One of the greatest benefits Amazon offers independent entrepreneurs, businesses, and brands is its Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program. With FBA, Amazon takes care of product storage, packing, shipping, and other fulfillment needs for sellers and makes the sellers’ products Prime-eligible.
It’s convenient, accessible, and enormously popular — but it’s not always the right fit for Amazon sellers. Sometimes, alternate options are needed.
Amazon fulfillment concerns
On August 16, 2020, Amazon introduced Q4 inventory restrictions to limit storage capacity based on inventory performance, as well as ASIN-level quantity limits (more on these updates below).
Unsurprisingly, these changes caused some panic and confusion among sellers.
As of April 22, 2021, FBA products will no longer be subject to those limits.
Though there are still restock limits at the storage level type. To check what your restock limits are for standard-size and oversize products, go to the Manage FBA shipment section in Seller Central.
While the new storage level restock limits offer more flexibility for sellers, some Amazon sellers may still need to seek alternative fulfillment options.
Why use Amazon’s fulfillment alternatives?
In addition to addressing Amazon’s storage limitations, there are other reasons why you, as a seller, may want to utilize a third-party logistics (3PL) service to fulfill your products.
- You’re looking for lower inventory storage fees, especially during the holidays, when Amazon’s storage fees increase almost four times.
- You’re looking for additional customization services such as product inserts, custom packaging, etc. 3PLs can help deliver your products in your own unique branding instead of Amazon’s.
- You want the support of a dedicated account manager to handle any issues or concerns, instead of having to open tickets with Amazon Seller Support.
- You may find reduced shipping rates with some 3PLs that are much lower than you could find on your own, helping ensure that you maintain the highest profit margin possible.
- Most 3PL’s offer 1-day or 2-day shipping options that can compete with Amazon’s Prime shipping.
So, if your FBA warehouse storage or ASINs are limited, what are your options? In this post, we will review:
- Amazon’s inventory and warehouse storage limits
- How to find your IPI score and what factors affect the score
- How to check for ASIN-level inventory limits
- Amazon’s fulfillment alternatives
- Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM)
- Seller-Fulfilled Prime
- Third-Party Storage & Fulfillment
- A list of Third-Party Fulfillment Services
Amazon’s inventory and warehouse storage limits
1. IPI score threshold is 400
Amazon uses the inventory performance index (IPI) score to measure how efficiently you drive sales by stocking popular products and managing on-hand (in-stock) inventory.
The primary influencing factors for this score are:
- Excess inventory
- Stranded inventory
- In-stock inventory.
As of January 1, 2022, the IPI threshold for storage limits is 400 (down from 450.) This means that if your IPI score falls below 400, your account will be subject to storage volume limits for standard-size, oversize, apparel, and footwear items. I’ll show you how to find this information in the next section.
2. Storage type restock limits
Even if your IPI score is above 400, certain storage types that you sell may be subject to quantity limitations. The restock limits are set by storage type (standard-size, oversized, apparel, etc.) and are based on your past and forecasted sales.
There is no longer a limit on certain ASINs, only storage type based on your sales volumes as a whole.
How to find your IPI score
To determine your IPI score, in Seller Central, hover over ‘Inventory’ and click on ‘Manage Inventory.’ Then, click on ‘Inventory Dashboard.’
Inside your ‘Inventory Dashboard’, you will see your IPI score, as well as other important information regarding your inventory.
Once on the page, click on the Inventory Performance Index graph seen above to go to your ‘Performance’ page. There, you will see the top influencing factors of your IPI score.
As you continue to scroll down, you will see suggestions and ways to improve your inventory performance. Take a look at each section to see if there are ways you can improve your inventory performance (ie. lowering prices, running PPC, or removing inventory).
Lastly, at the bottom of the page, you will see your current inventory storage limits.
With this particular account (seen in the image below), the IPI score is significantly lower than 400 which means this account is subject to FBA storage limits. Also, look towards the bottom of the page and you will see this account is only allowed up to 200 cubic feet of inventory for each of the storage types.
Amazon’s fulfillment alternatives to FBA
With Amazon’s new FBA inventory and storage limits set, how can you ensure all of your products are in stock and ready to be fulfilled?
Let’s go over some other ways that you, as a seller, can fulfill your Amazon orders.
1. Fulfillment by Merchant
The number one alternative to using FBA is by fulfilling your Amazon orders from your own location or warehouse. This is known as FBM or Fulfillment by Merchant.
FBM is where you store inventory at your location and ship your own orders vs. storing your inventory in an FBA warehouse and having Amazon handle the picking, packing, and shipping.
On Amazon, popular items will sell regardless if the orders are fulfilled by Amazon or a seller. If you have room to store extra inventory at your house and are able and willing to pack and ship your orders, then creating an FBM offer on your ASINs would be your best (and cheapest) option.
