping process. Make sure your descriptions and photos are high-quality and clear.
It’s time to start taking orders! Amazon will let you know when a customer places an order.
This part depends on how you are going about your shipping, whether you’re handling it yourself or letting Amazon take care of it. We’ll cover those below.
4. Get Paid
Your seller fees are deducted from your payment before it’s sent to your bank account. You’ll get a notification email from Amazon to confirm payment is on the way.
Well. It pretty much comes down to whether you want access to Amazon Prime members, and the benefits that can bring to your business.
Amazon Prime is a paid subscription service where members can enjoy perks like free 2-day delivery, music and film streaming, and lots of other benefits.
It’s extremely popular and growing fast. You can’t argue with these stats:
- Amazon was able to grow Prime memberships from 63 million in June 2016 to 90 million in the US as of September 2017
- Amazon Prime members spend an average of $1,300 per year compared to non-Prime members who spend $700 annually
You’ve got three selling options:
- Fulfillment by Amazon (open to both individual and professional sellers)
- Fulfillment by Merchant (open to both)
- Seller Fulfilled Prime (professional sellers only)
Each one comes with its own pros and cons. Because life can’t just be straightforward.
We’re just gonna say this as well before we dive in: it’s ok to mix and match.So, for example, you may decide to use FBA for some of your items and fulfill the rest yourself.
We’re gonna have a look at each option and hopefully by the end, you’ll have a much clearer picture.
As the name suggests, you’re handing most of the workload over to Amazon. The process of getting started with FBA goes like this:
- Add FBA to your seller account
- Add your product listings to Amazon
- Prep your products for shipping to Amazon fulfillment centers (no minimum on the number of items you send either)
- Ship your products
Once that’s done, Amazon handles your orders, and all picking, packing and shipping. They also manage all your returns and refunds for those items.
You have to pay two fees:
This covers the costs for picking, packing, shipping (no extra charges for Prime or free shipping), customer service, and returns. It’s calculated by the size and weight of the items you’re sending to FBA.
Monthly Storage fees
This is the cost of storing your products in Amazon’s warehouse. It’s calculated by the amount of storage space your stock takes up, measured in cubic feet.
The full breakdown of costs can be found here.
Tip: Don’t forget to factor in the cost of shipping your items to Amazon in the first place. Other fees may also apply for selling on Amazon.
Pros of Fulfillment by Amazon
Automatic Prime eligibility and access to a wider audience
Yep, your products become eligible for free two-day Prime shipping. Not only that but your items can become eligible for free shipping for non-Prime members too. Delivery is one of the most critical parts of order management, so being able to offer these options to customers is a huge deal for your business. And of course, your market has just massively opened up to include Prime members (who, as we mentioned before, have a habit of spending more money).
Simplifies your order management
So not only do you get the perks of being Prime-qualified, but you don’t even have to handle the workload that comes with it! If free shipping is on the table, then the order volume is bound to go up.
And if you were handling all the order management yourself, that could put a massive strain on your business, leading to bad customer feedback. But because Amazon is managing your orders, you’re protected if anything does go wrong. If a delivery is late for example, then the blame lies with Amazon. This also means that any bad customer feedback relating solely to order fulfillment shouldn’t touch your seller reputation. (Product reviews and providing good product support are still your responsibility of course.)
So you can just sit back and enjoy stress-free revenue. Or use that time to grow other areas of your business. Heaven.
Higher conversion rates
You can pretty much piggyback off Amazon’s reputation to give your biz a boost.
Glacomo Poggiali over at ShippyPro sums it up:
“FBA sellers usually obtain higher conversion rate: that’s because their product is considered as if it was sold directly from Amazon. This impression gives a sense of trust to the customer, as Amazon is one of the most reliable trademarks in the world.”
You can win the Buy Box
First of all, what’s the Buy Box? It’s this:
The Buy Box makes up 82% of Amazon sales. And FBA sellers have a much better chance of scoring the box. It’s a low-friction way to get sales: shoppers will usually just buy the one that’s in the box because it’s quicker and easier. And remember: you won’t even need to deal with the extra orders that come from here. Yay!
