Amazon FBA vs. Dropshipping – Differences Between Business Models

Starting an online business is exciting, but it can also be confusing when you’re trying to choose the right model. Two of the most popular options are Amazon FBA and dropshipping. 

With FBA, you send your products to Amazon, and they store them in their warehouses. When someone buys from you, Amazon handles packing and shipping the order for you. Dropshipping is different – you don’t keep any inventory yourself. Instead, when you get an order, you buy the product from a supplier who ships it straight to the customer. 

These models have big differences in areas like managing inventory, shipping orders, profits, choosing products, growing your business, marketing, and dealing with customer issues. Willing to learn more? Then stay with me till the end!

Amazon FBA vs. Dropshipping - Differences Between Business Models

What Do Amazon FBA and Dropshipping Mean?

If you are willing to start your own business on Amazon then you will discover two different fulfillment procedures or you can say, business models. The first one is Amazon FBA and the second one is Dropshipping which is actually a part of Amazon FBM or Fulfilled by Merchant

Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) is a service provided by Amazon that enables sellers to store their products in Amazon’s fulfillment centers. You send your products in bulk to Amazon fulfillment centers. When a customer clicks “buy” on your product listing, Amazon swoops in, picks and packs your product, whizzes it off to the customer, and even handles most of the customer service inquiries. Basically, it’s like having a mini Amazon working for you behind the scenes.

Dropshipping is a retail fulfillment method where a store doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock. This method is kind of like having a middleman manage your inventory. You don’t actually hold any stock yourself. Instead, when a customer orders a product from your store, you forward the order to a supplier who then ships it directly to the customer.  Think of it as online retail without the storage room full of boxes.

What are the Differences Between FBA and Dropshipping?

These two business models differ significantly in several key areas, including inventory management, order fulfillment, profit margins, product selection, scalability, marketing, and handling customer service. Let’s explore each of these differences in detail.

Inventory Management

With FBA, you as the seller are responsible for purchasing and sending your inventory to Amazon’s fulfillment centers. This involves sourcing products, managing stock levels, and ensuring timely restocking to avoid running out of inventory. Amazon charges fees for storing and handling your products, which can add up, especially for slow-moving items.

In dropshipping, you don’t have to worry about holding or managing physical inventory. Since you’re not purchasing products until after you receive an order from a customer, there’s no need to maintain or store inventory yourself. This eliminates the overhead costs associated with warehousing and inventory management.

Order Fulfillment

When a customer places an order for your product on Amazon, Amazon handles the entire fulfillment process. This includes picking the item from their warehouse, packing it, and shipping it directly to the customer. Amazon’s logistics network and Prime shipping options provide a seamless experience for customers.

In the dropshipping model, you act as the intermediary between the customer and the supplier. When a customer places an order on your online store, you forward that order and shipping details to your supplier, who then ships the product directly to the customer. You don’t have to handle any physical products or manage the shipping process. Shipping times can vary depending on the supplier’s location, so be prepared to manage customer expectations if they’re used to Amazon Prime’s lightning-fast delivery.

Profit Margins

With FBA, you have more control over pricing and can potentially achieve higher profit margins, especially if you’re able to source products at competitive prices. However, you’ll need to factor in Amazon’s fees, such as referral fees, FBA fees (storage, fulfillment, etc.), and other selling costs, which can eat into your profits.

Dropshipping typically offers lower profit margins compared to FBA because you’re essentially acting as a middleman between the supplier and the customer. The supplier sets the wholesale price, and you mark up the product to make a profit. This markup is usually lower than what you’d get with FBA, where you have more control over pricing.

Product Selection & Branding

FBA allows you to sell a wide range of products, including your own private label products, enabling you to build and promote your brand. You have more control over product sourcing, packaging, and branding, which can help you stand out in a crowded marketplace. This allows you to create a more cohesive and recognizable brand experience for your customers.

