Airbnb for Online Sellers? What if Amazon used excess capacity in the warehouse of their merchants to store its own goods or those of other merchants? That's speculation on our part, but it's inspired by a new program from Amazon that Bloomberg reported on today.
The program, currently in stealth mode, is called Seller Flex and is an extension of Amazon's current Seller Fulfilled Prime program that allows merchants to offer "Prime eligible" items without requiring them to be stored in Amazon Fulfillment Centers.
Amazon spokesperson Tom Cook told EcommerceBytes
a year ago that since launching it in 2015, Amazon had seen both large and small sellers join the Seller Fulfilled Prime program. Sellers who are approved must purchase shipping for all Prime items through Amazon's Buy Shipping Services.
the new Seller Flex program lets Amazon take over the decision making about how those items will be delivered to customers, whether by UPS, FedEx, or by its own couriers through Amazon Logistics (look for "AMZL" on the Amazon shipping label).
Bloomberg, citing anonymous sources, wrote: "Amazon will oversee pickup of packages from warehouses of third-party merchants selling goods on Amazon.com and their delivery to customers' homes, the people said - work that is now often handled by UPS and FedEx. Amazon could still use these couriers for delivery, but the company will decide how a package is sent instead of leaving it up to the seller."
Seller Flex would help give Amazon more control and help it save money through volume shipping discounts, without clogging up space in its own warehouses, according to Bloomberg.
But here's another significant benefit to Amazon the news outlet identifies:
"Seller Flex would also give Seattle-based Amazon more visibility into the warehousing and delivery operations of its merchant partners, potentially helping it make full use of their product inventory, storage space and proximity to customers while still guaranteeing quick delivery."
Which led us to wonder, what if Amazon could identify merchants' excess warehouse space and "rent" it?
There's precedent for such a service - uShip did the same thing for the trucking industry. Its marketplace allows movers, carriers, transporters, van lines, freight brokers and independent service providers to identify and fill empty cargo space along their routes and sell them to other shippers at a discount. Why not create a uShip or Airbnb for online merchant warehouse space?