Handmade at Amazon - Guide to selling your handmade artisan crafts or art on Amazon

Handmade at Amazon

Do you know someone else who could benefit from selling their handmade items on Amazon that
would find this information useful? - How about clicking on one of the social share buttons above.

Phone friendly version of article: Click Here


Introduction:

Handmade at Amazon is a new Amazon category were artisans can sell their handmade or handcrafted products directly to a large audience of Amazon customers. This category, which started in late 2015 is also referenced as Handmade, Amazon Handmade or Handmade @ Amazon. The Handmade category started off with about 80,000 items in a few handmade sub-categories. Since then, it has expanded to offer a wider range of categories and products. As of January 2018, the Handmade category has more than 938,029 products and is growing monthly. Amazon sells its own items itself but over 50% of Amazon's sales come from millions of independent third-party sellers. Once you become a Handmade seller, you will be one of those small to large third-party sellers.

In this article is listed some things I picked up over the last few years as a Handmade at Amazon seller which should shorten your learning curve and answer many frequent asked questions. Even if you have been selling on Handmade at Amazon for a while, you could pick up new information or strategies in this article that could help you grow our business. While the topics chosen for this article try to emphasize those areas specific to the Handmade at Amazon category, many of the topics relate to the other Amazon categories in which are referred to as the Marketplace or I like to call it the other side.

There is a lot to know to start selling on this site and Amazon expects you to know the rules right at the beginning even though it can be complex to sell on Amazon versus other online sites. Amazon does not make this easy since all the rules are not in one place.  In the end, you will need to determine what effort you will need to put into your Amazon shop to succeed. If you have experience in selling at other online sites, that will help with setting up your account and how you will display your items for sale to the customers.

It can be difficult at times at the beginning to learn many new skill sets and how Amazon wants things done the Amazon way but it can be worth the effort required to have access to the hundreds of millions of Amazon's customers. Amazon customers are different in which they come to the Amazon site to buy and not just look. Amazon customers like items to be sent fast and arrive on time. Perhaps that is why about half of Amazon customers are Prime members. 

It is interesting that since I started selling my artwork on Amazon, it has forced me to up my game since I am selling on more of a country wide basis versus mostly locally. My product is better, my packaging and presentation is better, my product images are better, my SEO is better, my customer service is better --- you get the hint here. I just feel that instead of just dealing with selling off my own web site, brick and mortar and art shows, I have to be more competitive now. See who the successful online sellers are in your product area and over time, try to be as good as them and then surpass them.

Amazon customers can be pickier and more demanding bringing you more returns of your items even if you never had customer returns before. You will need to be aware of these differences and adjust to them, but in the end, it can be worth it due to the increase in sales Amazon customers may bring you.

The sales summary box that shows in your Seller Central main page is a good quick indicator on how your sales are doing for the day or month. While this sales summery shown to the right is not typical of your average Amazon seller, it does show you the possibilities that are available when you sell on Amazon.

I have heard of numerous sellers’ state that they have been selling on Etsy for many years and their sales have been down and they started a Handmade at Amazon store and now the sales on Handmade are surpassing their sales on Etsy or a platform they have been on for many years. It is a good idea to have your items listed on multiple sites with one of them being your own web site that you have total control over. Some selling sites are Amazon, Etsy, Shopify, Ebay or your own web site  If you sell in only one platform and that platform has a bad year, your sales will be bad. You also do not want most of your sales coming from one shopping platform, that you do not have total control over in case that shopping platform closes or removes your account.

Well is Handmade at Amazon right for you? If you read all the negative statements from the early articles or You-Tube videos about Amazon Handmade when it first came out, many of them were really negative. Some of those negative thoughts were coming from Etsy sellers or other platforms. They were put off by the Amazon more complex platform and a higher percentage pricing structure to name a few. Many of those articles were written by those who never even became Handmade at Amazon sellers or have not been on the platform very long to get used to its differences and build up sales.

Handmade at Amazon

You may never know if Amazon is right for you unless you submit your application, enter some items, take the time to get used to the Amazon system and see how your sales go. I would give it at least nine months so you have time to try different strategies and improve on your listings titles, description, photos, SEO and marketing strategy. Currently the monthly Professional Sellers account fee of $39.99 is free or waved until the end of 2018 (Note: The monthly fee has been waved again until the end of 2019). You have time to try Handmade at Amazon with your regular current Handmade expenses only being charged if you sell an item. Either it will work out for you or it won’t.

While it may seem that the Handmade at Amazon category is its own separate area since it differs to some of the other Marketplace categories, the Handmade category is really just considered by Amazon to just be another category of many existing categories. When a customer does a search on Amazon, the search is done with all categories on Amazon which includes the Handmade category. If the customer first selects to go to the Handmade category, then the searches are specifically only on items within the Handmade category or Handmade sub-category.

Remember that Amazon is always a changing beast and information written in this article now may not reflect new or changing rules Amazon has in the future. Much of what I write here is based on my experience and viewpoints. The information may not always directly relate to the many different types of specialty items sold on Handmade at Amazon and the different ways each shop runs their individual business. It is only meant as a guide to help you get started on how you would like to proceed and find more information about the topics that interest you for the type of products that you sell. 

I use the term FBM (Fulfilled by Merchant) and FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) many times in this article. FBM is when the seller directly ships the product to the customer and FBA is when the seller sends in the merchandise to one of Amazon warehouse and when the customer orders, Amazon ships the product to the customer.

If any of the links do not bring up the web site material, it could be you need to be signed on to Amazon with a Handmade seller account to gain access. I noticed that many of the readers are from out of the United States such as from Canada, United Kingdom and Australia as some examples. Some of the Amazon Marketplace and Amazon Handmade rules may be different in your countries.

You can use the menu to go directly to the specific topic you would like to know more about.

Phone format of article: Click Here

Select Topic from Menu - Article continues after menu:

Introduction Handmade at Amazon application process Are customer aware of the Handmade category on Amazon?
Keywords Title field Some Etsy versus Amazon differences on fields
Style Keyword field Search Term keyword fields Search term keyword fields - 250 character limit
Keywords in Handmade Description field Keyword testing for your items Repeating keywords
Product description field Picture image fields Customization options
SKU, Listing ID, ASIN and FNSKU item numbers Handmade category accuracy of information
Handmade information on Facebook forums Items not delivered to customer's door Custom return policy for Handmade items
You can set up your own custom seller return policy Handmade Return rules Customer does not return the product after a return is authorized
Returns - return reasons Returns - FBA item returns you found damaged
How to set up two different direct links to your Amazon stores page Should I allow a customer to purchase a high quantity of items Advertising Search term report and how to call it up
Interesting idea someone told me to redirect customers to your Amazon shop Responding to or sending a customer an email message Calling the customer
Urgent emails to customer Seller email to customers Customer emails to seller
Selling jewelry FBA order notifications Pending orders
Buy Box field / Sales Conversion Favorite Seller Central Reports
Amazon Fees Charging the customer and determining the selling price Getting started - Good things to read or watch
Selling One of a Kind items Order Cancellations - customer requested Can you mass edit production time or other item edit fields?
Making bulk changes to your item listings: Production time field
Vacation mode Number of items needed to get sales on Handmade at Amazon
Random interesting things Pending orders for Merchant Fulfilled orders Pending orders for FBA orders
So you sold your first item on Amazon Handmade – What do you do now? Sellers Account Health FBA items that run out of stock – Inventory management
Stranded Inventory Handmade seller placing products in other than Handmade categories So your received an Amazon suspension letter
Customers - art they Amazons's or the seller's customers All your eggs in one basket - having multiple selling sites Product ranking
Customer item reviews and customer feedback comments Responding to a customer's negative comment Placing items on sale
Advantages of selling FBA items Flipping FBA items back to FBM and then back again to FBA Selling less expensive items using FBA
Shipping boxes to a FBA warehouse FBA at Christmas time FBA January sales
FBA can be scary and I have put off trying it Duplicate items listed in FBA and FBM FBA quick start guide
FBA long term storage fees FBA check-in FBA inventory being transferred between warehouses
FBA - 'Inventory Placement Service' Customer FBA return items for inspection Going out of your way to avoid customer problems
Good sales weeks, bad sales weeks - Riding the river Comments - tell me what you think or corrections

Phone friendly layout: Click Here


Amazon Handmade application process:

If you are considering selling on Amazon in the Handmade category, you must be juried in first. You can get approved to sell on Handmade by applying to Handmade at Amazon (Click here for more information). You should fill out your application in a way that lets Amazon know clearly that your products are handmade and provide photos and descriptions to make this clear. When you explain your Handmade process for the products you make, concentrate more on the handmade process and not as much on your cool new machine that you work with.

What qualifies for a Handmade product? Amazon states " Products must be handmade by you (the artisan), by one of your employees (if your company has 20 or fewer employees), or a member of your collective with less than 100 people. Mass-produced products or products handmade by a different artisan are not eligible to sell in Handmade".
Handmade pottery

When sending in any photographs with your application, you can send in a photo of your entire studio, but it could be better to send in a more detailed photo of a working section of your studio. It would be just as good to show a close up of you, the artisan, happily working on one of your products in a section of your studio or work area. You can be working with a tool and your product in your hand during your production process. The product you are working on could be in a later stage of the process so Amazon can recognize what you are selling. Once you send in your handmade application for the juried approval process, you will need to wait for Amazon to approve your selling request.

Amazon has different product categories within the Handmade category. You must make an item that falls within one of the currently existing sub-categories. Amazon is adding new sub-categories all the time, so if you make an item that falls into a sub-category that does not exist yet, check back every once in a while for that sub-category to open. You can see the current Handmade categories and also the sub-categories at (Click here for more information).

If you are not accepted into Handmade the first time, it could be because your sub-category is very competitive and hard to get into at the time. One example is the jewelry sub-category which is very competitive. This should not discourage you and you should improve your application and reapply after a certain time period required by Amazon. Be sure to ask Amazon why you did not get accepted so you can know what the approval areas could be when you apply again or you may just find out that your category your items fall into are not open yet.


Are customers aware of the Handmade category on Amazon?:

With the Handmade category being open for over two years and soon to contain over a million items, it seems that many people in general and even most Amazon customers do not even know that the Handmade category exists. One has to ask oneself, does it really matters if customers are not aware of the Handmade category. Most purchases are started with a customer search to bring up a set of related items and then a customer selects a specific item and perhaps purchases that item. I would think that most of the time, the customer does not know or really care what category the item is in and mostly cares about if that item that the search has found will meet the customer's needs.

Amazon does not seem to promote the Handmade category much but has recently put more effort in this area with the Handmade gift pages during the 2017 holiday season as an example. Handmade has been working out for Amazon and they have informed us that they are aware of this, so I feel Amazon will continue to grow with additional Handmade sub-categories and general Handmade promotions.

Even if Handmade is not well known yet, that does not mean that Amazon customers can not find your handmade items and many Handmade sellers sell very well. When a customer does a general search with Amazon, Amazon looks through all the listings that include the Handmade category.

Eventually more Amazon customers will be aware of the Handmade category and the special differences to many items that may be similar in appearance to what is offered on the marketplace side.  The Handmade items are generally individually made by the maker in smaller quantities with uniqueness and hand artisan quality.  One advantage of additional customers knowing about the Handmade category is that the customer can select to restrict their search to handmade items only.

I was initially concerned with how I was going to compete with my art photography prices when a similar sized art photograph piece can be noticeably less expensive on the market side, especially if the item is mass produced and is a less quality product from overseas.  Since I am happy with my sales, perhaps customers understand and can justify the price differences between mass produced items on the marketplace side and similar items found in Handmade.


Keywords:

Your keywords are a very important part of your SEO or Search Engine Optimization. Having good keywords in your Title, Style keyword and Search Term keyword fields can be the difference between being found by your customer or not. If this is a skill you do not yet have, you will need to learn it as part of the process of selling on Amazon or really in any on-line environment. Red Flags

At first it might be hard to think of keywords that relate directly to your item, but it will get easier and faster over time.  You will start to memorize common keywords that relate too many of your items.  You will also have the option to copy a group of keywords from an existing item to a similar new item to use as a starting point.   One keyword method is to try to think like a customer and if the customer was going to search for one of my items, what words would they type into the Amazon search bar.  I then place the most obvious keywords in my Title field and the rest in the Search Term keyword fields.  There are many software programs for free or for a price that will help you pick out keywords that may pertain to a specific item to help you in this area.

On Amazon, your keywords in the Style Keywords box and the Search Term keyword boxes are hidden from your customers and competitors.   This makes it harder for your competitors to copy your keyword strategy on your successful items.  Some item categories do not have the Style keywords box.

The keywords entered should be relatable to the item they are listed under. The seller and Amazon basically wants when the customer types in certain keywords that bring up the sellers specific item to lead to that item being purchased by the customer creating a good sales conversion percentage. It is difficult to say how the Amazon search algorithm works at any time, but if Amazon feels that some of your keywords entered do not lead to sales conversion, Amazon may not index that keyword anymore on your listing or hurt your sales on that item in some way. For this reason, you are better off not filling up free keyword space up to your 250 characters limit with fill words that have a much lower chance of converting to sales. For keywords, it is best to focus on quality over quantity since there can be negative effects with too many non-relevant keywords.

If you are familiar with how keywords work in Etsy already; it is totally different on Amazon.    If you take the keyword strategy that you learned on Etsy and do the same on Amazon, your Amazon keyword strategy will not work and you will probably be breaking many of Amazon keyword specific field rules.  On Etsy, your keywords are visible to your customers and competitors.   Also on Etsy, the sellers use the same keywords many times in the titles and keyword fields for one item and on Amazon; you should only use the keywords once in all the Amazon keyword fields.


Title field:

Handmade pottery

This is where you place a title for your item. Amazon wants this field to be a maximum of 100 characters long including spaces. The title field will hold 200 characters at this time and I am not aware of any penalties if it is over 100 characters but Amazon has stated that it should not be over 100 characters. The title field should not contain any duplicate keywords. ​Do not repeat keywords already in your title in the Style keyword or Search Term keyword fields. ​Your shop name should not go into your title since typing your shop name on Amazon search should already bring up your items and having your shop name in your title will just take up some of your precious 100 title characters allowed. If you start a new listing from a similar item, you should make sure that you do not use the same title.

The keywords found in your title should be your most important keywords with the rest placed in your Search Term keyword field. Amazon holds the keywords in your title more important and more powerful than if the same keyword was entered in your Search Term keyword fields. Your Amazon title field should be written so it could be read as a sentence in a readable and conversational way.  The title field should not just be a listing of keywords separated by punctuation.

On this Amazon forum link, scroll down the paragraph about titles to see what Amazon officially says about what to place in the Handmade Title field (Click here for more information).


Some Etsy versus Amazon differences on fields:

Some of the rules are different such as on Amazon, you are not able to have any type of web links in your product descriptions, but on Etsy, you can. On Amazon, the first photo must just display the product you are selling with no props or extra items.  The first photo should also have a white or neutral background. On Etsy, your first photo can have the product display with props in a setup or staged background.


Style Keyword field:

I think of the style keywords as general broad style terms for my product. Not much is written about style keywords and what they should be but more of a broad description that your product falls into. Someone who sells a certain free spirit clothing may have 'Bohemian' as one of their style keywords. A few sample examples of style keywords some sellers use are Art Deco, steam punk, modern, minimalist, rustic, vintage, southwestern country, victorian, shabby, retro, traditional, hipster and oriental. Each product or Handmade sub-categories may have different style keywords.

Since SEO is important in having Amazon customers find your products, this field should not be left blank just because it is more difficult to find the style keywords that fit your specific product than generic search term keywords. This style keyword field is even more important now, since the sellers are restricted to the number of search terms we can use now. I think of it this way, is my product more likely to be found by a customer using what search terms the customer enters by matched against by keywords in my title (100 characters) and my search terms keyword fields (250 characters) with a total of up to 350 characters or a total of 450 characters if I added keywords in the style keywords field also.

Do not go over 100 characters in the Style Keywords field. Amazon recommends commas between keywords in the Style Keywords field. It is interesting that Amazon recommends commas in this field but does not want commas between the keywords in the Search Term keyword fields

If you do not see the style keywords field on all or some of your items, it is because this style keyword field is shown only on some of the handmade categories.

I am not sure Amazon considered the keywords entered into the Style keyword field any different than the keywords entered into the Search Term fields as far as searchable fields. If this is true, sellers who have filled up the 250 characters in the Search Term fields can add a few more keywords in any extra space that is available in the Style keywords field. While I do not see any others state this as a strategic strategy for key wording and I do not currently do this, it make sense to me. Amazon does not have a specific field for a customer to fill in a style type keyword, so it seems likely that the Style Keyword field is just a generic keyword field similar to the Search Term fields.


Search Term keyword fields:

This Search Term field holds the keyword fields for the product. The seller can include keywords that are not already in the same products Title field and Style keyword fields. These terms would be keywords that you feel that the customer would search for and then bring up this product for the customer to see. You do not need to put commas between the keywords in the Search Term field since the system just ignores them. You should not have the same keyword listed more than once in any of the five Search Term boxes. Do not list both crystal jewelry and blue jewelry but you would list crystal blue jewelry. You do not need to put plurals in words since Amazon sees "cat" and "cats" as the same.

While I do not really recommend this, if you use quotes around 2 or more keywords, such as "blue jewelry", the words in quotes will need to be an exact match as what the customer typed in the Amazon search box to be picked up. If you have two keywords which are related, you are better off listing those keywords together in that order, such as a small phrase, without quotes.

Review the section called 'Search and Style Keywords' in the Handmade newsletters at the following link for some guidelines on entering keywords. This is advice right from Amazon. (Click here for more information).

There are 5 search term boxes for keywords. You will initially see only one search term box but can open additional boxes by clicking on the ‘+’ sign. So what is the purpose of having up to 5 boxes when the first box can hold all your 250 characters of your keywords? Some sellers like to separate keywords into multiple boxes such as the keywords specific to the item in the first box and some additional less specific keywords in the second box as an example. You may notice that the search term keyword boxes hold 1000 characters each and this field size is left over when you could enter more than 250 characters total.

You cannot use competitor brand names in your search terms or anywhere else in your listing. The same is true for trademark or copyrighted names / phrases and even if you use trademark or copyrighted names in your hidden keyword fields, it does not mean you will not get a warning message from Amazon.

Currently, you are only allowed to use a maximum of 250 characters not counting spaces for your Search Terms keywords despite having room for more in the fields. You can place all your keywords in the first box or may split your 250 characters up between the five boxes, but the total characters used in all of the Search Term keywords boxes must not exceed 250 characters or none of your Search Term keywords will be indexed (searchable). This is really important since you might not realize your Search Term keywords are not working since you may still have sales from the keywords in your title and a good ranking number for that item.

On this Amazon page, you will see recomondations for the Search Term field (Click here for more information).


Important: Do not go over 250 total characters in the Search Term fields:

Due to a change in 2017, you are only allowed to enter 250 characters total into the Search term (keyword) fields. If you have existing items that have the search term fields over 250 characters, it is important that you adjust them one by one. That is 250 characters total (on Amazon in USA) whether you place them in one box or split them up in up to five boxes. Spaces do not count in the 250 character count. Since you only have 250 characters and I mean characters, not words, your keywords should be closely relatable and specific to your product. If you cannot think of 250 characters of specific keywords for your product, it is OK to add additional keywords that are still generally related to your product.  A few special characters, not your normal letters, numbers or punctuation, actually count as more than one character, so if you are right at the 250 character count, you may want to remove a word to make room.

Update late Jan 2018: My understanding they changed the search term field to let you know with an error message if you go over 250 characters in the search terms fields when adding new item listings from scratch. The 250 character check is not done if you start a new listing from copying the listing from an existing listing. They also may of changed the limit of 250 characters not counting spaces to 250 characters counting spaces. Will update when I learn more.

Some people go over the 250 character account in the Search Term field and are not aware that those items Search Term fields are not being indexed by Amazon since that item is still being bought by Amazon customers. Your item may sell well even if you’re keywords in the Search term fields are not being looked at during a customer’s search. Your items could be found by your higher product ranking or the keywords in your title as an example. Many sellers choose to not adjust the Search Term field or fields down to 250 characters due to this, but you will be losing sales if you do not.




How to test if your keywords are being indexed:

You want your keywords in your title, style keyword and search term fields to be indexed by Amazon. When Amazon has a keyword indexed, it mean that that keyword will be picked up in a customer search. This Link will bring up a screen, as shown above, that will allow you to enter the items ASIN number and a number of keywords. The program then tells you if all the keywords you entered are being indexed by Amazon or not.

In the example image above, you would type in one of your item's ASIN number and your items search terms keywords. After you click on the 'analyze keywords' button, you will see in the lower right corner the word 'True' or 'False'. If it says true, then all of the keywords you have checked for this ASIN number are indexed or searchable for that item. If it says false, then at least one of your keywords is not indexed and you can reduce the number of keywords checked to determine which keywords are not indexed. If you find one or more keywords that are not indexed, you may want to replace them with other keywords so you can get the most keywords out of your 250 character keyword count.

When you list keywords in the screen's keyword field, you could enter one keyword at a time or more such as all of them. This program is good for testing all keywords such as ones in your title, style keywords and search term keywords. If you have over 250 characters in your Search Terms keywords fields and place all those keywords to test with this program, you will see a result of 'False'. This is a good way to see for yourself that if you go over 250 characters in the search term fields, then none of your search term keywords will be indexed.


Keywords in the Handmade Description field:

As far as I can tell, Amazon does not search for keywords in your Handmade descriptions or it is so minor it is hard to see, so if you have keywords in your description and not in your title or Style keyword field, enter those keywords in the Search terms keyword field. While Amazon may not look at your description field, Google search does look at your title field and your description field. You may want to start off the first paragraph of your description rich in keywords so a customer’s Google search may have a better chance of finding your items.

