Whether you're already selling internationally, or are reluctant to sell overseas due to the hassle and risk involved, an international fulfilment service could be a good fit for your business.
What's more is that there are plenty of options available to you when it comes to outsourcing your fulfillment (you can view the list here), although two of the most notable are Amazon and eBay's own fulfilment programmes; FBA and eBay GSP.
Now while it's not necessarily a case of Amazon FBA vs eBay GSP, it is worth understanding how they both operate and the benefits and drawbacks of each.
What is Amazon FBA?
Fulfilment by Amazon, more commonly referred to as FBA, is the marketplace's own fulfilment service, used by online retailers to fulfil orders from Amazon and other channels.
More specifically, FBA is a service available to all of Amazon's sellers, enabling them to store their products in an Amazon fulfilment centre, and hand over the fulfilment of the product - packaging, sorting and shipping - to Amazon once the item has sold.
What are the benefits of using Amazon's FBA?
While there are some huge benefits to using Amazon FBA, arguably the biggest is an increase in sales.
According to a 2014 survey, it is believed that 71% of FBA users reported a 20% increase in sales as a result of using the programme.
As if that's not enough, some of the additional benefits include the fact that you will benefit from Amazon's acclaimed 24/7 customer service, as well as faster shipping rates, increase your chances of achieving Amazon buy box status, eliminate fulfilment shipping efforts and gain access to Amazon Prime customers.
Disadvantages of using FBA
FBA is great, but it won't be for everyone.
As with anything, there are indeed drawbacks that you should be aware of.
For example, cost is a big one and you should take into account your profit margin as the fees might cut into it more than you'd like, especially if you're only a casual seller.
Take a look at Amazon FBA fees here.
Subsequently, not every product will be profitable to sell with FBA, which is why you should realistically only list your best performing products on it and fulfil the rest yourself.
Without the use of an inventory management system, it can also be incredibly difficult to keep track of the inventory you store in Amazon's fulfilment centres, and you can end up with obsolete inventory.
Too late? Have a look at these inventory reduction strategies.
This leads on to the next point - storage fees, or specifically long-term storage fees.
You may or may not be aware that you will be charged by Amazon if your item(s) have been stored in their warehouse over a certain amount of time. On the 15th February and 15th August each year, an inventory clean-up is conducted by FBA, and for those items that have been stored for over 365 days, a fee of £882.50 per cubic metre will be charged.
International FBA programmes
When it comes to international selling, there are several FBA programmes you can choose from; FBA Export, European Fulfilment Network (EFN), Multi-Country Inventory (MCI), and the recently release Pan-European FBA.
FBA Export enables you to offer your products to customers in up to 26 European countries.
That said, you should be aware that your product(s) won't actually be listed on Amazon's international marketplaces, instead it enables your product to be shipped to international customers who have made the purchase on your local Amazon marketplace.
European Fulfilment Network (EFN)
EFN enables you to store items in fulfilment centres in the UK, and fulfil orders from any of Amazon's European marketplaces.
In addition to this, you will benefit from having the reassurance that your customers are benefiting from local-language customer service and returns handling.
This programme is ideal for those of you looking to test how individual products will perform in different European markets, but you should also be aware that with this option you will be required to pay a local fulfilment fee when selling on the UK site, and a cross-border EFN fee when selling to international customers.
If you're wondering how Amazon's Pan-European FBA differs to the European Fulfilment Network (EFN), Pan-European allows you to ship your stock to a fulfilment centre, where Amazon will distribute it to each of their fulfilment centres in Europe based on anticipated demand.
This means that customers in each of the five European marketplaces - UK, Spain, Germany, France and Italy - will have fast delivery options for your product(s).
Unlike with EFN, selling with Pan-European FBA makes your products eligible for Amazon Prime, subsequently increasing the visibility of millions of customers across the European marketplaces.
With this option, you will also only pay a local fulfilment fee when selling on any of the EU marketplaces.
Find out more about using Pan-European FBA to grow your business in Europe.
Multi-Country Inventory allows you to send your most popular inventory directly to the Amazon fulfilment centres in each of the countries you products are listed on, again enabling them to be stored close to the customers.
This option is, however, better suited to those of you who have a clear growth plan for the EU, as it requires some understanding of which products sell well in which markets.
Amazon FBA or eBay GSP: The Differences
While we have yet to discuss the ins and outs of eBay's Global Shipping Programme, it's important to be aware that the the biggest difference between the two is that FBA extends beyond Amazon, whereas eBay GSP doesn't.
In other words, with Amazon's FBA, you can also fulfil orders from channels other than Amazon, whereas with eBay's GSP you can only fulfil eBay orders.
Specifically, FBA's multi-channel fulfilment capabilities simply means that you can list and sell your FBA inventory on other channels, including both eBay and your own website, while still fulfilling the orders through FBA.
Below we have compliled some details of eBay GSP, to help you understand not only how it works, but also how it differs to Fulfilment by Amazon.
What is eBay GSP?
eBay's Global Shipping Programme, otherwise known as GSP, is eBay's international delivery programme that enables UK and US sellers to sell to international buyers, without the hassle and risk of dealing with the processes that come from cross-border selling.
What this basically means is that when selling to an international eBay buyer, all you are required to do is simply ship the item directly to a depot, where the shipping centre will then take over fulfilment of the item. This includes verification of the product(s), completion of customs forms, international postage and parcel tracking.
Additional benefits to using eBay GSP
GSP also helps to protect sellers and eliminate the risk of international selling on eBay, by taking over full responsibility as soon as the product arrives at the depot.
This means you don't have to worry about refunding the item in the event of it becoming lost or damaged in transit.
What's also reassuring is that should the customer leave either neutral or negative feedback about shipping costs or delivery time, the review will be removed from eBay, as long as the item was sent to the fulfilment centre within an appropriate timescale.
There is also no fee to join the Global Shipping Programme and your final fee will be based on the price of the item, postage charges to the UK shipping centre and any additional fees you charge the customer. You should be aware, however, that standard UK eBay selling fees and PayPal fees will apply, as will PayPal’s transaction fees for international selling payments.
Disadvantages of using eBay GSP
As with anything, eBay GSP does have some disadvantages that you should be aware of.
Firstly, should you use eBay's Global Shipping Programme, your customers will be faced with essentially two postage costs, the first to cover the expense of you sending the item to the shipping depot, and the second being the international postage and additional fees.
Unfortunately, GSP aren't yet able to combine orders, which means that each item must be shipped individually, and paid for separately.
It's also important to bear in mind that to use GSP you must have a UK seller rating of standard or higher. In addition, you should be aware that not all items will be eligible, nor will certain countries.
Regardless of whether you use Fulfilment by Amazon or eBay's Global Shipping Programme, you should always bear in mind that despite their advantages, each programme does come at a cost, and therefore prior to making any decision you should review your budget, margin and profitability, and determine whether it's worth the investment.