You can use Multichannel Fulfillment
If you’re selling on other channels, such as eBay, you can send those orders to be Fulfilled by Amazon and they’ll be picked from your existing inventory in Amazon’s warehouse. This means you can offer faster delivery to your non-Amazon customers and build up a great reputation on other sales channels. It’s worth noting though that you don’t need to use FBA on your Amazon listings to get Amazon to fulfill your orders from other channels. You can just arrange to send some inventory to them to cover orders from other places.
For more info on Multichannel Fulfillment and pricing, go here.
Cons of Fulfillment by Amazon
You have less control over your order management
This depends on what kind of person you are, but it can be tough for some people to hand the reins over to someone else. If there’s a problem, you have to rely on Amazon to fix it and provide awesome customer service. Sure, they do have a really good reputation but you probably care about your own brand reputation and maybe don’t like the idea that if Amazon mess up, you can’t rectify it yourself.
Lower profit margins
You have to weigh things up here. The fulfillment and storage fees can really add up, but if you managed to sell more due to FBA, would it balance out? It’s wise to try and plan ahead as much as you can, because you don’t want to find that the expense is crippling your business later on.
Tip: As a rule of thumb, to help ease the strain on your profit margins, it’s best to choose items that are small, light and expensive with fast turnover to be fulfilled by Amazon.
It’s also worth noting here that FBA may not be a suitable choice if you’re an individual seller. Because on top of the FBA costs, you’ll still have to pay $0.99 for every item sold. It may be a good idea, if you’re considering FBA, to choose the Professional Seller plan or wait until you have enough orders to justify upgrading.
This is the ‘go it alone’ option where you manage the entire order management process from start to finish. You collect the orders, pick, pack and ship.
Pros of Fulfillment by Merchant
You have control over your order management and brand reputation
You’re not having to rely on anyone but your own business to get things done and fix things if they go wrong. And you can have a direct relationship with your customers which strengthens your brand. It’s you and your team they’ll be speaking to when they have a question so you have the opportunity to make yourselves really stand out.
If anything does goes wrong with orders, go the extra mile by sending a freebie or something to make up for it. Chances are that Amazon wouldn’t have the time to make those gestures on your behalf. Brand loyalty is based on more than just fast delivery at the end of the day.
You’re not paying out fulfillment and storage fees to Amazon, just the regular referral and closing fees which should be much easier to manage. Sure, you still have to pay your own costs for order management but those are within your control.
Higher profit margins
You won’t have Amazon’s overheads eating into your profits so you get to keep that extra wedge of margin for yourself.
Cons of Fulfillment by Merchant
It’s all on you to handle orders and make ure everything runs smoothly. If you’re selling from other channels aside from Amazon, this can quickly become overwhelming. Not trying to be super negative here, sorry. Essentially though, if something gets messed up, there’s nobody else to shoulder the blame. It goes without saying that you need a slick process to keep things in check.
The Buy Box is harder to win
We feel like we’re painting a bleak picture here. But the odds are stacked against you if you choose the FBM route. Here’s the situation:
“Amazon favors FBA sellers when it comes to the Buy Box. This makes it automatically more difficult for FBM sellers to win the Buy Box and in order to do so, it may mean drastically reducing prices and slashing your profit margins.”
Your potential market is smaller
If you choose FBM, you don’t have access to Prime members which is, as we mentioned earlier, a pretty hefty chunk. Over 90 million people in the US alone. Well, you do have access to them technically because they can see your items. But they’ve paid for Prime so they’re more likely to choose Prime sellers who offer free two-day shipping. Which is fair enough if they’ve paid for it.
If you’re still feeling a little stuck on whether to go with FBA or FBM, there’s an awesome infographic that asks you questions to help lead you to the right choice.
Ah, the middle ground. If you don’t want to use FBA, yet you’re not too thrilled about FBM, this one could be the answer.
Amazon doesn’t store or manage your orders for you yet you still become Prime eligible. Here’s what the process looks like:
- Store stock in your own warehouse
- Process your orders and buy shipping labels from Amazon-approved carriers
- Pick, pack, and ship your orders on the same day
- The courier collects and delivers items to customers within 2 days
What’s the catch? Well, it’s not easy to qualify, and stay qualified, for SFP. You pretty much need to match the standards that FBA offers.
You’ll also need to complete a fairly difficult trial to become SFP qualified.
