Let’s suppose you’re running an independent e-commerce store under a brand name.
It’s thriving so much that you are unable to take care of all the orders through your in-house fulfillment resources.
So, what to do know when you are overloaded with orders and don’t have a large investment for further scaling your business?
Amazon MCF could be a great option to solve this “good problem”.
What is Amazon MCF, how it works, and what are its benefits and downsides, we will answer all such and similar questions in this post.
Without any further delays, let’s start our discussion.
Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) is an Amazon program that works like FBA but for non-Amazon selling channels. In other words, MCF enables independent businesses and sellers to use Amazon’s fulfillment expertise to store, pack, and ship orders to their customers outside of Amazon marketplaces.
Amazon MCF comes under the umbrella of FBA. One interesting bit about Amazon MCF is it also works for channels that are direct competitors of the smiling A. For instance, even if you have a store on eBay, you can power your supply chain with the Multi-Channel Fulfillment program.
Yes, you don’t need to be an Amazon seller to use MCF. This fulfillment service is available for everyone. Whether you are an Amazon seller with non-Amazon selling platforms, a business operating on a 3rd party marketplace, or someone with their own independent online storefront—you can use MCF.
It is worth mentioning here that you’ll need to have an Amazon account to use MCF. This account will register you as an MCF member in the Amazon database. Also, having an Amazon account is important to get Seller Central access to MCF.
Amazon MCF is only available in the following countries:
The overarching mechanism of MCF is the same as FBA. The only difference is that MCF fulfills the orders that you are not selling on Amazon.com. The following schematic encapsulates how MCF works in the easiest way possible.
If you look at the above diagram, it is clear that MCF works like Amazon FBA except the order fulfillment is done for non-Amazon sales channels. Now, let’s look at how order creation and handling work in Amazon MCF.
Since MCF doesn’t entail Amazon listings and marketplaces, the order processing is not that straightforward. There are multiple ways to create and process orders for MCF.
If you are already an FBA seller or just testing how MCF works, you can opt for this method. You can either create single or bulk orders through Seller Central.
Creating a Single MCF Order on Seller Central
On this page, you will have to manually enter the order details. It includes complete customer information, product, quantity, and shipping speed. Once you fill in all the details, click the Place Order button on the bottom right of the page. This will create an order that Amazon will process and send to the customer on your behalf.
Creating a Bulk MCF Order on MCF
The above method of order creation and processing can get quite time-consuming if you have to take care of multiple orders in a very short time. In such instances, it is better to go with bulk order creation.
Whether it’s individual or bulk orders, creating them manually is a lot of work. For those operating with high order volume or having multiple sales channels, order creation and processing through Seller Central might not be efficient and ideal for scalability.
Such businesses and agencies can go with Amazon MCF API integration.
The API integration will link up your sales platform directly with the MCF channel where you don’t need to manually pass an order for fulfillment. Any order received at your storefront will be passed on to your MCF account and from there it will be fulfilled like any other order.
Once the API integration is done, this process becomes automated and you don’t need to do anything extra to carry out MCF order fulfillment.
Also, Amazon offers multiple ways to carry out API integration to cater to all types of businesses using its MCF program. Let’s have a look at them.
Custom API Integration: If you are using a customized/in-house built e-commerce platform for your store, you can develop your own API integration for Amazon MCF. Amazon also provides documentation that can help you come up with your custom API integration.
MCF Web Plugins: If you are using a third-party e-commerce platform to power your online store, you can use the readymade MCF plugins to do an API integration. These web plugins and apps are available for almost all popular e-commerce platforms. If your brand store is powered by any of the following platforms, you can do the seamless API integration through a plugin or app.
Multi-Channel Listing Software: If you have more than one sales channel and want to integrate all of them with MCF, you can use some software applications to do that. For instance, WebBee is one software extension through which you can integrate your Shopify and BigCommerce sales channels with MCF. Similarly, Pipe17 is software that allows you to converge your multiple sales channels to MCF.
