Amazon’s Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) program has been the source of split reactions over the years: while some sellers love it, others have been skeptical, shuddering at the possibility of relinquishing more control to Amazon or having to deliver products in Amazon-branded boxes.
Fortunately, MCF today is not the same as it was several years ago. In a recent webinar with Amazon, we discussed some of the latest updates to the program and covered strategies for streamlining your multichannel operations. Watch the full conversation here or continue reading for key soundbites.
What Is Amazon MCF?
For those who aren’t familiar, MCF is an extension of Amazon’s FBA program. MCF merchants can fulfill orders from Shopify, BigCommerce, or other third-party marketplaces using Amazon’s unrivaled fulfillment network.
The program offers similar services as FBA, but is a bit more expensive and does not include customer services options (like returns management). The biggest perk is being able to lean on Amazon to store, pick, pack and ship your products—and to unlock fast shipping across all of your ecommerce channels. Through MCF, you can ship as quickly as one day, no matter where a sale comes from within the U.S.
Recent Updates that are Worth a Round of Applause
So, what’s the catch? As mentioned earlier, MCF has faced scrutiny in previous years. But Amazon has made it its mission to address some of these concerns and to make MCF more accessible (and helpful) to sellers. Here are some of its latest updates, which went into effect on June 1, 2021:
- Block orders for certain channels - For a 5% surcharge, you can prevent MCF from handling orders from channels that expressly forbid Amazon logistics, like Walmart and eBay. This helps you to stay in the good graces of channels, while still being able to leverage MCF for a vast majority of other sales.
- New small standard size - MCF now supports items that weigh 2 ounces or less.
- Improved on-time shipping - Amazon is removing expedited shipping on large oversized items but is, in exchange, making two-day shipping available for all MCF inventory. This is considered standard shipping speed, while next day is considered priority shipping. (Prior to this change, ship times tended to vary at random but will no longer be the case with Amazon’s renewed commitment to fast, consistent shipping.)
- Ability to track through AfterShip - This integration ensures that Amazon logistics can be tracked on channels like Etsy and Wish. In addition to being able to trace orders from your end, you can automatically send tracking numbers to your customers through AfterShip.
- Inventory Performance Index (IPI) changes - Amazon now factors in your MCF order volume to determine IPI, which can help you to qualify for unlimited storage. You can view your IPI in Seller Central within your inventory performance dashboard.
- Unbranded boxes (beta) - Amazon is slowly rolling out the option to send orders in blank boxes. If you opt into this service, your blank box inventory will be kept separate from your FBA inventory, though it can always be used to fulfill regular FBA orders too.
- International shipping (beta) - MCF currently only supports domestic shipments, but may soon support international shipments.
Deciding If MCF Is Right for You: 3 Questions to Ask Yourself
MCF is worth careful evaluation and could be the ticket to scaling your operations. To verify whether it’s a good fit for your business, ask yourself the following questions.
Do You Currently Use Amazon FBA?
If the answer is “yes,” then MCF could be an extremely convenient solution for speeding up your delivery times across all of your sales channels. You no longer have to split your inventory either, and can reach into your FBA storage to fulfill non-Amazon orders. Furthermore, if you have a good, existing relationship with Amazon, then you can get ramped up with MCF right away—whereas if you’re on the hunt for another 3PL, you could easily spend several weeks researching and vetting new partners.
How Much of Your Sales Are from Other Channels?
It’s not uncommon for Amazon to be a dominant sales channel, and to account for 90% of your sales. If this applies to your company, then it may make sense to simply expand your FBA coverage to include your secondary channels. But, a few other things to consider: (1) you may put yourself at risk by wholly relying on Amazon for every leg of your business, and (2) you’ll want to consider which channels you’re active one. If your next-most valuable channels are Walmart or eBay, for example, then it does no good to have MCF as your primary fulfillment method because it’s not compatible with those channels.
How Quickly Can You Fulfill Multichannel Orders Currently?
Are you capped at a standard ship speed of five to seven days? Is your ship speed negatively affecting your rankings or your ability to qualify for Prime-like badges on other channels? Could a faster ship speed move the needle in terms of how many visitors convert to sales?
If so, MCF may be one of the quickest ways to cut down your ship times, and to make two-day delivery a standard across all of your sales channels.
How to Get Started with Amazon MCF
If you decide the MCF is right for you, then all you have to do is enroll in FBA. If you’re already enrolled in FBA and have inventory in one of Amazon’s fulfillment centers, then you can begin fulfilling off-Amazon orders immediately.
As with all FBA products, you’ll want to make sure that you prepare your MCF products and shipments according to Amazon’s requirements in order to keep your products safe while in transit.
Benefits of Using Amazon MCF with Zentail
MCF works in perfect unison with Zentail’s listing automation platform. With this combo, you can sell your products on new channels and publish high-quality product listings bolstered by next-day or two-day shipping.
After all, it does no good to have one factor without the other: fast shipping means nothing if your offer isn’t enticing to consumers, and a well-crafted listing loses its luster if it's not backed by fast delivery times that meet customer expectations.
Read Also: The Listing Quality Flywheel: Explained
Zentail additionally lets you automate critical, yet mundane tasks:
- Automatically route orders from any channel to Amazon MCF. If you have other warehouse or fulfillment methods, you can set rules to correctly route orders from specific channels to the right place.
- Combine (or split) your inventory that’s with MCF, a 3PL and/or your own local warehouse. This enables you to control how much of your overall inventory is available where.
- Sync tracking and carrier information from MCF to your other channels.
- Accurately update your available quantities across your sales channels, i.e., when you sell a unit on one channel, you can reserve that MCF inventory and immediately update your other channels to show one less available unit. This helps to avoid overselling.
- Automatically opt out of Amazon Logistics as your carrier for channels that prohibit it.
- Automatically opt into unbranded packaging for all MCF orders.
- Customize service level names per channel and automatically translate them for Amazon MCF. For example, you could set all Facebook Marketplace orders to be shipped within one day; Zentail will promptly tell MCF that all Facebook orders should be shipped as what it considers “expedited” deliveries.
Get Your Multichannel Business up to Speed with MCF
MCF can, without a doubt, give your business a competitive edge. It can have a positive flywheel effect whereby you consistently delight customers, earn their trust and attract repeat business, plus high remarks online.
Schedule time with a Zentail expert to see how we can transform your Ecommerce business.