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1. Understanding how to sell on Amazon without inventory

How to sell on Amazon without inventory in 2024

Updated Jan 15 2024

Navigating the vast world of Amazon can be daunting, especially for budding entrepreneurs. However, in 2024, it's possible to profit without even holding inventory. Dive into this comprehensive guide to uncover strategies for selling on Amazon without having to manage inventory. Learn about the evolving tools, partnerships, and methodologies that make this possible, enabling your Amazon business to reduce costs, minimize risks, and tap into the largest ecommerce marketplace. Start your seamless ecommerce selling journey today!

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Amazon allows selling products without holding inventory through its third-party seller program.

  • Sellers can utilize Amazon's Fulfillment by Amazon FBA for logistics or partner with dropshippers/wholesalers.

  • Print on demand (POD), a model where items are printed as orders come in, integrates seamlessly with Amazon. Steps include setting up an Amazon sellers account, choosing a POD service, designing products, pricing, promoting, and managing customer service.

  • Challenges of this model include managing out-of-stock issues, handling customer complaints/returns, and navigating international shipping/customs.

  • Gelato, a global print on demand network, aids small and large businesses by offering a vast network for faster, sustainable deliveries without needing inventory investments and inventory management.

Understanding how to sell on Amazon without inventory


Before diving into the world of selling without inventory on Amazon, it's crucial to understand how Amazon's business model operates. At its core, Amazon is a marketplace that connects buyers and sellers. While Amazon does sell products, a significant portion of its offerings come from third-party sellers that make a profit off the retail arbitrage. 

Print on demand (POD)

Print on demand is an ingenious method allowing sellers to offer products without holding purchase inventory. When a customer places an order for a product, a third-party service will print the design onto the chosen item (like a t-shirt, mug, or poster) and then ship it directly to the customer. This eliminates the need for large upfront investments, the risk of unsold inventory, and storage hassles. Moreover, POD allows for vast design flexibility; sellers can swiftly pivot their offerings based on trends, seasons, or current events, making it an attractive option for those looking to tap into niche markets or quickly react to consumer demands. 

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)

FBA is a service Amazon offers where sellers send their products to Amazon's fulfillment centers. Once an order is placed, Amazon picks, packs, and ships the product on behalf of the seller, handling customer service and returns as well. This system allows sellers to leverage Amazon's vast logistics network and customer base. Not only does it alleviate the burden of handling shipping and returns, but products using FBA are also eligible for Amazon Prime, making them more attractive to a huge segment of customers. Amazon FBA platform is particularly suitable for sellers who wish to scale their business without getting bogged down by the intricacies of order fulfillment.


Dropshipping is a retail fulfillment model wherein a store doesn't keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, when a store sells a product using the dropshipping model, it purchases the item from a third party and has it shipped directly to the customer. As a result, the seller never sees or handles the product. This model reduces overhead since the seller doesn't need to invest in inventory or manage warehousing. Moreover, it's quite scalable, as most logistical efforts are offloaded. However, dropshipping often comes with thinner profit margins and requires careful management of supplier relationships, which questions its viability in 2024 and beyond.

Third-party logistics (3PL)

Third-party logistics providers offer outsourced logistics and fulfillment services to other businesses. By partnering with a 3PL, sellers can store their products in the 3PL's warehouse, and when an order is placed, the 3PL will handle picking, packing, and shipping. This approach offers scalability and can help businesses reach new markets without needing a physical presence or establishing warehouses in those regions. Additionally, since third-party inventory solutions specialize in logistics, they often have the expertise and infrastructure to optimize shipping costs and delivery times.

Digital products

Selling digital products on Amazon is a unique approach that completely eschews the need for physical inventory or shipping. Digital products include e-books, software, artwork, digital courses, music, and more. Once customers purchase a digital product, they receive an immediate download link or access to the content online. This model boasts almost pure profit after initial development and setup costs, as there's no cost associated with producing additional units or running the shipping process. Sellers can reach a global audience without dealing with customs, shipping fees, or regional warehousing. Sell digital products and save your time.

The benefits of selling without inventory


Selling products online on Amazon without inventory offers numerous advantages, making it an attractive option for aspiring online entrepreneurs. Let's explore some of the key benefits:

Lower startup costs

Starting a business typically comes with hefty upfront costs. However, selling on Amazon without inventory allows you to bypass the need for significant investments in purchasing and storing inventory. This significantly reduces your startup costs, making it a more accessible option for beginners.

Reduced risk and liability

You don't have to worry about the risks associated with unsold inventory when you sell without inventory. You won't be left with unsold items if a product performs poorly or becomes outdated. This reduces your financial risk and eliminates the burden of managing inventory.

Flexibility and scalability

Selling without inventory also allows experimenting with different products and niches without excess inventory. You can easily test the market, identify winning products, and scale your business rapidly without the constraints of physical inventory.

A step-by-step guide to setting up print on demand on Amazon


Print on demand is a subset of this model where items are printed and shipped to customers as orders come in. Amazon's integration with print on demand allows sellers to offer custom-printed products like t-shirts, mugs, and photo books without holding inventory.

Create an Amazon seller account

Setting up an Amazon Seller account is the first pivotal step in launching your Print on Demand (POD) venture on Amazon. This account grants you access to Amazon's massive customer base, providing a platform to list, promote, and sell your custom products. Registering for a charge usually requires providing some personal and business-related details, and there might be some associated fees depending on the type of seller account you choose. It's crucial to familiarize yourself with Amazon's terms and guidelines for sellers, ensuring that your business operations remain compliant and your account stays in good standing.

