Selling T-Shirts on Seller Central with Shopify: Part 2 (Overcoming Headaches)Last Updated: April 10, 2017
Last week we took a look at how to sell T-Shirts on Amazon Seller Central.
If you aren’t familiar with Seller Central – or the difference between Seller Central and a platform like Merch By Amazon – then go back and read last week’s blog for a detailed run through.
In short though: Seller Central has some distinct advantages over a platform like Merch – and thanks to the new Shopify integration with Amazon, we can effectively sell T-Shirts on auto-pilot.
But – the whole Shopify -> Amazon integration is still pretty buggy, and we ran into some annoying obstacles.
The good news is that I’ve (pretty much) figured out the issues, and now have a system in place that works as intended.
Read on for the nitty gritty…
Issue 1: UPC / GTIN Exemption
Problem: Shopify requires UPC codes before you can ‘push’ your Shopify products to your Seller Central account. UPC codes are expensive to procure, and although you can use cheaper ones, you could get in trouble with Amazon later down the line (as apparently a lot of UPC sellers are selling illegitimate codes or something).
^ What Shopify’s UPC Code field looks like
Solution (part 1): Apply for UPC / GTIN Exemption from Amazon. I explained the process in the last article, and it is relatively straight-forward. Once Amazon grants you GTIN exemption, you can sell on Seller Central without UPC codes (There’s a bit more worth saying about UPC exemption – I cover it later in this article).
However – this isn’t the whole story – because there is…
Problem Number 2: Shopify doesn’t recognise whether you have UPC exemption or not – so if you want to push products from Shopify -> Seller Central, you still need those pesky UPC codes.
Solution (part 2): Rather than adding your products to Seller Central from Shopify, you add products to your Seller Central account separately from Shopify – then hook them up afterwards. This does require you to add the same product in two places – a bit of a pain – but as far as I know this is the only way to hook up Seller Central to Shopify without requiring UPC codes.
You think that’s our problems solved?
Not so fast…
Issue 2: Production Time
Problem: By default, Amazon expects products sold on it’s platform to ship within 2 days. If you ship later than this, and do so consistently, then Amazon can penalise you and eventually suspend your account.
As we are using a T-Shirt fulfilment company to fulfil our orders, we aren’t in control of the time it takes to ship – and most T-Shirt drop-shippers take anything from 3-8 days to produce a Shirt and get it in the mail.
Amazon has a place for us to edit our ‘Production Time’ on each product, but for some reason Amazon doesn’t seem to save that information.
Solution: Amazon does in fact save the ‘Production Time’ field – but only on variations (eg. editing the parent product ‘Production Time’ won’t help, you must edit each variation’s ‘Production Time’ individually – shown below).
Once again, it may seem like the end is in sight…
but wait! there’s more!
Problem The 2nd: Once your Seller Central products are hooked up to Shopify – it seems Shopify (or Amazon – who knows) will override your ‘Production Time’ settings. So you end up going back to Amazon’s default, and potentially back to the doghouse with Amazon.
Solution: When you are hooking your Seller Central products up within Shopify – you must select ‘Manually Manage Inventory’. This apparently preserves any ‘Production Time’ setting – and no override will take place.
Got all that?
Perhaps not, so let me run you through my (patented)…
Shopify > Amazon ‘Dream Workflow’
Step 1. Add your product to Seller Central, including your updated ‘Production Time’ field (I am using 4 days right now). You can do this ‘manually’ via ‘Add Product’ – or by using a spreadsheet – ‘Add via Upload’. I prefer the spreadsheet route, as that way you don’t have to individually edit the Production time of each variation.
Step 2. Separately add the same product to your Shopify store (starting with your T-Shirt fulfillment app, as you would add any other product that is going to be fulfilled by your fulfillment company).
Step 3. In Shopify, go to your Amazon channel, and next to ‘Link Existing Amazon Listings’ – click ‘Link Products’
Step 4. Under ‘Inventory Management’ at the top, select ‘Manually Manage Inventory’
Step 5. Find the Seller Central product you want to hook up and click ‘browse products’
Step 6. Match the variations one by one. (This can be a little tricky if you have long product titles).
Step 7. Double check that you have selected ‘Manually Manage Inventory’ at the top :).
Step 8. Click ‘Link Products’, and you should be good to go. Shopify won’t override your Production Time settings, and your Seller Central account should play nicely with Shopify, and vice versa. (eg. orders pass through fine, shipping data passed back, etc).
So there you have it – a relatively straight-forward way to get Shopify and Amazon working together like best buds.
I had a further problem last week – which I discussed in the last blog post – so I thought I should bring closure to that issue too (but beware, it’s a little complicated and I don’t really understand it myself).
So even though I had UPC / GTIN Exemption, I was having a hard time adding products via upload last week. In fact every attempt was met with a ‘Where Is Your UPC?!’ error (not the technical term).
I contacted Amazon for help (for all their quirks they are pretty good at getting back to you) – and was able to discover that Amazon – for some reason – had changed the way it viewed my product uploads – specifically it now regarded me as uploaded ‘branded’ products, as opposed to ‘non-branded’.
So basically there is more than one type of UPC / GTIN Exemption – and I had the wrong one. I simple applied for ‘branded’ GTIN exemption (same process, but a different spreadsheet) – and voilà – everything worked.
So what you should know is: – UPC Exemption is limited to a few months, and you will have to re-apply once your time is up. – There are different types of UPC / GTIN Exemption – so make sure you have the right one (or just apply for both).
I should add that I still don’t understand why Amazon changed it’s stance on my products – as there was no material difference between the products I had uploaded with my ‘non-branded’ exemption, and those that I uploaded with my new ‘branded’ exemption.
The brand name was exactly the same in both cases. I haven’t applied for brand registry or anything like that. So colour me confused.
What I do know is that everything is now working again, so I’m happy 🙂
So that concludes the Seller Central Shopify saga.
Hopefully as Shopify and Amazon improve their integration we might lose the need for some of these complications – but for now the main things are working, and you can get an automated T-Shirt business up and running in next-to-no-time with Seller Central and Shopify.
If you’ve got comments, questions or something else we should know about this topic – please chime in below!
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