Amazon marketplace sellers can improve efficiency by leveraging Fulfillment by Amazon and other Amazon services, and automating pricing and tax compliance.

Jay Lagarde, founder and president, eComEngine.com

Jay Lagarde, founder and president, eComEngine

You’ve heard it said a thousand times: “Time is money.”

And, in today’s hyper-competitive e-commerce ecosystem, nothing could be more true. Merchants are constantly seeking innovative ways to make every minute of the day count. By outsourcing and automating administrative tasks, sellers are finding more time for higher-impact activities (such as product development and sourcing).

In this post, we’ll look at five time-saving tips for the Amazon part of your business.

#1: Give Fulfillment by Amazon another look

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I couldn’t write a piece about time savings without at least mentioning the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program. I’m sure that you’ve looked into FBA in the past. Perhaps you’ve even tried it, but you have not fully scaled it yet. Regardless, your competitors are certainly saving a lot of time with FBA. So much so, in fact, that reports now estimate that more than 40 percent of the value of all goods on Amazon.com are managed via FBA.

What makes FBA so attractive to busy merchants? Here are just a few benefits:

  • Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”) warehouses, picks, packs and ships orders on your behalf—for a fee, of course.
  • Amazon handles any returns and customer service issues.
  • In general, FBA inclusion makes your items instantly more visible, thanks to Prime eligibility and a lift in the Buy Box rankings.
  • Multi-channel fulfillment allows you to leverage the power of FBA for non-Amazon orders.
  • The innovative FBA Export program is expediting how sellers expand into new markets.

Taking a second look at the FBA program could shave off hours of your busy schedule. It might even help you boost top-line performance.

#2: Try the FBA Prep Service

As with any program, there are a few opportunity costs associated with being FBA. At the top of the list is complying with Amazon’s packaging and preparation requirements. Loose products, sets, boxed and poly-bagged units, case-packed products and items with expiration dates have unique packaging guidelines to follow. You’ll also need to be aware of the various labeling and box contents requirements set forth here.

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To make the merchant’s life easier, Amazon offers the FBA Prep Service. For a per-unit fee (typically costing between $.50 and $2.00 per item), Amazon will bubble wrap, bag and label your inventory for you. This can help you get inventory to Amazon faster, thereby improving turnover rates and return on inventory. Of course, you’ll want to weigh this incremental cost in the context of your profitability goals.

#3: Automate your pricing strategy

Despite the prevalence of automated repricing software for Amazon merchants, many sellers still manually adjust their listing prices. In fact, in a recent study of merchants, our team at eComEngine sought out to understand seller motivation for taking a DIY approach to pricing. Among those who manually reprice, most do so in an effort to minimize short-term costs or to feel as though they are fully in control.

Although software costs have a direct impact on your bottom line, there’s also the value of your time to consider. With each new Amazon listing, you’ll need to find a few additional minutes to allocate toward repricing. Delegating this task to your team is one viable option, but there’s a hard cost attached to that, too.

Moving to a logic-based repricer can free up more of your time to focus on sourcing, inventory management and other value-added activities. Just be sure to look for a tool that takes into consideration your profitability targets, volume goals and business rules.

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#4: Simplify your tax reporting

Lately, there’s been noticeable chatter in the seller community regarding sales tax nexus and FBA. Should Amazon merchants be on the hook for paying sales tax in states where their inventory is being warehoused? Or should this be Amazon’s problem to deal with?

It will certainly be interesting to see how these questions play out. But in the meantime, one thing is abundantly clear: States are expecting merchants to pay up.

Clearly, most merchants don’t have the time or resources to ensure compliance with every city, county and state’s tax requirements. Even many qualified CPAs or tax attorneys may not have the expertise necessary to navigate this complicated situation. And even if they did, the cost for doing so would be astronomical.

If you find yourself unsure how to proceed, you might consider turning to technology. For example, our friends over at TaxJar offer an online service that monitors your potential nexuses and helps you track reporting and tax obligations. Similar services are likely to pop up as this situation continues to evolve.

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#5: Put your reputation management on autopilot

The importance of Amazon feedback and reviews cannot be overstated. If you want to win the Buy Box, you need seller feedback. And if you want your products to show up in Amazon’s search engine, you need to collect a ton of authentic product reviews. This is especially true for merchants venturing into private labeling and bundling of complementary products.

In today’s bustling Amazon landscape, most sellers are at least generally aware of feedback management software. However, not all tools are created equal. As you evaluate tools for your Amazon business, look for a system that:

  • Tracks both feedback and reviews
  • Automates your solicitation workflow
  • Has the ability to scale as your order volume grows
  • Alerts you when negative ratings have been received
  • Is time-tested
  • Helps you comply with all of Amazon’s seller guidelines

By putting your reputation management on autopilot, it’s possible to achieve the best of both worlds: a better reputation without the opportunity cost of manual effort.

It’s time to save some time

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Amazon is the land of opportunity for today’s e-commerce professionals. However, with great opportunity also comes great responsibility. Continuously seek new ways to automate as many tasks as possible, thereby freeing up additional time for the things that actually grow your bottom line.

Time is of the essence.

eComEngine provides software that helps merchants manage feedback, inventory, pricing and other tasks on Amazon.