The description field on the Marketplace categories do get keywords indexed as in the bullet point fields. While Handmade items do have a description field, the description field does not contain the bullet point fields as done on the Marketplace categories.


Keyword Testing for your items to see how your items are selected by searches:

I suggest you place some words in the keywords fields searching all of Amazon and then do a secondary search specifically in the Handmade at Amazon category to see how well your items are selected. I felt during my testing that the keywords in the Amazon titles have a higher ranking over the keywords in the other two keyword search fields.  Even if your keywords are great, the other items on Amazon with similar keywords may still show up in an earlier search selection than your items if their general item rank is higher. Good keywords will help in being found, but other items that have a higher ranking and a better recent selling history, with similar keywords, will put those items on the search list first.

One thing you may try to logging off of Amazon and then start your search testing in what is referred to an incognito mode. If you are logged on to Amazon, you may find your search test results are different and you want to see how your items show up for everyday customers and not you as a customer.

After you initially enter your new items, you need to wait for about 15 minutes and over for keywords to be incorporated into Amazon search. At the beginning, new items may not show up in customer searches in the early search pages due to the item not having a good ranking yet. Sometimes it looks like you are not showing up but your listing are just buried many pages in on the search screen pages. Once you start selling the item, that item may start showing up higher in the search results or search page number to the customer. You can see your item's sales rank number in the Manage Inventory screen once the item sells the first time. As specific items sell often, your item ranking will become lower (lower is better) and this may result in multiple and consistent sales for this item since the momentum of the sales will keep this items sales rank lower.

When starting out as an Amazon Handmade seller, I would list in the Handmade section for a while before listing on the Amazon Marketplace (non Handmade categories). With good keywords, you will be found by customers and with multiple sales, your item will be listed higher in the search listings for those keyword terms. If your listings are not showing up, it could be other issues not related to your listings such as having a credit card on file or your listings are not active.


Repeating keywords:

You would not need to and you are not supposed to repeat the same keywords you entered in your title in your Search Term or Style keyword fields. If you list 'Christmas pillow cover’' in your title and list 'decor' in your search term field, the Amazon search will pick up your item when a customer searches for 'Christmas decor' since Amazon will put together phrases from single keywords.

Now, when I say Amazon search will pick up your item that does not mean it will fall within the first search page since other ranking qualifications play a part in the order of the product listings.


Product Description Field:

The main description fields entered after the title field is an important field that contains a written description of the product. The product description field gives the customer an overview of the key features of your product. Use this space to talk about the details of your product and what makes it unique. The description field can be up to 2000 characters long. It is best to keep the description as short as possible to encourage the customer to read it in entirety either on a PC or phone. The seller does need to explain the item in detail enough so the customer can get a good idea of what they are purchasing.  The description should answer common questions that the customer may have and will be satisfied when they receive the item. You do not want the customer to state in the return reason that the item was not as described.  If you get a similar customer inquiry on your item a few times you may want to consider doing a small rewrite of the description, relating to the customer concerns.

At the beginning of the description field, the seller may want to have the first two sentences filled with a short general item description that includes some keywords. The first few lines of the description field along with the keyword rich item title will be read by Google search and other search engines. A good title and first description paragraph will make it easier for customers to find your item beyond the internal Amazon search field.

Your description fields should not contain any HTML code except the allowed “<BR>” value to force a line break in your paragraph or “<BR><BR>” value which creates a blank line to break up long paragraphs. You are not allowed other HTML code such as ​strong ​or bullet points even if you see other sellers doing it in their descriptions. You are also not allowed any web address listed in your description even if it is an internal web address to an Amazon page. Basically, you are not allowed to list any information to take customers away from Amazon.

While you can not place a web link in the description field, you can write that you have other listings that this customer might be interested in such as another size, color or matching accessory such as "Additional colors are available on other listings". You can also list in the description a word or phrase for the customer to search for.

 


Picture image fields:

You can place up to nine photographs in the image area. The first image is the main one that is just supposed to have an image of just your product with no additional props added in. The first image should use the majority of the image area to show the item. This is an Amazon requirement but also results in showing the product larger in the thumbnail images shown to the customer on item searches.

In all of Amazon, except for the Handmade category, the background must be white in the first main image. In the Handmade category, the background does not need to be white in the main image but can be a neutral non-distracting background color or pattern.

Some first image problems I see often that you may want to avoid:

1. Adding any wording or text, numbers, copyright symbol, copyright wording, watermarks, logos, web site link or your company name to the first image is not allowed. If the actual product has wording incorporated into it such as a sign, then that is alright.

2. Do not show three (or more than one) items in the first image when you only send one item with the order. If you send three items, then show three items in the first image. Do not show a second view angle of your item in the first image. The customer should not need to read the title or description to see what quantity of items they will get with the order. What shows on the first image is what the customer receives if they do not select any customizations. If the product looks different with a customization, that can be shown in the secondary images. Review other sellers, with similar items, to see the wide variety of ways other sellers handle this.

3. Do not include props or anything else such as a ruler or coin for size reference. Just show the item by itself in the first image. Besides the background, only have items in the first image that the customer will find in the shipping box and can take out.

4. The product showing on the first image is suppose to take up about 80% of the image area, so do not make the product small. The first image shows up in a customer's search as a small thumbnail image. The product will show larger in the thumbnail image if it is larger or takes up more of the overall image space in the first image.

5. If you use a non white background on the first handmade image, make sure it is a light or a neutral non distracting background. For other categories than handmade, the background must be white.

Note: Do not have any copyright symbol, copyright wording, email address or web site links listed on any of your images. The seller can not even include internal Amazon web links, outside web pages, email address or copyright wording on any screen shown to the customer such as in the item description fields, in the artist profile section or in your written return/refund policies as some examples. The only place the seller can can include internal Amazon web pages is on your email correspondence with the seller.

It is recommended that the first main image be at least 1000 pixels on the longer side and needs to be at least 500 pixels on the shorter side. By having your first image 1000 characters or larger, the customer can take advantage of the Amazon zoom feature to get a close up of your product. You have the option to have images much larger than 1000 pixels if you want and I use 1500 pixels on my long image side for my first image.

Amazon requires all images to have sides of at least 500 pixels or they will not load. I would not recommend that you have all your nine photos a few thousand pixels in size since that could make your images load slower which could affect customers with slower internet connections but I feel having the secondary images 1000 pixels on the longer side would be alright if you feel they need to be that size.

While Amazon accepts JPG,   PNG, or GIF files, I use JPG files at 72 DPI with a sRGB color space. If you do not know which color space you have, it is probably already sRGB which is the default for most cameras.

It is really personal preference and what is needed to show in your secondary pictures for the specific product you are selling. If you sell jewelry, you may display your product on a prop or on a complementary surface. If you sell clothes, you may want to have your product on a live model for your secondary images. I sell photography and I display my photographs on a wall in a home setting.

If you are new to online sales, you may want to review what other sellers are doing in your category to help you determine how you would like to display your products. Check out the different methods similar products to yours display on the first image and then the secondary images. This will give you ideas on how to base how you would like to display your products. There are so many different styles and methods to photographing your products that you will eventually have a style that will look similar to all your same type items in your shop. When your photography skills get better, you can always replace your original photographs at a later time.

I have read studies that say that the more images you have the higher amount of sales you will receive. I feel that you should have multiple images for all items and I would have at least three in my opinion or use all nine image areas if you feel that will benefit your customers.

For some items, you may experience multiple customers having similar problem issues with your product because the customer is not reading your descriptions. Try to see if you can incorporate some of the description information into your images. This image area could contain information such as showing a ruler, coin or hand with your product for size scale or display different colors or patterns depending on what customer issues you are having. I have found that if you are having repeat customer questions or order problems, even if you are sure that your description is perfect and you can not see how multiple customers are having the same problem, I would do slight changes to your photos and descriptions to make things even more clear. You may find, as I have experienced, that your problems areas go away or are greatly reduced.

The additional images have more options including adding lifestyle type images such as including props, models and backgrounds. All props or accessories must be presented in a way that does not cause customer confusion. While you do not need your secondary images to be 1000 pixels or larger in length since you can load 500 pixel images, you still may want to have them at least 1000 pixels on the longer side.

One feature is that you can choose to load one image at a time or load multiple images at a time which is time-saving using the 'Upload Multiple Images' option. Once the photos are loaded, you can rearrange them by pressing the mouse cursor on the image and drag the photo to a different location. You can repeat this process until all images are in their desired location. It took me six months until I noticed you can drag photos to different boxes and I was happy that this feature exists.

Having superior images over your competition can greatly increase your sales. It is a separate skill to photograph your product well, not only on the first main image but how you show your product in the secondary images. Many people pay others to photograph their items they have on display in their online shops. You can pick up the proficiently to photograph your product after some effort. As in many small businesses, the owner has to have many skills and picking up photography skills is one of them.

Many people purchase items from reading the title and seeing the images and do not necessarily read the description or read the description fully. While your title and SEO keywords are very important to having your items found, your images are also very important to get your customers to make a purchase decision once Amazon bring up your specific item.

With many customers shopping with their phones and not reading the description fully since they may need to click addition phone buttons to read more, it is more important to display a good title and photos to the customer to show what they are purchasing well to avoid possible customer returns later.

If when loading your pictures to Amazon and they end up displaying up side down, then bring that picture up in any photo editor and then change the orientation of your photo back and forth with the image right side up in the end. Then save the photo file and upload the photo file again to Amazon. This happens sometimes with cell phone pictures.

Additional image requirements can be found on the Handmade at Amazon Style guide at (Click here for more information) in the product image section. It is recommended that you read the entire style guide. The style guide shows many of the different rules for the Handmade department that may be different from other Amazon categories.


Additional edit fields:

Product Tax Code: This field has a drop down menu with many different specially selections. When the seller first sets up their account, they will need to set up tax information that is determined by which States you sell from or have Nexus in and additionally of what kinds of items that you sell. You can read more information in Seller Central under menu option Settings and sub menu option Tax Settings.

Launch Date: In most cases, this field can be left as is to have the item show up on Amazon right away. In the situation in which you enter a new item that you would not like it to go live right away such as introducing the item at a future date as part of a collection, then you can enter that future date in the launch date field.

Gift wrap: If the seller offers FBM gift wrap for this item, you can select 'yes' and the customer can select if they want the item gift wrapped.

Gift Messaged: If the seller offers Gift Messaging, you can select 'yes' and the customer can select to fill in a gift message to the person receiving the package. The packing slip will contain any gift message that the buying customer types in with no interaction needed by the seller. Also when the buying customer leaves a gift message the packing slip does not display the item prices.



Handmade customization options:

The Handmade category has customization options while other categories on the Marketside have similar options but call it something different. Offering customizations for some of your FBM items gives the customer additional item choices or versions under one item listing.

There are three types of customizations you can request, one is a list entry as shown in this example. The other two types are text entry and number entry. The seller can select which type of customization options depending on what type of items you sell and what options you want to offer.

While customization options are available for FBM items since the items can be created at the time of the order, customizations options are not available on FBA items. If you try to transfer an FBM item over to a FBA item and get an error, it is most likely because you need to remove all customization options before transferring.

Customization can give you many options such as you may offer an item in different sizes, colors, or allow a customer to pass on personalized information such as their initials to be custom placed on an item. You can have more than one customization option per item and each option can have numerous choices.

In the simple example to the right, this photograph of gas pumps is offered to the customer in three different versions along with a short version description and a price cost that is over the Standard Price. The three option name versions along with the selling price shown to the customer are an '8” x 12” unmatted print' ($29.95), a 'Print in 11” x 14” mat' ($39.95) or a 'Print in 16” x 20” mat' ($69.95).

This seems confusing at first since the dollar amounts entered in the 'Enter a price difference, if any' fields shown in the picture to the right are $0.00, $10.00 and $40.00. The reason is that you enter the customization prices as amounts over the Standard Price ($29.95) shown in image above. The Standard Price would be the price of your lowest priced option which is this item is the 8” x 12” unmated print.

Also on the entry page above, you have the option to require the customer to select a customization option as “Is this customization required to purchase this product? (yes or no)”. I tend to require that at least one customization option is selected on one of the customization listings. This is to make sure the customer verifies what they want and not have it default to the option of the least expensive standard price. For customer orders that require an answer such as needing a specific wording that the seller needs to incorporate into a product, then you much require that a customization be selected or filled out to complete the order.

The items that show in the first Amazon picture would be what the customer would get if they selected the default customization option with the Standard Price or no customization option at all. It may be a good idea to look at existing items on the Amazon Handmade category similar to items you sell and see some examples of how it appears to the customer and what options the others sellers offer. This will give you a good idea on how customization options may fit your specific items that you sell.




SKU, Listing ID, ASIN and FNSKU item numbers:

Amazon has different internal system item numbers associated to each product item.

SKU: A unique identifier for the product, assigned by the merchant. The SKU must be unique for each product listed. The SKU does not need to be filled in by the seller and Amazon will assign a SKU for you if you leave this field blank when entering a new item. When you send items to FBA, the SKU number is listed on the small item label along with the item's title. While I let Amazon create a SKU number for me, I can see how a specific letter / number identifier system set up by the seller and specific to your stores items could be beneficial to recognize different items from the SKU number.

Listing ID: Assigned by Amazon. Not sure what the seller can use this for, but is shown on the Manage Inventory page with the other item numbers.

ASIN: Assigned by Amazon. You can see the ASIN number in the URL web address for the item. You can also do a customer based Amazon search for the item by the ASIN number. You can also due a search for an item on the Manage Inventory page by the ASIN number.

FNSKU: These are assigned by Amazon for FBA items.

Amazon Seller Forums:

Handmade category information from the Amazon sellers forums and other sources

It is recommended that you follow the Amazon official Handmade sellers forum with a section of the screen shown below. This forum can be accessed by clicking on the 'View forums' button in the lower left of the Seller Central screen. This forum screen will provide you with a wealth of information from experienced Amazon sellers. If you click on the 'Handmade Community' area section seen above highlighted in yellow, you will bring up the forum listings that are specific to the Handmade category. The section 'General Selling Questions' is also a good area to read about issues overall to selling on Amazon.

The next three links, also found in the Handmade forum areas, should be read and contain official Amazon information/rules pertaining specifically to the Handmade category.

Old Feb 2016 - Dec 2017 Handmade newsletters can be seen in the Amazon forum at this link (Click here for more information).

New Handmade tutorial web site at this link (Click here for more information).

Handmade FAQ (Frequently asked Questions) at this link (Click here for more information).

You can not always trust the information that you get from other sellers, from Amazon customer service reps, forums, instructional videos or everything I am writing here since it is hard to be 100% accurate to the current rules. Sometimes the rules, even though are officially written by Amazon, are difficult to interpret and many people have their own ideas of what the meaning of the rules are. Even one Amazon employee will have a different interpretation than another Amazon employee of the same rule. This is no one’s fault, it is difficult to understand or even know unless you have been an employee or a seller on Amazon for many years. Early on when the Handmade category was new, much of the Handmade information was not accurate. Since many Handmade sellers and Handmade customer service reps have a lot more knowledge now, you can get much more reliable and consistent information. If you sell in a category that has additional rules specific to your category such as the jewelry or children clothing, it is best to get specific advise for those categories from a seller who in in those categories.

Amazon information you are given today may be accurate, but not the next week since Amazon is always changing the rules and many times Amazon does not bother to inform the sellers. When in doubt, check what Amazon says in writing on subjects that are important to you or specific to your category. For Handmade sellers, what information Amazon has in writing specifically written for sellers in the Handmade category may be different from the rules in the other Marketplace categories.

It is a good idea to ask Amazon to place you on the monthly Handmade at Amazon newsletter if you are not already on their list. They offer new information such as rules or guidance specifically geared for Handmade sellers.




Handmade information available on Facebook forums:

I follow a few Amazon forums that specifically are geared for the Handmade categories and a few that are related to the Amazon Marketplace side. It is a skill to determine which forum responses are from knowledgeable sellers and who is just making comments or personal opinions. Just a note, this article is full of my opinions and interpretations and these same rules apply to what you read here. I find reading the Facebook forum valuable in reading questions and answers from experience sellers. The forums have a search feature within the forums. You can search for the answer to your question first, before asking, since many of your questions have probably already been answered.

If you do not have a Facebook account, I would suggest you join and search out for these free Amazon Handmade related forums and select a few to sign up for and read. This is a good place to learn and you will read about different sellers issues and how to handle them if a similar situation happens to you in your shop. If you are interested in a certain topic, you can search the forum with keywords to bring up previously entered information on a topic that may already been covered. You may want to select one Facebook Amazon forum that is not Handmade orientated for sellers on the regular Marketplace side for a different set of information.

Another good source of knowledge is the numerous Youtube videos on both Amazon in general and also specific to the Handmade category. Much free information is available to find out the information you are looking for.

 

Item not delivered to the customer's door:

Sometimes customers claim that they did not receive their items or (INR) item not received. I actually have not had this happen that often so I am writing this section on what others have said on this subject. Amazon made a change in 2017 that if the seller purchases the shipping through the Amazon system then Amazon will cover package delivery losses in situations of when the customer claims that the package was not received without you needing to purchase additional insurance. The procedure is to wait 3 days after the EDD (Estimated Delivery Date) and then file an INR Claim with Amazon. The customer will need to open an A to Z claim to get reimbursed but the A to Z claim in this situation is not suppose to be included into your Order Defect Rate. Amazon INR policy at this link (Click here for more information).

That does not mean that you do not have the option to purchase shipping insurance on your own for other protections such as a customer receiving a crushed package. I am also not sure if Amazon covers stolen packages once delivered to the customer, just packages that did not arrive.

As of early 2018, delivery carriers of Amazon packages are testing, in some areas of the country, taking photos of the Amazon package on the customer's porch or doorstep. This is probably done by Amazon's own delivery service but perhaps may include USPS or UPS in the future. I do not think that Amazon will consider this photo as proof of delivery. This is because Amazon's viewpoint is still that the customer states whether they received the item or not. Unless the seller has the signature confirmation of the purchaser that the item was delivered, the customer may have a good INR claim. If the porch photo is taken and the customer claims INR, I do not think Amazon will cover the loss of an item not received even when the seller purchases shipping using Amazon. Amazon may consider the package stolen and that is not covered by Amazon. It will be interesting to see how Amazon handles this since even if the post office says that the package was delivered, according to GPS, right to the customers door, it is not considered by Amazon to be proof of delivery.

On the positive side, this photo of the package delivered that gets emailed to the customer will cut down on mistaken customer INR claims and perhaps reduce the number of fraud INR claims. It may also persuade the customer to make a better effort to look for the package before they contact the seller or Amazon and claim that they did not receive the package. I hope that Amazon gives the sellers access to these new porch photos upon request if the customer claims INR. I feel the new porch photo is a positive step forward that helps both Amazon, the seller and the customer.

If you are shipping an expensive item, the seller always has the option to add signature confirmation for any address which should cut down on fraud claims. This is a pain for customers since they may not be home or need to go to the post office or UPS store to get their items but some sellers use this strategy for some items.

The seller could add signature confirmation for an apartment, unit number, lot number, hotel, etc. I have not done this myself, because it is a pain for the customers, but I might for an expensive item going to an apartment or hotel. The seller may also add signature confirmation for a single home address if the item is what the individual seller would consider very expensive. Amazon may consider a package not delivered even if the shipping carrier tracking says it was delivered unless it is signed for with signature confirmation. Even with a signature, Amazon may not accept it if the customer states that they did not receive the package if someone else signed for the package.

If a customer states that they did not receive a package, I would first check the tracking on the package. I would then ask the customer to see if they can wait a day or two more to see if it arrives and that this corrects this situation most of the time. I also let the customer know to contact you if the package does arrive. Sometimes the tracking shows a package as delivered but it is really still on the truck, especially with the USPS. The seller should try to get the customer to wait until at least a few days after tracking shows delivered before I would offer any type of return authorization or re-send the item and hope the package arrives.

1. I would also ask the customer to see if anyone else in the household took in the package without informing the person who bought it.

2. You can ask the customer if the package is in a separate post office drop box or perhaps they received a notice that the package needs to be signed for and is at the post office waiting to be picked up.

3. Another option is to see if the package was delivered accidentally to a neighbor’s house which happens quite often. Sometimes, the package may have been signed by a neighbor for you and they have not brought it to the customer yet. Usually, the neighbor will drop off the package at your house in a day or two if this happens.

4. If the customer lives in an apartment, you may want the customer to check if the package was dropped off at the apartment office area and is awaiting pickup.

5. The missing package may simply be in a locked USPS drop box next to the customer’s regular mailbox.

6. The package may be at the post office waiting to be picked up. The package service may not have been able to get a signature confirmation, left a message to the customer on the door and the note blew off. You can call the local post office to see if the customer has a package waiting for them.

7. If the package is delivered out of the US, you may want to see if the package is being held at the post office for any import custom fees due.

If the customer says that the package was not delivered, you may be able to get the GPS coordinates of the delivery location from various carriers. This may tell you if the product was delivered to a neighbor or to the customer’s front door. If it is an expensive package, you think the customer did receive the package and is trying to commit fraud or the customer states that they did not receive the package a few days after tracking states it was delivered, you can always contact the shipping carrier and ask them to do an investigation. I have heard if you suggest this to some customers, the package magically soon arrives.

One option for USPS delivery, when a customer states that the package was stolen, is to email the customer and inform them that you will call their local post office for them and open a case with the post master, because if somebody stole their mail its a federal crime and they will investigate it. You may put off this investigation off a day, to see if this results in the customer emailing you back stating that they found the package.

