Amazon FBA vs. FBM: Essential Guide for Sellers

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Amazon is the largest e-commerce platform globally, offering sellers the chance to reach an extensive audience. Sellers can choose between fulfilling orders themselves or leveraging Amazon’s fulfillment services. The two primary fulfillment options are Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM) and Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA). Other options include Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF), Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP), and Amazon Direct Fulfillment. Each method provides unique advantages for getting products to customers efficiently.

In this post, we will compare the two most common fulfillment methods, FBM and FBA, examining their pros and cons, alternatives, and how they can impact your business’s growth.

Understanding Amazon Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is a service where Amazon handles the storage, packing, shipping, and customer service for your products. Once you send your inventory to Amazon’s fulfillment centers, they take care of everything else.

Pros of Amazon FBA:

  • Prime Eligibility: FBA products automatically qualify for Amazon Prime, which can significantly increase their visibility and sales.
  • Comprehensive Logistics Support: Amazon manages all aspects of logistics, from storage to customer returns, allowing you to focus more on your business growth rather than operational details.
  • Customer Service: Handled by Amazon, providing a consistent and reliable service level.

Cons of Amazon FBA:

  • Higher Costs: The convenience of FBA comes at a price, including storage and fulfillment fees that can add up, especially for bulky or slow-moving items.
  • Limited Control: You have less control over the packaging process and customer interactions, which can affect your brand’s personalized experience.

FBA Fees:

  • Fulfillment Fees: Based on item size and weight, these fees cover shipping, handling, customer service, and returns.
  • Storage Fees: Charged monthly, based on the amount of space your inventory occupies in the fulfillment centers. These fees increase during the holiday season.
  • Long-Term Storage Fees: Applied to items in warehouses for over a year to encourage inventory turnover.
  • Inbound Placement Fee: A new inbound placement fee that applies when sellers opt to use Amazon’s placement service, which strategically places inventory across multiple fulfillment centers. This service can enhance delivery speeds but incurs additional costs, influencing the overall cost-effectiveness of using FBA.

For more information about the various fees, check out Amazon FBA Fees

Understanding Amazon Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM)

Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) allows sellers complete control over the fulfillment process, requiring them to manage storage, fulfillment, returns, and customer service, independent of Amazon’s fulfillment centers. This option gives you more control over the entire process.

Operational Mechanics of Amazon FBM:

  • Product Listing: Create detailed, attractive listings on Amazon Seller Central.
  • Product Storage: Optimize distribution and reduce costs by using your own facilities or partnering with fulfillment centers like 3PL Center.
  • Order Fulfillment: Ensure orders are shipped in accordance with Amazon’s delivery timelines, provide tracking to customers, and handle returns efficiently.

Pros of Amazon FBM

  • Control Over Operations: Managing your inventory, shipping, and customer service gives you complete control over the customer experience. FBM offers freedom from Amazon’s operational constraints, which can be restrictive, especially during high-demand periods when Prime statuses or listings might be removed.
  • Potential Cost Savings: Directly handling fulfillment can be more cost-effective, especially if you already have the logistical infrastructure in place.
  • Brand Customization: Packaging and branding are in your hands, allowing for a unique unboxing experience that can strengthen your brand identity.
  • Lower Fees: Compared to FBA, FBM typically incurs lower fees, making it a cost-effective option.
  • Fewer Operational Restrictions: FBM sellers face fewer operational restrictions imposed by Amazon, providing greater flexibility.
  • Greater Control Over Customer Interactions: FBM allows direct interactions with customers.
  • Access to Better Support Options: Partnering with third-party logistics providers like 3PL Center can offer better support options, enhancing your fulfillment capabilities.

Cons of Amazon FBM

  • Increased Responsibility: You are responsible for all aspects of fulfillment, which can be resource-intensive and complex to scale.
  • No Prime Eligibility: FBM products are not automatically eligible for Amazon Prime, which can reduce their competitiveness against FBA offerings.
  • Steep Learning Curve: New sellers may face a steep learning curve in managing all aspects of fulfillment independently.
  • Time-Intensive Management: Handling logistics independently can be time-consuming and require significant effort to manage efficiently.
  • Potentially High Costs: If outsourcing logistics, costs can be high, which may offset some of the savings from lower fees.

FBM Costs:

  • Shipping Costs: Can vary widely depending on the carrier and service options you choose.
  • Warehousing Costs: Include leasing, utilities, and maintenance of warehouse space.
  • Packing and Labor Costs: Necessary for preparing and shipping orders.
  • FBM Fees: FBM involves various fees including referral fees (6% to 45%), a monthly subscription fee ($39.99 for professional sellers), and a per-item fee ($0.99 per item sold, waivable under certain plans).