Let’s start with the requirements. You need to:
- Have a professional selling account
- Have a warehouse
- Offer premium shipping options
- Ship over 99% of your orders on time
- Have an order cancellation rate of less than 0.5%
- Use Amazon’s Buy Shipping for at least 98.5% of orders
- Deliver orders using Amazon-approved couriers
- Agree to Amazon’s return policy
- Let Amazon handle all your post-order customer service inquiries
Erm, yikes. Those are some high standards. So what does the trial look like?
- The trial runs from 5-90 days, depending how quickly you meet the criteria and it resets if you haven’t completed it within 90 days
- Prime badges are not displayed on your items during the trial
- You need to ship a minimum of 50 Prime orders with 100% on time shipping
You need to pay the transportation fees of the couriers and the regular marketplace fees (referral fees on sales etc). There’s no fee to sign up either.
Pros for Seller Fulfilled Prime
Potential for more orders with access to Prime customers
You’ve blown your market wide open without paying Amazon’s fees for FBA and you’re keeping control over your own processes. Nice. Prime customers are more likely to buy from you, and keep buying from you, because of your delivery promise.
Higher chance of getting the Buy Box
If you keep up the SFP standards, that certainly puts you in the running for prime position (bad joke, sorry).
Cons for Seller Fulfilled Prime
Extra workload and pressure
SFP demands a lot from sellers. You need an impeccable process for managing and fulfilling your orders to stay in the program. If you don’t keep up your standards, you’re booted out. It’s definitely recommended that you streamline your order management processes before launching in, to make sure you can cope with the demands.
More orders could put a strain on your business
The Prime badge does come with a price. Yeah, it’s great to have access to more customers who are more likely to buy from you. But if your order volume shoots through the roof, will you and your team be able to manage? If everyone is exhausted, how many mistakes will be made? Especially when you have to ship the orders on the same day you receive them. This is why it’s crucial to have a scalable order management system that can help you keep things organized.
When you offer free two-day shipping, costs are gonna go up. The cost of shipping alone can add up, but you also have to factor in how much packing material you’re gonna go through. If the Prime items you’re selling are low in value, these expenses will seriously munch into your profits.
You have to stick to Amazon’s return policy
If there’s anything in their terms you don’t agree with, there’s not much you can do about it unfortunately. Take a look at their policy and see what you think:
Ok, so now we’ve been through each option and given an overview. If your head’s spinning a bit, that’s completely normal!
If you’re leaning towards Fulfilled by Merchant or Seller Fulfilled Prime, you can see by now that you need to have a solid and reliable way of handling orders for customer experience (and to keep your Prime status).
Order management software can offer a ton of help, which we’ll go into now. It can also help with Fulfilled by Amazon. You may be thinking “but Amazon handle everything so why do I need to worry?”. That’s true, but if you’re interested in using FBA to fulfill your non-Amazon orders, then software can make this ridiculously easy.
Let’s start with the easy one.
Order management systems are a great help when you want your orders from other channels to be fulfilled by Amazon. If you’re already using FBA for your Amazon listings, your existing inventory in Amazon’s warehouse will also be used to fulfill your Etsy orders (for example). It’s worth noting that you can use Amazon’s Multichannel Fulfillment service even if you’re not using FBA.
If you want to let Amazon handle an order that you got from another channel, this is how you do it in Seller Central:
- Make a note of the customer’s order details on the relevant channel
- Head to your Amazon account and log in
- Go to ‘Manage Inventory’
- Pick the products to be fulfilled and click “create fulfillment order.”
- Then enter the customer’s details, along with the order ID number
- Enter information to go on the packing slip
You can fill out and upload a Fulfillment Request template to do this in bulk.
Or you can make the process quicker using order management software.
As an illustrative example, we’ll show you how simple it is inside ChannelGrabber:
STEP 01: Switch the toggle to “on” to enable Multichannel Fulfillment.
STEP 02: Pick the orders you want, and click Ship
STEP 03: Select Amazon FBA on the dropdown menu for shipping. The orders are then sent straight to your FBA account.
The order status then updates inside ChannelGrabber so you can see when FBA have dispatched the orders.
If you’re taking it upon yourself to handle all your orders, fair play to you. You may not have all the strict requirements that comes with the SFP program but you know it’s still crucial to get orders out the door quickly. And it can be overwhelming if you’re selling on other channels as well, and using manual processes, all while trying to keep customers happy.
