Below, we'll cover all you need to know to determine if you should give the service a try, or stick with Amazon's original options.
Beginning to Sell on Amazon
Traditionally when signing up with Amazon, sellers are presented with two options: Amazon Seller Central or Amazon Vendor Central.
New users typically start with Seller Central.
Using this option, sellers are charged a pay-as-you-go price, either per item or as a flat monthly fee. Sellers set their own prices and handle shipping and customer service (unless enrolled in Fulfillment by Amazon).
Anyone can join, and it offers the most control but requires the most day-to-day involvement.
On the other hand, if sellers choose Amazon Vendor Central they will be selling their products directly to Amazon.
It's by invite only, and typically only those that sell at a high volume are invited to join. Amazon orders items wholesale from the seller and ships items from their warehouses and handles all aspects of customer service.
Each option comes with its advantages and disadvantages.
But rather than be stuck with one or the other, Amazon introduced to bridge the gap between the two: Amazons Vendor Express.
Amazon Vendor Express Explained
Vendor Express offers many of the perks of Vendor Central, while keeping some of the autonomy of Seller Central.
Similar to Vendor Central, Vendor Express gives sellers the ability to wholesale their products to Amazon. Only with Express, sellers don't have to wait for an invitation.
Amazon will purchase bulk orders from you, then sell and ship them directly to customers. They will be responsible for all customer service aspects.
Unlike Vendor Central, sellers using Express have the option to enroll in Fulfillment by Amazon, which allows them to ship directly to customers rather than go through an Amazon warehouse.
Keep in mind, you will not be in control of the pricing of your items. Amazon will determine what they sell for.
One major difference is that when signing up for Vendor Express, Amazon may require an initial trial run.
They will request a free sample of your product, which they will then sell. If Amazon is happy with its performance, they will continue to place bulk orders with you.
The Benefits of Vendor Express
Vendor comes with plenty of benefits, including:
1. It's not invitation only.
Anyone is free to join, unlike Central.
2. Amazon handles the customer service.
Amazon handles all shipping, customer complaints, returns and refunds.
3. The Amazon association.
You get to claim Amazon as one of your vendors.
4. Bulk Orders
Amazon orders in bulk, giving you a higher sales volume.
5. Amazon Marketing Service (AMS).
Brands have access to better ads, optimization and Amazon's "Sponsored Product" pages.
The Drawbacks of Vendor Express
Of course, it's not without its drawbacks.
1. No price control.
Amazon will buy from you at a wholesale price that is generally non-negotiable. The price is subject to change to meet the lowest pricing on the web.
2. Free shipment to Amazon.
As stated above, those that enroll in Vendor Express will be asked to send a free trial shipment of their product to test the market.
3. Delayed Payment.
While Vendor Central claims to pay vendors every 60-90 days, those using Vendor Express will typically have to wait the full 90 days.
4. Product returns.
Amazon withholds the right to "return products to you for any reason at your expense." Amazon will deduct the cost from your future payments and invoice any remaining balance (though you the option to dispute a return)
5. Disparity between sales volume and profits.
While selling wholesale to Amazon allows most brands to move products at a higher volume, you may not see a profit spike since Amazon controls the pricing of those products.
6. Updating product listings can be difficult.
Any updates to products must be submitted through Amazon.
How to Sign Up
Once you've decided to try Vendor Express, Amazon presents you with a fairly straightforward process.
You have the option to sign up using your existing customer account or create a new one. Amazon recommends creating an account specifically for Vendor Express.
After submitting your information, your account will be under review for approximately 5-14 business days. You will not receive any product orders during the review period.
Is it Right For You?
If you're a major manufacturer whose business could benefit from the Amazon name and exposure, Vendor Express may be right for you.
It will require you to relinquish a little control -- specifically in pricing, product portrayal and customer interaction and service.
The trade off? High volume sales and the exposure that comes with a major name like Amazon.
Personally, I still prefer Seller Central. But this could be the right fit for a business with these needs.