You can easily track your MCF orders through your Seller Central account. Open the Order drop-down from the homepage and click Manage Orders. Then, enter the ID of the order you want to track in the search bar and press Enter. It will open the below page. It will display all the shipping information of the order.
If the order has been shipped, a tracking number will be generated. This tracking number essentially belongs to Swiship. So, you can now track the order through Swiship for its last-mile route.
This link comes in handy for customers tracking their orders. If you have mentioned customers’ email IDs while creating MCF orders then Amazon will send them a shipment confirmation email along with the shipment ID and the Swiship tracking page.
Returns are part and parcel of any online business and gigs using Amazon MCF are no exceptions. Amazon allows you to select the destination of any return order. You can either get it back in your own storage facility or route it to the Amazon fulfillment center.
If a return entails a defective product or an item with short shelf life, it is better to not send it back to FBA centers. For all other returns, go for the fulfillment centers because Amazon will then repackage and relist those items for future MCF orders.
If you want to receive the return orders, communicate with the customers and guide them on how to send them back to your warehouse. However, if you want the returns to head to an Amazon fulfillment center, you can do it via Seller Central or through API integrated system.
Since managing returns through Seller Central is manual work, you will need to follow the steps:
This will generate a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) form. This form contains a label with the return address (of a particular FBA center). Customers are required to attach this label to the product they want to return. Then there is a slip with the product description and barcode. This slip should also be enclosed in the return package.
You can also check whether the return is back in the fulfillment center by clicking the Return Status button on the Order Detail page.
There are essentially two Amazon MCF fees:
If you are wondering how much is Amazon MCF Shipping Fee, then you need to look at the fulfillment fee because it covers all the phases (pick, pack, ship) of order fulfillment.
Like FBA fees, fulfillment, and storage fees are also based on multiple factors. So, let’s look at all the MCF fee rates in detail.
From January 2023, Amazon has revised and imposed new fulfillment and storage charges for MCF customers. First, we’d have a look at the new fulfillment tariff.
Amazon offers three shipping speeds for MCF orders:
The fulfillment fees for different size tiers and quantities are also categorized for these three shipping options.
Refer to this product size chart for the corresponding fulfillment fees.
Amazon has recently introduced a feature where you can block Amazon Logistics (the platform’s last-mile courier service). Amazon has introduced this feature because platforms like Walmart and eBay can’t allow sellers to use Amazon Logistics for their MCF orders. So those Walmart and eBay sellers can continue to use Amazon MCF for their order fulfillment by blocking Amazon Logistics as their carrier.
However, there’s a certain fee you need to pay for blocking Amazon Logistics and using other 3rd party carriers. This fee is essentially a 5% surcharge per order.
For any online business striving to make it big, it should consider using Amazon’s multi-channel fulfillment for the following reasons.
Amazon has unarguably the most extensive infrastructure when it comes to the retail supply chain. No one can even compete let alone surpass Amazon when it comes to last-mile order fulfillment. With Amazon MCF, you can leverage this great business resource to grow your own business without any caps.
You don’t have to worry about the order tally while using MCF. No matter by how many multiples your number of orders has increased, almost all of them will be fulfilled in time—thanks to Amazon’s robust fulfillment machinery.
Whether you have more than one sales channel or have multiple locations to accommodate, you don’t have to worry about inventory management with Amazon MCF. Whether it’s your Shopify store or eBay listing, you will have your entire inventory sorted, packaged, and eventually delivered to your customers in every nook and corner of the US (and the other nine countries where Amazon MCF is available).
Like an Amazon seller, you don’t have to run your MCF-powered business through the Seller Central Dashboard. If you are a brand owner with your own e-commerce website, you can still make the most of MCF—owing to its seamless API integration to all sorts of e-commerce platforms.
Amazon has hit it out of the park by providing this all-inclusive API integration that doesn’t single out any e-commerce platform. Whether you are using Shopify’s platform, Adobe’s e-commerce infrastructure, or any third-party or custom-made e-commerce backend, you can integrate it with MCF via easy API integration.
You can even run multiple storefronts from your single centralized API-integrated MCF portal without a hitch.