In a nutshell, order management software does these things:
- Gives you one interface to log into to manage orders from all your channels
- Creates a master pick list of ALL your orders to make it easier
- You or your team can create and allocate batches of orders to divide the workload
- Integrates with couriers so you can get your shipping labels inside the interface
- You can bulk action orders with one click for simple processing
- Scan to dispatch using a standard barcode scanner
When you’re having to get your orders ready to dispatch on the same day that they come in, that’s a lot to take on. Everything needs to be as smooth as humanly possible because delays could cost you your Prime badge. The benefits of order management software that we listed in the previous section could help you create a seamless process as you’ll be able to manage all your orders in one place and quickly divide up the orders to be prepped.
The Buy Shipping from Amazon requirement isn’t a concern here either, as you can get your Amazon courier labels easily from inside the OM system (in ChannelGrabber’s case anyway). We’ll be going into more detail about that shortly.
If you’re looking at becoming SFP qualified, having an order management system in place could help you pass the trial which is worth thinking about.
Well, it all comes down to seller feedback and building up your score. Potential buyers will check out your seller rating when deciding whether to buy from you.
This is even more pressing for Fulfilled by Merchant sellers than those with the conversion-friendly Prime status. Because you don’t have the badge to make sales easier, your feedback will be your best asset. For example, if you’re competing against another FBM seller, your rating will probably be the tipping point as to whether you get the sale.
But it’s not only your customers you need to think about. Jennifer Dunn over at TaxJar points out:
“On a deeper level, seller feedback also influences your relationship with Amazon. For example, Amazon considers negative feedback frequency when calculating its overall seller rating. Sellers and Amazon alike use this metric to track performance. In addition, feedback plays a major factor in determining Buy Box eligibility. If two FBA sellers are competing for the Buy Box, there’s a strong likelihood that feedback would be used as the determining factor.”
Interesting. So basically, there’s no room for complacency with any of the selling choices. Good to know.
Key takeaway for FBA sellers: While Amazon is handling all your customer service enquiries related to fulfillment, focus on getting great product and product-related support reviews.
Key takeaways for FBM and SFP sellers: Focus on getting your order management as optimal as possible to deliver items quickly and accurately as a top priority. Then look at building up good feedback in other areas to further boost your seller ratings.
If you’re using Fulfillment by Amazon, this is all taken care of for you.
If you’re doing Fulfillment by Merchant, you can use Amazon’s Buy Shipping services or the Shipping Confirmation Template (only available on professional seller accounts).
For Seller Fulfilled Prime, you’ll be using Buy Shipping the majority of the time anyway. And if you’re looking to go into SFP, using Amazon’s shipping services is a good way to prepare!
You can buy shipping labels in bulk for up to 100 orders at once. When you use this feature, you don’t need to worry about confirming shipment and tracking info as it’s done automatically.
Here are the instructions for inside Seller Central. You get 4 columns of info on the Buy Shipping page:
How order management software can make Buy Shipping easier
Order management software means you won’t need to log into Amazon Seller Central to set up and print your labels. You can do it from within the system where you’re managing all your other orders which saves time, especially when selling from multiple channels.
Here are a few ChannelGrabber screenshots to show you how simple it is (because we just so happened to have screenshots to hand):
1: All the order details are pre-populated and you can choose shipping preferences to automate the courier selection but if you don’t do this, you can just select Amazon as the courier, as shown below.
2: Choose your delivery preferences
3: You can then click the bulk ‘Request All Services’ button to save going through and clicking the buttons to confirm on each order
4: Select for Courier pick up
5: Weights and dimensions are automatically saved after the first input, and will pre-populate on all future orders (just like on Amazon). You can also add insurance to orders if needed
6: Bulk create your labels, or select individually (you rebel)
Note: You can also choose to integrate your Amazon labels with your invoices to save on paper and avoid any errors in matching up labels to invoices.
Shipping Confirmation Template
This option is open to professional sellers only and you can use it to confirm multiple shipments. Here’s the process:
- Download it from Amazon here and save a copy
- Fill out the details for each order and refer to the Instructions tab when needed
- Upload it to Amazon and they will update your customers with confirmation and tracking info etc
Not all of the input fields are mandatory, but Amazon recommends that you give as much information as possible. This is what it looks like:
Amazon Shipping Confirmation Template
How much time are you really gonna have to keep filling this template out and uploading it? Especially if Amazon isn’t your only channel.