I suggest if the package is missing, put some effort and customer service into this order and see if it can be resolved before you ship out a replacement order, give a refund or perhaps end up with an A to Z claim against you or a negative feedback review. I get so few of these missing package notices, I always make sure I contact the customer every day or two to let them know you are involved and this makes it easier for the customer to let you know if they found the package.

If after checking some of the options given above and the customer still cannot find the package and you purchased the shipping using Amazon, you can contact Amazon customer service. Ask customer service ​if you should ask the customer to file an A to Z claim to get reimbursed for the missing product. If you do this in the right way, your seller metrics are not supposed to be dinged and Amazon is supposed to cover the product cost loss. The seller may need to wait at least 3 days after the expected delivery date, before the seller can ask that the customer request an A to Z claim for a missing package. I have not had this happen to me yet, but I would think that Amazon can reimburse the customer and then the customer can reorder the item if they want. While it is true that the customer will not get their product in a timely manner, it is also true that sellers can not be responsible for all shipping errors when it is out of their control.  You may get more of these customer not yet arrived messages during busy times such as near Christmas.

If on the rare case, the customer ask you about delivery and the package was shipped over six months ago (possibly a scam), the tracking information may not be available to be looked up since the tracking information may no longer be available or the carrier may of already reused the old tracking number. At this point, the customer should really have contact you sooner and most likely pass any seller notification date.


Custom return policy for Handmade items:

Sellers can have their own written return policy as long as it is better for the customer than the standard Amazon written return policy. The seller can also select to be more generous to the customer such as if they would like to authorize a return request 3 months after the customer received the item, even if the seller does not have too.

For returnable items, the customer must summit a return request within 30 days after the order is delivered to the customer and not the order or shipped date. At this time, the seller can either authorized the return request or not. Once the customer receives the seller authorized return request, the customer will then have another 30 days (shipping postmarked date) to return the item to the seller. Even after the customer requests and receives an authorized return request, the customer is not required to return the item and often does not. The seller does not have do give any refund or take any further steps, if the item is not returned to the seller.

The return policy for the Handmade category states that sellers do not have to take back or authorized a customer return request for Merchant Fulfilled items which are personalization. Since FBA items cannot have customizations, all Handmade FBA items can be returned to Amazon, within the allowable period.  Amazon handles customer service for FBA items as well as accepts customer return and cancellation requests.

If you click on “Authorize Request” for an FBM item in the handmade category, then the customer is sent a non-prepaid Return Merchandise Label that includes your return address. The customer can then return the item or choose to not return the item. I believe in the other marketplace categories, the seller sends a pre-paid customer return label.

Amazon's return policy at this link which includes a section regarding Handmade items: (Click here for more information).

"Handmade at Amazon and Customizable Products: Returns on custom, handmade products that have had different customization options, including any configurations, inscriptions, or designs (such as engravings, stamps, monograms, embroidery, embossing, etching or carving) are as follows: Notify the third-party seller within 14 days of receipt. Due to personal configuration, inscription, or design on these products, the third-party seller is not required to accept returns or exchanges unless the products are damaged or defective upon arrival. If there is a misspelling or error in the configuration, inscription, or design due to a mistake by the third-party seller, you are protected per the Amazon A-to-z Guarantee. All product packaging (such as boxes) and if applicable; certificates of authenticity, grading, and appraisal must be returned with the item. Products missing all their applicable tags are not acceptable for return."

What is considered personalized or customized for Handmade items as far as return authorization?

The main difference in return policy for the Handmade category is that sellers do not have to take back or authorized a customer return request for Merchant Fulfilled items which are personalization. Some Handmade sellers believe that some items that are customized and not just personalized also allows the seller to not accept a return. Every Handmade c/s rep has told me that if the item is customized that the seller does not have to accept the return. The sellers who strongly believe that the item must be personalized, believe that the Handmade c/s reps are so wrong on this and that you should strictly read the Handmade return rules and interpret them as they do.

Many sellers feel, but are not as vocal as the sellers that feel differently, that a FBM handmade item that is customized and not personalized customized could lead to a seller not allowing a return of the item. All sellers seem to agree that if an item is personalized, such has the customer’s name embroidered on it, then the item is customized enough (personalized) to not approve a customer return request on that item.  This is mostly because the personalized item could not be sold to another customer.

I feel that this is because of how the Amazon Handmade return policy is written and that it is loosely written to handle a wide range of interpretation.  The return policy does not cover many situations or specific situations for different Handmade sub-categories and can be interpreted differently.   Amazon does this a lot when they made rules or policy so that they can have wider latitude for making a decision when necessary. Every seller can make a determination of how they want to proceed on a return authorization request. I have an opinion here, but since I rarely get a FBM return and rarely charge a restocking fee when I can, my viewpoint is not based on bad experiences with customers.

In my situation, I could have a FBM customized order by size and materials which would sell in the $100 - $400+ range.  This is an item that is ‘made to order’ specifically for a customer.  Due to the high production costs to the seller and the particular combination of customization options, it is not likely I could sell the item again in the near future or ever.  I consider this personalized to the point that I should not have to allow a return even though it does not have a personalization like a customer’s name written on the item.  Some sellers feel that I should allow a return.  I feel we should let the seller decide how to handle FBM customization item returns for their own unique shop.   For my shop, this is not really an issue since my returns are very low for FBM items and if I get a return, it is almost always an FBA item in which this issue is mute.

The customer always has the option to talk to Amazon, create an A to Z request to challenge the return authorization decision if they want or give a bad review.  From talking to multiple Amazon Handmade customer service reps on this, I feel that the seller can refuse the return on any FBM handmade order when the customer selects a customization on the item.

This being said, the seller has the option to allow returns of any items if they want. The seller has an option to charge or not charge a 20% restocking fee or charge or not charge a customer a 50% fee if the item comes back damaged enough, it cannot be resold. Amazon's restocking fee policy at this link (Click here for more information). The seller has the option to rebate the customer the shipping fees to the customer, the item cost and the return shipping cost to the seller. The seller has options open to them when dealing with FBM returns to allow flexibility on how they wish to handle their shops business while still being within the Amazon rules.

It is interesting that the seller, even if they authorize a return, can have negative things happen to them for customers not liking the restocking fee or damage fee or needing to pay for the return postage which could lead to bad seller feedback or an A to Z claim anyway's. It is also interesting that the Amazon c/s rep making a decision on this issue of return authorization for personalized versus customized items will most likely not know about the differences in the Handmade return policy anyway's.

Seller gets a return request from an Amazon representative for a FBA purchase:

Sometimes the customer does not go through the Amazon system return request feature for FBM orders and calls Amazon instead. From my experience this is not always a situation in which the seller and the customer did not agree on how a return situation is handled, but mostly the customer calls Amazon and puts in a first time request for a return. You should still consider Amazon contacting the seller about an item return request as a valid customer return request. Sometimes you get a written email request from Amazon to take a return on a personalized item, take a return that is way past any return period or a message to give a refund to the customer right away without the customer needing to return the item as some examples. It took me a while to figure these requests out but the Amazon representative is just passing on notes that the customer is requesting in there conversation with the Amazon representative and not Amazon giving the seller an order to take action or force a return out of policy. When you get a return request this way, you will still need to determine to authorize the return as per policy or not authorize the return. You can always contact the customer if needed to work out any details such as requiring the customer to return the item after you give return authorization to receive any refund. In situations outside a normal return request such as an A to Z claim related to a return, then that would be handled a different way.

Customer returns item due to damage during shipping:

Sometimes an item is damaged during shipping to the customer. The customer may just inform you by email or put in a return request. One option is just to refund the customer fully for item and shipping costs and inform the customer by email that the purchase amount has been refunded and that the customer has the option to reorder the item with the supplied link to the item in the email. Another option is to ask the customer to return the item and inform the customer that you will reimburse the customer for shipping or send the customer a prepaid return label. Sometimes your method of handling items damaged by shipping comes down to how much the item costs, the cost of paying for the return shipping and if you can use some of the parts of the damaged item again if shipped back to you.

I usually ask if the seller can send me a photo of the damaged shipping box and also a photo of the section of the item that was damaged. This is convenient to the customer that have smart phones. If this was more of an expensive item and I feel I may be able to get money back from the shipper if I had insurance, I may also ask for a picture of the top of the shipping box showing the label. I have found that the customer's will do this for the seller since it means that they feel this could leave to them not have to go to the trouble of returning the item. Upon receiving the damage photos, I have sometimes just mailed out the product to the customer again. While this might not be the best way to handle this situation the Amazon way, you risk loosing the order if the customer asks for a return.

If the customer does need to return the item, when I receive the item I give the customer their money back including shipping both ways. I may also send them an email stating that the damaged item was refunded and give the customer a link to purchase the item again if not already done previously.


You can set up your own custom seller return policy:

Go to Amazon Seller Central Menu option: Settings

Menu option: Your info and policies

Menu option: Custom help pages

Enter Custom Help Page Title and Page Body for your return policies which could include any restocking fee and or fee when item returned damaged and Save

Takes up to 24 hours to show up in store and hard to find for the customer but at least it is showing somewhere.



The second place I list my return policies:

Go to Amazon Seller Central

Menu option: Settings

Menu option: Return Settings

I just copied over my return policy from the custom return policy help page to the Return Instructions box shown on the returns setting page. I think this page's information goes to the customer if he requests a return, but not sure. This way the customer knows about the restocking fee and can use this information to help the customer decide to return or not return the item.


General Handmade return rules:

Sellers have to take returns of non-customized FBM Handmade items within 30 days from when the customer received the order package. The process starts by the customer making a return request, using the Amazon system, and the seller receives the return request.  Sometimes the customer may contact Amazon customer service and then customer service sends an email to the seller on the customer return request. The seller then can authorize the customer to return the item or not.  I believe Amazon recommends that you respond to return requests within 24 hours.

Sometimes if the Handmade item was customized or personalized, the seller may not authorize the return.  The seller may also refuse the return request under certain conditions such as if the return request was past the return limit. If the seller authorizes the return by selecting the “Authorize Request” option, the customer is automatically sent by email, a non pre-paid return shipping label that includes your return address. The customer generally pays for return shipping but depending on the situation, the seller can refund the customer's return shipping if they choose to at a later time. 

It is now up to the customer to actually return the item or not.  Many times the customer chooses to not actually return the item.



Once the seller receives the item back in resalable condition, the seller can find the order and select the 'Refund order' button as shown above.

This will bring you to the 'Refund order' screen in which the seller can refund the full or partial 'Product' order amount. The refund does not generally include the 'Outbound shipping' charge used to ship the item to the customer but the seller can refund this amount at the sellers discretion.

If the item had free shipping on it with the shipping costs incorporated into the item price, then the seller must eat the shipping cost incorporated into the item price when the full item price is refunded to the customer.  This is one of the drawbacks of offering free shipping.

After return authorization is given, many times the customer will never return the item. This could be because the customer changed their mind or does not want to pay a 20% restocking fee listed in your return policy. If the item is not returned then you never need to give the refund for that order. This is one reason why in most all cases, you always wait until you get the item back before issuing a return payment.

The FBM restocking fee along with paying return shipping cost and the need for the customer to pack and ship the item back discourages sellers from returning an item.  This does not mean that customers do not return items, only that it is something they need to want to do and take action to do it.   Many customers might still be happy with your item if they eventually choose to keep it and less returns relates to keeping sellers prices lower for their customers. 

My experience in my store is that most of my returns are for FBA items and I hardly ever get returns on my FBM items. It could be that Prime members have a much higher return rate. Amazon makes it easy by emailing the customer a pre-paid return label for FBA or Prime items that you just have to put on the shipping box and bring to your local UPS drop off location.

Slot canyon waterfall

Even if you, as a seller, choose to have a restocking fee in your written return policy, it is up to the seller to actually charge it to the customer by reducing the amount of the item amount refunded.  I do not deduct a restocking fee on most of my FBM returns and refund the full item cost.  I may choose to take a restocking fee if I authorize a return on a customized item that does not require taking a return on. I may also take a restocking fee if the item comes back badly damaged making it un-sellable again instead of taking up to a 50% damage fee. It is really up to the seller to make a decision to charge the customer a restocking fee on an individual order basis.

Even if the seller decides to charge a restocking fee, I feel that most customers would not even notice any restocking fee charged to them as part of the reduced item price on the return refund. Of those customers that even notice the return refund, many of them will not verify the return amount and notice that a restocking fee was taken out. This would reduce any restocking fees problems with customers not liking being charged.

I generally do not refund the shipping cost to the customer if they receive the package. In some situations such as the customer states that the item arrived damaged or the description was ‘Not as described’, the seller could offer to pay for the return shipping if the seller request that they want to return the item.

You may want to add to your return policy "There is a 20% restocking fee for returns." which is allowed by Amazon if you have this stated in your return policy. Amazon will also allow you to take 50% off the return refund if the item is return damaged to the point that it is not resalable.   I always try to repack the item and try to sell the item again if I can.  Just like the restocking fee, it is optional for the seller to charge the customer a 50% damage fee and the seller does not need to do it even if the customer returns the item damaged beyond repair. 

Customers have longer return periods for Christmas time purchases. Normally you have about 30 days to ask for a return request for an item from the date that the package was delivered to the customer. A special extended return policy is in effect for items purchased that ship in November or December in which the customers can ask for a return request until January 31.


Customer does not return the product after a return is authorized:

Many times the when customer’s request a FBM return and the seller approves it and sends them a return mailing label, the customer does not actually send the item back. If the customer does not send the item back, you do not have to refund the customer. In most cases, never return the customer’s money before the item is physically returned to the seller. You can choose to refund the customer, without receiving the item back, under special circumstances such as they send you a photo of the item damaged as an example.

For FBA items, the process is similar such as the customer requests a return authorization and Amazon approves it.  Amazon may return the item’s purchase price to the customer right away but if Amazon does not receive the item back within I believe it is 45 days from the customer receiving return authorization, then Amazon charges the customer for the item again and the seller receives the money.



Returns - return reasons:

Many times the return reason selected by the buyer is just the closest general reason from the list shown to the right. The actual customer reason may be totally different from the selected reason. My customers select 'Inaccurate web site description' as a default since customers do not want to select 'No longer needed' or 'Bought by mistake'. You cannot take the selected reason as the real reason or take it personally.  I mean you can take it personally the first few times, but then you realize that the customer is just hitting the first button they see to get onto the next page to have the return authorized.  I believe that the items return reason may change after a certain period of time for the item and the return listings displayed may vary depending on type of item as shown on the far right.

Amazon customers return items more than other online sites you may have sold on and probably have a higher return rate than your sales from non-online sales places. Returns are really part of the Amazon customer culture and I feel Amazon encourages customer returns since it mostly does not come out of their pocket. On the other hand, if Amazon is bringing in sales that you do not get on other selling sites or locations, you may be able to justify those extra return costs. Part of the reason for Amazon’s success is that Amazon allows these returns so easily. You can also adjust your selling prices to account for these return costs as part of your regular cost of doing business.

If the order was FBM, you used to have to call Amazon to see what the reason was but now they have a new online return display that displays a reason if a customer gives one. You should reimburse the customer for return shipping if the return reason was 'item damaged' or the reason is 'not as described'. I usually just send the customer a return label and deal with any shipping or product reimbursement or resending the item after I receive the original product item back.

The return email notification from Amazon does not list the return reason for FBA items and maybe for FBM also. You can look at this FBA Customer returns report under menu: Report <Fulfillment <Under customer concessions, click FBA customer returns. This report may show customer selected return reason. (Sign on to Amazon and Click here to show your FBA Customer returns report).

 

Oh crap, is this guy still writing about returns.  It’s as if he is writing down every little thing that pops into his head.  He really needs an edit button and get to the good stuff.  I know, I will just read the paragraph and pick out the two sentences of good information and just highlight it.  Oh crap that was a bad idea, now I need to find the Windex and a rag.

I never reimburse on a return if I do not get the item back. Sometimes, depending on the customer reason, I may have them photograph the item to show the item damaged area and also the damaged area of the shipping package if needed. If I can clearly see damage to the item or the packaging box, I do not require them to send the item back and just refund the customer for postage and item cost. The customer can then reorder the item if they want or I may just send/replace the customer another item depending on the situation. I have had really good luck with customers sending damage photos to me quickly using the Amazon email system and it can be easy to see the damaged areas. It is the customer’s advantage to do this to save time and also not to go through the trouble and shipping cost to return the item.

Amazon handles the return for items purchase thru FBA. If the customer request a return and the return is allowed, Amazon sends the customer a postage paid return label. If the customer does not actually return the item in about 45 days, which happens a lot, then Amazon charges the customer again if they previously gave the customer a refund. Since Amazon handles the return decisions for FBA items, they have some leeway and how they handle returns. You are kind of at the mercy of how Amazon handles FBA returns and if the customer destroys the item and then returns it in a condition which it cannot be resold with new packaging; you may have to contact Amazon to see if you can be reimbursed for the loss. I have heard that Amazon or the customer pays return postage, probably by deduction from customer refund money, for FBA returns and not the seller.

I have my Amazon setting set to have Amazon not place the returned items back in stock and then I have it set up for Amazon to accumulate all returns for the month and automatically send them back to me once a month. I may get 1 or 2 items returned to me a month if any. Each regular sized item cost about .50 each to be returned to me. Oversized items may cost a little more to return per item.   My larger un-matted prints are usually destroyed by the customer when they re-wrap them and I do not want them going back into FBA stock unless I review them first. Normally for FBA items, Amazon warehouse staff determines if the item can go back in stock, but for my items I just request Amazon return them to me for review since some of my products can be delicate.

You can see returned items in the Manage Inventory screen under the column 'Unfulfillable' if Amazon finds the returned items 'customer damaged'. That does not mean they cannot be repackaged and resold, which is why I ask for all my return items to be returned to me. You may be able to see some returns under the menu option Orders / Manage Returns.

As a seller, you generally do not want too many returns as that could affect your Amazon return metrics negatively. If you are a small volume seller, even 1 or 2 cancellations can affect your metrics for the short term since you do not have the volume to offset the cancellation percentage.


Returns - FBA item returns you found damaged:

When Amazon gets a FBA return and places the reason ‘Seller Damaged’ on it , I just ask for the item to be returned to me to see if it is really damaged. I have my account setup to return to me all returned items that Amazon does not put back into stock to sell. This is done automatically once a month. Many times the product is not damaged at all and Amazon does not take the time to review the item properly to see if it can be put back in stock and sold again. The cost to have the returned items sent back to me is very little and in my case since my items are at least $35.00 and much higher, I find it worth while. Amazon does not eat the cost if the product is sent back damaged by the customer or charge the customer for returning the damaged product. Amazon is under a quota to review many returns an hour and the cost of the products marked damaged are absorbed by the 3-party sellers and not Amazon.

Once the customer returned FBA item is shipped back to the seller, the item can be inspected to see if the item can be recovered and sent back into FBA. If seller get an FBA item with the reason 'damaged by the customer' to the point that you can not resell the item, the seller will need to decide if they would like to contact Amazon about this. You have the option to call Amazon Handmade support (They transfer you to a FBA specialist). Just because the reason Amazon states in 'damaged by the customer' does not mean the customer damaged the item since it could be Amazon causing damage unwrapping and inspecting and re wrapping my more sensitive items.

I would, in advance of the call to Amazon customer service, take a photo of the entire item and then a second photo of the detail of the item's damaged area. I also take a photo of the shipping box with the shipping label showing and in focus so that Amazon can read it if needed. If the shipping box is damaged, take an additional photo of the shipping box damaged area. Be ready with your jpg files, order number and the damaged items ASIN number information. During the c/s call, offer to send a photo of the damaged item to Amazon and then send the three or more images. This can be done by sending an email response using the case log, once they open up a case on this call.

The c/s rep may briefly talk to the manager and then offer you some funds back. It could be a small partial amount such as 50% minus FBA fees or it could be the full amount minus FBA fees. Good luck on your discussion with Amazon.

Hint: I found Amazon can be generous on the refund side if you make it easy on them and be prepared to provide photo proof of the damage on the first call, so they can handle the seller’s needs and close the case on the first call. Perhaps since I am prepared and make it easy for them, I get fully refunded most of the time.

Despite the fact that I do what I have described above on the larger priced items that does not mean that I do not choose to eat the costs of the smaller damaged returns. I do not want to get on the bad side of Amazon by consistently asking for reimbursement for smaller priced items or a quantity of damaged returned items. I usually call on items with prices $80.00 and up. Each business will need to handle FBA or FBM returns in a way that works out best for them that also follows the rules Amazon has set up for returns.


How to set up two different direct links to your Amazon stores page:

One direct web site name is www.amazon.com/handmade/(name you choose) as entered on the Seller Central / Settings/ Artisan Profile page.

An additional storefront link to your Amazon store such as www.amazon.com/shops/(name you choose) which you can set up in the Seller Central / Settings/ Account Info / Your Seller Profile / The storefront link field. These web links can be handy when you want to send someone to your storefront such as when marketing.


Should I allow a customer to purchase a high quantity of items on the same order:

When you enter in a new item, you have two fields available to you called ‘Quantity’ and ‘Max order quantity’. I normally place around 5 in the Quantity field and do not fill in the Max order quantity for my items since my quantity field is so low. This is based on my order volume but if you sell 30 of an item a day, obviously you will need to set the FBM Quantity field much higher.

I would never list items available to purchase, such as the quantity field of 100 as an example even if I had 100 available to ship. What if you have a pricing error or gave a promotion for what you thought would be for one person for 50% or 90% off and many others used it (yes this stuff happens if someone announces a pricing error on social media). What if a customer ordered 100 or 500 of your item with this coupon or promotion? Could you supply that quantity within your normal shipping times? What if a competitor ordered a large quantity that you sent out and just returned them so you would be out of stock for a while? This can actually happen for items on the marketplace side of Amazon.