For your products, you are allowed to create an FBA SKU and an FBM SKU. This means you can have two active offers under one ASIN. That way, if your FBA inventory goes out of stock, there is no downtime and your listing will remain live.
However, if you choose this option then when your FBA offer is out of stock, your FBM offer will be in the Buy Box.
We suggest offering free shipping on any items you fulfill yourself to ensure there isn’t a significant drop in conversions (which would likely happen if you were to charge extra for shipping).
2. Seller-Fulfilled Prime
Seller-Fulfilled Prime (SFP) is basically FBM except with one major difference: the Prime badge. SFP allows sellers to offer 2-day Prime shipping to customers without having to store inventory in Amazon’s warehouses (or pay FBA fees).
To be eligible for SFP, you must first go through a trial period to prove that you can meet Amazon’s standards. During this trial period, your products will not have the Prime badge but you will still be required to deliver these items within two days.
At this time, Amazon is not accepting any more sellers into SFP; sellers interested in the SFP program have to join a waitlist. So, unless you are already SFP eligible, this is not going to be an option for you just yet.
But, even if you won’t have the Prime badge for the holiday season, it’s still worth putting yourself on the SFP waiting list.
3. Third-Party Storage & Fulfillment
What if you’re experiencing storage or ASIN limits for Amazon FBA and don’t have your own warehouse or location to ship from? A third-party fulfillment company will provide you with a secure place to store your inventory and a service to handle shipping out your orders, just like FBA.
On Amazon, your products will be listed as FBM, except you will be having a third-party ship the orders for you, instead of fulfilling the orders yourself. Essentially, Amazon doesn’t know — or care — who is fulfilling the products if it’s not FBA, as long as they are being fulfilled.
Besides wanting to avoid FBA storage limitations, there are many other reasons to use a 3PL.
Lower storage costs
When using a 3PL, the fees involved are typically pretty straightforward. In contrast, Amazon’s FBA fees can become expensive and also vary depending on the season.
For example, from October to December, Amazon’s storage fees increase almost 4x compared to the rest of the year.
More control over your inventory
As you learned above, Amazon will penalize you for storing excessive amounts of inventory in their warehouses. Some 3PLs will allow you to store as much or as little inventory as you need without charging you long-term storage fees.
If you have products that you want to make sure arrive in the condition you intend, using a 3PL can help. On occasion, Amazon may accidentally ship out the incorrect product to your customer causing further issues.
Dedicated account managers
As an Amazon seller, you’re probably aware of how frustrating it can be to get in contact with an Amazon support representative. Most 3PLs will provide you with a dedicated account manager to handle any issues or concerns, instead of having to open tickets with Amazon Seller Support.
Reduced shipping rates
If you are fulfilling your own orders or using Seller-Fulfilled Prime, you likely won’t get the same discount shipping rates as Amazon or a large fulfillment company would.
Shipping costs, especially 2-day shipping, can eat into your margins. So, by taking advantage of third-party fulfillment centers’ rates, you will save a lot of money on shipping.
Ship with your branding
If you’ve ever purchased a Prime item on Amazon, you know exactly when your order has arrived because of the large Amazon branding on each package they ship. By shipping yourself or using a 3PL, you can ship your orders in your own custom branded packaging.
This helps create a better brand experience with your customers.
Not only can you use a third-party fulfillment center to ship out your Amazon orders but you can also use them for any other marketplace or platform you sell on. These companies will get your product to your customers, whether they’re buying from your Shopify store, Walmart marketplace, eBay, etc.
Plus, utilizing a 3PL this holiday season will provide you with more flexibility and control over your inventory.
Third-Party fulfillment centers for your Amazon sales
Luckily, there are many FBA alternatives to choose from today, but each will offer varying services and pricing structures. Therefore, it’s important to do your due diligence and choose a provider that is best suited to your business.
To make this research a little easier on you, we’ve found a few FBA alternatives you can use to take care of your inventory storage and fulfillment needs.
All the companies that I list below will be experienced in shipping orders for Amazon.
A2b Fulfillment supports companies working with Amazon via Vendor Central and Seller Central, all with an excellent track record of compliance and program success.
- Fulfilled by Merchant or Seller-Fulfilled Prime orders
- Small- to medium-sized e-commerce businesses
- Specializes in Amazon and other e-commerce platforms
- Bi-coastal locations that are able to reach 94% of U.S. households in 1-2 days via ground shipping
- Same-day shipping to meet the strict demands of shipping Seller Fulfilled Prime orders
- Offers bundling services
Contact them directly for a quote.
ShipBob is a tech-enabled 3PL that uses proprietary software across its fulfillment network for a cohesive experience. Orders are automatically sent to its warehouses, where inventory is picked, packed, and shipped to your customers.
ShipBob’s fulfillment services help you optimize for time and cost, use the delivery experience to beat customer expectations, and own more of the customer relationship.
