Amazon’s Inventory Head Start Program

Program Summary

Hearing the call for additional benefits for customers paying for an Amazon Prime account and for sellers who opt to use FBA for their shipping, Amazon has stepped up to the plate! On July 25, 2019 Amazon has announced a new program specifically for Seller Central users in the United States called their “In-Stock Head Start Program.” With this new program, customers can now find your temporarily out-of-stock items once your shipment is in transit to the fulfillment center. Amazon has finally decided to allow inventory which has been confirmed as shipped to count as sellable inventory. Customers will no longer have to view the unsightly and irritating quip that the item they desire is “Currently unavailable. We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.” From a buyer’s standpoint, this is unfortunate enough, but as sellers, we know when the inventory will be received and so does Amazon.

General Program Overview

Direct from Amazon itself, “Even with the best inventory planning, popular products may sometimes go out of stock, and that can affect your product discoverability and sales. With this new Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) pilot, we will make your out-of-stock products available for customers to find and buy when your shipment is on its way and we are confident about its arrival date. Customers will benefit from a wider selection of products, and you could see higher or more consistent sales.” All it takes is a click of a button on their pilot program detail page, and you are enrolled!

Eligibility

In order to be eligible for this program, you must have a Professional Seller Central account, utilize FBA, and have good performance ratings regarding your account and customer service metrics. This program is NOT designed to replace traditional inventory replenishment, it is merely a tool to be used on the rare occasion that an item, or items, have temporarily gone out of stock.

Carrier Requirements

There are also carrier requirements to be eligible for the In-Stock Head Start Program. You must use one of three fulfillment options in order to continue with the Program. You can use  Amazon Carrier Central, the Partnered Carrier Program (PCP), or Amazon Global Logistics. Amazon will then use that information to provide the estimated delivery time to the fulfillment center, as well as relaying to the customer when they can expect their order to arrive.

Program Details

Because you will have more opportunities for customers to search inbound inventory, you will be much less likely to lose sales based on the occasional out of stock item. During the pilot phase, the In-Stock Head Start items will appear in Seller Central tools and reports as BOTH Available and Inbound. This will temporarily make inventory reconciliation more difficult, as some inventory will temporarily be counted twice. This will not affect how DBW handles our reporting to you, you will still get notifications based on other sales data we acquire from the account. This will also have no affect on your fulfillment fees or Inventory Performance Index (IPI) score.

Customer Protection

In order to have a positive impact on both the Amazon Prime members and Seller Central users, Amazon may determine that not all your out-of-stock ASIN’s are currently eligible for the program. They will use an internal algorithm based on past sales data as well as other factors to determine which listings are eligible and at which moment. This can change from week-to-week, and even day-to-day. Not all out-of-stock ASIN’s will be searchable and available for purchase while your inventory is en route. This is Amazon’s effort to best protect the customers to ensure that they are still receiving the best shopping experience on Amazon.

Seller Benefits

Amazon’s new In-Stock Head Start program offers multiple benefits for sellers as well!

  • Sales: Customers will have the option to buy temporarily out of stock items, resulting in a boost in sales which would otherwise be lost
  • Productivity: The opportunity to get customer orders, even when an item is temporarily out of stock, allows orders to be processed faster. There will be a shorter time between the time of the sale and shipment from FBA.
  • Discoverability: Any ASIN’s enrolled in the In-Stock Head Start program (and approved by Amazon) will appear in search results. This will give your customers a wider selection and will help to increase traffic to you pages.
  • Buy Box: It has yet to be confirmed, but this new program lends to the idea that those sellers who have inbound inventory will no longer lose the buy box for being out of stock.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can Amazon ensure that my customer’s orders will be delivered on time?
    • With Amazon’s new In-Stock Head Start Program, when a customer places an order for an out-of-stock item, the delivery date will be based on the estimated in-stock date. Therefore, it is imperative to use one of Amazon’s carrier programs. In an instance where a shipment gets delayed on the way to a fulfillment center, Amazon will adjust the in-stock date with real-time information.
  • Can I pick which ASIN’s are in the program?
    • Currently, Amazon’s In-Stock Head Start program is only available on the seller level, and all FBA inventory will be eligible (certain restrictions apply, please see above).
  • Should I change my inventory replenishment strategy to reflect this program?
    • In a word, no. Inventory replenishment should not be adjusted to assume that the In-Stock Head Start Program will cover all inventory level issues. It is intended only for items which occasionally go out of stock, and not meant to be a full-fledged inventory service. In the end, staying in stock will ensure the best customer service and increase sales and buy box eligibility for sellers.
  • Can I opt of from the pilot program?
    • Yes! If you have enrolled your US Seller Central account in the pilot program, but wish to no longer be involved, you can simply click the “Opt out from pilot” button on the pilot program page.
    • However, please note that any shipments created after 72 hours of your email confirmation that you have opted out will not be a part of the program. Any shipments made within that 72 hour period will still be “enrolled” in the In-Stock Head Start program.

Ready to take the next steps? Contact us for all your inventory & channel management needs!

Andrea Gertsen

Andrea Gertsen is the Creative Lead at Digital Brandworks, a digital consultancy that provides customized solutions for improving marketplace performance on Amazon and beyond.

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