While I do not hear this kind of issue pop up on the Handmade category, you should protect yourself. I suggest you have a quantity available for merchant fulfilled that is more than enough to meet your regular customer ordering needs and adjust your inventory quantity as needed as you sell. You can also enter a Max order quantity to a number that will fulfill most all of your customer’s needs. If a customer needs a larger quantity of the exact same item for a special need, they could always contact the seller. This basically limits your risk even though most of this kind of dirty tricks happen in the other categories in which sellers are selling the same items in competition, which is not what goes on in the Handmade category.


Advertising Search term report and how to call it up:

You can use the Search term report to see what terms your customers are searching for in your advertising to adjust your search terms when selecting search terms in future marketing. You may want to advertise more for certain keywords that result in sales or even clicks.

This is what I do.

Download Search Term Report

Save the file as a .TXT file

Click on the Open Folder button

Open the saved .TXT file in Excel

On the text import wizard:

Choose 'Delimited', NEXT

Choose 'Tab', NEXT

Choose 'General', FINISH

 

Expand the 'customer search term' and 'keyword' fields to show full values

I sort by the 'Keyword' column and review the most relevant or popular keywords. I also then sort by the 'Customer search term' column and look for common customer search terms that they typed in.


Interesting idea someone told me to redirect customers to your Amazon shop:

Register a private domain name for about $10.00 a year.  Set this private domain name to redirect to your Amazon shop which basically means that when a customer   type in your private domain name (link) you can set it to go to another link such as your Amazon storefront such as www.amazon.com/shops/​(your store link name). You can then use this private domain name on your business cards, list it on your packaging/warranty card or for marketing. An advantage of this type of linking is that even after you stop using Amazon, your private domain name in what previous customers may know you by can now point to any new non Amazon shop name. 


Responding to or sending a customer an email message:

Both the seller and the customer can contact each other with an email using the Amazon email server. Sometimes the customer blocks emails from Amazon or the seller's email goes into the customer's junk folder. Amazon give the customers the option to set up their accounts to block emails from Amazon. This can make it difficult if you need to contact the customer for additional information to get an order out and the customer does not respond.

All email correspondence between the customer and the seller should go through Amazon so you can have a record in case you need Amazon to help you out on an order or dispute. The customer's actual email address is hidden, but you can use the email address supplied by Amazon to contact the customer. You can even use this Amazon supplied customer email address to send out emails on your own personal email server. Those emails will still have a record with Amazon even though you did not type them in directly using the Seller Central email screen.

I think about my customer responses as if this eventually needs to be resolved by someone at Amazon. After Amazon reads the entire email correspondence, I want the person from Amazon to see the customer as improper and my responses as professional and reasonable so any resolution has a better chance to come out on my side such as in an A-Z claim or return resolution.

The seller is required to respond to an email within 24 hours and Amazon keeps track of this as one of their metrics. Even if you are in vacation mode, you will need to respond to the customer emails within the same 24 hours.

It is common for a customer message sent to the seller that does not require a response and the seller is not required to respond to every customer’s email. The seller can mark that email ‘No response needed’ and then click 'Send'.

If you get a rare email in which the customer is being very aggressive, threatening you, demanding things that go against Amazon policy or generally being very improper, you could also click on ‘Report Message’. If you additionally choose to respond back to the customer, always do so in a proper business-like manner. The main goal should be to defuse the situation and not escalate it more. Amazon can read all our emails, so a well written response can help the seller's situation if Amazon gets involved in the future.

If an email comes in that is improper or you feel it is a scam, you can mark it as ‘Report Message’ and Amazon will read those emails to see if they would like to take any action. If you get an email that looks like it comes from Amazon but does not look right and is asking you to respond back with private information such as banking information or passwords or asking you to go to an external web site to enter private information, call Amazon to see if this email is really from Amazon before you proceed. In general, I would never enter any private Amazon information off of a request from an Amazon Seller Central email you have been sent since it may look like it is an official request from Amazon, but it may not be. Official email requests from Amazon will generally come directly to your personal/business email inbox and not through Seller Central email.

If you get an email that is basically junk mail as shown below, which probably came from a solicitor from China, you can click on the 'Report Message' button and then select from the pop up box one of the reasons shown below, such as 'It's spam' and click on 'Report Message' button on that screen. Then, on the screen on the left, click on ‘No response needed’ and then the 'Send' button.


Calling the customer:

We are not allowed to call the customer directly since the customer's phone number provided to the seller is to be used for shipping purposes only and not to contact the customer.


Urgent emails to customer:

If your emails are not being responded to and this is holding up an order, you could try emailing from your own email address, not using Amazon’s email server, which allows you to use a more custom heading line which may get the attention of the customer. The customer may respond more to a custom subject line that says ‘Urgent response needed to receive your Amazon order (list short description of the item here)’ than whatever Amazon may place in the email subject line.

Using your own email address may reduce the chance that the email will end up in the customer’s spam folder. You still need to use the customer’s email address supplied by Amazon. When you send an email to an Amazon customer with your own email address/server, it is still being saved to the Amazon email messaging system found in Seller Central, which is good for record keeping purposes. Since your email goes through the Amazon's messaging system, your personal email will be replaced with your Amazon provided email address.

Amazon customers have the option to set up their account to stop all emails coming from Amazon and this includes the seller's emails to the customer. This can cause problems if the seller needs to contact the customer to complete the order. This may be more of an issue in the Handmade category, due to customization options in which the customer may enter custom information. Perhaps Amazon should inform the sellers when they send an email to the customer using Seller Central email system and the email gets blocked by Amazon. That way the seller knows that the customer did not receive the email and is able to make any adjustments needed earlier such as cancel the order. There is nothing the seller can due if the customer does not respond with the needed information. The customer may just be ignoring Amazon emails since they may get many of them and not know that your seller email is important to them as it relates to their recent order.

It can really hurt the seller's metrics if the seller cancels a customer's order, especially if the customer did not request the cancellation in writing. If you are in a situation in which the customer orders a name or other wording on the product and you feel that it is misspelled you can first try to contact the customer by email. After repeated attempts and the customer does not respond, it may be a good idea in most cases to send out the item by the shipping date with the spelling that the customer has requested in writing. This way the seller ships out in time and also can also show Amazon that you produced the item as requested by the customer. If sellers are restricted to not call the customer and Amazon allows customer to not be sent email from the seller, Amazon can put the seller in a situation in which the customer may not be happy which could result in a A to Z claim or a bad feedback review.

If the customer is not responding to your emails when sending a message, if you require additional information to complete or verify the order, change the subject to “Additional Information Required”. That is suppose to make it through the blocks the customer may have set up to not receive messages from Amazon. Sometimes the customer does get your emails and chooses to not read them or reads your emails and chooses to not respond to the seller. In this situation, the seller needs to make a business decision to protect themselves from any metric hits they may receive from Amazon while still following all the Amazon rules. Sometimes this could result in an unhappy customer but since you are trying to work within Amazon rules or mailing date restrictions, you need to balance the seller's needs with the customer's wants. If the seller was dealing with a customer without Amazon rules, many of these types of situations would not be an issue since the seller could wait for the customer to respond since there would be no forced item send date or the seller could call or text the customer. Selling on Amazon could put the seller in the position that they take a metric hit if the seller feels that there account can absorb the hit.


Seller email to customers:

Sometimes the seller requires additional information from the customer and emails the customer since we are not allowed to call them. While the customer’s phone number is shown to the seller, I believe that phone number is really only to be supplied to the shipper when necessary. Sometimes the customer does not respond to the seller's emails causing a problem in getting the order out in time. This effects Handmade sellers when additional information is needed to get an order completed such as Handmade items customization information.

Some customers sign up to not to receive any emails from Amazon and just may not be receiving them. The seller’s emails may just be not noticed or considered not important leading to the emails not being read by the customer. The Amazon emails may also end up being sent to the customer’s junk email folder.

One thing you can try to get the customer’s attention or that may force the email to go to the customer's Inbox and not blocked by Amazon is to add the word [Important] (including the brackets) to the beginning of the email's subject line. You can use the customer email address supplied by Amazon and then use your own email account to place in the email subject line the word [Important]. An example subject line could be “[Important] Need additional information to complete your Amazon order”.

If you send the customer an email using Amazon’s email system, then select the email option "Additional Information Required".

A seller should never try to send an email that is asking for an item review or store feedback using the "Additional Information Required" or [Important] to get around any customer blocks of Amazon email since Amazon does monitor for this.

If you are desperate, you may want to send a short text message to the customer’s phone number and see it that helps. I do not think this is allowed since Amazon says not to call the customer but it might get the customers attention.

In my viewpoint, Amazon customers are trained in a sense to making an order on Amazon and then they expect to get the item with no further effort on their part and get the order quickly. For specific Handmade items which have or require customization information or some type of customer approval, this could cause a problem if the customer does not return your emails.

If your product requires certain information, then the order system should be set up so the customer must supply the information at the time of order. If the customer needs to approve a design for an item, the seller might have to increase the processing time to get the order out on time even if the customer takes their time returning your email requests.

 


Customer emails to seller:

Most of the time, the emails I get from customers are order inquiries. It is best to respond quickly as this may result in getting the order instead of another seller who received a similar email who responded to the customer before you.

I try to keep my email response as simple as I can on the first response back and re-read what the customer has said and make sure I answer all the customer’s questions and not just some of them.

While you cannot include things like email addresses, phone numbers, web links outside of Amazon in the email, you can place an Amazon web link in your email to the customer such as to an item to make it easier for the customer to click on the link and directly order the item.

If you insert an email address or outside of Amazon web link in your email to the customer, those areas will be blanked out by Amazon even if you see them in your copy. Amazon may feel you are trying to contact or sell to the customer outside of Amazon when you do this.

If a customer sends an email to a seller, the seller has to get back to the customer within 24 hours or it will negatively affect the seller’s metrics. A seller needs to respond to customer emails even if their Amazon account is in Vacation Mode.


Selling jewelry:

Special rules are required to follow for those selling jewelry on Amazon that are different from adding items for other categories. You can see a write-up, by an Amazon seller, on these rules at the following Amazon Forum thread. Please note that the rules may have changed from this writing but this should give you a good starting guide: (Click here for more information).

Since many handmade sellers sell jewelry, here is a good discussion on tarnishing of jewelry in the Amazon FBA warehouses in this Amazon Forum thread: (Click here for more information).

Amazon handmade jewelry guidelines: (Click here for more information).


FBA order notifications:

For FBA, Amazon does not email you as the order comes in. They will send you an email when the FBA item is shipped which generally is 1 - 4 days later. You can see the number of the current FBA sales on the left side of the Seller Central screen under the title Fulfilled by Amazon / In last day (# of sales).

You can see the total sales amount for the day, FBA and FBM, in the Sales summary on the right side of the Seller Central screen. When you have an FBA sale, it will show up as a pending order until it is shipped. To see all orders including FBA or pending orders, go to Orders menu option, then Manage Orders, then press the Advance search button and then press the Search button. You will now see the pending orders which will include FBA orders.


Pending orders:

The seller can see their pending orders multiple ways. One way is to go to the Orders menu option and select Manage Orders to bring up the screen shown above. If you have selected the Pending search option shown above and do a search, your pending orders will display. You can also bring up pending orders by selecting the Advance Search option.

All FBM or FBA orders are in pending for for first 30 minutes which allows customers to cancel and for Amazon to get the order authorized. For FBM orders, you may see orders that are pending for longer than 30 minutes and this could mean that the customer’s payment has not been verified yet. This could be because their card expired, reached its limit or the customer got a new card and had not entered the new information yet. I have had one of my personal orders go on hold because I selected an old outdated credit card on file by mistake. Sometimes the FBM order is in pending mode for several days and the payment amount clears and the order is recognized. Sometimes the order can be on a pending hold for about a week, but could be longer, and then Amazon just cancels the order.

Pending mode has a different meaning from FBA orders since FBA orders will still be in pending mode after the payment method is verified or approved by Amazon. FBA orders will stay in pending until they are shipped out by Amazon and then the seller is notified by email that the item has shipped.

The seller must basically wait for the customer to update their credit or payment information. While an order is in pending mode, the seller does not see any of the customer contact information or any specific customizations options but you may be able to tell what the customer has ordered by the item listed and the price amount. If the item ordered is customized and not in stock ready to ship out, it may be a good idea to not work on the ordered product in case the order does not go through. Most of the time pending orders get approved within an hour or two in a normal situation or if any credit card verification delay within the first few days.

The seller does not need to do anything while the FBM order is in pending mode since Amazon informs the buyer to update their credit card or other payment method. For FBM pending orders, your item’s processing time does not start until the seller gets the order which starts when the item goes off of pending. I understand their is a software bug as of late 2017 that the Amazon ship by date is calculated from the original order date and not the date the order goes off of pending. This shipping by date is recalculated at shipping time so your pending days are not subtracted from your production time and the seller will not be penalized by shipping out late.



The image shown above can be reached from the menu option steps Orders / Manage Orders / Advance Search and then press the search button. In this example, the top order will be shipped by the Seller as shown in the line 'Fulfillment method: Seller'. Since this FBM order is out of pending mode, it shows the Buyer's name which is blurred in this example. The seller can call up the order for more detail and ship out the item to the customer when ready. The bottom order will be shipped by Amazon (FBA) as shown in the line 'Fulfillment method: Amazon'. Since this order is still in pending mode, it does not shows the Buyer's name until the FBA item is shipped. Also items in pending mode show in more of a dull text.


Buy Box field:

The buy box field does not apply to Amazon Handmade items as we "own" our listings and no one else can "list against" our handmade items. The buy box will only apply to items listed in the Marketplace since items in the Marketplace can have two sellers selling the same item and they can compete for the buy box between them.

Even for sellers that have 100% of their items under the Handmade category, sometimes the buy box drops below 100% and this can be ignored. The buy box can be seen in the Pricing menu under the View Pricing Dashboard menu option.

The Buy Box and Sales Conversion fields can be seen on this page: (Click here for more information).

Sales Conversion:

The sales conversion number box can also be seen in the Pricing menu under the View Pricing Dashboard menu option. Basically, the higher the sales conversion number is, the better your sales conversion is. A higher number will be given based on how many customers visits your items relating to the number of sales you have for those items visited. If you’re Search Term Keywords or keywords in your title match well to the keywords your customers use to search for your products, you will have a higher sales conversion. The sales conversion number does not need to be high for the seller to have numerous sales such as 2 – 10%.



Favorite Seller Central Reports:

Menu option Reports/Business Reports:

Sales Dashboard: The information I like on this report is that you can put in a date range such as January 1 to the current date (Year to date selection option) and tell how your sales are doing compared to the same period the previous year in an easy to see graphics line chart.

Detail Sales Page and Traffic:

One of the displays shows in a graphic line how your page views are going from a specific date range you can select from. You can also see a detailed list of main sales fields such as items sold, sales dollars, page views and session views to name a few and can display those values accumulated daily, weekly or monthly.

A session view is counted for each customer that visits your shop. So if a customer visits your shop 3 times in a day, it will probably only count as one session. A page view would be registered for each separate item page a customer visits. You could have a customer visit your shop twice over the day and look at 6 items total which would register as one session visit and 6 page views.

Detail Page Sales and Traffic by Parent Item:

This report shows more individual detail on a daily basis or longer specific date range of sales by the individual item level. You can download this report and then place the data into a spreadsheet and sort and sum the numeric fields to get useful information or see which items are your top sellers over a specific date range.

Other reports:

There are a large variety of reports available in Seller Central in the different menu options. When you first start you should review the reports available online and see which ones are useful to your business. These reports listed above mainly list out sales and items views data but other reports cover advertising, reports specializing in returns, advertising, FBA or your selling metrics to name a few. The data on many of the Amazon reports is 1 or 2 days behind so your current report may not reflect todays or yesterdays information.

See what reports you will find interesting and helpful. Some reports are not just viewable online and you need to request them using your computer. The reports are then produced pretty quick and made available to download to your computer to review. Many times these types of reports are more data reports that you will need to bring into a program like Excel or another spreadsheet to be readable.



Amazon Fees:

The main Amazon fees on the Handmade at Amazon category are the 15% fee on the item sold and also the 15% fee on the shipping amount the seller charges the customer. One of the things included in the 15% item fee is the costs associated with credit card fees.  The minimum item fee is a dollar.

Amazon charges a monthly fee of $39.99 to keep a Professional Sellers Account. You must have a Professional Sellers Account to sell in the Handmade at Amazon category. This $39.99 monthly fee is currently waived until the end of 2019 and this monthly fee will be charged starting January 2020.  Amazon may have different item percent fees in different categories for items not listed in the Handmade category.

If you sell more than 40 items in a month in categories outside of the Handmade category, Amazon will start charging you the $39.99 monthly Professionals Sellers Account fee from then on.  If you sell only in the Handmade category, then this does not apply to you.

Amazon also has separate additional fees for FBA sales and also for storing your FBA products in Amazon’s warehouses. Amazon also has other fees for various things such as handling some of your preparation for FBA items.  You could also have fees or charges from Amazon for your shipping costs as well as any Pay Per Click marketing costs and customer return cost to name some examples. 

It can be hard to get an understanding of all your Amazon fees but you could get some basic numbers of the amount Amazon actually deposits in your bank and compare that to your gross sales not counting returns and damaged items.  If the seller uses Amazon to purchase shipping, those shipping costs are deducted from your account just as the shipping amount collected from the customer is added to your account. The seller can get a general idea of the Amazon fees on a monthly or quarterly basis.  While determining your Amazon fees will not directly tell you your profit due to many outside Amazon costs such as product supplies, equipment, shipping cost and normal business expenses, it can help you determine if you are charging enough to cover your Amazon fees as part of your overall business expenses.

Item fee information: (Click here for more information).

FBA fee information: (Click here for more information).

On the other side of fees, the Amazon seller gets paid every two weeks. Amazon will send you a notification that your payment deposit is on its way to your bank and how much it is.



Charging the customer – determining the selling price:

This is too big of a subject to handle here, but I like to charge for an item what the customer is willing to pay.  It helps to know your real costs in making an item including product material and time costs.  It also helps in knowing who your customers are and what your products have sold for in the past.  You can start with an estimated price and see how those prices work with Amazon customers.  The selling prices for handmade items or items made in small quantities that are unique are very subjective.  Handmade items selling price does not always fall under a formula, although there are formulas that some sellers follow to calculate a price.

If I am not making enough sales for an item and my prices are not competitive with what I perceive are similar online items to mine, I will lower my prices or place a number of items on sale to see if that improves sales.  You can also keep your prices the same and try free shipping.  Sometimes customers may feel your item prices are competitive but may find your shipping cost too high and abandon the item in their Amazon shopping cart leaving the seller with no purchase.

If you cannot keep up with demand or your sales are increasing, you can raise your prices a little.  Eventually you will reach a price that you can make a profit on with steady sales that both the seller and customer are happy with.

If the seller has other on-line selling sites, Amazon requires that the exact same item selling price on Amazon plus shipping costs combined must be equal to or lower than the item price and shipping costs combined on other online sites for the same item. This is what Amazon refers to as price parity. You can always sell your items for a higher price on the non Amazon online sites.

During busy seasons for some sellers for specific items, sellers just cannot keep up with customer demand. We should all have this problem, he sarcastically said.  On Amazon you always want to make your shipping deadline.  One thing sellers could do is temporarily stop selling those popular items or put your shop on vacation mode.  Another less extreme option is to extend the popular item’s processing time and raise those items prices.  Raising prices on popular items can slow down sales and raise your profit on those sales until you get caught up.  You can then lower the price of those items and lower the processing time as needed.

Another thing a seller can do, that is not generally done, is to limit the amount of items that the customer can order from you at one time by filling out the 'Max Order Quantity' field. This may prevent someone from ordering 10 of the same items at once even if you state your item 'Quantity' field as over 10 items available. This may prevent the seller from getting caught off guard at a time when you are having trouble keeping up with orders. The seller can always readjust the temporary fields changed when the busy period is over and the seller is caught up with their orders.

Some people and many studies’ say to have your price end at .99 or .95 and this can help sales.

If an individual FBA item price is too low, Amazon may mark your item an add-on item. From what I understand, having an item marked as an Add-on item is not desirable for many people. Low priced items are also not very profitable due to the low item price and minimum Amazon FBA fees. An item of about $8.00 or less may be considered by Amazon as an add-on item but it seems to be really random and arbitrary with both price and weight being a factor. A customer may order an add-on item to get to the minimum $25.00 order amount to get free shipping. You may want to have your items prices at least $10 to be avoid being considered an add-on item at Amazon.

For those who sell FBA items, should your FBA item prices be same price as your corresponding FBM item prices? On FBA items, the seller has extra cost/fees. I feel most customers would not mind or even notice a small extra cost on items found in FBA. You are allowed to have the same items both in FBA and FBM if the one in FBM is listed with other customization options.

For Prime members, ordering an FBA item that is prime eligible is more of a convenience thing and also comes with free fast shipping. Many FBA sellers do have a higher price for FBA items. Also, many sellers have the same price for their FBA items and a corresponding FBM item. If a non-prime customer was purchasing FBA items that totaled $25.00 or more in the order, they would also get free economy shipping even if it is not fast. Would your FBA price, even if higher, be much different than the same item on FBM with shipping cost? This is a decision that each seller will have to make. I feel having the same price for FBA and FBM is fine but I also feel raising FBA prices a little is fine as long as the larger FBA price does not reduce your sales.

I tend to think of the total price of the item with shipping costs, so I feel shipping cost relates to your item pricing strategy.  While the seller can up the price of the item to absorb some of the shipping cost, there is nothing wrong with charging your customers what it really costs to ship your products with the 15% Amazon shipping fee added on.  Now that I said that, Amazon customers very much like free shipping from what I have been told. 

