Remember when there was only one game in town for companies that wanted to become Amazon Prime sellers? It started with the words “Fulfillment” and ended with the words “by Amazon.”
But since 2015, there’s been another way for businesses like yours to enjoy all the perks of being a Prime-certified seller.
Say hello again to Amazon’s Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP).
Like Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) – it’s an Amazon-created-and-approved initiative that enables merchants to participate in the Prime program and display the highly coveted Prime badge. But unlike FBA, it allows you to fulfill orders via a 3PL or your own warehouse.
But given a choice between Amazon Fulfilled vs. Seller Fulfilled, which option is best for you? How do these programs measure up to the third shipping option, Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM)? And what are the caveats you should consider?
We’ll give you the short answer below via a handy table that discusses all of these programs’ pros and cons. But if you want even more food for thought, keep on reading, because we’re going to answer a few of the most common apples-to-apples questions that our customers have.
Amazon Fulfilled Vs. Seller Fulfilled Vs. Fulfillment by Merchant: At A Glance
If there were a race between Amazon fulfilled vs. seller fulfilled, which would be faster?
Actually this is a trick question, because the ability to offer two-day delivery is a big part of the “price of admission” to become an Amazon Prime seller. Before allowing companies to participate in SFP, Amazon requires them to participate in a short trial. During this trial, applicants must prove that they’re capable of maintaining an on-time, two-day delivery rate of 99%. If they can’t do this, they can’t play in the SFP sandbox. So let’s call it a tie.
FBM isn’t bound by the two-day shipping requirement, which usually means that its delivery times will be slower.
Which fulfillment option costs less?
If you’re trying to decide on Amazon fulfilled vs. seller fulfilled, our evidence and experience point to SFP, which can offer savings of approximately 10-25% thanks to fewer Amazon fees and the additional economies that come from the reduction of resources that are usually required to prep and ship Amazon orders and manage issues such as disputes over returns or inventory.
FBM is probably going to be even less expensive, because it offers users the option of using slower (read: less expensive) shipping methods. However, bear in mind that it doesn’t come equipped with the major marketing boost that comes from being a Prime shipper, either. So there is a trade-off involved.
Which fulfillment option offers more storage and distribution points?
It’s FBA for the win on this one, because few companies on earth have a warehousing footprint to rival Amazon’s. The company has more than 100 fulfillment centers in the United States alone.
Which offers more options for custom packaging or the use of other branded materials during shipping?
It’s definitely SFP or FBM. While you do have two packaging options when using FBA – a blank box or an Amazon-branded box – the sky’s the limit on how you can customize and enhance packaging if you’re using SFP or FBM. Among other things, you can choose from shipping items out in your company’s own branded packaging, using package inserts, including different kinds of filler materials, and carefully partitioning and positioning a package’s contents.
Which fulfillment option is easier from a receiving perspective?
It all depends on what kind of facilities or 3PLs you work with. But as a general rule, you’ll probably have an easier experience with SFP or FBM, because your company can call the shots about what the kinds of incoming shipping configurations and quantities you’ll accept. By contrast, the receiving requirements for FBA are much more precise – and considerably less client-friendly.
Which fulfillment option is more reliable?
Ordinarily this would be another one of those trick questions that results in a draw, because both FBA and SFP’s fulfillment and delivery times are supposed to be so reliable that customers shouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
But these aren’t ordinary times. In mid-March, Amazon temporarily suspended its two-day FBA delivery promise so that it could place more focus on delivering essential items during the COVID-19 outbreak. It also announced that its warehouses would not be accepting outside merchants’ deliveries of non-essential goods – a policy that it is gradually relaxing but that was still in place as of this writing.
As a result, many SFP sellers – who are using their own facilities or a 3PL’s – have temporarily found themselves at a Prime advantage when it comes to providing timely receiving and shipping, because for them, it’s largely business as usual. Ditto for FBM.
Which options are currently available?
That would be FBM and FBA (although COVID-19 has temporarily changed a lot of things about its operations).
There’s currently a wait list to apply for SFP, which speaks volumes about its advantages, so if you are interested, we’d suggest joining that waitlist as soon as possible to ensure you’re able to qualify more quickly once the program starts accepting applicants again.
Where else can we go to find out more?
For information about some of the limitations of FBA, you might be interested in the Amware eBook: “Amazon: Great Sales Channel, Poor Fulfillment Strategy,” which talks candidly about the FBA program.
You can also look at Amazon’s details about FBA and SFP:
Better yet, contact Amware. We’ve had lots of experience supporting companies’ Amazon sales as well as other national sales channels, and we’ll be happy to weigh in on the merits of each alternative.