Amazon sellers can expand their business to European markets with the Call of Stock (COS) programme. But how does it work exactly and what advantages does COS offer compared to other Amazon programmes? In this article you will learn everything you need to know about Amazon COS and how you can best use it to successfully expand to PAN-EU.
Content of this article:
- What is Amazon COS?
- How does Amazon COS work?
- What are the benefits of Amazon COS?
- Difference from regular PAN-EU
- Requirements for participation in the Amazon COS programme
- Registration process for Amazon COS
- Best practices for successful expansion to PAN-EU (with Amazon COS)
- Conclusion on PAN-EU expansion with Amazon COS
What is Amazon COS?
Amazon COS stands for Call-Off Stock (COS) and is a new programme from Amazon that uses an EU-wide simplification of VAT legislation (consignment stock principle). The programme allows sellers to store stock in a country of their choice without the need for a VAT identification number in that country. Amazon’s COS programme allows you to retain ownership of your inventory as it moves within Amazon’s European network of logistics centres in the countries you have activated for storage.
How does it work?
When an item arrives in a country for which you have COS storage enabled, that item will appear to customers as “shipped and sold by Amazon”. When a customer purchases that item, Amazon acquires the item from you through a cross-border B2B transaction and resells it to the end customer. Amazon manages inventory movement on your behalf, including the return of unsold items stored in a COS country before the twelve-month period expires. To participate in this programme, certain legal requirements must be met.
What are the benefits of Amazon COS?
By using Amazon COS, sellers can accelerate their growth by flexibly storing in countries like France or Spain. They save on shipping costs and can sell to millions of customers with the Prime logo. Customers appreciate the fast delivery and are attracted by the “ship and sell through Amazon” option. Amazon takes care of inventory management and allows sellers to focus on selling.
Difference from regular PAN-EU
The main difference between Amazon COS and the regular PAN-EU programme is that with PAN-EU, one has to register for VAT in each country of storage. This incurs one-time costs for registering VAT numbers and ongoing costs for submitting input tax filings in the respective countries.
Requirements for participation in the Amazon COS programme
In order to be able to use the Amazon Call of Stock programme, some requirements are necessary – both on the seller side and on the product side.
What criteria must the seller fulfil
To be able to use the programme as a seller, you must fulfil the following conditions:
- Active seller account in all shops: amazon.de, amazon.fr, amazon.it and amazon.es.
- Verified German VAT identification number deposited in Sellercentral. (At the beginning of 2023 it will also work with a French, Italian or Spanish UID number)
- Use of Amazon’s VAT calculation service to be able to activate invoices generated by Amazon.
- No establishment in a country registered for COS.
- Active offers for COS eligible products in all shops: amazon.de, amazon.fr, amazon.it and amazon.es.
What criteria do products have to fulfil
- COS storage requires products to be eligible for pan-European shipping through Amazon.
- Use of FNSKU as a barcode. Mixed stock (EAN barcode) is not eligible.
- Some product categories are excluded (e.g. baby and jewellery). Product eligibility is subject to change and varies by marketplace.
- Participation in the programme does not confirm that your products comply with legal requirements. You are responsible for ensuring that your products comply with all legal requirements at all times.
Registration process for Amazon COS
You want to start with Amazon COS? To use Amazon COS, follow these steps:
Register for Amazon COS
You can register for the programme under this link. After that, someone from Amazon will contact you. Since the COS programme is still a beta, it may take a long time for Amazon to contact you about participation. We recommend that you keep writing to Amazon support to speed up the process if necessary.
Create active listings for all marketplaces
Create an active offer for COS-eligible products in the marketplaces amazon.de, amazon.fr, amazon.it and amazon.es. You can use the international offer creation function or the flat file for this purpose.
Activate Amazon VAT calculation service
In order for Amazon to be able to generate invoices for COS orders, it is necessary to use the VAT calculation service. You can activate it here. You can find more information about the service under this link.
Make sure you are using FNSKU barcodes.
Currently COS does not support mixed stock products that use the EAN barcode. See this link for information on how to switch to the Amazon barcode (non-mixed stock).
Best practices for successful expansion to PAN-EU (with Amazon COS)
Here are some basic best practices for expanding to other Amazon EU marketplaces.