On the other hand, many customers are Prime members and can get free shipping on all your Prime or FBA items.  Since Amazon lowered the FBA purchase minimum to only $25.00 (used to be higher at $35 and $40) to receive free economy shipping for non-Prime members for FBA or prime items, many non-Prime customers can get free shipping anyway's when their order contains over $25.00 in FBA items.  I actually do not have any FBA items for sale under $25.00, so all of my FBA items can be shipped free if the customer does not wish to pay for faster shipping.  For FBM items, offering free shipping is an option for all sellers.  If the items I sell were mostly lightweight items, such as could be mailed with regular first class mail, I would probably up my item price a few dollars and offer free shipping.

It is a good idea to make sure you know your actual profit to help you determine if you are charging enough to make it worthwhile with your time and risk.  Some artisans do not charge enough or feel that customers will not pay more for your items.  While you need to be competitive, sellers need to charge enough for your long term success.

Ignore the other shops that sell at unreasonably low prices for similar items since you do not need to complete with them on price. Charge what you think your item is worth and will sell for to make a reasonable profit for a long term business success. Many of those sellers who are really under pricing their items, not realizing they are not making much profit, will eventually go out of business on their own.


Getting started - Good things to read or watch:

Read the Handmade Style Guide: (Click here for more information).

Read the getting started Guide which contains good information on the Handmade Seller Central screens: (Click here for more information).

Read the older Handmade Newsletters which have some good information specific to the Amazon Handmade category: (Click here for more information).

Read the Handmade Frequently asked questions (FAQ): (Click here for more information).

General Amazon rules: (Click here for more information).

Artisan Advantage – Amazon Video tutorial series for getting sales and growing your handmade Business: (Click here for more information).


Selling One of a kind (OOAK) items on Amazon:

Some Handmade sellers discuss that it is more difficult to sell OOAK items on Amazon. This is probably true since your items gain momentum or better ranking by selling multiple times. This is not possible if you only make one of each item, it sells and then you do not have the item anymore. OOAK items will probably not get any item reviews and if they did, the items would no longer display to see them. Another issue with OOAK items is that you will create an entire listing with new photographs, description and keywords for each item which can be time consuming for a one time sale. If you make very similar items, you could also create a new OOAK listing starting with a copy of another similar listing.

This does not mean that you should not sell OOAK items on Handmade, but realize some of the realities of doing so. One option is to sell your OOAK as an FBA item were it may get shown more by Amazon since Amazon favors FBA items.

Many sellers sell OOAK items successfully along with additional items that can be reproduced. If you have an handmade item and you can reproduce it very similar, only having slight differences due to the handmade process, you may be able to sell multiples on the same listing. I do not sell OOAK items, but if I did I would keep the item that was in the item listing main photo and after remaking the item, compare it to the original and make a determination if it is similar enough. The seller could place a small disclaimer in the product description that the item you receive may have slight differences from the item show above due to the handmade process.


Order Cancellations - customer requested:

Cancellation requests from the customer can ding your metrics, especially on small volume sellers. When a customer emails you and request the order be canceled, you should or can ask the customer by email to submit to you another email with the words ​"order cancellation requested by Amazon customer" in the message title. After you get this email, you select that order from the link in the message, and select "buyer requested" as the cancel reason which will have no impact on your metrics or at least reduce the chance that the canceled order will have an effect on your metrics.

If the customer does not respond, you will need to cancel the order yourself which will hurt your metrics. As with many things on Amazon, you can get dinged even when the seller did nothing wrong and provided good customer service to their customers. As part of the cancellation process, you have a private seller notes field that you can just state that "The order was cancelled by request of the customer". This note may help you by letting Amazon know the reason for the cancellation if you get enough cancellations to get Amazon's attention.

A customer can cancel the order by themselves if they cancel the order within a half hour of ordering. For what I have been told, the seller will not even see this order as an order or a canceled order if the customer cancels the order right away.

Note: January 2018 Tried the wording ​"order cancellation requested by Amazon customer" with a customer and a few days later, I got a cancellation ding on my account. So I do not think this works. Update again: I check a week later and the ding was gone with zero score under the same cancellation section in the last 90 days in which this cancellation was well within. Amazon can be confusing sometimes and since the sellers do not know what is in the software code and how it effects us and what we are told by Amazon reps is sometimes confusing, it is really up to the individual seller to use their experience to work within the Amazon system to achieve what works best for them.


Can you mass edit production time or other item edit fields?:


This question comes up a lot in the forums. No, you have to change or edit your production time field on your Handmade listings one at a time. There is no bulk editing for most of the Handmade entry fields for your product listings even if this feature is available in other Amazon categories on the Marketplace side.

Amazon also does not allow the Handmade sellers to do any bulk creation of new items or bulk edits of existing items by uploading a file.

You can change the 'Available' and the 'Price' field, for more than one item at a time, on the Manage Inventory screen section shown above. You just go down and change multiple 'Available' or 'Price' values. You then press the 'Save All' button to update and save multiple field updates.

The seller does have the ability to create new product listings by copying from an existing listing by selecting the 'Edit' button shown above on the Manage Inventory screen of the listing you want to copy. You then select the 'copy listing' selection option shown on the above right image and a new product listing will display with many of the fields already filled in from the copied listing. This makes creating a listing much faster if you are able to find a similar type of listing to create your new listing from. After updating the new field information, the new product listing is saved.


Making bulk changes to your item listings:

This can be a pain since Handmade items currently have no bulk editing feature and item edits need to be done one at a time which can be time-consuming. As shown above, on the Manage Inventory screen, you can change the Inventory quantity and the Price field for multiple items at a time but there is no bulk entry for most of the item edit fields.

When I need to do many changes to a lot of listings of a similar nature, I tend to open as many as 20 listings at a time first and then go in to edit those 20 listings in a repetitive manner. After those 20 listings are edited, saved and closed, I then open up the next 20 listings. I keep track of where I left off if I need to continue my edits at a later time. The Manage Inventory screen tends to keep the items in order so I can tell where I left off if I do not try to change the item’s listing order by clicking on one of the heading fields.

I find using the browser Firefox is reasonably fast with Internet Explorer being much slower. You should find the fastest browser for you and use that when doing mass item changes.

I have found using a copy/paste type software really speeds up similar changes or wording to a large number of listings.


Production time field:

I would at least give your self at least two processing days and that’s if you have the items already created or can create them pretty quick. You could put down as one processing day if you have the item already created and boxed ready to ship out but I would not recommend that. I add a few extra days to my processing time to account for normal business delays happening or I want to take a day off.

One thing Amazon frowns on is late deliveries and it is easy for Amazon to track as they now require packages to have a tracking number.  Sellers must make sure a tracking number is entered on Amazon if using shipping outside of Amazon. As the veteran Amazon marketplace sellers say, "Under-promise and over-deliver." Even if you have some extra time to send out an item, the customer will appreciate the items shipping and arriving early. When Amazon calculates the customer's package arrival time, Amazon does not count Saturday and Sunday as shipping days.

Another issue that can cause problems is that Amazon in on West coast time so if an order comes in at 11 pm Washington State time and it is really 1 or 2:00 AM, the next day your time, you will still lose a day in processing time and in shipping estimated arrival dates. It may affect you even more if you need to send out the package in an expedited manner. I feel that Amazon should use the U.S. seller’s local time when calculating the order date, but that is not how it works.

Amazon allows sellers to have a processing time going out as far as 30 days. I would pad my processing days a little to give more room during busy times or for other reasons but I feel that Amazon and customers favor items that have a shorter processing time and shorter processing times can increase your orders. I do not recommend that you pad your processing time too much when not needed. If your items are highly customized and it does take some extra processing time, you are better off with a realistic processing time than take a chance of mailing out too many packages late.


Production time field - additional information:

Although Amazon uses the wording “Production time”, it is really the number of production days the seller needs to send the item out. You can list a longer production time and of course send it out early to the customer.

The Production time is not really connected to the shipping time. Sometimes the customer may confuse this and order faster expedited shipping and think the item will be sent out right away and arrive much sooner. If you have a production time of 4 days and the customer pays for priority shipping, the order can be mailed within the 4 days of production time and then the customer will get the package 2-3 days later.

I have read that if the seller offers Premium 2 day shipping (guaranteed shipping) to customers for a specific FBM item and your customer selects this shipping method, your production time does not come into effect and is really overwritten to 0 days. From what I have read, if you are on the east coast, if someone orders before 1 PM (could be different depending on time of year) you have to ship same day and after 1PM you can ship the next day. Handmade sellers should perhaps not offer Premium 2 day shipping on items that they do not have in stock or that cannot be sent out right away.

It is always best to have your production time as few days as possible while leaving an extra day or more to make sure you get your items shipped on time. I have heard that Amazon will favor those listings with a shorter production time. Customer’s favor shorter production times since they always want to get their ordered items faster and sometimes you are competing against other sellers with similar items with a faster production time. You can set this production field up to 30 days but better if some of your items are pre-made and can set with only a production time of few days.


Setting production time field additional days for holidays:

In early December, you may see a message on your FBM item order pages that says “​Arrives before Christmas” above the item price. Eventually this message will change to “Expected to arrive after Christmas”. ​This message is displayed by Amazon on the item order page well before Christmas even if you feel you can get your FBM items created and shipped out in time to arrive to the customer by Christmas. These messages are probably based on your items processing time, possibly shipping distance and type of quicker shipping methods that are available.

I have found that this “Expected to arrive after Christmas message just stops or greatly reduces your FBM orders. Customers may purchase a higher percentage of orders from Prime or FBA closer to the holiday deadline and this can hurt your sales if you are only an FBM seller. If you have popular FBM items, you may want to pre-make them ready to ship and then lower your production time for these items to 2 days at the beginning of the Christmas season. You can raise up the production time when the holiday season is over or you run out of those ready made items.

This is just a notice if you have not seen this before that an FBM item even with short production times will have this notice closer to Christmas while the Prime or FBA orders will still have a message “​Arrives before Christmas”.


Vacation mode:

Does placing your shop in vacation mode, hurt your product rankings? From what many sellers have written about, after a short time after placing your shop off of Vacation mode the sales come back. I feel individual items that sell infrequently may be at risk of going to a lower rank as any item that has not sold in a while.

You may want to place your shop in vacation mode if you go on vacation. While on vacation mode, you still need to correspond with your buyers within 24 hours. You can download a Seller Central phone app to check on correspondence or just check the email that Amazon sends you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To go on vacation mode, in Seller Central press the Setting menu and then the Acct Info menu option. Select the 'Going on a vacation?' option as shown at the upper left image. Then select the 'inactive' button on the Amazon.com line shown above on the image to the right of the Amazon.com line. To go off vacation mode, select the 'active' button to the right of the Amazon.com line.

While on vacation mode, all your FBA items with available inventory are still listed, show up in search and can be purchase by the customer.

While on vacation mode, all your FBM items will not show up in an Amazon search and will not be available to be purchased until you manually take your shop off of vacation mode.

Many sellers will want to concentrate on how much sales they are going to loose when on vacation but everyone needs an occasional short or long vacation to recharge and enjoy life away from work from time to time. Try to think of some strategies that will reduce these loss of sales that will specifically work for what you sell.

Sometimes you actually place your shop in vacation mode for going on an actual vacation. You can place your shop on vacation mode two or three days before you leave on your vacation so you do not wake up to a lot of orders the morning you planned to leave. You also could run into a problem where a customer orders right before you place your shop in vacation mode and the order is in pending mode for a few days so you do not see the order until right before you leave on vacation or even after. Be sure to finish all customer orders ordered prior to the seller going on vacation mode and ship them out on-time. You can take your shop off of vacation mode towards the end of your vacation before you get home depending on how long your production time is. This way you can open up your shop to new orders a few days earlier. For these new orders, you want to get back from your vacation in order to produce the product and ship off the package by the shipping date.

Even though Amazon will not let the sellers bulk edit our processing days, prior to going on vacation you could manually increase your processing days on your 20 most popular items and make the rest of your FBM items inactive or change the inventory quantity to zero. When you get back from vacation (or a few days before you get back), you can reset your processing times back to normal and make your inactive items active again. You then can create and send out your orders when you get back from vacation. If you pre make some of your popular items before you leave on vacation, even if they are not finished yet with customizations, you may be able to get out your backlog of orders quicker. The idea here is not to make the same number of sales while on vacation, but to still have some sales coming in instead of zero FBM sales by placing your shop in vacation mode.

Having some of your items in FBA will help with sales during your vacation since FBA items are still active when in vacation mode.

If needed, I have heard of marketplace sellers bringing items for pending orders on vacations with them and mail them out on the road. This could get tricky for Handmade items which have customizations since you may offer different colors, sizes or options that would make bringing the pending items with you on vacation more complicated. For pending orders, you may know the item and price but not know all of the customers selected customization options until the order goes out of pending mode.

You may also place your shop on vacation mode for other reasons such as you are overloaded with orders that you cannot keep up with, you need to go to the hospital, other issues disrupting your business or any other reason that may put your account at risk of not sending out orders on time.

In the case in which you have too many orders, another option besides placing your entire shop on Vacation mode is to raise your prices on these popular items or extend your production times individually on these popular items which may result in your sales to slow down. You can adjust these values back when you get caught up with orders.


Number of items needed to get sales on Amazon Handmade:

I am not aware of any such number on Amazon but the general viewpoint is the more items you have listed, the easier or more likely your items have of being found on Amazon. I would think you should have at least 50 different items but there is nothing wrong with having hundreds. If you are successful with only five items, then maybe that is the number that is right for you. With Handmade customization options, you really could have thousands of different product options even if you do not have thousands of item listings. Due to the fact that the Amazon Handmade category does not have bulk editing currently, it can be time-consuming to making changes to many listings. If some of your items do not sell, you could remove them, or at least set the inventory quantity to zero and replace with different new items depending on your products.

Since Amazon does not charge extra for more listings, you can list as many items as you feel you can manage and work with for your business model. Perhaps someday, I may determine the 20% of my listings that account for 80% of my sales. I can then reduce my listings to what has sold in the past and then add new listings again to build up my products offered.


Random interesting things:

1. You can not block a customer from buying for you. You can only inform on the customer to Amazon if they are really abusive or constantly returning items to the seller on a regular bases or otherwise hurting your metrics in a purposeful way. The seller should organize the complaint in a timeline with dates, reasons for returns, email correspondence and other relevant detail in a way that makes it easy for Amazon to come to a conclusion without them needing to do so much research. Perhaps Amazon with enough complaints on the same buyer from different sellers, Amazon may remove the customer's buying privileges. The seller may want to do a little research and see if this is being done by a competitor, but never mention this to Amazon unless you have proof that you can show Amazon.

2. In a 2017 change by Amazon that when a list of thumbnails show up after a customer search, the items on sale no longer show both the original price and the discount price. The sale price and discount amount shows only when you select the thumbnail to view the individual product detail. This could affect some of the advantages of having an item on sale since customers most likely will not know your item is on sale when looking at the thumbnails, since it just shows the one lower price. This could lead to the customer not selecting your items as much because the customer can not tell that your item is on sale at that time. This does not makes as much sense for items in the Handmade category since we do not compete for price for the same exact item or have the Buy Box.

3. Amazon constantly sends me promotional emails wanting me to purchase my own items. I am sure this is based on my history of calling up my own items in the past, but they really should check to see if the sellers email address is the same as associated with the promoted item.

4. It is a good idea to review the 'Notifications' and 'Headlines' box areas in the main Seller Central screen. These area contain important changes or new rules that Amazon has done and is informing the sellers about. The seller can read about the changes and decide if it effects their specific store and determine if the seller needs to make any adjustments. A few examples of a notifications are were the seller is informed of shipping or FBA prices going up or a new feature allowing sellers to print FBM shipping labels in bulk now instead of one at a time.

5. You may find one of your FBA items has an incorrect weight or package size recorded at Amazon and that it is causing problems. These problems could be Amazon charging you too much for shipping or Amazon is charging you for an oversized package when the package is a standard size. When this happens, you need to request Amazon to do a 'Cubiscan' on the item and give them the Asin number or an identifying item number. They may not understand that they are required to do this and if the first C/S rep does not understand, then call back and talk to another C/S rep. This is not something you can correct on your own by changing the package dimension size and weight in your item's edit fields, but you should make sure these fields are correct on your end. When you ask Amazon FBA area to do a Cubiscan, make sure you have at least one item in stock for them to measure.

6. Amazon informs the seller on the Order Details screen next to the 'Contact buyer' section if that customer has ordered before. A link is given to see the customer's previous orders. This can be helpful if you want to mention that in a note, possibly offer a discount for repeat buyers or for numerous other reasons such as the customer asked for a return and the seller authorizes the return when they did not have too.

7. Always have a current working credit card on file with Amazon that is able to take charges. If you get a new credit card, your credit card number changes, you cancel your existing credit card on file with Amazon, you are over your credit limit on your credit card or your credit card expiration date expires or changes, make sure you give Amazon the new or updated card information right away. Basically, always have a valid credit card on file with Amazon with the most current account information. I do not think pre-paid credit cards or debit cards will work. Always have a current working checking or other type of account Amazon uses to send your payments to that is able to accept payments. If your checking account changes, is overdrawn or you close or put some type of hold on that account, let Amazon know your new or updated account information that will accept payments.

Not having a valid credit card or account in which Amazon sends payments, could cause you problems with Amazon that the seller would consider serious. This issue should be handled by the seller before Amazon sends you a notice to update your credit or banking information and could possibly lead to your sellers account being shut down or the seller not being paid if you do not. If Amazon sends you a notice on anyone of your banking accounts and you are absolutely sure the banking account information on Amazon is good, just re-enter the same account information again even if it is the same as Amazon already has. I believe Amazon uses this banking information to verify that you are a legit seller and it should be kept current for those reasons also.

8. If a customer orders two different orders (same item or not) to the same person at the same address, the seller can mail the two orders in separate shipping boxes or in the same box. It is basically a seller's business decision and if shipping using one box, the seller can copy the shipping tracking info from one order to the other. For international buyers that may purposely split what they order into two orders to keep the item total per shipping box under the threshold to not pay duty tax fees, you can ship them separately.

9. Sellers should be careful when placing copyrighted or trademarked names in your listings such as your title and description that shows to the customer. Sellers should also not place copyrighted or trademarked names in your search term keywords that do not display to the public. You also can not do original art, and put it up for sale, if your art contains trademarked characters or symbols such as from Disney as an example. If you are making clothes from a store bought cloth, you can not use the cloth to make clothes that the seller puts up for sale if the cloth has trademarked characters or wording on it as an example. The trademark owner may complain to Amazon resulting in a trademark or Intellectual Property (IP) violation. The seller would then need to show proof that you are licensed to sell these items as an authorized brand reseller/retailer. Many such terms should not be used such as Apple, Disney, Beatles, Velcro, Onesie, Swarovski crystals or Tiffany Blue as just a very few examples. It is the seller's responsibility to do research and know not to use certain images, terms or phrases since Amazon takes this type of violation very seriously.

10. Displayed in the Manage Inventory screen is a field heading called 'Custom'. This field will either list for an item the term Enabled or Disabled. When the item's Custom field is set to Enable, this just means that the seller added optional customization options for this item. If the Custom field is set to disabled, it just means that that item is sold without any customization options. Nothing is actually disabled or wrong with the listing, just a bad wording choice from Amazon. You will notice that all FBA items will have the custom field set to disabled, since FBA items can not contain any customizations.

11. If you get an email from Amazon or Amazon Seller Performance and it asks for private information such as bank information, credit card information or fill in a screen with your login Id and password, you first should verify that is is really from Amazon and not a phishing scheme from someone outside of Amazon to get your password, credit card or banking information. One thing you can do if you are suspicious is to see who sent you the email and verify it is coming from amazon.com and not something similar such as 123-amazon.com. You can see if the message showed up on your main Seller Central screen by clicking on the little notifications flag in the upper left corner and seeing if the message is also their. The final thing you can do if you are not sure if this is a valid email request from Amazon for private information is call Amazon and ask them. Remember that their are bad people out their and they have no problem in taking advantage of scaring you with an email that your seller's account is in danger to give up private information without checking if the email is a valid one or a scam. If you feel that your account has been hacked, the first thing I would do is login and change my password and then see if any of my bank and credit card information has been changed. I would also check if any of your many email notifications have been changed so you are informed when future changes are made to your account. You may also want to check that any previous payments you were expecting went to your bank and not someone else's even if your current banking information is correct since they could of changed the bank information back.


Pending orders for Merchant Fulfilled orders:

Pending orders mean different things depending on if the customer order is an FBA order or an order from Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM). Pending for FBM orders means that the customer payment method such as credit card approval has not gone through yet. Pending for FBA orders generally means that the order has not been shipped to the customer yet.

Most of the time, the customer’s credit card is approved pretty quickly and Amazon sends you an email that you have an order to fulfill. Sometimes the order is stuck in pending mode and it might take a few days to a week for the customer to correct the payment problem. If Amazon has a payment issue, they will send an email to the customer asking them to correct the payment issue. If the customer does not take care of the payment problem, the order will eventually get canceled by Amazon.

In my experience, the customer orders put in pending mode are resolved in 1 – 3 days with no need for the seller to get involved. The seller really can-not do anything about a pending order anyway. An order might be put in pending mode if the customer cancels the credit card currently on record with Amazon and not replaced with the customer’s new credit card number. It could also be that the credit card expiration date has expired or the customer is past their limit.

For Handmade items that are personalized or customized, I do not recommend you start working on a pending order until it goes through since the order may be canceled.


