What is Amazon’s NARF Beta Program?February 5, 2020 in Blog
For sellers on Amazon’s U.S. marketplace, having easy access to the account portals of Amazon Canada (.ca) and Amazon Mexico (.mx) is nothing new.
However, unless you actually shipped inventory to FBA warehouses in both of those countries, set up new ASINs, set up new listings, and did whatever jumping-through-hoops tax-related dance each country required for you to do business there, that was all it was, access to a shiny, virtual-dust-gathering portal.
Until now, that is.
Introducing Amazon’s North America Remote Fulfillment Beta Program
Which sounds like a seal sneezing but is actually an acronym for a new Amazon program that will make it easier for sellers on Amazon’s U.S. marketplace to also sell in Canada and Mexico (you know, the other countries that make up the continent of North America!).
NARF allows sellers to display their inventory stored in U.S. FBA warehouses on Amazon’s Canadian (amazon.ca) and Mexican (amazon.mx) marketplaces without having to ship and store inventory in either of those countries.
Your U.S. inventory basically becomes a centralized cache. So if you have 300 units available in the U.S., those 300 units will automatically become available to customers using .ca and .mx.
Amazon will make this possible by using a single global SKU for your product.
So unlike right now, where you need a different FNSKU on your product for all three marketplaces even though you’re selling the exact same product, your product will now only need one FNSKU.
And that also means you only need to create one listing.
Who Can Join Amazon’s NARF Beta Program?
The program is in its beta phase right now – i.e. Amazon is testing it with a limited number of sellers to iron out any unforeseen bugs and actually find out if it’s viable.
That means, right now, it’s invite-only.
Hopefully, once the beta phase is done, Amazon will roll it out to all sellers on the U.S. marketplace.
In the meantime, if you haven’t been invited to NARF but are thinking about expanding into Canada, you can learn everything you need to know about selling on Amazon.ca in this EcomCrew article.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Using NARF?
- Risk-free market testing – In the past, if you wanted to know if Canadians would love, and buy, your musical toilet seats as much as your American Amazon customers did, there was time and money involved. You’d have to buy a new UPC, set up a new listing, ship inventory from your supplier to Canada (probably via the U.S. because it’s hard to find a freight-forwarder that will ship direct. Which meant you paid customs duty twice). And don’t even get me started on dealing with country-specific sales tax laws. All of that cost and effort, only to find they didn’t want to listen to the star-spangled banner as they went number 2. With NARF, you get to avoid all those headaches. Simply add your listing to each marketplace, sit back and wait to see if they buy.
- No additional FBA inventory storage costs – Because every sale you make in .mx and .ca ships from your U.S. inventory, and you’re already paying storage fees for that, there’s no additional cost.
- No local tax regulation headaches – I already mentioned this in point 1, but it’s worth mentioning again. As soon as you import inventory to sell into a country, you open a whole new black hole of tax regulation specific to that country. On top of import-duties, you’ll need to become knowledgeable on local sales tax laws (or pay someone to do it for you $$$) in order to avoid any tax-dodging penalties. Take Canada. They have GST (good and services tax) which is a 5% federal tax added to most purchases. But in some provinces, GST is combined with provincial sales tax to create a harmonized sales tax (HST). And HST rates vary by province. And now I have a headache.
NARF allows you to dodge these headaches because you’re not importing or storing any inventory in either Canada or Mexico. And Amazon deals with the sales tax on the other end.
After that list of pros, you’re probably wondering what the cons could possibly be. It turns out there are a couple.
- If you already sell on .ca or .mx, NARF may not be worth it – This Reddit post from an Amazon seller who was already selling on .ca before they were invited to participate in NARF highlights one unforeseen con.
As you can see, from 400 units a month to barely 30 units is a huge drop.
Whatever the reason for that is, if you’re already successfully selling on .ca or .mx, you may want to think carefully about using NARF.
2. You have to keep on top of exchange rates – Although your inventory is unified across all 3 marketplaces, you still have to set your price in all three separately. This is because customers buy in their local currency. That means you have to constantly monitor exchange rates to ensure rate changes don’t leave a big dent in your profits.
Alternatives For Selling Globally From U.S. Seller Central
While it doesn’t let you list your products on other Amazon marketplaces, another simple option to make your products available to customers from around the world is to enable FBA Export in your Seller Central account.
If your products are eligible, by enabling FBA Export people from all over the world will be able to buy your products from Amazon’s .com marketplace (they’ll simply have to cover the additional cost of shipping to wherever they live).
To enable FBA Export, simply go to settings in the top right of your seller central account, select Fulfilled By Amazon from the drop-down menu and then scroll down until you see Export Settings and hit edit to enable it.
Assuming you get an invite, and you’re not already selling in either Canada or Mexico, testing your products on both marketplaces using NARF seems like a no-brainer.
It could generate extra sales at essentially no cost to you, and with minimal headaches (I say minimal because, Amazon).
Using that free-market testing, you could then make an educated decision about whether you want to actually import and sell in either or both of Amazon’s other North American marketplaces.
John Robb has been writing copy for almost 20 years for brands like Google, Beats By Dre and Sony Playstation, to name just a few. He currently lives in Los Angeles where he spends his days consulting for brands on digital marketing and copywriting, and tinkering with classic cars.