Do a market research
Before you even start with the expansion, you should do a market research. Simply take the 5-10 bestsellers of your niche on the other marketplaces and create a sales estimate with tools like Helium10 or Junglescout. Take the average of these and you have a realistic sales figure that you will most likely achieve if you are already selling successfully on Amazon.de.
Recalculate your margin
The other marketplaces have different FBA fees. Therefore, recalculate your margin and adjust your price if necessary. If your price is higher than the market average, you should also adjust your sales expectations accordingly.
Important: Compliance (product, brand, packaging etc.)
Make sure you check the requirements for your product and packaging for sales in other countries. For example, for sales in France, there is a mandatory requirement to display the Triman logo on products and packaging. If you do not have an EU trademark, you should register it directly or check whether you are allowed to use the trademark in the other countries.
Use translations by native speakers
In a nutshell: You can get a translation + SEO optimisation from a native speaker for about 40-50€ per listing. You’ll recoup this money after the first 10-20 sales. In return, however, you ensure that your listing has the best prerequisites to become really successful. So it’s better to get it right from the start than to save money in the wrong place and then be labelled “irrelevant” by the algorithm.
My recommendation for Amazon listing translations: www.amz-translate.com
Launch with Amazon PPC and Deals
Since you are taking the ratings from your original Amazon marketplace with you, you can really step on the gas with Amazon PPC right from the start. In addition, I recommend that you run 7-day deals to maximise your CTR and conversion rate. It’s best to ask your PAN-EU or COS account manager if they can book deals directly for you in the beginning, if you can’t create any yourself via Sellercentral.
Conclusion on PAN-EU expansion with Amazon COS
Amazon COS is a great thing from my point of view! Of course, the programme is still in the beta phase and it can take a little longer to get in. However, it offers a very simple and inexpensive way to get started on PAN-EU.
If I were still an Amazon seller, I would probably use Amazon COS for PAN-EU expansion.
Currently, only sellers who have accounts on amazon.de, amazon.fr, amazon.it and amazon.es, have a verified VAT number on file and are registered with Amazon’s VAT Calculation Service can participate. You must also offer eligible products in all shops and not have a branch in a COS-enabled country.
There is currently no fee for using COS on Amazon. However, Amazon reserves the right to charge a per-unit fee when orders are placed in countries where it is is available. However, you will be notified of this in advance.
Currently, it is offered in France and Spain and will be available in Germany and Italy from early 2023.
COS storage requires products to be eligible for pan-European shipping through Amazon. Some product categories are excluded and product eligibility is subject to change. Participation in the programme does not confirm that your products comply with the law.
COS handles customer returns as follows: Each returned item is evaluated by Amazon and if it is saleable, it is returned to your inventory in a taxable country. If the item is unsellable, Amazon will decide who is responsible. If Amazon takes responsibility, you will be refunded, otherwise the item will be held in your unsaleable stock in a taxable country.
It is possible to deactivate COS in an enabled country by contacting Amazon Account Manager or Seller Services. However, deactivation may take 3 to 4 weeks due to manual processes during the beta programme.
It is not necessary to change the way you send stock to the Logistics Centre Network. You can continue to send goods to the country where you have entered a VAT number in Sellercentral.
No, you have no control over how much of your inventory is stored in each country where you have enabled storage. When you enable countries for COS storage, Amazon will move your inventory between European logistics centres at its discretion, at no additional cost to you.
After registering for the programme, the inventory in the COS country can be viewed in the inventory reports in Sellercentral, including quantity, age and performance. The owner remains your business until purchased by Amazon.
COS orders are displayed in Seller Central as a B2B sale to Amazon. Sales details can be found under “Your orders” and in the reports for shipping through Amazon, just like any other transaction with shipping through Amazon.
An item that is stocked in a country where you have enabled COS will show up on the detail page as “Shipped and sold through Amazon”. If the item is stored in a country where you have not enabled COS, “Shipped by Amazon. Sold by [your seller name]” will be displayed.
About the author:
Markus Pfister was an active Amazon seller himself from 2016-2022. In 2022, he sold his own brand “FABCARE” and also exited “Lotuscrafts”, where he was Head of Ecommerce from 2018-2022.
After his exit in 2022, Markus started the Amazon tool Sellerfox. With Sellerfox, you always have all the important performance data on products and keywords at a glance. Discover hidden potentials, weaknesses and valuable optimisation opportunities for your business.