With dropshipping, you’re typically limited to selling products from your suppliers’ catalogs, making it more challenging to establish a unique brand identity. You have less control over product packaging and branding, as the products are shipped directly from the supplier to the customer. Plus, branding can also be tricky, as you have less control over packaging and presentation.


Scaling an FBA business can be more challenging as you need to manage inventory levels and potentially invest in additional storage space or warehousing solutions. As your business grows, the logistics and inventory management requirements can become more complex and costly.

Dropshipping is generally considered more scalable since you don’t have to worry about holding physical inventory or managing a complex supply chain. As your business grows, you can simply expand your product offerings and work with additional suppliers without the need for significant upfront investment in inventory or warehousing.

Marketing & Customer Service

With FBA, Amazon handles a significant portion of customer service and returns, allowing you to focus more on marketing and growing your business. Amazon’s brand recognition and customer trust can also benefit your products and sales.

In dropshipping, you’re responsible for handling customer service inquiries, managing returns and refunds, and providing support to your customers. This can be time-consuming and challenging, especially as you scale your business. Additionally, you’ll need to invest more time and resources into marketing and building your brand awareness.

Returns & Refunds

Amazon has a well-established returns process for FBA sellers, making it easier to handle customer returns and refunds. Customers can initiate returns through Amazon, and the process is relatively straightforward for both parties.

With dropshipping, you’ll need to coordinate with your suppliers for returns and refunds, which can be more complex and may vary depending on the supplier’s policies. This can lead to potential customer service issues and dissatisfaction if not handled properly.


Core AspectAmazon FBADropshipping
Inventory ManagementManaged by sellerNo inventory
Order FulfillmentAmazon handlesIntermediary
Profit MarginsHigher potentialLower margins
Product Selection & BrandingWide range, controlLimited, less control
ScalabilityChallenging with inventoryMore scalable
Marketing & Customer ServiceAmazon handles serviceSeller responsibility
Returns & RefundsAmazon processCoordination needed

Pros and Cons of Amazon FBA and Dropshipping

A quick overview of the pros and cons of each business model can help you better understand their advantages and drawbacks.



Amazon FBA


Amazon FBA

Massive Amazon customer baseLow startup costs and no inventory holdingCompetitive landscape on AmazonLower profit margins
Amazon handles shipping, customer service, returnsEasy to test and launch new productsInventory management and storage costsLack of control over product quality and shipping
Potential for higher profit marginsHighly scalable business modelLong-term storage fees for slow-moving productsLimited branding opportunities
Ability to build and promote your own brandLocation independenceCompetitive landscape on AmazonCustomer service and returns can be challenging
Prime eligibility for faster shippingFees and commissions charged by Amazon

Which One to Choose as a Business Model?

So, which one should you choose – FBA or dropshipping?  Well, the answer, like most things in life, is “it depends.” Here’s a quick decision tree to help you navigate:

Are you a complete e-commerce newbie with a limited budget?  Start with dropshipping. It’s a low-risk way to test the e-commerce waters and see if your product ideas resonate with customers.

Do you have a strong brand vision and want more control over product quality and customer experience?  Go for FBA. It might require a bigger initial investment, but the benefits of faster shipping, Prime eligibility, and improved brand control can be game-changers.

Are you a product sourcing ninja with a keen eye for detail? You might be able to leverage the advantages of both methods!  Start with dropshipping to test product ideas, then transition to FBA for high-performing products to maximize profit margins and brand control.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Consider your budget, business goals, resources, and risk tolerance when making your decision.

Wrapping Up

Choosing between Amazon FBA and dropshipping isn’t a one-size-fits-all decision. FBA offers potential for higher profits and brand building but requires managing inventory and Amazon’s fees. Dropshipping is low-risk and scalable but often has lower margins and less control over customer experience. Evaluate your priorities, resources, and long-term vision before deciding. And if you have any remaining questions, feel free to leave a comment below. I’m happy to provide further guidance on your e-commerce journey.

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