Pending orders for FBA orders:

Amazon marks all individual items in orders as pending until the order has shipped out. Having an FBA orders in pending generally has nothing to do with the customer having payment issues. Since Amazon may take a few days for a customer order to ship out, it is no concern to the seller that the order is in pending mode as that is normal. It may be difficult to tell when a FBA order is put in pending mode due to a payment issue, but I am sure it happens also.  I would prefer if Amazon changed the wording for FBA pending orders that have no payment issues to ‘Waiting for shipment’.


So you sold your first item on Amazon Handmade – What do you do now?:

Instead of giving a list of what steps you need to get your item to the customer, I will give you some ideas on how to prepare for your first order so you are ready to go to make your first Amazon shipping experience a little smoother. This will allow you to better concentrate on getting the product shipped out to the customer. At the time of your first order, you should not need to concern yourself about needing to purchase shipping supplies or learning too many of the shipping procedural steps that you could of familiarized yourself prior to your first sale.

If you already sell on-line with other avenues, then you probably already have your procedures down and only need to learn how the process works specifically with Amazon. There are probably some videos available to see some of the Seller Central order to shipping screens since you may not be able to access or see some of these screens until you get your first order. A friend of mine purchased one of my items from me so I could see the procedure from order to shipping which helped out.

Some suggestions to prepare for your first order:

If you start out with only a limited number of items, you may want to have some of those items already produced ready to be shipped out even if you have a production time set up with enough leeway to produce the item before the shipping deadline. Amazon customers like to receive their orders early anyway's and this gives you more time to ship if you run into any shipping issues while learning. If your items need to be or can be customized, you may be able to prepare or create your product up to a certain point in advance of the order. You obviously want to have the supplies available to create your items if needed or for any customized items features that you offer since you may not have time to order or find those supplies locally in time.

You should have a few shipping boxes of different sizes to handle many of your product items. Other items you should have are packing tape and packing tape dispenser, some bubble wrap or paper wrap, a ruler long enough to measure the dimensions of your shipping boxes, mail weight digital scale (not a bathhroom scale) and a printer. You would want to purchase blank mailing labels that you just print on and just peal off such as fit two to a 8 x 11 ½ sheet of label paper or mailing label size to fit a smaller shipping box. You basically do not want to need to run to the store to find a scale, packing tape or blank labels if you can purchase these in advance. It is helpful to understand that you will get an email notification on your FBM orders but should also check with Seller Central to see if any orders came in at least once a day. Determine how you will see those orders; print out an order packing slip and also how to print out a shipping label. Determine what size shipping label you need to make sure they do not print out too big for your shipping boxes.

The seller will also need to determine ahead of time what type of item box or other type of container they will use as well as what type of upscale presentation you want to have on or include with your item box. Besides including the packing slip, the product and the product box, you may want to include a thank you card or business card including your company name and Amazon store web site link as some examples. Not everything has to be presented perfectly on your first shipments of your items since you can improve on your presentation and methods as you get future orders.

It is very important to ship the item out on time and deliver it to your shipper the same or next business day after you print out your shipping label. The seller should also fill in the shipping tracking number on the Amazon order page if you did not purchase shipping directly from Amazon. At the beginning you may want to track your shipments to the customer using the tracking number to get familiar with how long it takes, then after a while you will not feel you need to do this.


Sellers Account Health:

One of the important issues you want to look at regularly is your sellers account health ratings. You can see your account health by menu option Performance and then select 'Account Health'. From here you can see the account health screen and can also select to see the Performance Metrics screen. What you are look for is issues that might concern Amazon such as a high order defect rate, high cancellation rate, high return rate or numerous late shipments as some examples. Other metrics that Amazon watches is for negative feedback, Number of A-to-Z claims, lack of shipping tracking and if you are responding to customer inquires within 24 hours.

Having good metrics shows the seller that they are keeping the customers happy by Amazon's standards. Having good metrics can also reduce the chances that your seller's account will be noticed by Amazon's radar. You want to avoid the situation of one of the Amazon bots or personal sending you a warning message or even suspending your account. It is the sellers responsibility to notice if you are having a problem in one of the areas that Amazon keep metrics on and make a determination on how you can fix the problem areas as well as reduce these issues in the future. As shown above, take the time to look for green circles and notice when they turn orange.

If the seller is selling many items consistently, then an occasional problem metric will not look so bad to Amazon due to it being a smaller percentage of your overall sales. With many handmade sellers, they may have less quantity of sales compared to higher volume sellers on the Marketside. Having even two or three bad metrics on a single metric area during a short time can cause the seller to not meet an Amazon target percentage that could lead to a problem.


FBA items that run out of stock – Inventory management:

One option you can do at any time of the year is when FBA items get sold out, just convert the FBA listings right away to Fulfilled by Merchant listings. I believe you need to add some inventory, adjust your processing time and verify that you have a shipping type listed for the FBM item.

You do not need to wait until the recently sold last FBA items ship out, just convert the FBA items when the inventory reaches zero. When you do this, you have a better chance of keeping more of your ranking since the item will still be available for sale to the customer and show up in Amazon search. This will only work if you have the materials to make additional items when the item is Fulfilled by Merchant and can produce the item during normal processing time for this item.

When you have additional stock for these items to send to FBA, you can convert the Fulfilled by Merchant items back to FBA and ship your FBA items in.

Not to get too confusing, but technically, once you create the FBA order to replenish your stock, you could change the items from FBA back to FBM so they would be available to be sold as a FBM item while your FBA items are on their way to the warehouses. Once the item arrives at the FBA warehouse or when Amazon sends you an email that your items are checked in, you then convert it back from FBM to FBA. This way the item is always available for sale either as FBM or FBA.

I had about 3 FBA items sell out recently during the heavy buying Christmas season. Sometimes you need to make a business guess on how much inventory you will have at FBA for specific items. It is difficult to know how many items may sell at this busy time of year for items that sell in smaller volume or are inconsistent sellers. Depending on what type of items you sell, Valentines or Mother’s day may be your busy time of year also. You do not want to send in too much FBA inventory and then be left with a lot of unsold stock with storage fees accumulating.


Stranded Inventory:

Stranded Inventory means Amazon has one or more of those items in their warehouse with no matching FBA listing to sell it through. This could happen if you flipped your FBA item to FBM and you had an FBA order cancel or FBA return. It is possible that you thought your inventory was zero but one or more of the items were in transfer to another warehouse.

You can see if you have stranded Inventory on the main Seller Central screen in the Inventory Planning box on the line 'SKUs with standard inventory'.

If you had flipped the FBA item to FBM while you waited for your FBA stock to arrive at the Amazon warehouse, you may get a stranded inventory notice if the items are checked into the Amazon warehouse and you had not flipped the item back from FBM to FBA. All you have to do is change the item back to FBA and the situation will resolve since the warehouse products will have an FBA item to match up to now.


So your received an Amazon suspension letter:

While it is unfortunate that your account was suspended, that is not as bad as getting a letter that you may no longer sell on Amazon which is permanent. I understand that you may be frustrated about the particular circumstances that led to this predicament, but the real issue here is getting off of suspension with a really well-written appeal in a format that Amazon wants so you can continue selling on Amazon in the future. You should make sure your appeals get sent on time and if you email Amazon to just ask a question on this issue, it may count as one of your limited appeals.

From what I have read, it may not be easy to interpret from the boilerplate suspension letter you receive specifically what the seller did wrong which I consider unfair. The seller should not have to guess what Amazon rules they violated and what items are involved. Sometimes Amazon send the seller a list of items in violations.

The appeal should generally state that you were wrong, what you did wrong and what steps you have taken to correct this situation so it does not happen in the future. It does not matter that you feel you did nothing wrong or enough wrong to be suspended. Sometimes you have to set your emotions aside and do what is best for your long-term success to selling on Amazon.

It is suggested that you post your suspension letter on the regular (non-handmade) official Amazon forum, tell the forum what really led to the suspension for best advice back and ask for some advice. You could also post your appeal letter before you send it in and listen to the advice since it has to be worded correctly and you have only so many appeals tries. Many sellers get their first appeal rejected and you just have to reword it and send in another appeal.

You can find many other appeal letters that you can read on the forum and if you can find one that is similar to your situation, it may be a good reference to write your first appeal from. Look at the general appeal writing format you see in other’s appeals and how you want to make the appeal easy to read and fulfill of the type of wording Amazon is looking for to satisfy their justification of reinstating your account. In general, these suspensions are really a serious thing on Amazon and if you do not satisfy Amazon’s needs with your appeals, you will most likely be put in a situation in which Amazon closes your shop and never allows you to sell on Amazon again.

Facebook group on suspensions at (Click here for more information).

Facebook forum on suspensions at (Click here for more information).


Customers - are they Amazon's or the seller's customers:

The quick answer is that they are Amazon’s customers. Amazon lets the sellers know based on numerous rules that they put the seller on. I always treat all my buyers of my product on Amazon as if they were my customer’s and want them to have a good buying experience as if my name is on all my products, which it is.

Amazon does not want you to bring its customers anywhere outside of Amazon. Some of the ways I can remember is no seller contact information such as email addresses, phone numbers, outside Amazon web site links or internal Amazon web site links in any of the product listings, artist profile or on product photos as some examples.

When the seller is writing an email correspondence to the customer, the seller can include an internal Amazon web site link but not any personal contact information or anything that can bring the customer outside of Amazon. If either the seller or customer places an email address, non Amazon web link or phone number in an email, it will be blanked out when it reaches the receiver.

Also, Amazon does not want you to include paperwork or business cards in your packages that direct Amazon customers away from Amazon. This could be listing any web site other than Amazon, email address, phone number or any contact information that could bring Amazon's customers away from Amazon. I know the manufacturers do place that information on the packaging or on paperwork such as a warranty card, but I do not think this is not allowed for Handmade sellers even though we are the manufactures. If you include a business card with their packages, you may want to only list Amazon contact information such as your stores web site and not any information that will bring Amazon customers away from Amazon.


Handmade sellers can also place their products in the Marketplace categories:

Once you are accepted into the Handmade category and have a professional selling account, you may also enter items for sale on the Marketplace side as long as the Marketplace categories are not restricted. The item listing forms you need to fill out will be different as well as some of the rules. You cannot have the same exact product for sale in a Marketplace category that is already listed in the Handmade category.

One piece of information you need on the Marketplace area is your product will probably need a separate UPC product code for each item which is not required on the Handmade side. Another thing is that if you sell in one month over 40 items on the Marketplace side, you will no longer qualify for the free waived $39.99 Professional Selling account fee and you will be billed for it monthly in the future.

 


All your eggs in one basket can put your business in ruins with eggshells on the floor:

As I stated before, it can be dangerous to only sell on one platform such as Amazon. The reason is simple, you do not control your own destiny since Amazon can for any reason kick you out and destroy your Amazon business. Since Amazon considers all sales you make to customers as their customers, you do not even have an email list to market too for your other selling avenues.

To me, I find it interesting that Amazon has no problem getting rid of a customer that has been selling well with little customer problems for many years having sales of $100,000 a month about the same as getting rid of a small handmade seller. Amazon is so big, that in a way they treat most all sellers the same.

It is fine to start off selling only on one online site, but once you get going and have your procedures down, you really should bring that experience to your own web site, other online platforms or alternative places such as brick and mortar stores to sell your Handmade products. When you sell on your own site, those customers are yours to market too without any Amazon restrictions. If you market and sell on your own web site, you also do not have to share any percentage fees with Amazon. Sometimes it is not really about about selling at one online platform such as Amazon, it is also about selling so much of a percentage on one online site that it will effect your finances greatly if that one online site goes away suddenly or has a consistent lower volume of sales over time.

Add a new additional selling site once you get established and see how it goes. If that platform does not seem to work out for you, try another platform that may work out better for your products. While it can be more difficult to have more than one on-line shop to maintain, diversity is your friend. You may find out that multiple shops bring you in more money since they reach different customers.


Product Ranking:

You can see what your product rankings are on the Seller Central Manage Inventory screen. If you do not see the Sales Rank column, view the box in the upper right that allows you to add the Sales Rank column to your display. You will not see a sales rank for items that have not sold yet.

The ranking number is not how you rank in your specific Handmade sub-category such as jewelry or artwork but how you rank for all items in the Handmade category. One of your items could have a rank of 45,000 and while that seems high, that item could still be in the top 5% of all Handmade items.  The same rank of 45,000 would have even a higher percentage rank in a more specific Handmade sub-category such as the items that you compete with. Now those high ranking numbers do not seem as bad as they did.

As of January 2018 Handmade has 938,029 items and is growing fast. For current numbers, see chart (Click here for more information).

The values below will get outdated fast as the items in the Handmade continue to grow, but are used for reference here.

If your item was ranked 9,380 or less, your item would be in the top 1% of Handmade items.

If your item was ranked 28,141 or less, your item would be in the top 3% of Handmade items.

If your item was ranked 46,901 or less, your item would be in the top 5% of Handmade items.

If your item was ranked 93,803 or less, your item would be in the top 10% of Handmade items.

Every once in a while, one of my items will have a temporarily ranking of under 2000 or under 5000, and then magically it sells again and again. You will probably notice that your sales will increase for an item temporarily when it recently sold. When the sales for that item lessen, you will see your rank drop to 75,000, then 150,000 and perhaps a ranking of 350,000. This does not mean that that item will not sell again, only that you may have to wait until a customer enters search terms that match closely with the keywords for the item and then purchases the item.

Another way you can see ranking is to visit the Amazon subcategory that your items mainly display in and just see what items show up in the thumbnails in the first five or more pages. What you want to see are your items showing up. This is also a good way to look at items that show up in the first five or ten pages that are similar to your items and see what is selling or trending. You may also see certain similarities of the current better-selling items and may determine from the product photos, titles, and descriptions, some modification you can make to some of your listings as a test to improve how your product is displayed for your customers.

Ranking for an item is determined by numerous factors in which Amazon does not share with the sellers. I believe the main ones would be how many times the item sells, the recently of the sale and sales amount of what is sold. The number of times that customers have viewed the item may affect rank. If you are selling the item a lot, but then the sales drop off, then the ranking will drop. Item ranking may also be affected on if your product has been reviewed, how many times and what your review star ranking is. An overall average item review that is lower could also effect your ranking for that item. You general feedback reviews could also be important in your stores general ranking but not sure how it would apply to an items individual rank. Amazon may play favorites to your FBA items over your FBM items as far as listing them first after a customer search.

Ranking of an item along with how the items keywords match what the customer is searching for has a lot to do with how often your items may show up on the first thumbnail item pages on Amazon for your Handmade sub-category. The ranking is also very important on how Amazon may select you in a customers search. If a customer does a search and those search terms (keywords) are listed similar between many items for multiple sellers, the higher ranking items may display first in the thumbnail list. Amazon wants to make a sale and make money, so it will display items that Amazon feels are the most popular or higher rank.

It is recommended not to run out of stock of a popular FBA item or any FBA item or that will lower your ranking for that item as well as temporary remove the item from Amazon until the item has inventory again.


Customer Item reviews and a Customer Feedback comments:

Many sellers who make comments in the forums use these two terms 'Item reviews' and 'Customer feedback' as if they are the same. While they are both customer comments they are different, show up on different Amazon screens and can effect your selling performance in different ways.

Amazon customers do not give out item reviews very often so sometimes you have to sell a decent quantity of that item for every comment. You are most likely going to get a positive star rating and comment from a customer who really loves your item or a negative star rating and comment from a customer who had a bad experience or was not happy with the item for some reason. After a customer purchases an item, Amazon sends out email notices asking customers for item reviews and the majority of customers ignore these emails.

Customers do not leave customer feedback that often and you may have to sell many items to receive each customer feedback comment. I am not sure if Amazon sends out email notices asking customers for customer feedback. Amazon does list the link 'www.amazon.com/feedback' on our Handmade package slips that the Handmade sellers are required to enclose in the FBM packages. If sellers use the packing slip to write a personal note to the customer, the seller may additionally want to add something like "Customer feedback is always appreciated" as well as highlight or circle the feedback link on the packing slip to draw attention to it. If for some reason, you suspect the customer may not give you a good review due to problems with the initial order process, you may want to skip asking for customer feedback for those orders.

If you ask the customers for item reviews or feedback comments, you should do it in a way that does not ask for a good review or offer any incentive to the customer such as a discount, to leave a more positive review.

Item or product reviews:

An item review is made by someone who most likely has purchased your item and is commenting on how they liked or disliked the specific item.  So it is more comment related to the item and less about the seller or about the service the seller provided.  The item review will contain a star rating from 1 to 5 as well as a written comment.  If an item has more positive comments and higher star ranking, this could help you in ranking or at least put a positive viewpoint on this item that a customer is considering purchasing.  In many cases, Handmade items do not get many item reviews since most customers do not want to fill these out and also because many Handmade items sell in fewer quantities compared to items sold on the Marketplace side.

Amazon does not inform you if you get a new item review, but it would be nice if they did. You can look up your item reviews by going to the main Handmade search bar and type in your Amazon shop name as shown above. You will then see your items display and in the lower left of the screen you will see star ratings as shown above. Click on the 1 star rating and that will bring up all your items that have a star rating/comment on them. You can see if you spot any new comments or item reviews.

Amazon actually allows an Amazon customer, that has made $50 of purchases on Amazon previously with a credit or debit card, to review your item even if they had not ordered it.  This is frustrating if it is a bad review as it could cost you orders and does not make sense for Handmade items as much as it does from when a customer can purchase the same product from multiple sources or outside of Amazon.  When a customer orders the item and then does a review, the review states 'Verified Purchase' as shown above. I am not aware of any time limit a customer has to leaving an item review with the label 'Verified Purchase'. If someone just enters a review without buying it first, this ‘Verified Purchase’ reference will not display. The seller can ask for an Amazon review from a customer who ordered the product outside of Amazon but should not receive too many unverified reviews during a short time period or Amazon may think you are buying reviews.

It can be difficult to get an item review removed from Amazon.  It has to probably break a pretty big rule and even then, it may fall on deaf ears at Amazon. If you have many reviews for this item, the average customer item review, from an occasional bad comment, may not go down so much. If you only have a few item reviews for that item as many Handmade sellers do, this one bad item review can have an affect on you and may want to ask Amazon to remove it stating that it has broken one of Amazon rules and name the rule it has broken.

It may not be worth it for a seller to ask Amazon for an unfavorable item review to be deleted that is 3 stars or better. It may not be worth it for a seller to request that a customer change their unfavorable item review to a more positive review since the seller satisfied the customer issue they wrote about. Sometimes you just have to let the other customers read this type of review and decide for themselves if they feel if it was a fair review.
 
Asking customers for item reviews:  Be careful not to offer any kind of incentive for a positive review such a discount or purchase fake reviews from outside companies.  Amazon is cracking down on this type of behavior.  You can contact the customer for an item review, but you should be very careful about how you word the request.  Amazon will automatically send an email request to the customer asking for a review, so it is not as necessary for the seller to send additional requests but each business can make a determination of this individually.

If a seller gets a really bad item review such as 1 or 2 stars and that one review is causing sales to dramatically drop for that item, the seller has a few options. This can happen if the items only review is bad or the item has very few reviews so the one bad item review effects the average score a lot. One option is for the seller to respond to the customer comment which may satisfy customers reading the reviews but may not help you with your average review score or ranking. Once the seller responds to to the customer item review or chooses to not do anything, the seller can just wait for that item to increase in rank eventually.

The seller can ask the customer to consider changing the review to be more positive based on how the seller had worked with the customer to correct any customer dissatisfaction, but this probably will not result in a review change. A final option is to just create a new listing with a different title and description wording and transfer your existing items or a slightly modified version of the item to the new listing while taking the old listing with zero inventory and making it inactive. When you make your old listing inactive, you will lose any ranking that item had and your ranking on the new listing will start fresh. If the items were in FBA, you can ask Amazon to return your regular sized items at 50 cents each. If you do create a new listing, you may want to slightly change the physical item a little so it is technically a new item to be safe since placing old items on a new listing could be considered by Amazon as ranking manipulation.

Customer Feedback:

Customers can also leave customer feedback on how well the customer did in both a star ranking from 1 to 5 as well as a written comment   This could be positive feedback and also a negative feedback and in-between.  This customer feedback is more seller/store related and less about a specific item. Amazon does not inform you if you have any new customer feedback but you can see the Customer Feedback area on the lower left corner of the main Seller Central screen. If you notice your total ratings has increased such as this example the 24 gets changed to a 25, you know you have a new customer feedback comment.

The customer has 90 days to leave you feedback or file an A-Z claim.

The seller can read your store's customer feedback comments in Seller Central under the Performance menu option, and then select the area in the diagram above shown as "4.9 stars (24 total ratings)". This will bring you to the Seller Central page displaying the customer feedback comments.

The customer can also view the customer feedback by clicking on the artist picture or artist company name link to go to the artist profile page. Then look for the group of stars and total number of feedbacks as shown above as "4.9 stars (24 total ratings)". Then click on the customer feedback total ratings number to bring up the customer feedback page. I understand that this would be hard for the customer to find and I would not of designed it this way.

If you receive a poor customer feedback, you can ask Amazon if they will remove the customer feedback if the feedback contains any of the conditions below. I am not sure what the current procedure is such as fill out a form online or just contact Customer Service.

•Feedback that includes personal/identifiable information
•Reviews of products rather than the service received
•Feedback that includes obscene language



Determine if the seller needs to respond to a customer's negative comment:

Most of the time, customer item reviews or feedback are positive with a good (4 star) to excellent (5 star) score. From time to time many reasons can lead to an occasional negative review or a negative star rating. If the review is not perfect but the customer still gave you a 3 star rating, you may just want to leave that review alone and have current or future 5 star ratings up your average item score. If the customer did not give you a stellar comment but still gave you a 4 or 5 star review, I would just leave it as is.

