While brick-and-mortar retailers open their second location the next town over, Amazon sellers are expanding into new continents!
Amazon operates individual markets in 16 countries with over 200 million unique visitors every month, and you can tap into all of them without ever leaving your home office! With services like Amazon Global Selling and FBA Export — or even the old-fashioned DIY way — Amazon makes it easy to sell internationally, as long as you know the right method for you.
In this guide, we take a close look at the three ways to sell internationally on Amazon: AGS, FBA Export, and Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM). We’ll explain the pros and cons of each, so you can choose the best route for you and become a global brand overnight.
Amazon Global Selling
Amazon Global Selling (sometimes referred to as AGS) is Amazon’s suite of services designed to help anyone sell internationally. Registering — and paying its monthly fees — gives you access to special tools and features to facilitate international selling.
Perks of AGS include access to international seller accounts, the Amazon Currency Converter for Sellers (ACCS), customer support in local languages, and general guidance in problematic areas like tax or international law.
Pros of Amazon Global Selling
Shortcut to Amazon’s international markets
Breaking into Amazon’s markets in other countries without AGS can be time-consuming. You’ll have to register all your foreign accounts manually and handle fulfillment on your own, which not only takes longer but costs more as well.
Takes care of annoying technicalities for you
Expanding into foreign markets comes with an array of technical problems, such as legal issues, taxes, and language barriers. AGS can be your best friend in this department — one who has experience with international markets and can guide you down the right path. The language services alone can justify signing up.
Cons of Amazon Global Selling
Every time you use AGS to expand into a new market, you have to pay monthly fees in the currency of that market. Essentially, if you use AGS to sell in 3 different markets, you pay 3 different fees. These fees usually hover around US$40 or €40, although constant fluctuations in currency conversions can make this hard to pin down.
Still need to research markets yourself
AGS can help you set up shop internationally, but they can’t make you successful. You still have to conduct market research and invent your own strategies for breaking into these markets.
Really, FBA Export is just the international extension of Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). Anyone with FBA can enroll in FBA Export — in fact, most FBA sellers are pre-enrolled in FBA Export by default. (To check your status, go to your FBA settings and click the “Export Settings” group.)
FBA Export is not a competitor of Amazon Global Services, but rather an additional service offered by Amazon to help sellers expand internationally. In fact, quite often sellers use FBA Export together with AGS — the two complement each other well.
Pros of FBA Export
Smart choice for shipping and storage logistics
International fulfillment can be a nightmare. If you store your inventory domestically, you’ll suffer from long delivery times and extra shipping fees. If you store your inventory locally, you have to deal with taxes and legal issues yourself — not to mention organizing transport for your inventory to a new storage facility.
By comparison, FBA Export, which handles these for you, is the more efficient and convenient option.
Easily compatible with Amazon Global Services
If you like all the advantages of AGS listed above, it’s just a short step to include FBA Export and complete the whole package. In a way, the two are designed to go together, covering all the bases of your international expansion.
Cons of FBA Export
Less control over fulfillment
Is FBA Export the best fulfillment method in your new country? You’ll never know. The advantage of FBA Export is that you don’t need to handle fulfillment yourself, but in some instances, a little extra research on your part might reveal cheaper or more effective methods. Then again, it might not, so what’s the risk worth to you?
All the disadvantages of FBA
FBA has its own pros and cons, even when used domestically. You have a lot of small fees that add up over time, including fees on storage areas that penalize large inventory, not to mention restrictions on branding, marketing, and selling on other channels. If you don’t like FBA in general, you won’t like FBA Export either.
Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM)
The last method is to just do it yourself, commonly referred to as Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM). This involves handling everything from registering an account in the new market to fulfilling orders across the seas.
By far, this is the most time-consuming method, but under the right circumstances, you may find an equally suitable alternative to AGS and FBA Exports, without the excessive fees. Still, there are no guarantees, even if you put in long hours, so many sellers opt for Amazon’s services for the sake of convenience alone.
Pros of Fulfillment by Merchant
More control over storage and fulfillment
For sellers who hate FBA’s fees and AGS’s bureaucracy, FBM is a breath of fresh air. You have to handle every aspect of the chain yourself, but hands-on managers might prefer it that way, not to mention you may find 3PL fulfillment centers with better deals if you’re lucky. But to find them, you have to do the research yourself. You’re on your own, for better or worse.
Can rely on personal expertise
FBM is only recommended for international selling if you have some personal insights into the market you’re breaking into, such as knowledge of the country’s import laws, or a connection to a storage facility or fulfillment center. If you’re starting from scratch it’s not recommended, but seasoned sellers who know this foreign market well can leverage their expertise to mitigate the difficulties of breaking in.
Cons of Fulfillment by Merchant
Must handle technical issues alone
All the technical issues mentioned above — taxes, import laws, language barriers, etc. — are both frustrating and difficult. They’re more than enough to block your dreams of global retail, so unless you’re experienced in these areas, don’t try to tackle them alone.
Regardless of your expertise, FBM just takes longer: there’s more research, more bureaucracy, and more busywork. A lot of sellers opt for Amazon’s services just as a means to save time.
Is International Ecommerce Right for You?
International ecommerce is a tempting offer, promising an entire planet’s worth of customers for every conceivable niche and demographic. But the fact is, not all brands are equipped for international ecommerce — some products don’t have enough demand in other markets, while some brands simply can’t connect with shoppers of certain cultures.
Before you make plans to expand your Amazon brand, check out our other international guides to see if it’s a good match for you:
- Pros and Cons of Selling Internationally
- International Ecommerce: 5 Tips for Global Expansion
- International Ecommerce Shipping: All You Need to Know in Under 10 Minutes
- 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Internationally
Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published August 2017 and was updated in December 2020 to reflect more accurate and relevant information.