Amazon’s coronavirus (COVID-19) response went into effect March 17, 2020. The majority of FBA sellers in the US and EU are no longer able to send their products to Amazon warehouses. It is likely that hundreds of thousands of sellers have lost some or all ability to do business.
Who Can Still Use FBA for Fulfillment?
Medical and household goods are still being accepted.
All products already stored in FBA warehouses or that were en route to a warehouse on March 17 can still be sold. However, FBA sellers can only create new shipments of products in the following categories:
- Baby Products
- Beauty & Personal Care
- Health & Household
- Industrial & Scientific
- Pet Supplies
Note that not all products in these categories are being accepted. Amazon is “prioritizing household staples, medical supplies and other high-demand products.” So, they’ll definitely take toilet paper, but less critical items like mascara may get rejected.
Amazon’s phrasing also suggests that they will still accept some items outside these categories.
How Do I Find Out if Amazon Is Still Accepting My Product?
The most foolproof option is to attempt to create a shipment. Amazon will not allow you to create the shipment if they are not accepting your product.
Amazon will also deny any attempts to re-classify items, so don’t bother trying that if they reject your shipment.
What Do I Do if I Can’t Use FBA?
If Amazon’s coronavirus restrictions are preventing you from creating a shipment, you have two options:
- Wait until April 5, 2020. This is when Amazon plans to end these restrictions.
- Use an alternative fulfillment option. Amazon is still allowing sellers of all categories to sell through merchant-fulfilled channels.
If you can’t afford to go 18 days without making any sales, then option 1 is no option at all. Plus, COVID-19 is changing the game every day, and there’s no guarantee Amazon’s efforts to expand their capacity and hire 100,000 new workers will pan out. So let’s look at option 2.
To make the shift from FBA to managing your own fulfillment, you’re going to need to take on all the responsibilities Amazon has been managing for you. These include:
- Shipping and handling.
- Customer service.
Here’s how to tackle all those issues ASAP by taking two steps:
1. Use an FBA Alternative
There are numerous FBA alternatives available:
- Award-winning logistics company Red Stag Fulfillment can provide 1- to 2-day shipping to almost any home in America.
- ShipBob likewise provides 2-day fulfillment or better. They integrate with Amazon, eBay, Shopify and more.
- Deliverr is also an excellent choice. Plus, they have confirmed they are operating normally despite the COVID-19 outbreak.
There are plenty of others, too—just search Google for “FBA alternatives.”
All these services handle storage, shipping and handling, and delivery on your behalf. Some may even help you qualify for Seller Fulfilled Prime. (Unfortunately, Seller Fulfilled Prime is not currently open for new registrations. That’s probably due to the high number of applications expected while the restrictions are in effect.)
If you decide to use an FBA alternative, consider using two. Third-party logistics companies can get bogged down just as badly as Amazon has. If the coronavirus pandemic has taught our industry anything, it’s that putting all your eggs in one basket is never a good idea.
2. Build Your Customer Service Operation
You’ll now have to handle your own customer service, and it will be tough. For example, you need to answer customers within 24 hours, or risk A-to-z Guarantee claims and instant losses. The good news: there will be no shortage of people ready and willing to work from home while COVID-19 empties traditional workplaces. You’ll be able to build a remote workforce quickly and easily.
Our preferred hiring platform is Upwork. This freelancer marketplace is great for finding customer service agents at all levels of skill and experience. As our company has grown, we’ve used Upwork to fill gaps in our team again and again.
Since every job that can be done from home should be done from home right now, we recommend going with a remote support team. It’s the safest option for your business and your workers.
The next question is how you’ll actually provide support. If you only sell on Amazon, their support system may be good enough. However, if you also sell on eBay, your own website, etc., you’ll want one system where your agents can help all your customers from one screen. Here are a few good options for that:
All four of these platforms can integrate with Amazon messaging by using ChannelReply. ChannelReply also supports eBay and Walmart messaging. Plus, all four helpdesks above can integrate with store builders like Shopify.
With a high-quality remote team, a good support platform, and third-party logistics, you can get everything back to the way it was when you had FBA. You may even save money compared to Amazon’s fees. And above all, you’ll never be at the mercy of Amazon if a situation like this occurs again.
Amazon’s coronavirus restrictions are not unreasonable. But they will make life hard for sellers of non-essential items, and it will be no great shock if thousands of sellers go under during the COVID-19 crisis. Make sure you aren’t one of them. Move fast and keep your business going strong.