- E-commerce sellers on any major platform or marketplace
- Businesses selling direct-to-consumer
- Wholesale order fulfillment
- Will not restrict storage capabilities during Q4 and storage fees will not increase
- Offers on-site customer success reps at each location to help troubleshoot any issues that may arise
- Software integration with Amazon
- Offers affordable 2-day express shipping
Contact them here for an accurate quote.
Red Stag Fulfillment
Red Stag Fulfillment’s packing and shipping services meet the requirements for Seller-Fulfilled Prime and for your merchant fulfilled listings.
- Fast direct-to-consumer fulfillment
- Small- to medium-sized e-commerce businesses
- Fulfilled by Merchant or Seller-Fulfilled Prime orders
- Offers a 30-day free trial
- Does not restrict storage space during the holidays or increase storage fees at busy times
- Fulfillment centers on the east and west coasts
- 2-day delivery to 97% of U.S. addresses
Contact them here to receive an accurate quote.
ShipMonk integrates with your sales channels to make shipping and fulfillment stress-free, so you can focus on scalable growth.
- Multi-channel e-commerce fulfillment
- FBA prep services
- Seller-Fulfilled Prime
- Subscription box fulfillment
- Retail fulfillment
- They offer custom packing prep and bundling services.
- Dedicated account manager to handle any issues that may arise.
- Easy to use software.
- They have the ability to ship 1 up to 10,000 orders a day for you.
- Lower shipping costs for SFP orders to increase profits.
- No long-term storage fees.
They offer a variety of services for e-commerce sellers. Contact them on their website to get accurate pricing.
To wrap things up…
There are plenty of great options available today for fast, simple, and affordable fulfillment for Amazon sellers. In some cases, using a third-party fulfillment company may end up being a better option than using FBA, especially if you are eligible for seller-fulfilled prime.
The point is, if you are experiencing some of the inventory or storage issues listed above, don’t panic. You still have time to figure out what you are going to do.
Contact the companies above or do your own research to figure out what the best solution for your business is.
Let us know in the comments if you have any other questions regarding FBA alternatives!
I would like to know what’s the best approach to finding an alternative to Amazon’s FBA process since the change of their policies. As far as I could see, the majority of 3PL options only work with huge shipments, which is usually not the case with first-time Amazon sellers, so it’s actually quite hard to find a place to store your product (followed by having it shipped to the customer, of course). Do you have any advice/recommendation/best practice kind of thing?
Thanks in advance.
Thanks so very much for edifying me. It’s invaluable. However there is just one thing I don’t understand. The IPI score threshold is 400. Does the 400 means my inventory shouldn’t go below 400? What about people just starting up? Is there a minimum limit I can start with? Many thanks.
No, that is the Inventory Performance Index score. Not how much inventory you should have in stock. It is based on a few factors such as excess inventory, sell-through rate, stranded inventory, in-stock inventory.
If the score goes below 450, you may be limited in what you can send into Amazon fulfillment centers.
There is no minimum to the amount of inventory you can ship into FBA.
if you store your goods at a 3PL location, how is the stock and sales linked to your seller account if they are off amazon premises?
Any company you work with will have systems in place to be able to track inventory and sales.
I would like to find out the process, fees etc to have
1. You receive my products from China,
2.Stored at your warehouse
3. Subsequently shipped to an Amazon fulfillment centre.
I suggest you check out our How to sell on Amazon for beginners guide for all this info.
Or use a 3pl to ship into FBA – it’ll help raise IPI
Yup. Thanks for the tip, Dave!
I’m located in NYC and sell about 800 used books, DVDs, and CDs per month, via Amazon FBA, ebay and Alibris, and am investigating SFP 3PL alternatives. I usually have only one item per SKU and over 2000 SKUs at any one time. Redstag and ShipBob do not service one product per SKU. Do you recommend any 3PLs that can do this? Last week Amazon said Seller Fulfilled Prime is still available. Do you know any 3PLs that do SFP for used books (one product per SKU) .
Please email or call at 917 494 1449
That I am not sure of. Most 3PL’s, as you said, do not service one product per SKU.
Hi, we are a UK based Amazon fba seller, as there is a limit on products being stored at Amazon.com is there a 3pl where we can ship to (from Asia), larger amount of products too (as shipping can take up to 8 weeks), and when we get low in Amazons fulfilment centre we could have the 3pl send/dripfeed from there warehouse to Amazon, this will be an extra cost but we will be continually in stock. We have asked all of the above you recommended and non of them supply this service unless you are doing SFP . Thanks for your help.
I am not sure of 3PLs in the UK. I suggest just searching on Google and you should find good results.
Many thanks for your guidance and upfront solution to some complex issues.
May you please advise if these 3PL services available in US only or they are present on U.K. marketplace as well?
We need similar services in
UK, please advise.
I am sure there are plenty of 3PL warehouses in the UK. Do some searching around on Google.