Being an e-commerce marketplace itself, Amazon could have blocked MCF services for its direct competitors and it would’ve made perfect sense. However, Amazon has played smartly and hasn’t blocked any marketplace for its MCF services. Be it Walmart, eBay, or Shopify, you can sell on any of your preferred marketplaces through Amazon’s multi-channel fulfillment.
There are many other 3PL operators offering MCF-like models to businesses. In most cases, they can’t compete with Amazon on pricing and the extent of the fulfillment network. You may find a good 3PL for a certain region or state. However, it is next to impossible to find a pan-American 3PL service that offers prices similar to Amazon.
With all its benefits, Amazon MCF also has some downsides that every seller should know before opting for it.
Before making Amazon MCF your supply chain partner, make sure the program allows products your store/brand ought to sell. There is a long list of product categories and items that Amazon doesn’t allow FBA or MCF sellers. For instance, there are many restrictions on what type of art you can sell through MCF. Similarly, you may not be allowed to use MCF for the fulfillment of dietary supplements and cosmetic/beauty products.
It is better to go through the restricted products list for ensuring that MCF doesn’t strike your product portfolio.
If you’re in the game to raise a strong brand, then Amazon MCF might not be the right 3PL fulfillment route for you. By default, MCF orders are packaged with Amazon’s branding. Although, you can now ask Amazon to go with unbranded packaging where Amazon uses plain boxes, tape, and poly bags. But this unbranded packaging is still not available for all product sizes.
You can offset this poor branding effect by having strongly branded packing of your own. The inventory you send to Amazon fulfillment centers should boast your brand in the best possible manner. Branded internal wrapping, initial packaging, embossing, and stickers are some ways to ensure customers know about the brand whose product they have ordered.
MCF sellers are charged more than FBA sellers and Amazon doesn’t hide this price disparity either. You may have to pay 30-50% more in MCF fulfillment fees than FBA sellers. If you are operating with thin profit margins, this high fee might make MCF an unfeasible fulfillment option.
If you are an FBA seller and want to foray into multi-channel sales or an aspiring online retailer who is confused between Amazon and off-Amazon platforms, go through this section.
Here, we will compare these two sales and fulfillment models for some important operational features.
Finding: You may have to pay more as an MCF seller as compared to an FBA seller to use Amazon’s fulfillment services.
Finding: You can access more marketplaces as an FBA seller.
Finding: FBA sellers have more shipping options at better prices as compared to MCF sellers.
Finding: MCF sellers are not bound to put up with Amazon branding on their orders. However, FBA sellers can’t do much about it even if they have their private label brand.
FBA sellers certainly get more perks and privileges as compared to MCF sellers and understandably so. Amazon rewards the sellers who completely rely on Amazon and only sell on its marketplaces. Nonetheless, MCF sellers also get a good 3PL deal from Amazon as non-Amazon sellers selling independently through other sales channels.
Amazon MCF delivery can take 3-5 business days, 2 days, and one day, depending on the shipping options the sellers have provided to the customer.
Amazon doesn’t charge referral fees on MCF orders. The platform only takes fulfillment and storage fee from MCF sellers.
Yes, Amazon MCF accepts returns just like any other Amazon order. However, it’s MCF sellers’ discretion whether the returned items should go to the Amazon fulfillment center or their own inventory site/warehouse.
Walmart doesn’t allow MCF orders using Amazon Logistics and branded packaging. So, if you have blocked Amazon Logistics for your orders (by paying Amazon a 5% surcharge) and opted for unbranded packaging, you can use MCF for Walmart.
Yes, you can sell on eBay through MCF if your orders have plain/unbranded packaging and don’t use Amazon’s in-house last-mile delivery service.
Yes, MCF is more expensive than FBA because MCF sellers are charged higher fulfillment fees as compared to their FBA counterparts.
We hope that the above discussion helps understand Amazon MCF in great detail. Whether you are already selling on Amazon or a new to the e-commerce scene, you can put this multi-channel fulfillment service of Amazon to great use. With Amazon MCF, you can establish a strong sales funnel outside of Amazon even without your own inventory storage and fulfillment resources and expertise.
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