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selling on Amazon.de and fr - Whats the story ?
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April 26, 2012
The realllllllllly good problem to be aware of is VAT, see an earlier post here http://lastdropofink.co.uk/mar…..-vat-bomb/ there are a collection of countries in the EU that have a really low threshold of ~£30K, but that’s later on and just to be aware of.
Going on past experience its really easy to get banned from the EU Amazon sites, its also important to note that Amazon work in separate businesses, so you can have a UK account and be banned from selling on say Amazon DE. This is normally caused by the business not being able to get goods into the country fast enough.
For example we know how much German’s like efficiency and a delivery that takes several days is not acceptable, France can be fun and Italy is well known for its crap postal system. So I’d not suggest you try and go it alone with despatching into those countries unless your products are likely to be shipped by a courier and you can guarantee they’ll be in there in one to two days.
That does mean that the delivery costs can be expensive and its why I’m going to suggest FBA (Fulfilment By Amazon) to try a couple of products that you know that sell into one of those countries first.
You do have to account that you’ll need to send a batch of products to a German Amazon fulfilment centre and you will have stock tied up in that country and also that you may also, given enough time, have a collection of products sat there which have been returned (although I’d class that as a good problem because to get a large amount of returns for normally good products would have meant that you’d have shifted a lot of kit).
However its really quite easy to test the water over there and if you’re already receiving orders from the Amazon UK site, then this is a good indication that if they were held locally with the added benefits of FBA that it could be a new marketplace for you to leverage.
A quick note around the the unified Amazon account, I’d not use it and go for a local Amazon account to do this, I know of two accounts that have got blocks on the EU sites from a unified UK account, but if it was MY account, I’d go for separate ones just to cover my rear and dabble with a few products to start with, you can always add more.
Hope that helps and if anyone else uses FBA in Germany or France, both myself and I’m sure Byreman would love to hear from you!
July 10, 2012
We are just setting up in Germany and France at the moment as well, but I would not consider doing it any other way than using an Amazon Europe Marketplaces account, in conjunction with the Amazon European Fulfillment Network, as all you have to do is send your product into an Amazon fulfilment centre in the UK and Amazon basically take care of everything for you. Of course it is dependent on your margins, but keep in mind their charges include fulfilment costs, free shipping and customer service, returns the works and they put your money into your bank account every two weeks.
As you can see below we live in New Zealand, but we contract manufacture in Wales, where we are selling exclusively on Amazon and are selling into UK and Europe like this. In addition we are also shipping product to Amazon in the United States, using Amazon’s recommended freight forwarders, where we are doing exactly the same thing with Amazon over there.
Quite honestly these initiatives put in by Amazon have to be the panacea for every small business wanting to expand sales internationally. My recommendation would be get into it ASAP.
July 10, 2012
We sold quite a lot of stock on Amazon.fr & Amazon.de in particular. For a while it accounted for around 20% of our orders. We used a mixture of mainly self-fulfilment and FBA on some lines.
Our experience in a word – difficult
We deliberately chose not to use the European Marketplaces Account. Amazon goes to great lengths to promote this but like Matt said somewhere, we were wary about combining everything in to one. We knew that if there were issues with the EU side of things, we didn’t want it to potentially negatively affect our domestic performance/metrics. I am glad we did.
FBA is okay for some items however many of the products we were selling simply were not feasible due to the FBA costs. They are higher in EU than in UK at least for the small, lightweight items we were selling. It would have left us with no margin. So we used self-fulfillment. The main issue is delivery lead-times and non-receipts. This caused us quite a large administrative burden dealing with enquiries of course in German & French. Yes we used Google Chrome etc. but it is still more laborious than dealing with native speakers – especially when things go wrong.
Go wrong they did. A sack of mail was lost that was destined for the EU. You can imagine the issues this caused. However, we found generally that delivery times varied enormously and seemingly without any pattern. Also some of our more expensive items we were sending International SIgned For (ISF). In Germany, we found many customers use post boxes (can’t remember the term) where they go and collect orders when it is convenient (a bit like the boxes/lockers that Amazon are going to trial in the UK). One problem, they can’t accept signed for items. So ISF items were getting returned to us as undeliverable.
As time passed our feedback really started to suffer with policy violations predictably following. We responded to these with our action plan for improvement and the amber warnings were lifted from our German & French accounts. However, the Euro to Pound exchange rate gradually deteriorated and with it our margins. The exchange rate that Amazon EU uses is even less favourable due to their commissions and in the end it just simply didn’t stack up for us. We called it a day on our German & French operations and instead decided to concentrate the time domestically. The accounts are still there but we have cancelled our Pro subscriptions.
We don’t regret it. Amazon make a really big deal about trading across borders. We haven’t completely given up on this and plan to structure things in a different way next time we attempt it. Unless you are able to use FBA exclusively expect unforeseen problems. In a nutshell we would summarize these as the following and this is not an exhaustive list:
Unpredictable delivery lead-times
VAT bomb that Matt has covered
Different consumer legislation e.g. DSR in Germany – the retailer is required to pay for return p&p costs also
Different customer expectations and culture
Our advice is tread carefully as it is potentially a steep learning curve and we consider ourselves as very knowledgable about Amazon. I am the first to admit however that I underestimated the pitfalls. Would we go back – yes but we will do it differently!
Two questions if I may.
#1Why not a different product set?
You’ve obviously been through the learning curve, the most silliest of questions, if it worked and you have the experience there, to move to a different product with more favourable attributes?
#2 Would have the USA or AU been better?
We’re having “Cross Border Trade” aka CBT pushed hard by eBay, as you’ve found, the neighbouring marketplaces are in a different language and are full of tricky quirks, so now knowing what you know (hindsight, she is wonderful eh?) would the USA or Australia have been a better place to focus your attention?
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