Is Amazon’s FBA Service Really So Wonderful?

06-08-2014 00-08-13

I was recently asked why I didn’t appear to be using Amazon’s wonderful FBA (fulfilment by Amazon) service.

There are two points here: 

1. Do I believe Amazon’s FBA service to be as wonderful as it’s cracked up to be?  My answer is yes, but with some reservations.

2. Do I use Amazon myself?  My answer again is yes…but not for everything.

In this newsletter I will explain where I think FBA can help you, and where it might let you down…

Here’s How FBA Can Help You:

Increase Your Sales – Using FBA you give your products a competitive edge, compared to non-FBA listings, as your handling, packing and dispatch costs are lower than you might achieve fulfilling products yourself.

You also are granted greater visibility on the Amazon site, than comparative standard listings, which of course translates into more sales.

Members of Amazon Prime – an annual subscription service – are allowed free shipping on all Amazon fulfilled goods, which gives you a clear price advantage over your non-FBA competitors.

Sell Easily Across Europe – Using FBA allows you to tap into fulfilment options across Europe, specifically France and Germany, without additional marketing costs, or the need to worry about the language barrier.

Save Time and Money – By dispensing with the standard requirements of premises and staff, you save time and money.  From the privacy of your front room you can compete on level terms with most small to medium sized businesses.

Increase your Customer’s Satisfaction – Amazon take’s care of all your customer’s needs. And because Amazon has a high degree of perceived trust with its customers, this same level of trust is automatically transferred, by association, to all your products.

Fulfil Orders from Your Own Site and other Channels – You don’t even need to be selling on the Amazon website to benefit from using FBA, as they offer a multi-site fulfilment service i.e. you can sell from your own website and still take advantage of FBA.

Where FBA is Less Useful:

FBA Does Have It’s Restrictions

FBA will not handle certain products.  For a full list you would need to consult the FAQ section of their website, but in short, FBA will not handle:

  • Hazardous goods or firearms
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Large or heavy goods e.g. washing machines or fridges.

Amazon cannot Answer Specific Customer Questions on your Behalf

For instance, I don’t use FBA for selling my music CDs.  This is because CDs are so small and easy to store, pack and post, that I’m happy to fulfil them myself.

One of the downside of using FBA is that if a customer asks you a specific question about your product e.g. the name of a composer, the record label, the country of manufacture, the date of manufacture, what the cover design is like, whether a CD contains a specific track or not etc., etc., then I like to be able to go and pick up the CD, inspect it and then reply straight away.

If all your CDs are in a FBA warehouse in Bedfordshire or Wales, then you will be unable answer your customer enquiries, which could lose you a sale. Such questions happen with sufficient regularity for it to be worth my while fulfilling my CDs from home.

However, that’s not to say that I don’t use FBA at all, as I do.  I have had an FBA account for years and mainly use them for large, heavy, bulky items…such as books. The same as with many households, I simply ran out of storage space at home and was happy for FBA to take care of this problem for me.

When it comes to books, there are far less specific customer enquiries and the benefits of FBA clearly outweighs the benefits of self-fulfilment.

I treat FBA like one might treat supermarket shopping.  For the really heavy, bulky, standard types of weekly shopping items, I have them delivered to my door by Tesco, Sainsbury’s or occasionally Waitrose – This is my equivalent of FBA.

For the individual specifics, which might needs some element of decision making e.g. on price, date, quality, then those items stay on my personal shopping list – the equivalent to self-fulfilment.

Either way, it’s great to have the option of choice and to know that Amazon’s FBA service is there should we need it.

Have a great week.


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