Industry projections suggest the shift in consumer spending is more of a flash point than a temporary flash-in-the-pan.
With so many encouraging signs and a promising trajectory, it’s no wonder starting your own online business continually ranks among the top ways for aspiring entrepreneurs to start their empire and design their own path to financial freedom.
The outlook for e-commerce is already bullish, but don’t be surprised if 2020 outpaces projections as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ongoing pandemic has wreaked havoc on many industries, and traditional retail has been one of the sectors hit the hardest.
Retailers and department stores reliant on brick-and-mortar retail such as Neiman Marcus and JCPenney have filed for bankruptcy, while many others in the sector also find themselves on the ropes. For in-person retail, it’s just the latest blow for an industry running out of margin for error.
Does this mean people have stopped spending? Not at all. The pandemic hasn’t shifted if people will spend their money, but how they will spend it. Instead of heading out to stores and malls, consumers are staying inside and buying online.
On July 30th, Amazon reported $88.9 billion in revenue, up from $63.4 billion in Q2 2019. The e-commerce behemoth is only growing more powerful as e-commerce continues to pick up momentum making FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) selling an extremely profitable business opportunity with the right resources and strategy.
But This Is Just The Beginning
As traditional retailers flock to Amazon, e-commerce will only grow stronger and continue to take a larger piece of the pie. But will the arrival of major first-party sellers take a chunk away from third-party sellers?
So far, the answer has been an overwhelming no, as sales from 3P sellers continue to grow year-after-year.
“Our 3P sellers, largely comprised of small and medium-sized businesses, also stepped up to make more selection available for customers. And as a result, these small and medium-sized businesses have seen significant growth in their sales. Our third-party seller services revenue grew faster than online stores revenue in Q2, with strong growth in both fulfillment by Amazon and merchant fulfilled or MFN seller sales. Third-party units continue to represent more than half of overall unit volume, helped by improved quarter-over-quarter growth in active sellers.”
— Brian Olsavsky, CFO of Amazon
Amazon Is Still Growing
The demand from customers on Amazon has never been higher, with over 150 million Amazon Prime subscribers. For years, the biggest barrier for an e-commerce breakthrough was product availability and customer convenience.
Amazon has grown to an international powerhouse thanks to its platform designed to make the process of buying and selling online easy for those on both sides. For sellers, Amazon has opened the doors for aspiring entrepreneurs with their massive warehouses for storage and their two-day Prime shipping program.
These assets are advantages that have simplified or entirely erased areas of concern for those with entrepreneurial ambitions.
While the light to jump into the e-commerce game is as green as ever, it won’t stay green forever.
Every minute of experience you have on Amazon is valuable for growing your brand and maximizing your profits. Because each minute is more experience over others who will be entering the marketplace as the industry continues to grow.
Fortune favors the bold and the informed
At Viral Launch, we understand starting your online business can be an exciting, but intimidating leap. At Viral Launch, we’ve made it our goal to provide everything you need to have the data and strategy to succeed. If you haven’t already, sign up for a Viral Launch account today and gain access to your free trial to see all the powerful insights you can glean from our vast amount of Amazon data. With Viral Launch’s Product Discovery and Market Intelligence tools, you can scout the market to find winning products that align with your resources and goals.
There’s likely to be no better time than now to get your online business off the ground and be your own boss! Amazon’s seller-friendly platform, Viral Launch’s powerful data, and an emerging market are the perfect storm for your entrepreneurial success!
Keeping up with the incredible variety of rule changes, success tactics, and competitor strategies as an Amazon seller is a full-time job in and of itself. To add to your list of items to keep up on, Amazon has just announced upcoming changes to their fee schedules in three critical areas.
Their goal each year is to take a look at the current fee structures and assess if they are an accurate reflection of the ever-changing dynamics within the industry. Amazon has just announced several changes to their referral fees, FBA fulfillment fees, and Long-Term Storage fees which will inevitably impact every seller, the question is how big of an impact will it have on yours!
Lower Referral Fees for Specific Categories
Amazon’s referral fee is the amount charged for each item sold on their 3rd party marketplace.
Beginning on February 19th, 2019 Amazon is implementing reductions in the referral fees for several categories. This is likely being done with the intent of expanding the products sellers are offering on the marketplace by creating more opportunity for greater margin.
Let’s highlight some of the most impactful changes in the reduction of fees:
For items in the furniture category (excluding mattresses), the fee percentage will decrease from 15% to 10% on any portion of your total sales price above $200. Example, for a couch priced at $350, you would be charged a 15% fee for the first $200 and 10% on the remaining $150. That’s a savings of $7.50 per unit. Imagine if you are selling 500 units per month of that product, that’s an extra $3,750 per month in profit with no additional effort!
Amazon is lowering the per item minimum fees from $1.00 to $.30 across all categories where fees apply. However, the minimum fee for Jewelry and watches have a more significant decrease, from $2.00 down to $.30.
For products $10 or under in the Baby (except baby apparel), Beauty, and Health & Personal Care categories, the referral fee will be reduced from 15% to 8%. This reduction does not apply to products with a total sales price that exceeds $10.00. We are very interested to see if Amazon is taking into account the listed price, or the purchase price in the $10 threshold. This could give a slight break to those that run external promotions that price their product under the $10 limit.
(Important to note that the total sales price includes the item price PLUS any shipping and gift wrap charges.)
This was new to us, but Amazon is offering potential referral fee reductions:
Temporary referral fee discounts of up to 70% for lowering your product price.
60% referral fee discount when a non-Prime ASIN is added to Seller Fulfilled Prime.
You can get full details on all referral fees here. For the Referral fees with discount opportunities, click here.
Annual Increase In FBA Fulfillment Fees
On par with previous years, Amazon has announced increases to their FBA fulfillment fees. If your products fall in the small standard or large standard-size category and are under 10 oz, then you get a free pass on fee increases (enjoy!) . All changes, are highlighted in the image below, including fulfillment cost changes.
You can get full details on all changes to fulfillment fees here.
Amazon Long-Term Storage Fee Change
One of the biggest changes Amazon has made is with their sneaky long-term storage fees. Effective February 15, 2019, Amazon will no longer charge long-term storage fees for items in storage 181 to 365 days. However, long-term storage fees will still apply for items in storage over a year, at a rate of $6.90 per cubic foot, billed the 15th of every month.
You can get full details on all changes to long-term storage fees here.
If you’ve had a hard time moving inventory or have been using Amazon as an inventory storage option for the last six months, this is a major break! If you’re struggling to rank, we’d be happy to talk through our 2019 ranking strategies. To get notified when we release our brand new 2019 Amazon ranking strategies, text “RANK2019” to 44222! If you’re using Amazon as a storage facility, there are many cheaper alternatives that we’d love to bring to your attention! Shoot us a text with “STORAGE” to 44222 and we will send you more information.
In all, it’s important to stay connected to sources that are keeping you abreast of the changes within the Amazon industry as they come fast and often.
Viral Launch’s Take On These Amazon Fee Changes
If you sell higher end furniture products this could be a game changer for your margin, however, it could also be a quick race to a new bottom now that sellers have more room for margin.
The interest in reducing fees in furniture is also likely a play to steal business away from sites like Wayfair and Walmart which have more traditional businesses in the furniture vertical. It will be interesting to see how this impacts those other retailers. In general this type of competition is great for sellers!
I absolutely expect to see sellers looking to game these new price thresholds by bundling items together to see an aggregated discount on the referral fee (not to mention the savings on shipping).
One trend we continue to see picking up steam among our Amazon customers selling $10m+/year is a move to Seller Fulfilled Prime through the use of 3rd Party Logistics (3PL) providers. This is a topic we will be covering more and more in the new year as we see it as an inevitable next step for many sellers. Seller Fulfilled Prime offers incredible flexibility, opportunity to fulfill to other marketplaces such as Walmart, and in a lot of cases reduced costs while still being able to support same day and two day Prime shipping.
Changes are inevitable and pervasive in the world of selling on Amazon. These fee changes should come as no real surprise as they have become a staple to the start of each new year. Amazon is simply passing along the general fees of operating their massive logistics empire, which makes complete sense. If these minor fulfilment fee increases are any cause for major concern, then you likely have bigger issues around your unit economics than anything.
Staying up to date on Amazon’s latest changes is imperative to making smart informed business decisions. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to make sure we can help you stay ahead of such a dynamic and ever changing market! And if you’re determined to make 2019 your best sales year yet, you can pre-register for our free event, “How to Rank in 2019” by texting “RANK2019” to 44222!
Ready to ditch the corporate life and sell Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon)? Not sure how to get started?
Or maybe you’re already selling Amazon FBM (Fulfillment by Merchant) and looking to make the switch …
If you’re interested in FBA vs. FBM each program has its pros and cons. But ultimately, FBA provides an unmatched, hands-off selling experience with the ability to scale. For these reasons, many sellers prefer FBA to FBM.
FBA is a method of fulfilling products by having Amazon store, pick, pack and ship your inventory. Through FBA, Amazon even handles returns. Although there are additional fees, setup, and tax obligations, FBA makes it easy to quickly start and scale your business. lot of the content in this blog can also be found from our How To Sell series! Check out the video if you’d like to get started on your Seller Journey:
Why Would I Want to Sell Through Amazon’s FBA Program?
You don’t have to store boxes of inventory at your house. One major benefit to selling FBA is that Amazon handles a good portion of the selling process, namely the most time-consuming portions. Although you still have to set up an Amazon Seller account (we’ll talk more about how to do this later), choose a product to sell, list the product, and have the inventory sent to an Amazon Fulfillment Center, Amazon takes care of the rest of the process with FBA. So when a customer orders your product, Amazon handles the fulfillment logistics of picking, packing, and shipping. In their words, “You sell it, we ship it.”
Once your products are ready to sell and in stock at Amazon’s warehouses, they are automatically eligible for Prime 2-day shipping. Although it is possible to be a Prime seller through FBM, you must meet extensive criteria to be eligible. And with an estimated 112 million Amazon Prime members, or about 62% of U.S. households subscribed to Prime in 2019, you can’t afford NOT to have Prime shipping. Numbers like that are hard to ignore when it comes to the sales potential that Prime provides.
What are the Different Methods of Selling on Amazon FBA?
Now that we’ve established which program you should sell through (FBA), let’s talk about methods of selling, or where to get inventory. There are many options, all of which appeal to different kinds of people. Some are more hands-on, while others allow for higher earning potential. Three of the most common methods include Retail Arbitrage, Wholesale, and Private Label.
Retail Arbitrage – This is a process of finding discounted products in retail stores (such as Walmart, Target or Kohls) and reselling them on Amazon. To make it profitable, the items need to be bought at a significant discount and sold at a higher price on Amazon. You can sell other branded products using this method and it is often a lower risk option, since you can check before purchasing the items if you will be able to make a profit or not. You can also search liquidation stores or online sites for pallets of returned items that can be resold.
Wholesale – To sell wholesale, a more unique method, you must find a manufacturer (local or abroad) and convince them to allow you to sell on their behalf. The smartest way to do this is to create an official business or LLC, acquire a wholesale license, then reach out to manufacturers/wholesalers to discuss a contract for selling their items. Getting the business to agree to providing you exclusive selling rights can lower your competition as well.
Private Label – Private Label selling involves working with a manufacturer to produce items and add your own brand name and logo to the products. As long as there is no patent on the product model, you can legally sell under this method and even work with manufacturers to create product modifications or additions to make your brand’s product stand out. Many private label sellers use Alibaba.com to connect with manufacturers, get samples, purchase inventory and more.
How Do I Get Started with FBA?
There are two account options when selling on Amazon: Individual and Professional. With Individual Selling Plans, you pay $0.99 per item every time a product is purchased. For those sellers making fewer than 40 sales per month, this may be more cost effective than paying the $39.99 Professional Plan subscription fee. These fees are on top of other FBA fees, which we’ll get into more later.
If you haven’t already created a Seller account, you will need to set one up. If you already have an account as an FBM seller, you can easily switch over to FBA inside your Seller Central account.
For retail arbitrage sellers selling FBA, you will need to add the product to your inventory in Seller Central and follow the steps to create labels for your items, which can be printed at home. Once you have printed labels, you can package different items in one large box to be shipped to an Amazon fulfillment center and print a shipping label for that box as well.
Keep in mind that you will need to pay for these shipping costs out of pocket, plus any materials needed for shipping (labels, boxes, tape, scale, etc.). Additionally, Amazon may require you to send inventory to multiple fulfillment centers depending on their inventory levels, which could increase your shipping costs.
Amazon does not require sellers to sticker products at the SKU level as long as you have a manufacturer barcode for the product. But other sellers with the same product (that are also “stickerless”) could get mixed in with your inventory in an Amazon warehouse and could be picked up and shipped to a customer instead of your stock. If their product is used, lower quality or even counterfeit, you could receive poor reviews, a higher return rate or even be suspended by Amazon for counterfeit sales (even if the product is not actually your inventory).
If you choose to sell Private Label or Wholesale, you’ll want to find a good product to source as well as a trustworthy manufacturer. Check out our podcast about finding a good manufacturer to make sure you make a smart partnership as well as our podcast about sourcing the right product to make a sourcing decision that meets your goals.
You can choose to label items yourself (following the method mentioned for Retail Arbitrage) as long as each unit has a scannable barcode or you can pay to have Amazon prep and label each item for an additional per-item fee. Fees can be as low as $.70 per item to as much as $2.20 per item.
When your shipment is ready to be sent to Amazon, make sure you have an organized shipping plan that includes easy tracking so you can ensure your inventory makes it to the desired fulfillment center. To learn more about carriers who partner with Amazon to deliver shipment to their warehouses, visit their page featuring Partner Carrier options.
Once Amazon has your inventory and your listing(s) is live, Amazon will handle the delivery of purchased items to customers as well as customer service throughout the process. Sellers just need to ensure their item is always in stock and ready for customers to buy. Check out our blog on inventory best practices to make sure you never get behind or run out of stock.
What are the Fees for Selling through Amazon FBA?
Because your inventory is stored, packed and shipped by Amazon when you sell FBA, there are additional fees associated versus FBM. Earlier in 2018, Amazon restructured their FBA fees into two fee structures:
Fulfillment Fees are per unit, based on the size and weight of each item and include the complete picking, packing, shipping and handling, customer service and return process for each item.
Monthly Inventory Fees are assessed per cubic foot based on the total size of your items. Inventory fees increase for Q4, so it’s important to calculate your costs for each quarter. Below is a breakdown of Amazon’s FBA fees. Make sure to double check your math with an FBA Calculator for help determining your costs before you source.
Other potential fees sellers could incur include long-term storage fees (if items in your inventory have sat in a fulfillment center for 6 months or more) and additional storage fees if you choose to participate in Amazon’s Multi-Channel Fulfillment Program (more on this later).
Things to Keep in Mind as You Start Your Amazon FBA Business
Although there was once a time when online sellers could get away with not paying sales tax, those days have come and gone. In June of 2018, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of South Dakota in South Dakota vs. Wayfair, Inc. Now, one-by-one, states are starting to enact economic nexus legislation.
Because the decision is new at the time of writing this post, it will take some time for the effects to play out. We encourage sellers to keep an eye on internet sales tax by state, and stay informed on the latest news in Amazon sales tax. Sellers should connect with a tax consultant versed in online sales tax regulations to avoid slip ups or potential mishaps in their FBA businesses.
Did you know that you can fulfill orders from sales channels outside of Amazon.com through the Amazon FBA Multi-Channel Fulfillment Program? Rather than having multiple different inventory locations and shipping methods for your different online sales sites, store all of your inventory in Amazon’s warehouses and let them pick, pack, ship and handle your items to customers, whether the sale is through Amazon.com or elsewhere. There are additional fees associated with the fulfillment process for multi-channel orders, but you can skip the headache of storing, packing and shipping your items and let Amazon do the heavy lifting.
If you are selling retail arbitrage or wholesale, the Buy Box is going to be very important to you. The Buy Box is the box on the right hand side of a listing page with the price, seller and shipping information as well as the “add to cart” button. If there are multiple sellers on a listing, they will be listed below the seller who has “won” the Buy Box. Since the majority of buyers purchase from the seller who has “won” the Buy Box, winning is critical to increasing sales. Although there are several factors considered to “win” the Buy Box, fulfillment method is a crucial component. And FBA sellers are significantly more likely to secure the Buy Box over other sellers.
If Amazon is handling the customer service for your product under FBA, you shouldn’t have to worry about reviews right? Wrong! Reviews are a huge driver of sales, so whether you’re selling wholesale, retail arbitrage or private label, bad reviews and a low star rating can tank your sales rate. And, with the ability to filter by star rating, too many bad reviews could effectively leave you out of a user’s search results.
For private label sellers, positive product reviews are key to buyer trust in your product quality. If your product is similar to several others in the market, a better star rating could guarantee your product is chosen over your competitor’s. For wholesale and retail arbitrage, positive seller reviews are extremely important to establishing trust in your brand’s quality. Buyers want to hear from their peers if they can trust purchases coming from your seller account or if they should be concerned with used or damaged goods.
There’s been a lot of talk around reviews and Amazon cracking down on review fraud, so making sure you don’t violate Amazon’s Terms of Service for reviews is vital to avoiding suspension. Check out our video about Amazon’s recent “review crackdown”:
Final Thoughts: Learn from Failure
Look, it’s no secret – Amazon FBA can be a confusing and difficult platform to navigate. You’re bound to make some mistakes. What’s important is that you learn from your mistakes and minimize missteps in the future. Following our Amazon FBA guidelines is a good start, but to be truly successful, sellers should keep seeking out new information and staying up to date on changes.
There’s an old quote that states: “Complacency is the enemy of progress.”
Getting complacent or lazy at any stage of your FBA business journey is a recipe for disaster as it requires constant maintenance and upkeep to stay on top. By working hard and arming yourself with up-to-date information, you’ll have the tools you need to achieve Amazon FBA success.