Choosing the Right Fulfillment Method

Whether you’re a small home-based business or a large entity with complex supply chains, both FBA and FBM have distinct advantages. Here are several factors to help decide the best approach for your business:

Product Size and Weight:


FBA is cost-effective for small, lightweight items due to favorable shipping and handling fees. Large or heavy items may be more profitable via FBM, especially if you can manage logistics efficiently.

Control of Customer Experience:


FBM offers greater control over customer interactions and branding.

Seller Feedback:


Direct interaction with customers may influence feedback ratings, which is crucial for FBM sellers.

Inventory Turnover Rate:


High turnover suits FBA to avoid long-term storage fees. For slower-moving items, FBM might be more cost-effective.

Logistics:


FBA is ideal for sellers without established logistics. Sellers with existing logistics might benefit more from FBM.

Expenses and Fees:


Compare the total costs of FBA fees against the expenses of self-fulfillment to determine profitability.

Prime Badge:


FBA products automatically qualify for Prime, which can significantly boost sales. FBM sellers can also qualify for Prime through Seller-Fulfilled Prime, although this requires meeting Amazon’s stringent delivery standards.

Comparative Insights: FBA vs. FBM

Profitability:


FBM can yield higher margins due to reduced fees and direct customer access.

Startup Speed:


FBM sellers often launch faster due to fewer logistical setups.

Time Management:


Both methods require significant time investment, though FBA can reduce the burden of direct order processing.

Product Categories:


Certain categories may perform better under one fulfillment method due to different customer expectations and product needs.

How 3PL Center Can Enhance Your Fulfillment Strategy

3PL Center supports both FBA and FBM sellers. We offer comprehensive services including:

  • FBA Prep Services: We prepare and ship your products to Amazon’s fulfillment centers, ensuring compliance with Amazon’s packaging requirements.
  • FBM Solutions: We offer end-to-end fulfillment solutions from storage to customer delivery, providing a seamless experience that rivals FBA.

Strategic Benefits:

  • Warehouse Locations: We reduce delivery times and shipping costs through strategically located warehouses.
  • Customer Support: We provide responsive and effective customer support, enhancing your brand’s reputation.
  • Advanced WMS Integration: Our Warehouse Management System (WMS) integrates seamlessly with Amazon, providing real-time inventory updates and streamlining order processing.
  • Multi-Channel Fulfillment: We help expand your reach beyond Amazon, supporting other sales channels to diversify your business.
  • Cost Reduction: Leveraging our negotiated discounted carrier rates and strategic warehouse locations, we help reduce your shipping and storage costs significantly.

Making the Right Choice

Choosing the right fulfillment option is pivotal in maximizing efficiency and profitability on Amazon. While FBA offers convenience and the advantage of Amazon Prime, it comes with higher costs and less control. FBM, on the other hand, provides more flexibility and control over the entire process, potentially reducing costs but requiring more hands-on management.

For sellers who prioritize scalability and hands-off operations, FBA is likely the best choice. Conversely, if you seek greater control over your operations and are prepared to handle logistics, FBM might be the more appropriate path. Regardless of the method you choose, partnering with 3PL Center can streamline your operations, enhance your fulfillment strategies, and ensure your products reach your customers efficiently and reliably. Contact us today to learn more about our 3PL services.

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FBA vs. FBM FAQs

Can I switch between FBA and FBM?

 Yes, sellers can switch between FBA and FBM depending on their current business needs and strategies. It’s possible to use both methods simultaneously for different products or even for the same product to ensure continuous availability and to optimize logistics and costs.

How does Amazon handle returns for FBA and FBM?

 For FBA, Amazon handles returns directly by providing customer service and processing returns at their fulfillment centers. For FBM, the seller is responsible for managing returns and customer interactions, which includes setting up their own return policies and handling customer inquiries and refunds.

What are the impacts of seasonal fluctuations on FBA and FBM strategies? 

Seasonal fluctuations can significantly impact inventory management and fulfillment strategies. During peak seasons, FBA sellers need to ensure they stock enough inventory at Amazon’s fulfillment centers but must also be wary of long-term storage fees. FBM sellers might benefit during high demand periods by managing their own inventory to avoid potential delays in Amazon’s processing times and to offer more flexible shipping options.

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