If you’re not gonna use Amazon’s Buy Shipping or the template, this is how you confirm shipment in Seller Central:
How to confirm shipment for an order in Amazon Seller Central
- Go to Manage Orders and find the relevant order. Click Confirm Shipment in the Action column.
- On the Confirm Shipment page, enter the Dispatch Date, Shipping Method (including the carrier information) and the Tracking ID (supplied by your courier).
- Enter any special notes about the order for your reference in the Seller memo field (optional).
- Click Confirm Shipment.
- Amazon will then update your customer’s account and send a confirmation email
So what other options are there? Well, as it happens, order management software means you’re not stuck with any rubbish manual processes. No matter what kind of seller you are, and which couriers you use, you can bulk ship/dispatch all your orders with the click of a button. (Plus you get a load of other features to help your business!).
Life could be as easy as this with ChannelGrabber.
Tick the orders you want:
And . . .
With one little click, Amazon’s got the memo that the orders are out the door. Tracking numbers are sent out automatically too.
When you’re prepping your own orders, you need it to be quick. We’ve found that sellers use a couple of different ways to create pick lists in Amazon.
Download an order report and import it into Excel, then delete any unnecessary info so you’re left with the order number, item title and quantity. Print it out and use as a pick list.
In Seller Central, go to Orders and click “order status” from the first dropdown menu. Then click “Unshipped” from the second dropdown menu and press search. Once all your unshipped orders have appeared, print out the page.
These ways of doing things may be a little clunky (and totally unnecessary). They’re also gonna slow you down, especially if you’re managing orders from other places apart from Amazon.
If you want to see how to quickly create one pick list for all your Amazon and eBay orders, we made a post about it.
Not if you’re navigating each channel separately. But you can with an order management system. With ChannelGrabber, you’ve got all your orders from Amazon and eBay in one place. So you can just select the ones you wanna create invoices for and do it with one click.
If you want to learn more about customizable, branded invoices for eBay and Amazon sales, go here.
If you’re looking to connect just Amazon and eBay to each other, you’ll find yourself a little stuck as you can’t directly connect them without using a middle-man solution like order management software.
Shopify does offer Amazon and eBay integrations. BUT . . . it may not be the best way. We covered the eBay app in this post. And we’ll just focus on the Amazon one here.
What are the requirements for using the Amazon app?
And it kinda seems like you would still have a fair bit of manual work on your hands:
The beauty of integrating your sales channels is that you don’t have to keep logging into separate accounts to get stuff done. But it kinda seems here like you would need to keep doing that. You’d need to remember to check in on Amazon to make sure there aren’t any special order requirements from the customer. And if you forgot (because it happens), and missed something, then you could botch up someone’s order.
In terms of customer feedback, Shopify’s Amazon integration has an average of 1.8 stars (at the time of writing), based on 113 reviews.
So in terms of the best way to integrate Amazon with eBay and Shopify, you may wanna look towards an order management system. If you want to see a breakdown of vendors and what they offer, we have a dissection-type post on it.
Here’s why order management software is worth looking at:
- Even if you’re ONLY selling on Amazon and eBay, you can connect them and manage the orders together
- Your FBA orders are imported into the interface, so you can keep an eye on the status of each order (payment received, dispatched, etc)
- You can send non-FBA orders to FBA super easily with Multi-Channel Fulfillment
- You can own the entire order management process from start to finish (like a boss)
- It can help you meet Seller Fulfilled Prime’s strict criteria (from compulsory Buy Shipping to tight deadlines)
- Orders from different channels are brought into one place so you don’t miss anything or have to keep logging into different accounts
- Multi-courier integration so you can get your shipping labels, no problem
- Order timeline, so you can see the status of each order
- Can create master pick lists to help speed up dispatch times
- Can bulk action orders instead of painstakingly clicking or inputting one at a time
- Cost is based on order volume so you’re never paying for more than you need
- Can upgrade or downgrade whenever
And we’re just gonna casually drop it in here that these are some of the things we offer at ChannelGrabber.
Interested in learning more about order management software? Check out our Ultimate Guide here: