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Customer experience isn’t the only factor to consider when selecting the right shipping method on Amazon. Warehouse storage fees, the shipping cost per parcel, and the challenges associated with overseas fulfillment must also be taken into account in the FBA vs FBM conversation.

FBA or Fulfillment by Amazon is when you outsource the packaging, storage, shipping, and customer support duties to Amazon for a fee. For small-to-medium sized sellers, this service is invaluable, even if it results in extra costs.

FBM or Fulfillment by Merchant is when you decide to handle the logistics yourself or outsource them to a third-party logistics (also known as 3PL) company. FBM frees you from FBA fees but the question is, can you compete with Amazon’s logistics network in terms of shipping costs and delivery times?

Choosing the right delivery method also depends on the type of products you’re offering, the prevalent fulfillment method in your targeted niche, and the state of your logistics network or lack thereof. 

Together, in this blog, we’re going to look at how the different fulfillment methods on Amazon work so you choose the right one for your business. 

What is FBA and How Does it Work?

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is a service offered by Amazon to third-party sellers. By enrolling in the FBA program, Amazon will pack and safely store your products in a fulfillment center, ship them to customers when orders come through, and handle customer support related affairs on your behalf. FBA fees are incurred per sale

Amazon FBA fee—also known as fulfillment fee—isn’t static. It varies depending on product dimensions and category. As a rule of thumb, the bigger your product is, the higher the FBA and storage fees it incurs.

The entire FBA fee structure undergoes annual change making it important to keep up with changes and adjust your product prices accordingly.

For more details, visit Amazon’s official 2022 US FBA fulfillment fee page.

How to Calculate FBA Fulfillment Fees?

FBA fees generally hover around 15% of a product’s total price plus a small amount to cover for shipping expenses. If you want to find out the FBA fulfillment fee amount you’ll get charged, use the Amazon FBA revenue calculator

Start by picking out a product from your niche and copy and paste its ASIN inside the FBA revenue calculator search bar. 

The Amazon FBA revenue calculator in action

In the image above, we fed into the Amazon revenue calculator the following information:

  • The price at which we plan on selling the product i.e. Item price: $18
  • The cost of shipping one unit from our manufacturer to an Amazon fulfillment center: $1.00
  • The cost of manufacturing one unit i.e. Cost of product: $5.00

In turn, Amazon informed us about:

  • The referral fee (Selling on Amazon fee): $2.70
  • Fulfillment by Amazon fees: $3.77
  • The storage cost per unit: $0.04

At the bottom, our net profitability is $5.49 or approximately 30% per unit. 

An alternative to the Amazon FBA revenue calculator is ZonGuru’s free to download FBA fee calculator. It’s a nifty little spreadsheet that contains more details than its Amazon counterpart and is easy to use especially if crunching numbers isn’t your strong suit.

With FBA fee calculation now clear, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this particular fulfillment method. 

Advantages of Amazon FBA

More sellers fulfill products via FBA than FBM. The following are the main reasons why:

Target a Larger Customer Base

Sellers who opt for Amazon FBA can market their products to prime customers—an opportunity not available to self-fulfilling merchants. A prime membership contains plenty of perks including fast shipping, access to Amazon’s streaming services, reading material, and more.

According to the latest survey, Amazon has more than 200 million prime users all of whom you can market your products to. Also, since buyers expect fast delivery times, your FBA offer seems far more attractive than other FBM listings.

Get Rewarded with the Buy Box

The coveted buy box is the white box on the right-hand side of a product listing. Only one seller controls the buy box at any given moment and has all orders redirected to them until Amazon decides to pass it into another seller’s possession. 

Factors which increase the likelihood of winning and retaining the buy box include product price, customer ratings, and the fulfillment method. Sell via FBA and Amazon will let you keep the buy box longer than your competitors. 

No Inventory Storage Limitations

Storing a dozen or so products at home isn’t a problem for most sellers. However, a warehouse or storage facility becomes a necessity once sales start to pick up and even then, you might have to switch to a bigger warehouse if the existing one doesn’t have enough space. 

Fortunately for FBA sellers, Amazon owns and operates enormous storage facilities (commonly referred to as fulfillment centers) around the globe. 

It’s worth mentioning that ever since the start of the pandemic, Amazon imposed storage limitations on sellers that vary based on IPI (Inventory Performance Index) scores. In most cases, Amazon restricts new sellers to 200 units (per tier size); however, as IPI scores improve over time, the storage cap increases. 

Outsource Customer Support Services

Responding to customer queries on time is a baseline requirement for third-party sellers. As an Amazon seller responsible for handling the A-Z of your business, being able to provide customer support around the clock just isn’t possible. 

Sell products via FBA and Amazon’s representatives take care of the customer support end of things on your behalf. 

Note: Amazon’s customer support does not respond to direct buyer messages; it’s sellers’ responsibility to respond to such queries within a 24 hour timeframe.

Leverage Advanced Logistics Networks

Given the advancements Amazon has made in the last decade, it’s not surprising to know that the company owns and operates one of the best shipping networks on the planet. Even if you already have a reliable team or shipping service provider at your side, it’s unlikely that they can match Amazon's shipping times. 

Grow your Business

Think about it: Selling online via any digital platform automates half of all business affairs. Go with FBA and you’ve essentially automated your entire store. 

Unrecognizable man sealing box with duck tape while preparing for moving out
Self-fulfilling products can take a toll—pay Amazon to do all the heavy lifting!

Amazon FBA frees you from the logistics and customer support-related hassles and lets you focus on improving brand image, advertising, quality control, and ultimately taking your business to the next level.

How Does FBM Work on Amazon?

Amazon FBM (Fulfilled by Merchant), also referred to as self-fulfillment or MFN (Merchant Fulfilled Network) is when sellers decide to ship and fulfill orders themselves. 

By taking Amazon out of the equation, FBM sellers gain complete control over the shipping process and handle customers' concerns directly. It also frees you from shipping, storage, and long-term storage fees. 

As is with FBA, FBM also has its pros and cons.

Advantages of Amazon FBM

Although fewer sellers prefer to take the self-fulfillment route, FBM does offer the following advantages to Amazon sellers:

Greater Profit Margins 

The most obvious advantage is the absence of FBA fulfillment fees applied on each sale. Not only that, but sellers also free themselves from storage fees which can rack up when sales are slow or if you’re offering a seasonal product. 

Better Control over Your Inventory

Once your inventory reaches a fulfillment center, you relinquish control of your products. This might not be much of a problem until you later discover issues with your product or packaging that need to be resolved. Unfortunately, once your inventory enters an Amazon storage facility, it’s too late to make any changes. 

When self-fulfilling orders, you retain control over your inventory until it ends up in the hands of your customers. Any mistakes can be rectified beforehand, protecting your brand image and finances from taking a hit. 

Less Costly Fulfillment Method for Slow Moving Products

Generally speaking, pricier and large-dimensional products tend to have lower sales figures. The larger a product is, the heftier the FBA fees. If you’ve found such a product and are confident in its potential, choosing FBM might be the more logical decision.

More Suited for Established Businesses

Amazon FBA has enabled countless entrepreneurs to set up thriving online businesses. In exchange for a fee, sellers can outsource physically and financially demanding shipping and fulfillment duties to Amazon—which makes FBA so attractive.

But if you’re an established business that has the resources to fulfill orders and handle customer support, do you really need to go the FBA route? Maybe not. The Amazon FBA or FBM questions boil down to the numbers; if it’s more profitable to fulfill orders via your own shipping network, go for it. 

Another lesser-known FBM advantage is a program called Seller Fulfilled Prime. 

Seller Fulfilled Prime – Qualify for Amazon Prime Shipping with FBM!

Successfully enrolling in the seller fulfilled prime program lets you market and sell products to Amazon prime customers. Instead of shipping inventory to Amazon fulfillment centers, you:

  1. Store inventory in your own (or a 3PL) warehouse 
  2. Process orders directly from customers 
  3. Work alongside approved carriers 
  4. Pick, pack, and ship orders the same day

It’s worth getting into the seller fulfilled prime program for the following reasons:

  • Target a larger pool of potential customers while fulfilling orders via FBM
  • Boast the coveted prime badge which increases discoverability 
  • Avoid paying FBA fees
  • Increase the odds of winning the buy box

Given the benefits offered by seller fulfilled prime you would expect to see more FBM sellers enrolling in the program; however, that isn’t the case for two main reasons:

  1. Amazon is not accepting applications for its seller fulfilled prime program at the moment, you’ll need to join the waiting list to be notified when the enrollment process resumes.
  2. Sellers must adhere to strict requirements and that too after they pass the initial trial period.

Some of these requirements include:

  • Meet the 1 or 2-day delivery period
  • Extend premium shipping options
  • Ship 99% of all orders on time
  • Ship products on weekends
  • Use Amazon’s Buy Shipping Services for 99% of all orders
  • Agree to Amazon’s Returns policy

Amazon has high expectations from its seller fulfilled prime members. If the criteria feels too strict, there’s another solution: shipping through both FBA and FBM.

Amazon FBA and FBM – Reap the Benefits of Both Fulfillment Methods 

Under the Manage Inventory tab, you’ll find the option to Edit product listings and switch them from FBA to FBM and vice versa. When selling multiple products, a sound strategy is to use FBA for fast moving and small and light products whereas FBM results in cost savings for bulkier goods. 

For seasonal products, you could switch to FBM when your sales velocity takes a dip. There’s nothing in the rulebook that states you have to stick to one fulfillment method; adopt a dynamic approach and switch things up when needed!

Amazon FBA vs FBM – Which Fulfillment Method Should You Choose?

You should choose Amazon FBA if:

  • You don’t have a logistics network to rely on
  • You’re new to online selling
  • You’re not interested in handling customer support and shipping and would rather focus on other aspects of the business

Amazon FBM makes sense if:

  • You’re an established brand with prior shipping experience
  • You have a reliable logistics network
  • You want to sell large-dimensional and slow moving products

Based on the pros and cons of both fulfillment methods, FBA makes more sense for entrepreneurs who want to earn money online and maybe set up a self-sustaining store in the future. ZonGuru offers an all-in-one Amazon FBA seller toolkit—the ultimate sidekick to anyone looking to earn money by selling products online.

Created solely to help aspiring Amazon sellers like you succeed, an affordable subscription also opens the door to tons of free resources including podcasts and weekly live training sessions with 6 to 7 figure Amazon sellers!

Start selling today!

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