Some things that might lead to a negative comment are an error on the sellers side, shipper delivers late, a product not meeting the customer expectations, a customer not reading the item description carefully or just an unhappy customer who is taking it out on the seller with a negative review. When the seller gets a negative review that the seller feels is unjustified, the seller will have to decide if they want to take further action or just let it be. If you have many positive comments, one negative comment will probably not effect how a future customer may feel about this item at purchase time.

Many Handmade sellers have numerous items with no reviews or very few and may be effected more by one bad review than a seller with an item with 50 reviews. This is the reason you may need to see if a written public response or other type of response may be warranted. One method may be to contact the customer directly and see if you can meet their needs and hope that they take the time to modify the review to one that is more positive. Personally I do not think many customers will bother to change a review once they made it. As a last resort, you can respond to the customers review publicly. My viewpoint is if you are getting numerous negative reviews, the seller should look how they can improve things on their end and not just feel that the customer is wrong. Sometimes negative feedback is good, as it may bring to the sellers attention of how they can decide, as the owner, to improve their store.

Once you respond to a customer’s negative item review or a negative customer feedback with a comment of your own, then the previous customer comments are locked in. Once a comment is locked in Amazon can not remove them and the customer can no longer change their comments.  It is recommended to not write a response comment unless you give Amazon a chance to first remove the comment that you find unfair. 

When you respond to the customer comment, which is public and seen by future customers, it is not really to directly respond to the customer at all since that can be done in a private email. Your response is for potential customers to see how well you handled a customer service issue. You may want to state what you offered the customer and how you dealt with the situation in a positive way so other customers can see that you are reasonable and end up looking well even if the individual customer rating is bad. Future customers want to know if a situation comes up, the seller will try to make it right.

A bad customer feedback comment may be easier to remove if the customer left an item review in the customer feedback area.  You can ask Amazon to remove it, but it does not always happen.



Placing items on sale:

The seller can place any of their FBM and FBA items on sale.  Your discount can be whatever you want but 10% or 15% could sway a customer to make a purchase.  Sometimes Amazon will put your sale items on a special sales page if it finds items 20% off.

To take part in an item sale, select an item and put in a lower price than the 'Standard Price' in the ‘Sale Price’ field.  Then fill in the ‘Sale Start Date’ and the ‘Sale End Date’ fields.  In this example, the item' Standard Price is $39.95 and you want to offer a sale price of 20% off of the standard price. The item regular selling price of $39.95 would now be $32.00 in the ‘sale price’ field.  This discounted amount of $32.00, showing $7.95 or 20% off, will display to the customer when you bring up the Amazon item such as shown below. Starting 2/1/18, the price shown to the customer will automatically revert back to the Standard Price of $39.95 and you do not need to adjust the Sales Price, Sale Start Date or Sale End Date fields.

In situations in which the item has more expensive Handmade customization offers, the full 20% discount that will apply to the base price only (standard price) with the more expensive customization options still getting a discount, but not the full 20% discount.

Let’s say that the item’s regular sale price is $10.00 and if that item had 2 customization items costing + 5 and +10 which would be regular price of 15.00 (sale price 13.00) and regular price 20.00 (sale price 18.00). While all three item (base item and two customization items) will have a discount, only the base item will have the full 20% discount with the other two customization variations having a smaller discount (not full 20%). The higher the customization price off the base price the less percentage the item discount is.

The Amazon 15% referral fee is taken out of the sale price and not the standard price.

Why put an item on sale?  Customers who shop in brick and mortar stores like sales and this is also true for online purchases.  One reason for a sale is that the seller has an item that is not selling well and you have too much FBM or FBA inventory in stock.  The seller may want to put some new items or older items that have not sold yet on sale to get a first sale resulting in the item being ranked.   Another reason to put on a sale is to get a customer purchase, so the ranking number will be lower (better) which attracts more sales of that same item.  You can place items on sale that you have too much FBA inventory to try to clear them out before Amazon charges you extra storage fees for your unsold inventory that has been in the warehouse over six months or a very expensive extra storage fee for inventory over12 months long. You want to avoid these long term storage fees.


FBA can be scary and I have put off trying it:

FBA is basically that when a customer orders an item from the seller, the Amazon warehouse will handle taking the order, shipping the item to the customer and any customer service issues that the customer may have. Amazon also handles any customer return requests and places any sellable returns back into the Amazon warehouse inventory. Basically Amazon will handle much of the back office work involved in selling the product. The downside to this is that Amazon is making business decisions which may not be the same decision the seller would of made. Some of these decisions may be more generous than the seller would make since any out of pocket cost usually come out the the sellers account and not Amazons. The upside to selling items using FBA is that it is convenient and efficient for the seller especially on high volume or better selling items. The seller only need to send the items into the Amazon warehouses with a label identifying each item and restock items, as they sell, to the warehouse as needed.

Sending your items to the Amazon warehouses for FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) or Prime shipping can be intimidating at the start, but once you do it a few times the process does get easier. I originally heard that sellers say that it can increase sales by 20%, but many may find it can be much more.

FBA does have additional fees such as the cost to send items to the warehouse but it generally costs about 50 cents a pound which is well below what I consider normal shipping costs. The seller also pays an additional FBA fee and warehouse storage fees.

In addition, you may pay an oversize fee for items in boxes or storage containers that are over 18" in length. It is best to keep your individual items within 18" on its longest side, 14" on its median side and 8" on its shortest side for the item to be considered a standard size. Product tier size information: (Click here for more information).

You can see some of the FBA fees listed, shown to the left, on the Seller Central Inventory page. To bring up this pop-up box, click on the down triangle under 'FBA Fee'. In this item's example you are shown a selling price of $39.95 with the Amazon 15% referral fee of $5.99 in which you pay both on Amazon FBA and FBM orders. In addition, you will see the $2.99 'FBA Fulfillment Fees'. While I find the FBA fees listed on the inventory page accurate enough, there is also an Amazon FBA fee calculator to see FBA cost (Click here for more information).

Another advantage of FBA items is that Amazon gives FBA items a higher priority and they may show up higher in searches than your FBM items with a similar popularity or rank. I say give FBA a try on your most popular items that sell without any customizations needed and see how it works out for you.

When first trying FBA, do not send in a huge quantity of the same item. You may want to try a quantity of 2-5 items per product to start and see how they sell. For those items that sell well on FBA, you can send in a higher quantity of those items to FBA on your next shipment. If your item already has a good ranking and you converted your existing well selling FBM item to an FBA item, you could send in more such as what may sell in 30 days for those items.

Multiple videos to learn about FBA and a step by step guide: (Click here for more information).


Advantages of selling FBA items:

Having your items at the Amazon warehouse as Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) has many advantages and can increase your sales by 20% and higher. There is a learning curve for the seller, but many sellers have found it can increase your sales making up for the extra work and increase in Amazon fees. Even if you have FBA items, you can still additionally have Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM) items for sale.

For FBA items, Amazon deals with customer service issues such as customer inquiries, complaints and returns. This can save the seller time with the downside of the seller loosing control over how things are handled by Amazon. Since Amazon handles returns for FBA items, Amazon will not be charging the customer a 20% restocking fee when items are returned or even a damage fee when items come back in bad condition. Your increase in sales on using FBA should make up for these type of situations relating to customer FBA returns which will be higher than your returns for FBM.

Amazon customer can purchase FBA items whether they are Prime members or not, they just have different shipping options. Even if you are not a Prime member, currently when a customer purchases an FBA item or multiple FBA items that total only $25.00 (used to be $49.00), they have the option of getting free economy shipping and Amazon customers like free shipping. If the customer is a Prime member, shipping FBA items can be free and fast for the customer, which customers enjoy.

Some customers select the button option, shown in the screen print to the left, to have Amazon only select from Prime or FBA items during search. Many prime member which may run about 50% of all Amazon customers search for Prime only items (FBA). If you have some FBA items, you may have your sales increase due to less competition since FBM items will not be picked up in search when searching Prime items only. Many customer that are not Prime members also do searches containing only Prime items also. Amazon seems to give FBA items a higher priority during searches than FBM items with a similar rank. Prime member buyers may be willing to pay a higher overall price when they can use their 'Prime' account to get free 2-day shipping.

For FBA items, Amazon handles the packing and shipping to the customer. If you are a low volume Handmade seller, it sometimes is very time consuming to prepare just one or two items at a time for shipping or sending out one item a day which may include a trip to the post office. For items that sell often, it can be handy and more efficient to prepare numerous items at one time and then just send them all in to the Amazon warehouses (FBA). Then when an FBA order comes in, Amazon finds the product, boxes and ships the item with no further effort on the sellers part. Amazon only sends you an email that the FBA items has been shipped to the customer.

Amazon also handles the FBA items shipping cost either by charging the buyer directly or supplying free shipping to the customers if they order over $25 or free shipping for Prime members. The seller is not charged a shipping fee for FBA items purchased by buyers. This can also be a savings since some sellers do not charge enough for shipping and loose a little money on shipping with Amazons 15% shipping fee commission. Amazon only charges a very discounted shipping fee of about 50 cents a pound to ship your items in bulk to Amazon warehouses. Another saving is that the multiple individual items you send into the Amazon warehouses still need to be individually wrapped but do not need to be in boxes strong enough to ship to the customer. This saves the seller a shipping box cost since Amazon takes your item and places it along with other items that the customer has purchased in their own shipping box.

FBA items also accumulate monthly storage and possible Long Term Storage Fees (LTSF) twice a year. Update: LTSF will be switching to a monthly charge starting September 15, 2018. The seller will generally need to watch out for items that have been in the warehouse for longer than 6 months and determine if some of the older inventory can be returned to the seller until the need to send those items back again to FBA when individual item stock is running low. Sellers should generally request Amazon to return all inventory right before it is over 12 months old. The seller wants to take advantages of all that FBA can offer without paying a heavy price of having too much old FBA inventory stored at Amazon resulting in unnecessary storage fees. Since Amazon charges a lot more for items stored at the warehouses from October - December, the seller may want to determine in September if they have any extra items stored at Amazon that they do not really need, even in the busy last quarter, and have some excess inventory returned. That inventory can be returned in early January if stock for those items are running low.

Even if the seller goes on Vacation mode, your FBA items will still be displayed to buyers for purchase. While Amazon does charge a little more on fees for the seller to use FBA services, the fees are generally reasonable if your product sells for over $15.00 - $20.00 depending on your profit margin. I feel that for items you sell often, the extra FBA fees you are charged are mostly or fully made up with all of the advantages of selling on FBA listed above. As I write this section and seeing all the advantages of selling on FBA, I am thinking of sending more of my products to Amazon warehouses. Many sellers are already 100% FBA. For the Handmade seller, items that need to be customized can not be FBA items, so many Handmade sellers will need to keep much of their inventory as FBM. Try FBA with a few items in smaller quantities to start and then build up from there.

FBA Fee Prices: (Click here for more information).

Keeping FBA inventory in stock:

Running out of stock for popular FBA items will end up costing the seller money not only because you do not have available items to sell, but Amazon can drop that item's rankings fast and it will take longer to recover to your normal sales volume after you do replenish your FBA inventory for that item. On the Amazon forums 'ZC' had these words of wisdom concerning how important it is to consistently keep stock available for your best selling FBA items.

"Just to give you an idea of the impact it has to run out of stock: I have one item that sold about 20 units per month until I could no longer get materials. I had enough for one more so rather than send that into FBA, I decided to keep it as FBM and save on the fulfillment fees. In the 3-4 weeks since then, I have not sold that item. From 20 to 0 all because it switched to FBM.

I've also had other situations when items were selling quickly and my inventory was briefly out of stock and it was almost like starting my ranking all over again because momentum is huge on Amazon.

Not only is it important to keep items in stock but you should try to keep a large inventory, at least with your best sellers. This allows Amazon to spread your units to different FCs, which makes them eligible for same-day delivery, which in turn increases sales. On Etsy it's good to have lots of listings because that's more ways for people to find your shop. But on Amazon it's actually better to focus most of your energy on keeping your top sellers very well stocked rather than having one or two units of lots of different items.".


Flipping FBA items back to FBM and then back again to FBA:

While it is best to predict when you will run out of FBA inventory and ship new inventory in advance, sometimes this is not possible. If you keep a low FBA inventory in stock for an item, have a non-consistent selling item or ship to FBA from other countries, it could be harder to predict what your FBA inventories should be kept at for some items. This could cause low volume sellers to get really low on inventory for some items during busy season and even run out of some FBA items. It is best to not run totally out of FBA inventory for your items as this hurts your item’s ranking.

Normally if you let your FBA inventory for an item go to zero, you then have no stock for this FBA item until you send in some more which could take a week or two. A seller can use this FBA to FBM item flip strategy for FBA inventory control to keep an item active when your FBA item runs out of inventory. It seems complicated, but gets easy once you do it a few times.

If you get an error when converting an FBM item to an FBA item, check if you have any customizations options on the item. You will need to remove all customization for the item to convert to FBA. If you just created a new FBM item, you may want to wait for a short while such as 15 minutes to make sure it is fully on Amazon before converting it to an FBA item.

1. Run out of an FBA item.

2. Right away, convert that FBA item to a FBM item in the Seller Central Inventory page. You do not need to wait for the last sold FBA item to ship out. Find the inventory item and select the edit option called 'Change to Fulfilled by Merchant' and then click on the 'Convert' button on the next screen. It will take a few minutes for the item to change from FBA to FBM.

3. Once the item is set to FBM, adjust your inventory quantity and also adjust your processing times and shipping settings if not already set.

4. Now your item is available for sale as a FBM item with some inventory and will show up in search and not loose item ranking since the item is available for sale.

5. Prepare or create more of the item to send to the FBA warehouses.

6. When you are ready to ship the created items as an FBA shipping order, change the item back from FBM to FBA.

7. Fill out the FBA shipping on-line paperwork and ship off the package to FBA warehouses.

8. (Optional) Once you shipped the FBA box to Amazon, you can temporarily switch the FBA item back to FBM. Find the inventory item and select the edit option called 'Change to Fulfilled by Merchant' and then click on the 'Convert' button on the next screen. It will take a few minutes for the item to change from FBA to FBM and add some inventory. You will see that your FBM inventory will now be available for sale for this item.

9. (Optional) When you notice that Amazon received the FBA package shipped or you get an email that the FBA shipment is completely check-in, switch the FBM item back to FBA and your FBA inventory will automatically show up under that item again. Find the inventory item and select the edit option called 'Change to Fulfilled by Amazon' and then click on the 'Convert only' button on the next screen. It will take a few minutes for the item to change from FBM to FBA. You will see that your FBA inventory you sent in will now be available for sale for this item.

The advantage of doing it this way is to keep the item’s ranking which is important, keeps the item active and selling, and the seller can do this with only having one listing for this item.

If you get an Amazon notification that you have 'Stranded Inventory', then this could be that you have some FBA items with no matching FBA listing and you need to convert that FBM listing back again to a FBA listing. Getting this stranded inventory message is not bad, it just means that your FBA inventory will not show up until you have a matching FBA item for your product.


Selling less expensive items using FBA:

The extra FBA fees have more of an impact on lower-priced products.  You may want to set a limit of listing only items on FBA with a minimum selling price point. I would think the items should be at least $10.00 - $15.00 but you need to determine what is best for your items. A product with a low profit margin might be worth it if FBA allows you to sell in a much higher volume.  Amazon also has a special Small and Light program which has lower FBA fees for smaller and lighter items.  I am not sure if Small and Light is available on Handmade items. Amazon has a FBA fee calculator (Click here for more information) that should help the seller determine if a specific item will be profitable on FBA.  For lower priced items or low profit items that would not create enough profit selling on FBA, the seller can always sell those items as FBM.


Shipping boxes to a FBA warehouse:

While most of the times, when I send an FBA order to a specific warehouse, it all arrives in one box. If Amazon splits my items I send into FBA to three separate warehouses, I can usually find a box so all my items will fit in one box for each warehouse. When you need to ship two or more FBA shipping boxes to a single warehouse, you will get an additional FBA screen to fill out to inform Amazon which items are in each box for that warehouse. It is not difficult to fill out this information and may result in you getting your items checked in faster.

When you first send an item to FBA, Amazon will ask you for the item box weight. In addition, when you first send an item to FBA, Amazon will ask you for the item box dimensions. Once this information is entered for an item, future FBA shipment for this item will only require a quantity of item being sent in. This dimension information will be used to determine if the item falls into some item size category such as regular or oversized. The size also matters when Amazon computes your monthly FBA storage fees. In the future if you have a different size box for this item, you can request Amazon to do a cubi-scan once Amazon has the new inventory with the new size item box or container size. You may want to run out or almost run out of your older stock with the previous size box before you ask for the cubi-scan. You do this so Amazon does not select one of those previous sized boxes to measure with the cubi-scan.

Shipping box sizes you send into the warehouses containing only standard-sized items cannot be over 25” on any side. I believe items 18” or shorter qualify for standard-sized items. You can have larger shipping boxes, over 25”, when your shipping box contains oversized-sized items. For larger shipping boxes, you can also mix standard-sized items with your oversized-sized items. What you cannot do is use shipping boxes over 25” long and only fill it with standard-sized items.

When I look for shipping boxes to purchase at Home Depot, find in a store dumpster or just keep boxes that I receive, I look for boxes that are not longer than 25” on the longest size since most of my items fall into standard-sized items. If you are using used shipping boxes, make sure you remove any old stickers that have information on them. You also need to remove any stickers that have old barcodes; you do not want some shipping provider scanner or Amazon scanner to read an old barcode.

With many sellers who sell larger items with unique shapes, the seller my have to order shipping boxes to specially fit the items that they are selling. You can find specialty sized shipping boxes on Amazon or Ebay as some examples. The trick with shipping boxes is that you need boxes that can hold your items, but not too big that you need to fill in a lot of packing material.

The shipping labels used to put on the FBA shipping boxes can be printed on an inkjet printer, laser printer or thermal printer if large enough. It is a good idea to put clear shipping tape over the shipping labels that are printed on an inkjet printer in case the labels get wet during transport. The small labels that get placed on the individual FBA items inside the shipping box should be printed on a laser printer on 30-up paper or similar or on a thermal printer like Dymo 450 or Dymo 4xl. Amazon does not want you to use a inkjet printer for your 30-up labels, but some sellers do.

Item boxes that hold your individual items:

For sellers who sell unique shaped or more fragile items such as ceramic cups, your selection of the item boxes is critical. The seller needs the right item box size that is not too big but offers the protection that the item needs to arrive at the customer's without damage. For FBA items, Amazon will place your item boxes in a shipping box with some padding before Amazon ships the item off to the customer. With this in mind, the item box or container holding your item need to be strong enough to handle bumping around in the larger Amazon shipping box with possibly other items in the same shipping box.

When I look for item boxes (non-shipping) to hold my individual items, I try to find boxes that end up 18” or smaller on the longest side so they are considered standard-sized item boxes. You pay more FBA fees to Amazon if your items are in oversized item boxes.


FBA at Christmas time:

Having FBA items during the holiday season of Thanksgiving to Christmas can be advantageous. Last minute shoppers will go for FBA items or Prime items especially if you are a Prime member since they feel that they can get the items sooner. For Amazon Handmade, you may have longer production times for FBM items and this means as soon as mid-December or sooner, Amazon may show your product listing as ‘Not arriving before Christmas’ or ‘May not arrive before Christmas’ which can really hurt your FBM product sales even if you feel you can get the item to the customer well before Christmas.

The tricky part is determining what will sell and in what item quantity you want to have in the Amazon warehouse as FBA. You do not want to run out of your faster or more popular items but you also do not want to have too much extra inventory that the seller pays monthly warehouse storage fees on. If you have consistent sales of a select group of items, you may want to select these items to stock up at the Amazon warehouse so you do not run out. You can also check out last year’s holiday sales reports to give you an idea of what items sold and in what quantity and determine what inventory you need to send in to add to your existing FBA items currently in the warehouse.

You want to send in your holiday FBA inventory so that it arrives and is checked in at the final warehouse destination by about Thanksgiving at the latest. Even if you send in your inventory and you feel it arrives and gets checked in, in a weeks’ time, you have to allow for items to be transferred to another warehouse. The extra time to do this during Amazon’s busy season, when check-in times may be slightly longer, is hard to predict.


FBA January sales:

Sales in December are the highest for the year for many sellers, but Amazon also has very good sales in January for many sellers. Part of this could be customer purchasing products using Amazon gift cards given to them at Christmas time. You should be prepared for this by having items ready to ship to FBA in mid to late December. These would be items that you have low inventory on or have sold out in December. You want to have inventory available for those good January sales days of your most popular items.


Duplicate items listed in FBA and FBM:

You can only have an item displayed once on Amazon. Having the exact same items on Handmade and again as an Amazon Handmade FBA item at the same time is not allowed. You can have the same item as a handmade FBA item and then have the same handmade item again as a seller fulfilled (FBM) item with customization options. When one item has customization options and the other FBA items is sold without customization options, Amazon considered the two item different so does not consider this a duplicate listing. The seller can also not duplicate the same item in the Handmade category and have the same item listed again in another category.


FBA quick start guide:

1. Getting started with FBA Informational document: (Click here for more information).

2. FBA video quick start guide for the Handmade seller: (Click here for more information).

3. Your first FBA shipment part 1 Video informational: (Click here for more information).

4. Your first FBA shipment part 2 Video informational: (Click here for more information).

5. Amazon FBA for Beginners Step by Step Guide Video informational: (Click here for more information)(start at 8 minutes).

6. Amazon Seller Central FBA videos (Click here for more information).


FBA long term storage fees:

Update: Changes to FBA fees starting July, Aug and Sept. See details of FBA changes in next section.

