Did you know you can ship from FBA for sales made on channels other than Amazon?
That’s right. Amazon’s Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) system allows you to store and ship goods from their fulfillment network, even if you sell the product somewhere else.
This makes it a whole lot easier to start selling on your own site, on a social media platform with e-commerce capabilities, or another marketplace.
You don’t have to worry about getting in trouble with Amazon for this. It’s not a hack – it’s a system specially made by Amazon, for omnichannel sellers to use.
This article is going to break down everything you need to know about Amazon MCF, and if it will work for you.
What is Multi-Channel Fulfillment?
You know about Fulfilled By Amazon. It’s the warehouse and shipping system that makes Amazon the best option for a new e-commerce store to get off the ground.
The same fulfillment network can be used for shipping orders made outside of Amazon. Instead of needing to set up a shipping operation for each individual sales channel, you can keep all your stock with Amazon, and manage orders from your Seller Central account.
The most obvious use case for MCF is if you’re selling through FBA, and want to start selling on your own site too. Since you may not know how much stock you would expect to sell on your own site just yet, it’s not worth setting up a new fulfillment channel yet. Keeping it with Amazon simplifies everything.
You can put through orders yourself manually, through your Seller Central dashboard. There’s also an APIyou can connect to your own site to automate the process, once your sales pick up.
Advantages of Multi-Channel Fulfillment
There are some clear advantages to using Multi-Channel Fulfillment, especially for stores that are just starting to expand to new channels.
Here are the top ways it benefits you to use MCF.
Fast and trusted shipping
Amazon has put a lot of money into building their fulfillment network, and as a result, it’s as reliable as you can get.
In e-commerce, shipping is incredibly important. If your products are arriving late, damaged, or not at all, people won’t order from you again. And the word will soon get out, on social media and review sites.
This means you need to be able to trust whoever is managing your fulfillment to maintain a good reputation for your business. They’ve shown they’re able to offer fast, consistent shipping at scale. Why not take advantage of this?
Keeping everything under one roof
It’s much more efficient, particularly for a new store, to keep all your storage and fulfillment handled in one place.
Any unsold stock you have on hand is costing you money. Spreading that out to multiple fulfillment centers for multiple sales channels is going to stack up fast, and put a big dent in your cash flow.
It also allows for fluctuations in sales velocity between channels. If you sell more or less than expected from one channel, it’s much easier to handle and is less likely to result in out of stocks on different channels.
Managing inventory yourself may save on costs, but before long you’re going to run into space problems. Your garage or spare room can only hold so much stock.
Third-party fulfillment centers can run out of space too, since few are as sophisticated and wide-ranging as Amazon’s.
Amazon’s massive warehouses can take about as much stock as you want to send, allowing you to scale with no worries.
Finally, as with Amazon FBA, the scale of logistics that Amazon takes care of is a huge advantage.
Having their system in place to pick and pack orders, ship, store, and receive returns takes a number of tasks off your plate. Without a system in place, it’s a lot more work for
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With a managed fulfillment system, you have more time to focus on things like marketing and product development, which are more likely to grow your business.
Disadvantages of Multi-Channel Fulfillment
While there are clear advantages for some, the system isn’t for everyone. Depending on what stage your off-Amazon arm is at, you may want to consider other options for shipping & fulfillment, such as a dedicated third-party fulfillment center.
These are some of the disadvantages of fulfilling your orders with MCF.
Amazon’s product restrictions
You’ll need to consider that Amazon’s restrictions on what can and can’t be sold on their platform applies to MCF as well. If you’re selling anything from the list of FBA prohibited products, you’ll need to find another option.
Orders shipped from Amazon will be sent in Amazon-branded packaging. This is not ideal in some cases, where you’re selling on a non-Amazon sales channel. It could appear unprofessional or confusing to customers to receive something in an Amazon box, after buying it somewhere else.
Not eligible for all marketplaces
Following on the previous point, due to the Amazon-branded boxes, some marketplaces don’t allow orders to be shipped from Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment. Marketplaces such as Walmart, eBay and Jet have been either suspending sellers or throttling traffic to listings for fulfilling with Amazon.
Fees may not be sustainable
While Amazon has built an impressive fulfillment network, the payoff is that their fees aren’t cheap. Both shipping and storage fees add up over time, and long-term storage fees for inventory that has been with Amazon a long time are particularly heavy.
Overall, MCF fees are higher than FBA, since Amazon obviously gives preferential treatment for product sold on their platform. This means once your off-Amazon business starts to scale, you may want to think about other fulfillment options.
Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment Fees
Amazon offers three shipping options for Multi-Channel Fulfillment:
- Standard (3-5 business days)
- Expedited (2 business days)
- Priority (next day)
Here’s a breakdown of the fees for standard-sized Multi-Channel Fulfillment orders.
There are also special fees for oversized products, which can be seen in the link above.
Non-fulfillment fees (storage, etc) are the same as for FBA [view FBA fees here].
How to Fulfill Orders with Multi-Channel Fulfillment
You can initiate orders with Multi-Channel Fulfillment from your Seller Central account.
- Go to “All Inventory”.
- Choose “Create Fulfillment Order”.
- Put in the transaction information, such as the recipient’s details, as well as the shipping option.
- Confirm, and place your fulfillment order.
The process is easy if you’re doing an order here and there. When you start to scale, you’ll want to automate this process using Amazon’s API.
You can connect your store with Amazon yourself, if you’re using a platform like Shopify or WooCommerce. Otherwise, there are a number of services that help you manage fulfillment over multiple channels.
Is Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment the Right Option For Me?
Amazon MCF can be a powerful tool, but it doesn’t suit every business.
The advantages and disadvantages outlined above may or may not apply to you, and as such, your situation dictates whether MCF will work for you.
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to use Multi-Channel Fulfillment when you’re just starting to sell on your own site, or through social selling sites like Facebook or Pinterest.
In the early days, when you’re only selling a few units through these channels, it doesn’t make sense to start using a third party fulfillment center. You’ll have too much stock sitting around and doing nothing.
An alternative can be to fulfill orders yourself (storing and sending products yourself) if you’re working with a low volume of stock. However this won’t work for many sellers depending on your living situation, such as if you don’t have any space to keep stock, or you’re selling in a country you don’t live in.
When your off-Amazon channels have been up and running for a while, and you have a steady flow of sales and an idea of what you’re going to sell on each channel, you will want to set up a separate fulfillment process to handle these sales.
Amazon’s fulfillment network is a great tool for e-commerce business starting out. But when you’re ready to grow into a 7+ figure, multi-channel empire, it will benefit you a lot to take back control over more areas of your business.