Getting "Fulfilled" by Amazon
Sellers who sign up for this program will have access to "Seller Central", a new site which Amazon claims makes it easier to manage account and selling activities. Sellers can also achieve "Featured Merchant" status, based upon product category rules and seller history. They can create promotions and set up multi-user seller accounts with configurable user rights/permissions. Sellers will have access to new site metrics, streamlined order confirmation and tracking, better branding (your logo next to your products), and other services.
Drew and Joe were quick to point out that this new program is not an all or nothing scenario. There are no plans to force current Amazon Pro Merchants into Fulfillment by Amazon; it is entirely voluntary.
As a small publisher, our first take on the new program was that it was a real step up from the current Amazon Advantage program. We could have our books printed and shipped directly to Amazon's warehouse; we could manage our own inventory levels; and Amazon's automatic fulfillment program would handle our orders (while we vacation on Kauai). We can sell the books in any way we wish and have them fulfilled through Amazon's program. The key is in selecting books that will turn and not just cost warehousing dollars.
As a rare bookseller, however, I did have a great many concerns which the program does not appear to address at this time. And, because the program is in beta, there remain aspects which can be more than inconvenient.
Selling rare books is a customer-service-intensive occupation. There is often some considerable discussion ahead of the sale. The books sold are picked, cleaned, repaired, covered, carefully packed, and shipped according to customer instructions. Follow-up on shipping is also handled individually. We are always easy to reach.
All of this individualized and just-in-time service would be unavailable to customers ordering through the Fulfillment program.
There are also significant differences in the way in which booksellers work with Amazon.
First of all, instead of receiving disbursements on demand (and every two weeks automatically), disbursements are sent to your bank account every 14 days. Right now this schedule cannot be changed.
Inventory listings display differently. Only 200 listings can display at any one time. If you have more than 200 listings, they will only display through search results. Right now, you can page through your entire inventory. Moreover, there is no low price status displayed. You cannot edit prices or quantity on the inventory page. There is limited shipping capabilities, specifically no expedited or international shipping.