When you send your FBA items to an Amazon warehouse, The seller is paying monthly storage fees to Amazon based on how much space, or square feet, the sellers inventory takes up in the warehouses. Amazon knows how big your packages are, how many you have in storage and for what time period, so it is not hard for Amazon to figure it out. Beyond this monthly FBA storage fee Amazon additionally charges the seller a one time expensive Long Term Storage Fee (LTSF) if their items are stored in the warehouse over 6 months and another one time very expensive Long Term Storage Fee (LTSF) if the seller has items stored over 12 months. The two dates that these LTSF are charged are February 15 and August 15 for all of the sellers items that have been in the warehouse over 6 and over 12 months relative to the assessment date. Amazon takes about 10-14 business days to process item removal orders and can be longer near holidays.

Due to these LTSF, a seller may choose to put in a return request for items falling under LTSF before the February 15 and August 15 dates. This does not mean you need to recall 100% of your items, but only those particular items that have been in storage over 6 or 12 months. The return request needs to be in before these two deadlines, but the items do not have to be already shipped out from Amazon to the seller before those dates. Amazon should be sending you notices about your items that will incur a LTSF and suggest that you remove those items from the warehouses. These fees could add up to a substantial fee and should be avoided. You can always send in your inventory again at a later date. Amazon may require you to wait a period after they returned the items to the seller for the seller to send those same items in again.

Update: Due to recent change, this is no longer an option. One strategy a seller may want to do is start sending in item inventory starting February 16 or slightly later instead of sending in inventory soon before the February 15 LTSF date. If you send in FBA inventory on February 15 as an example, then any of that inventory that has not sold by August 15 will get hit with a large 6 months LTSF fee. If the seller waited until February 16 to send in the same FBA inventory, then none of those items would get hit with a large LTSF fee on August 15 since none of the items could be in storage 6 months or longer. The same strategy is true for sending in FBA items soon before the August 15 date and you are better off sending in the items on August 16 or later.

I believe it costs the seller about 50 cents an item for Amazon to send the seller your regular sized items back This is very reasonable for most and darn cheep if you are requesting small quantities. Many of my boxes that contained my return items had only 1 or 2 items in each box. Not only did I get my items back but extra packing material and boxes I can reuse that fit my products. This could also give the seller the idea of how their items are shipped to the customer and how the items survived the journey. This is an opportunity to see if the seller needs to pack their FBA items better.

Addition information on Long Term Storage Fees can be found at this link.

If you are logged into your Amazon seller account, you can use the following link to see your items based on how long they have been in storage or inventory age (Click here for more information). Do not be surprised to see your personal information at this link, it is based on your sign on onto Amazon and no one else can see it.

 

Big changes on how FBA storage fees are calculated:

Amazon is switching calculating LTSF from twice a year (Feb. and Aug.) to monthly starting September 15, 2018.

So basically before you could ask Amazon to remove excess inventory before the February 15 LTSF date or the August 15 LTSF date to reduce your LTSF exposure. Now the sellers must keep a more careful eye on inventory for all items that are in the warehouse over 6 months and over 12 months on a regular basis. This will be extra work for sellers with a lot of FBA items or a lot of inventory. Amazon just does not want the sellers to store inventory at the FBA warehouses that they do not think will sell in the following 3 or slightly more months. Amazon understandably wants sellers to do better inventory management on their side before sending in FBA items. Having large marketside sellers with very large inventories being efficient with what they store at Amazon will make the FBA warehouses more efficient.

These new LTSF seem to me to be much more financially punitive percentage wise to FBA sellers than the previous method of determining LTSF. It is confusing that Amazon encourages us sellers to use FBA more but then does this fee increase which will hit most FBA sellers even if for most of their items they have good quantities at the warehouses. This will result in my needing to raise my FBA prices. I understand that Amazon does not want sellers filling up their warehouses with items that do not sell frequently, but I feel that Amazon is continually making FBA more expensive to sell in and they are already expensive with their basic 15% fee on selling item price and shipping costs as it is now for Handmade sellers in particular.

Even Handmade sellers with a small inventory quantity of 1-5 per item that do not sell that often will be hit with a minimum $0.50 LTSF per item, per month if those items have been in the warehouse over 12 months. The sellers will need to determine which items will be going over the 12 months inventory period on a regular basis and can ask for the items to be sent back to the seller at 50 cents each before any LTSF starts or when the seller is tired of paying the monthly $0.50 or more LTSF for those items.

I think Amazon does not realize all the extra work of Handmade sellers or market side sellers with items with very small inventories requesting so many small inventories being sent back and how much it will cost Amazon to return small quantities. You would think Amazon would just not charge the monthly LTSF fees for items that have an inventory of under so many regular sized items such as 5 or 10 that fall under LTSF. This would make it easier for Amazon and my viewpoint is that items with inventories of 5 or 10 items is not really filling up the FBA warehouses anyway's.

Handmade sellers should determine how many of their existing items will start getting hit with a LTSF prior to September 15, 2018 and decide if they want to do a one time massive return request for items over 6 months and 12 months that are affected. If you have 7 items in stock and 4 of those will fall under LTSF, you may want to remove those 4 inventory items. You can then send item back in when your remaining stock of 3 items is getting low based on how often that item sells. I do not know if the seller should remove all your items from a specific item since I do not know if Amazon will put in any restrictions of when you can send that item back in again.

I put a note in my calendar in early September to recall any FBA inventory that is over 12 months old before September 15. I will also review any items that have been in FBA over 6 months old to see if I can reduce my inventory. This one time review should get rid of the majority of old inventory remaining that has been accumulating over the last few years. I will then check every month or two for old inventory and request that it be returned on a regular basis. I feel the days of keeping FBA inventory over 12 months old is gone and Amazon will punish you in punitive storage fees if you do.

On August 15, 2018, the minimum LTSF charge will be $0.50 per unit per month for items in fulfillment centers for 365 days or more. This large fee raise will effect smaller or less profitable FBA items the most. This does not mean that your fee will not be over $0.50 per item per month depending on the size of the item. Having any FBA items in the warehouse over 365 days that do not have a decent profit built into them would benefit from having the seller bring those items home before they reach the 365 days. If you are logged into your Amazon seller account, you can use the following link to see your items based on how long they have been in storage or inventory age (Click here for more information). Do not be surprised to see your personal information at this link, it is based on your sign on onto Amazon and no one else can see it.

Amazon is also raising the regular monthly FBA storage fees for regular sized items to $.69 per cubit foot for January – September. Amazon is also raising the regular monthly FBA storage fees for regular sized items to $2.40 per cubit foot for October – December.

Amazon is charging a regular large monthly FBA storage fee $3.45 per cubic foot for each standard sized item stored in the warehouse from 181-365 days.

Amazon is charging a punitive large monthly FBA storage fee $6.90 per cubic foot for each standard sized item stored in the warehouse over 365 days.

Amazon has different storage fees for oversized sized items.

For me, it just seems too confusing, but I do not think I can have that many items in the FBA warehouse over 180 days and probably no one should have items in the FBA warehouse over 365 days. Even the monthly storage fee for items in the warehouse under six months for the months of October - December seem really high at $2.40 per cubic foot.

Beginning July 1, 2018, Amazon may limit access to storage for sellers with an Inventory Performance Index below 350. Amazon is saying that if your performance index fall below 350, they will punish you severely not only limiting your FBA storage limits but in additional storage fees. From what I can understand, if your current inventory allowed (which could be lower now if your performance index falls below 350) and your current inventory you have stored is too high, an overage fee will be charged monthly at a very high $10.00 per cubic foot, based on the daily average volume of inventory that exceeded your storage limits throughout the month. So basically if you see your inventory performance index falling close to 350, you should look into carefully how much inventory you have in stock over any new inventory amount Amazon may limit you if you go below 350.

Before you had warning and a sufficient time to react since LTSF were done only twice a year. With these types of LTSF being calculated monthly, I feel many sellers will be in a shock if they notice how the LTSF fees will accumulate before they can notice it. For those sellers that do not notice the fees being charged to their account, will just have a smaller payout paid out to them over a longer period. Sellers will need to get familiar with the Inventory Age report listed above and review how long their items have been in FBA on a regular basis.

Addition information on changes to the Long Term Storage Fees can be found at this link.

From the Amazon web site:

  • Monthly Inventory Storage Fees: Starting April 1, 2018, monthly inventory storage fees will be increased by $0.05 per cubic foot for standard-size and oversize items. This change will first be reflected in May 2018 charges for storage that occurs in April 2018. See the Monthly Inventory Storage Fees section for more details.
  • Long-Term Storage Fees: Starting September 15, 2018, long-term storage fees will be adjusted and the assessment dates will be changed from a semi-annual basis to a monthly basis. See the Long-Term Storage Fees section for more details.
  • Minimum Long-Term Storage Fees: On August 15, 2018, we will introduce a minimum charge of $0.50 per unit per month for items in fulfillment centers for 365 days or more. The greater of the applicable total long-term storage fee or minimum long-term storage fee will be charged. See the Minimum Long-Term Storage Fees section for more details.
On August 15, 2018, we will introduce a minimum charge of $0.50 per unit per month for items in fulfillment centers for 365 days or more. The greater of the applicable total long-term storage fee or minimum long-term storage fee will be charged.

 

 

FBA check-in:

It is common for a FBA shipment to take 1 – 4 days after it arrives at a destination warehouse to be fully checked in and ready for a customer to purchase. At busy times of the year, items will take longer even longer to be fully checked in. Also, Amazon has many warehouses and some warehouses are known to check in items slower.

While you can watch the shipping and check-in process using the menu option Inventory/Manage FBA shipments, you can also just wait for the emails Amazon sends you that the inventory has been checked in such as ‘FBA Inbound Shipment Checked-In’ and then ‘FBA Inbound Shipment Receiving’ and then 'FBA Inbound Shipment Received In-Full'. Once you ship items to the FBA warehouse, you can see those items show up in the Manage Inventory screen under the 'Inbound' column. When those same items have been fully checked in at a warehouse, the Inbound count will be transferred/added to the Available inventory number.

Short video of FBA warehouse check in procedure and some shipping problem areas you should avoid: (Click here for more information).


FBA inventory being transferred between warehouses:

Many times after your inventory reaches the FBA warehouse you sent it to, the quantity in the Manage Inventory 'Available' field does not match the number of inventory you were expecting. The reason could be that the items might be in transit from the FBA warehouse you sent them to, to another FBA Amazon warehouse. In the Manage Inventory screen, look at the column called "Reserved" and you may see your recently sent in inventory quantity listed. If you do not see the "Reserved" column, then add it with the Preference button on the screen.

For FBA items, the individual item reserved column has a drop down menu with one of the display options being ‘FC transfer' or fulfillment center transfer. If that item has a number in the ‘FC transfer’ field as shown to the right, then that is the number of items in transit between warehouses.

Sometimes your FBA Inbound inventory gets transferred from the Inbound column directly to the Reserved column. This means that those items will be transferred to another warehouse and will not be available at this time to be sold to the customer. After the FC transfer items reach the other warehouse and checked in, the FC transfer quantity will then be transferred to the Available inventory and available to the customer for purchase. One has to wonder when Amazon has you ship certain items to a specific warehouse, why do they right away transfer out so many items to other warehouses. Well at least Amazon pays for those transfer costs and your items may be in stock in more areas of the country allowing customers to get items shipped faster.

As a side note, when a customer purchases an item and the item is sold or in pending mode, you will see the Reserved column's Customer orders Unit field shown in image to right increase by the number of this item that was ordered. Basically, upon an order the item quantity moves from Available to Reserved columns.


FBA - 'Inventory Placement Service':

You can choose to have all your FBA shipments sent to one location by selecting in Seller Central menu option Settings / Fulfilled by Amazon and then edit the Inventory Placement Option from the default to 'Inventory Placement Service'. This will send your entire FBA shipment to one address.    You can always set this option back on the next FBA shipment.

You still may need multiple boxes if your items will not fit in one FBA standard size shipping box. There is a small per item Amazon fee for this 'Inventory Placement Service' but might be worth it for small FBA shipments.  One negative to this is that your items will probably be transferred (FC transfer) to other warehouses once the box arrives at its first destination which will delay your inventory for being available to the customer.

Sometimes it is better to use the default setting and let Amazon split your items out to different warehouses to reduce, not eliminate, the chance that Amazon may just re-distribute your items to multiple warehouses.   It can be a pain and additional cost if Amazon splits up your FBA shipment to many warehouses which could result to a box only containing a few items sometimes.


Customer FBA return items for inspection by Seller:

I was concerned that Amazon FBA was placing my products back in stock after they have been returned by the customer. I felt that the items might have been damaged by the customer, not packed well by the customer before returning or damaged by Amazon FBA when reviewing and repackaging the customer returned item before they place the item back into stock. How would Amazon know that they even had all the parts returned. I wish I could have all my customer returned items sent back to me, the seller, due to some of my artwork can be fragile if not packed well.

I started to ask Amazon to return to me any FBA customer returned items on an individual manual basis that Amazon marked as unsellable. These items show up in the 'Unfillable' item columns in the Manage Inventory screen. To my surprise, some of these items marked 'Unfillable' were in resellable condition with some of the items still in the original box not even opened and the others were just destroyed, missing documentation and unsellable.

I was having a problem about one and one half years ago with numerous returns on one item SKU only at a rate far over my other items. I finally decided to have all my FBA items returned to me for this item for inspection. I then inspected all of the items and then sent the good or new condition ones back to Amazon FBA. This seems to fix the situation with heavy returns on this one item. It is always an option to recall all your FBA inventory for one SKU if needed and inspect all before sending them back to Amazon. You will be out of stock for this FBA item for a while and you will loose some ranking but sometimes it is better to review an item to see were the problem is.

Perhaps, Amazon was placing back a damaged item into stock, sending it out to customers and then having customer's consistently returning the same item until some customer just kept it as is. It was difficult to determine if this resulted in lost money, an increased return rate and unhappy customers. I would feel more comfortable inspecting my product, after a return, before it goes back in stock due to its delicate nature and Amazon ships the item back at very little cost.

I set up about three months ago for FBA to automatically hold all my 'Unfillable' or unsellable returns and then once a month automatically send them to me. See my FBA setting shown above but I am not sure if I had any other settings set beyond this page. I have only received 1 return this way but I do not get enough returns to tell if this works yet other than the one time. I suspect that Amazon FBA only automatically returns to the seller items marked by Amazon to be 'Unfillable'. Each seller can make the determination if this automatic return of what Amazon has marked as unsellable items is right for them. It will not help if Amazon puts back in stock a customer returned item that should of been marked as unsellable.

It would be nice if Amazon offered the seller the option to ask for all customer returns to be sent back to the seller for inspection instead of allowing Amazon to choose if the customer returned item goes back into FBA inventory or not. I have heard that the Amazon FBA staff makes this determination very quickly if the item can be put back into FBA stock and may not be that good at it.


Going out of your way to avoid customer problems:

When you are dealing with an entity, such as selling on the Amazon platform, you lose the ability to make 100% of your business decisions as you would if you sell from your own website. The policies that you do set on Amazon must first fall under the rules or guidelines on Amazon. Sometimes the complex Amazon platform is not always fair since they tend to do things in a set way that does not always take into consideration the specific detail situation on an individual order that may happen between a customer and a seller.

This can play a more significant role for smaller sellers on the Handmade category since a problem that causes Amazon to ding you can take time to recover from if you do not have numerous sales to have the ding drowned out by many other positive sales, positive metrics from those sales in addition to positive feedback comments and reviews to offset an occasional bad customer review or ding from Amazon.

Amazon is so customer centric that they will many times side of the side of the customer even if you as the seller would not have handled it the same way if you sold the same customer the product from your own website or platform. Sometimes Amazon will eat the cost if they favor the customer automatically or sometimes Amazon will reimburse a seller for a specific loss if you ask them. Sometimes the seller just has to take the loss and build those monetary losses into the price of their products and this is just the cost of doing business on Amazon or any platform.

From this I have the philosophy to try to take steps to avoid problems with customers before they happen. By having your business practices set to the best you can manage at the beginning of your listings or policies, you can avoid some problems from even coming up. The seller can later adjust or fine tune some specific areas as repeat similar customer problems come up. Many issues can be avoided by knowing many of the Amazon rules in advance that apply to your specific products. Also as you gain more experience selling on Amazon, you should be able to reduce your problem areas by making adjustments as needed.

Many times customer issues that come up are not always about how the customer is being unreasonable on how they insist how the situation needs to be handled on the sellers end. In reality, except for a very tiny percentage, my customers have always treated me fairly and I feel lucky for this but part of that is that I make it clear upfront on what they are purchasing and deliver a product that my customers are happy with in a timely manner.

I have not had any personal experience of a customer demanding something on an issue since my customers tend to make reasonable requests and I seem to be able to handle their needs such as sending another product to them due to shipping damage or product defects. Many situations can be handled to satisfy a customer by allowing or authorizing a return even if the Handmade product was customized. I almost always ask and require a return for the item before I give any return money or replacement. If the customer can take a photo of a crushed shipping box or defective product, then I do not need the customer to spend money returning the product and approve the return right away.

A seller may occasionally get a negative product review or customer feedback and that is just part of selling online were the customer can have their opinion and share it with the world even if the customers grievance is not fair in the eyes of the seller. The seller should avoid things like a customer submitting an A to Z claim since this will hurt your metrics if you lose and probably hurt your metrics if you win.

A seller needs to take into consideration if they want to satisfy a customer even if they feel that the customer is incorrect in their complaint to the seller to avoid any serious situation such an A to Z claim. That does not mean that the seller should roll over and capitulate to an unreasonable customer, but how much it may cause you in lower sales as Amazon may punish you in the background with your items not being shown as much or ranked as high for a short time causing you far greater financial losses than giving in to one customer order.

The bottom line is that I feel the seller needs to do go out of their way to satisfy the Amazon customer with customer service when selling on Amazon because that is generally the Amazon way. This not only includes satisfying your occasional problem customer or general customer issue, but keeping your other metrics that Amazon tracks in the green. This is especially true for Handmade sellers who sell in lower volumes. This does not mean you have to give into any unreasonable customer demands, but to take into consideration how Amazon may view a specific customer issue and how someone out of the sellers control may rule on it in the end.


Good sales weeks, bad sales weeks– Riding the river’s waves:

The above Sales Dashboard chart shows the number of sales for the current month of January compared to the number of sales of January the previous year. Another chart displayed on the Amazon page, not shown here, displays the January gross sales amount compared to the gross sales amount for January the previous year. Both charts are helpful to seeing how you are doing during a selected time period and how it relates to the same time period in the previous year.

When reading the forums you consistently here sellers mention that there sales have a more dormant period outside of what they consider normal. This is true for me as well as Amazon does not promise you steady sales. If you sell on multiple platforms, you may have some platforms perform better at times and that can even out your sales across multiple selling ways. Now sometimes Amazon may be doing some testing or system changes without informing the sellers that can temporary effect your sales but it is difficult to tell exactly what is causing sales to fall off.

You always hear some reason that the sellers come up with such as people in January ran out of money to buy things after Christmas but others may say January sales are up because customers use all those Amazon gift certificates they got for Christmas. This January I had a whole week with very low sales, which was unusual, but at the end of the month, my January sales total finished up well.

You will hear, sales are down because people are paying their taxes, sales are down because people are waiting for their tax refund, sales are down because people are on vacation, are paying for all their kids school supplies or it’s a holiday weekend and everyone is busy. The list of reason is endless. The sellers can try to figure out why their sales are down, but that is how sales are. You have good weeks or months and you have bad weeks or months. Some items may sell better in certain seasons or you may start running out of stock on your most popular FBA items at the wrong time.

I look at my sales on how they did compared to the same month last year which is shown in the 'Sales Dashboard' online business report. I additionally look at how my sales are doing year to date compared to sales in the previous year of the same time period. This Link will bring up your Sales Dashboard report and then you can manually adjust the date range field. I review my sales report to see if I am meeting my personal goals of a specific increase I have set for myself whether for a short or longer duration. When you look at the big picture on how profitable you are and your sales gross figures over a longer time period, you may not concern yourself as much with short term low sales periods.

While the Amazon Business reports do show you great information about your gross sales, I tend to look at things as what percentage of gross sales is profit. Someone who is making a smaller percentage of profits per item could have a much larger gross sales or quantity of items sold than another seller but make less profit. When I am making a certain type of business decision, I tend to think about how that decision leads to profits and less about quantity of items sold or gross sales.

If the seller really feels that they can do something about a slow period, they should try to find out what is wrong and correct it. Sometimes I check to see that all my items are active. I look to see if I should adjust some of my prices or put 10 items on sale. I may look for any new feedback or product reviews that may be negative that I was not aware of. I may review my statistics on my Amazon account health to see if Amazon may be punishing me for something in the background due to too many returns or shipping issues. I may increase or changed my marketing or advertising and sometimes just change my listings slightly such as adjust my FBM inventory numbers a little. I have heard of sellers that slightly adjust their item listing titles or first item photo.

It may be unclear if doing any of these things has any real effect. Some times it makes me feel better to take some action on my part, perhaps to stir up a little splash. The Amazon river has curves and currents and does not always flow consistently and sometime sellers need to roll with the waves.


Bob Estrin 

Please enter your anonymous comments (without links). It is always nice to hear from you.

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...


Additional articles for artist:

1. Selling your art at an art show

2. The artist relationship with the alternative art gallery and artist/gallery contracts

3. The artist reception - A social event or a business opportunity

4. Artist printing photography on canvas

5. DIY project on mounting metal prints to the wall

6. Printing photography on different surfaces and presentations

7. Internet password hints for a more secure internet experience

8. How artist can protect themselves from internet scam orders

9. Photography career paths for photography students

Additional articles for photographers:

10. Cleaning your digital sensor

11. Photographing Antelope Canyon, Utah's best slot canyon

www.bobestrin.com

Copyright 2018 Bob Estrin
Feel free to link to this article.

Bob Estrin Photography is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising