Most Amazon sellers are aware of Amazon’s enhanced standards for Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP), which it announced just before peak season 2020 and began enforcing in February of this year. Because Amazon has built its reputation on devotion to customer service, their doubling down on Prime delivery standards hardly came as a surprise.
The thing that was surprising however, was the way that Amazon intends to measure success — page views. This is a major shift. Amazon is now saying that what matters most in the customer experience is delivery promise, and SFP sellers are going to be held accountable for promising Prime delivery to a certain percentage of Amazon shoppers whether those shoppers actually make a purchase or not.
There are several factors that can determine how many visitors to your product listing see a 1 or 2-day delivery promise — location, time of day, day of the week, and your fulfillment partner’s SLA’s and locations to name a few. And while Amazon has provided an updated dashboard to monitor performance, they have given little insight into how to achieve these new standards. Through the process of strategizing with the warehouse partners within our SFP network, and after many conversations with our team of in-house analysts, I’ve identified four levers that your business can pull to keep your page view percentages up and stay compliant with these new standards.
1. Saturday or Sunday Fulfillment
The new weekend fulfillment requirements seem to be the biggest adjustment for many Amazon sellers. Weekend fulfillment fundamentally changes the way that delivery promises are counted. Now, instead of 1- to 2-days referring to business days, we all have to start thinking in calendar days. There’s really no way around finding reliable warehouse labor that will fulfill and ship orders on either Saturday or Sunday. It can be daunting for small to mid-sized sellers to negotiate weekend hours with their warehouses, but joining forces with an outsourced fulfillment provider with the daily order volume to negotiate top-tier SLA’s can help you ensure you meet SFP requirements.
Within our network, some larger warehouses were already supporting Saturday fulfillment, and some of them multiple shifts per day. This made for an easy transition at some of our major hubs, and the daily volume we maintain at our remaining warehouses enabled us to negotiate weekend hours with a full 13 distributed partners in our network.
2. Warehouse Network
Some SFP sellers may have been fulfilling all of their orders from a single warehouse. Between the elimination of regional SFP for standard-size and the enhanced new 1-day delivery requirements, continuing to fulfill from a single warehouse is most likely going to be too cost-prohibitive moving forward. You’ll be relying much too heavily on next-day air and will likely be accruing too many overtime hours to maintain proper margins. Distributing inventory across multiple, strategically-located warehouses is going to be the only feasible option for most sellers.
The requirements for oversized items are somewhat more lenient. Oversized sellers can still configure a regional network based on their most profitable regions, and page view requirements are somewhat less stringent. Within our network we’ve negotiated Saturday fulfillment and extended hours with 13 warehouses. This gives our merchants a wide variety of options from a product requirement standpoint and enables them to build a network that reaches either all of the country (in the case of standard sellers) or their most profitable regions (for oversized) within 1 to 2 days.
We’ve found that the ideal situation for oversized sellers is to have 3-5 warehouses, enabling them to reach about 75% of the US population with 2-day ground shipping. For standard-size, it becomes a bit more of a balancing act and depends a lot on your margins. The same 3-5 warehouse network could likely meet the demands of standard-sized SFP but will rely more on second-day and next-day air shipments. The more warehouses you add to your network, the lower your shipping costs will be, but if your margins can support a greater number of air shipments, it may make sense to keep your network and your inventory carrying costs small.
3. Shipping Region Automation Template
This is an Amazon tool that SFP sellers can leverage within Seller Central that takes some of the guesswork out of who sees a Prime badge on your listing based on the shopper’s zip code and your order cutoff time. After you establish an SFP warehouse network, you can enter in your warehouse address information and select the shipping method you’re using (the carrier and ground, second-day air, or next-day air). The template will then turn your Prime badge on or off based on your network fulfillment capabilities for that particular shopper.
You can double down on the template’s benefits by targeting your marketing efforts within the geographic regions you can best serve only during the hours before your order cutoff time. The template allows you to monitor your performance according to region, and a deeply invested fulfillment partner can advise you on how to adjust your marketing efforts to improve performance.
4. Order Cutoff Times
This is important for meeting page view metrics because delivery promise will be highly dependent on the time of day a shopper is viewing your product listing. One of the most effective tactics to increase your chances of meeting page view percentages is to adopt a distributed network model of fulfillment. For example, if you’re operating from a single warehouse, your cut off time will ultimately affect sales negatively. However, geographic distribution will allow your cut off time to actually be longer because it will be measured in local warehouse time for the cut off. This allows you to show the best possible delivery promise based on the customer’s location relative to warehouse placement.
Striking a Balance
As with most aspects of supply chain management, it’s a balancing act, and which levers you pull and to what extent, depends on your particular SKU catalogue, customer profiles, and profit margins. These levers will also depend pretty heavily on the flexibility and technological capabilities of your fulfillment network. There will not be a one-size-fits-all solution for any SFP seller, but if maintaining control of your fulfillment is a priority for your business, finding a strategic fulfillment partner will be worth the investment.