Choose a print on demand service

Selecting a suitable print on demand service, like Gelato, will define your product quality, range, and the overall efficiency of order fulfillment. Each POD service has distinct offerings in terms of product types, printing methods, and pricing structures. Before committing to a particular service, it's beneficial to compare features, assess customer reviews, and even test the quality of products. Remember, your choice will influence the profitability and your brand's reputation on Amazon.

Design your products

Designing your products is where your creativity comes into play. The appeal and uniqueness of your designs will largely determine your brand's success. Use advanced graphic design software like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop for precision, or turn to user-friendly platforms like Canva for simpler tasks. The key is ensuring your design ideas resonate with your target audience and stand out in the vast Amazon store or marketplace. Regularly updating and iterating on your designs based on trends and customer feedback can keep your offerings fresh and relevant.

Integration with Amazon

Integrating your chosen print on demand service with Amazon ensures a smooth flow of orders from the marketplace to your printing service. This step varies based on the POD platform you've selected. These platforms automate the process, ensuring that when a customer places an order on Amazon, the request is directly sent to your POD provider for printing and shipping.

Set pricing and product details

Pricing can make or break your online venture. While setting prices, factor in the product's base cost, Amazon's fees, the POD service's charges, and your desired profit margin. Ensure that the pricing remains competitive without compromising your profitability. Apart from pricing, detailed and engaging product descriptions, coupled with high-quality images, can significantly enhance the appeal of your listings. Clear, concise, and informative product details aid in better visibility and reduce the chances of returns due to misaligned customer expectations.

Promote your products

Given Amazon's immense number of products, effective promotion can set you apart from the competition. Optimize your product listings with relevant keywords to enhance organic search visibility. High-quality images, customer reviews, and compelling product descriptions can boost conversion rates. For a more aggressive approach, consider leveraging Amazon's advertising platform. Sponsored product ads, for instance, can propel your listings to the top of search results, driving more views and potential ecommerce sales.

Manage customer service

While the POD service handles the printing and shipping, your responsibility doesn't end with making a sale. Managing customer interactions, addressing negative reviews, taking returns, and gathering feedback is imperative. Timely and efficient customer service can build trust and loyalty, leading to repeat purchases and positive reviews. Negative reviews on Amazon can severely impact sales, so addressing concerns and ensuring customer satisfaction should always be a top priority.

Analyze & iterate

The online marketplace is dynamic, with trends and customer preferences constantly evolving. It's vital to regularly review sales data, customer reviews, and other feedback mechanisms. Such analyses can offer insights into which products are popular, which designs resonate more, and where there might be room for improvement. These insights allow you to refine your product range, adjust pricing, or revamp promotional strategies. Continuous iteration, driven by data, ensures your brand remains relevant and competitive in the ever-changing Amazon marketplace and Amazon fulfillment centers.

Potential challenges and how to overcome them


While selling on Amazon without inventory offers many advantages, it's essential to be aware of potential challenges and have strategies to overcome them.

One of the primary challenges sellers without inventory face is dealing with out-of-stock issues. Since you rely on suppliers to fulfill orders, managing stock levels and avoiding running out of stock can be challenging. However, there are strategies you can implement to stay proactive and minimize the impact of this challenge. Regularly monitoring sales trends is crucial in understanding the demand for your products. By analyzing historical data and forecasting future demand, you can anticipate when certain items might run low and take appropriate action.

Dealing with out-of-stock Issues

As a seller without inventory, managing stock levels and avoiding running out of stock can be challenging. Stay proactive by regularly monitoring sales trends, setting up inventory alerts, and maintaining open communication with suppliers to ensure a seamless supply chain.

Handling customer complaints and returns

Customer satisfaction is crucial to your success on Amazon, and addressing customer issues promptly and effectively is essential. When a customer has a complaint or wants to return a product, it's crucial to communicate clearly and promptly.

Customer satisfaction is crucial to your success on Amazon. Be prepared to handle customer complaints and returns efficiently. Provide clear and prompt communication, offer solutions to customer issues, and aim for a satisfactory resolution that leaves a positive impression on customers.

Navigating international shipping and customs

Selling internationally can open up new growth opportunities, but it also comes with its complexities.

If you're considering expanding your business to international markets, be aware of the complexities associated with international shipping and customs. Research and familiarize yourself with the regulations and requirements of different countries to ensure a smooth cross-border selling experience.

Gelato: Unique selling points & suitability for businesses

Gelato is a global print on demand network that allows businesses to create and sell custom products easily. Leveraging its extensive network of printing partners worldwide, Gelato enables businesses to deliver products to customers more quickly and sustainably.

Gelato boasts one of the world's largest networks of print partners and delivery services. This means products are produced closer to the customer, leading to faster shipping times and reduced carbon emissions. Whether you're a startup or a growing enterprise, Gelato's infrastructure can handle the demands of any business size, ensuring smooth operations as your business scales.

With Gelato's POD model, there's no need for hefty investments in inventory or warehousing. Small businesses can test multiple markets or niches until they find their profitable sweet spot. Gelato's global network streamlines the supply chain, reducing logistics and global distribution complexities. Gelato's robust infrastructure is aptly equipped to handle large order volumes, ensuring timely and efficient order fulfillment.

Gelato's unique selling points and versatility make it an ideal partner for both small and large business owners for ecommerce sales. Whether you're a budding entrepreneur or a seasoned business mogul, Gelato offers solutions tailored to maximize profitability while ensuring a seamless customer experience. Gelato aims to support small and large businesses while promoting sustainability and ethical practices with their products, including  t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, and wall art. Sign up for Gelato now!


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