Difference Between FBA and FBM: Key Factors for Sellers to Consider

Travis R.
Amazon seller & Software Founder
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As an Amazon seller, choosing the right fulfillment method is crucial for the success of your business. Two popular options are Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM). In this article, we will provide an overview of both methods, discuss their advantages and disadvantages, as well as help you determine which method is best for your specific needs.

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is a method where sellers send their products to Amazon’s warehouses, which then handle storage, packaging, shipping, and customer service on behalf of the seller. This option provides access to Amazon’s extensive fulfillment network and enables sellers to take advantage of Prime shipping eligibility.

On the other hand, Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) requires sellers to manage their own inventory, shipping, and customer service. This allows for more control and flexibility but may require additional resources to manage those processes effectively.

Key Takeaways
– FBA offers convenience through Amazon’s storage, shipping, and customer service, while FBM allows for more control over inventory and fulfillment.
– Comparing fees, inventory management, and shipping are essential factors when choosing between FBA and FBM.
– Prime eligibility, marketing strategies, and profitability should be considered when deciding which fulfillment method aligns with your business goals.

Overview of FBA and FBM

When selling on Amazon, you will encounter two main fulfillment methods: Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM). Let’s delve into the details of each method.

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)

Fulfillment by Amazon is a service provided by Amazon, where they handle the storage, packaging, and shipping of your products. As a seller, all you need to do is send your inventory to Amazon’s warehouses, and they will take care of the rest.

Key Benefits of FBA:

  • Prime Eligibility: Your products are eligible for Amazon Prime, which means faster shipping for Prime members and an increased chance of making sales.
  • Buy Box Advantage: Using FBA increases the likelihood of your product appearing in the Buy Box, giving you better visibility to potential buyers.
  • Hands-off Operation: By letting Amazon handle the fulfillment, you can focus on other aspects of your business, like sourcing new products and marketing.
  • Multi-channel Fulfillment: You can use FBA for sales made from your own site or other channels, benefiting from Amazon’s shipping capabilities and lower costs.

Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM)

Fulfillment by Merchant, on the other hand, means you are responsible for storing, packaging, and shipping your products directly to customers. When an order comes in, you’ll need to take care of all the logistics involved.

Key Benefits of FBM:

  • Control Over Inventory: You have complete control over your inventory, allowing you to manage stock levels and storage space as needed.
  • Shipping Flexibility: You can choose your preferred shipping carriers and offer different shipping options to customers.
  • Lower Fees: With FBM, you don’t have to pay Amazon FBA fees, which can help improve your profit margins, especially if you have a well-optimized fulfillment process.

Deciding between FBA and FBM depends on your specific situation, needs, and preferences. It’s essential to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each method to determine which one best aligns with your business goals and requirements.

Comparing Fees and Costs

FBA Fees

When using Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), there are several fees you should be aware of. These include:

  • Fulfillment fees: These fees cover the cost of picking, packing, and shipping your products. They depend on the size and weight of your items, and may also vary during certain times of the year, like the holiday season.
  • Inventory storage fees: Amazon charges you for storing your products in their warehouses. Fees are calculated based on the space your items take up, measured in cubic feet, and the length of time your products are in storage. Long-term storage fees may apply to items that have been in Amazon’s fulfillment centers for more than 365 days.
  • Referral fees: A commission that Amazon charges for each sale you make, typically ranging from 6% to 45% of the item’s sale price, depending on the category.

It’s essential to understand these fees and how they impact your profitability when using FBA. Also, consider that with FBA, many customers have access to Amazon Prime, which encourages them to purchase items with faster shipping, and potentially increasing your sales.

FBM Fees

Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) entails managing all storage, shipping, and customer support yourself or through a third-party. The FBM fee structure includes:

  • Amazon professional seller account: A monthly subscription fee of $39.99 gives you access to various advantages, such as reporting features, Amazon advertising options, and more. This plan is recommended if you plan to sell more than 35 units per month.
  • Referral fees: As with FBA, Amazon charges a commission for each sale you make, ranging from 6% to 45% of the item’s sale price, depending on the category.

With FBM, you have to handle shipping and storage costs yourself, which could be more expensive or time-consuming depending on your resources. However, FBM can be a better option if you have unique shipping requirements or want to maintain direct control over your inventory and customer support.

In conclusion, understanding the various fees and costs associated with both FBA and FBM can help you make a more informed decision about which fulfillment method is most suitable for your business.

Inventory Management and Storage

FBA Storage

With Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), you can leverage Amazon’s extensive fulfillment network by storing your inventory in their fulfillment centers. This means that Amazon takes responsibility for managing, storing, and shipping your products. Your inventory will be stored at one or more of Amazon’s fulfillment centers, which are strategically located across the globe. This helps ensure minimal delays and efficient shipping to your customers.

When using FBA, Amazon handles most of the logistics, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your business. However, keep in mind that you have limited control over your inventory since it is stored and managed by Amazon. This may require you to adhere to Amazon’s specific inventory guidelines, such as labeling, packaging, and storage requirements.

FBM Storage

On the other hand, Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) provides you with more control over your inventory management and storage. In this method, you store your own inventory at a warehouse or storage facility of your choice, which could be your own or rented. By doing so, you assume full responsibility for managing your stock levels, organizing your products, and handling the entire shipping process, from picking and packing to delivery and customer support.

Choosing FBM storage allows for greater flexibility, particularly if you sell lower volume products or products that are oversized or temperature sensitive. Moreover, if you already have a well-established logistics and fulfillment system in place, FBM may be a more cost-effective and suitable choice for your business.

In conclusion, the key differences between FBA and FBM storage primarily lie in the location and management of your inventory. While Amazon’s fulfillment centers provide convenience, resources, and a potentially wider reach with FBA, FBM storage offers greater control and flexibility to cater to your specific business needs.

Shipping and Delivery

FBA Shipping

When using Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), Amazon takes care of your shipping and logistics, ensuring a smooth process. As a seller, you send your products to Amazon’s fulfillment centers, where they manage inventory, packing, and shipping. This allows you to benefit from Amazon’s vast delivery network and efficient shipping rates.

One significant advantage of FBA is that your products become eligible for Prime shipping, which gives customers free, fast delivery. This can increase your products’ visibility and attract more customers looking for the convenience of quick shipping. As an FBA seller, you don’t have to worry about finding carriers or negotiating shipping rates — Amazon handles it for you.

FBM Shipping

Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) involves handling your own shipping, storage, and customer support (or using a third-party service). This means you are responsible for managing inventory, packaging, and shipping orders to customers. In FBM, you’ll need to find appropriate carriers, negotiate shipping rates, and ensure timely delivery to maintain customer satisfaction.

While FBM sellers can also qualify for Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP), doing so requires meeting strict performance criteria and consistently maintaining fast shipping times. Although managing shipping and logistics yourself can be a challenge, FBM does offer some advantages, such as decreased shipping rates compared to Amazon’s fees for FBA sellers.

In conclusion, the choice between FBA and FBM largely depends on your resources and preferences. FBA offers convenience and prime shipping access at a cost, while FBM allows more control and potentially lower shipping rates. Carefully consider your business needs and circumstances to make the best decision for your Amazon selling journey.

Customer Service and Returns

When comparing FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) and FBM (Fulfillment by Merchant), it’s essential to understand the differences in customer service and returns management. As an online seller, providing excellent customer service and handling returns efficiently is a key aspect of maintaining customer satisfaction.

With FBA, Amazon handles customer service and returns on your behalf. This means that when customers have questions, concerns, or issues with their orders, they will contact Amazon directly, and Amazon will resolve their inquiries. This takes the pressure off you and allows you to focus on other aspects of your business. Additionally, having Amazon’s customer service team behind you can lend credibility to your brand.

However, with FBM, you are responsible for handling customer service inquiries and managing returns yourself. This can be both a challenge and an opportunity. It’s crucial to be prompt and professional when dealing with customers to maintain a positive reputation. You can also use this direct communication with customers to build a strong relationship and encourage repeat business.

Handling returns varies between the two fulfillment methods. In the FBA model, Amazon deals with return requests, processes the returned items, and may even offer customers refunds or replacements. Their return policy is consistent and well-known among buyers, which can create a sense of trust and security.

On the other hand, with FBM, you’re in control of setting your return policy and managing returns directly. You should create a clear and fair return policy to prevent misunderstandings and disputes. Returns can be time-consuming and costly, so it’s essential to optimize your process and minimize any negative impact on your business.

To summarize, when it comes to customer service and returns:

  • FBA takes care of customer service and returns processing for you, providing consistency and credibility.
  • FBM gives you more direct control over customer service and returns management, but requires more time and effort on your part.

As you weigh the pros and cons of each fulfillment option, consider how important customer service and returns are to your overall business strategy and, ultimately, choose the method that best aligns with your goals.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Pros of FBA

When using Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), you can benefit from Amazon’s extensive network and customer base, as they handle the storage, packing, and shipping of your products. This saves you time and effort, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your business. Some key advantages include:

  • Prime eligibility: FBA products are eligible for Amazon Prime, which can increase sales by attracting loyal prime customers.
  • Customer trust: FBA builds trust with customers, as they know items will be delivered promptly and backed by Amazon’s customer service.
  • Easier international shipping: FBA simplifies international shipping by managing customs, taxes, and shipping logistics.
  • Handling returns: Amazon deals with returns on your behalf, handling all customer interactions and processing.

Cons of FBA

While FBA has its advantages, there are also some disadvantages to consider:

  • Fees: There are various fees associated with FBA, including storage, fulfillment, and long-term storage fees, which can affect your profit margins. Be aware of any unexpected costs.
  • Inventory requirements: Strict guidelines on product packaging and labeling can result in additional preparation and cost on the seller’s part.
  • Less control: With FBA, you have less control over your inventory and customer service, since Amazon takes over these aspects.

Pros of FBM

Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) allows you to control all aspects of your order fulfillment, giving you more flexibility and allowing you to maximize your profits. Some key advantages include:

  • Higher margins: FBM can yield higher profit margins due to reduced fees, as you don’t have to pay Amazon for storage or fulfillment services.
  • Fulfillment control: FBM gives you complete control over your packaging, inventory, and overall fulfillment processes.
  • Online and offline orders: You can fulfill both online and offline orders through the same warehouse, streamlining your business operations.

Cons of FBM

Along with the pros, there are also some cons to consider when choosing FBM:

  • No Prime eligibility: FBM products do not automatically receive Prime eligibility, which can be a disadvantage when trying to attract loyal Prime customers.
  • Increased workload: Managing your own fulfillment can be time-consuming and requires resources for storage, shipping, and customer service.
  • Handling returns: As an FBM seller, you’ll be responsible for handling all returns and customer interactions, which can be challenging and time-consuming.

Control and Flexibility

When it comes to control and flexibility in your Amazon business, the choice between Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) plays a significant role. Each method offers its advantages in these areas, so it’s essential to understand how they can impact your brand.

With FBA, Amazon takes care of storage, packaging, and shipping on your behalf. While this can save you time and effort, it also means that you’ll have less control over these aspects of your business. For example, you may not be able to customize your packaging or manage every aspect of the shipping process. However, FBA provides you with increased visibility on the platform, which can lead to more sales.

On the other hand, FBM gives you complete control over your inventory, shipping, and customer service. This means that you can make decisions about how to store and package your products and decide on shipping carriers and methods. You can also directly manage returns and customer inquiries, which can be essential for preserving your brand’s reputation.

Sales and Marketing Strategies

FBA Strategies

To succeed with Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), you need to focus on attracting customers and maximizing profits in the highly competitive marketplace. Here are some quick tips to get you started:

  • Pricing: Use Amazon’s repricing tools or third-party repricing software to stay competitive and win the Buy Box to increase sales.
  • Product Listings: Optimize your listings with high-quality images, informative descriptions, and keywords to rank higher in search results.
  • Advertising: Take advantage of Amazon’s advertising platform, such as Sponsored Products and Sponsored Brands, to reach more potential buyers and drive traffic to your listings.
  • Reviews: Encourage customer reviews by providing excellent customer service and swift responses to buyer inquiries. Reviews are an essential part of building trust among potential customers.
  • Promotions: Offer deals, discounts, and bundle products to attract more customers and increase your sales volume.

FBM Strategies

Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) sellers can also prosper in the competitive e-commerce environment by leveraging tailored sales and marketing tactics. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Pricing: Monitor and adjust your pricing regularly to stay competitive while maintaining your profit margin. You’ll need to cover your fulfillment and shipping costs while still offering attractive prices compared to FBA competitors.
  • Product Listings: Just like FBA, invest time in optimizing your product listings with high-quality content and relevant keywords.
  • Shipping: Offer fast and reliable shipping options to your customers as this can help you compete with the Amazon Prime service offered to FBA sellers. Customers value quick delivery times, so ensure your shipping partners are up to the task.
  • Customer Service: Provide swift and professional customer service to address issues and concerns. Excellent customer service can help you build a loyal customer base and maintain positive customer experiences.
  • Marketing: Utilize different e-commerce marketing techniques, such as email marketing, content marketing, social media advertising, and search engine optimization, to drive traffic to your product listings and boost sales.

Profitability and Revenue

When comparing Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM), the difference in their impact on your profitability and revenue can be critical for your business. Understanding key factors such as order fulfillment, weight, size, and the role of Amazon sellers and merchants will help you determine the right strategy for your business.

Orders and fulfillment service: With FBA, Amazon handles all aspects of order fulfillment, including packing, shipping, and customer service. This can save you time and resources, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your business. However, FBA involves various fees, which might reduce your profit margin. In contrast, FBM allows you to have full control of the order fulfillment process, though it can be more time-consuming and require additional infrastructure.

Weight and size considerations: The size and weight of your products play a significant role in determining the cost of fulfillment for both methods. With FBA, fees increase for larger and heavier items, potentially reducing your profit margin. On the other hand, you can potentially minimize shipping costs with FBM by selecting suitable carriers and negotiating rates based on your product size and weight.

Amazon sellers and retailer status: If you are an FBA seller, your products are eligible for the Prime badge, appealing to a broader audience and increasing your potential revenue. However, participating in the FBA program also means adhering to strict guidelines and requirements. As an FBM seller, you have the flexibility to manage your own fulfillment process according to your business needs, potentially improving your efficiency and profitability.

Merchant fulfilled and profit margins: Running an FBM business requires investments in warehouse facilities, labor, and shipping carriers, impacting your profit margins. However, the reduction of Amazon fees and the control you have over these costs could mean that your margins ultimately remain higher than with FBA.

In conclusion, evaluating the profitability and revenue potential of each fulfillment method is crucial. Consider the unique characteristics of your product offering and your business model. Both options have their advantages and drawbacks, and the best choice for your business will depend on your preferences and circumstances.

Prime Eligibility and Seller Fulfilled Prime

When selling on Amazon, it’s important to consider how to best fulfill your orders. Among the two main fulfillment options – Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) – one of the key factors to consider is Prime eligibility. In this section, we will discuss how these two options differ in terms of Prime eligibility and how Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP) comes into play.

If you choose to use FBA, your products will automatically be eligible for Prime membership benefits. Amazon will store your products in their fulfillment centers, handle packing and shipping your orders, as well as offer customer support. As a result, your items will display the Prime badge, which can attract more customers and increase your chances of making a sale.

On the other hand, if you opt for FBM, your products won’t be Prime eligible by default. You will be responsible for managing your inventory, shipping orders, and handling customer service inquiries. However, you have the option to become a part of the Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP) program.

Seller Fulfilled Prime allows you to display the Prime badge on your FBM products, making them eligible for Prime benefits while you continue to handle the fulfillment process. To qualify for SFP, you’ll need to meet certain performance metrics, use Amazon-approved carriers, and process orders with a zero-day handling time. After successfully completing an SFP trial period, your enrolled products will be eligible to display the Prime badge.

In summary, FBA offers automatic Prime eligibility, while FBM requires joining the SFP program to obtain the Prime badge. Choosing the right fulfillment option and managing Prime eligibility can play a significant role in your success as an Amazon seller. Remember to carefully weigh the fees and responsibilities associated with each option, and always strive to meet Amazon’s performance expectations.

Multi-Channel Fulfillment and Third-Party Logistics

When it comes to order fulfillment, you have several options as an ecommerce seller. Two popular methods are Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM). Understanding the differences between these fulfillment methods can help you make an informed decision for your business.

Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) is a service provided by Amazon that allows you to fulfill orders from various sales channels using Amazon’s vast fulfillment network. With MCF, you can store your inventory in Amazon’s warehouses, and they will handle the order fulfillment tasks such as packing, shipping, and customer support. This service is compatible with both FBA and FBM.

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is a method where you send your products directly to Amazon’s warehouses. Amazon stores your inventory, ships items to customers (often via their 2-day Prime shipping), and manages customer support. The main advantage of using FBA is that it leverages Amazon’s huge fulfillment network, allowing you to offer fast shipping to customers while keeping warehouse and labor costs down.

On the other hand, Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) involves managing your own order fulfillment or outsourcing to a third-party logistics provider (3PL). In this case, you store inventory, pack and ship items, and handle customer support yourself or through the 3PL. It gives you more control over the order fulfillment process and the option to use branded packaging.

When comparing FBA and FBM, consider factors such as fulfillment fees, storage costs, and control over the fulfillment process. FBA may have higher fees, but it saves you time and effort by handling fulfillment tasks and can lead to increased sales through Amazon’s Prime shipping program. FBM allows for greater customization and potentially lower fees, but it requires more hands-on management from you or a 3PL.

In addition to FBA and FBM, another option is Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP), which allows you to offer Prime shipping on your products while managing your own fulfillment. This program requires meeting strict performance standards set by Amazon, but it can help increase visibility and sales on the Amazon marketplace.

To sum up, Multi-Channel Fulfillment, FBA, and FBM provide different levels of support and control over your order fulfillment process. Consider your business needs, resources, and potential benefits when choosing the most appropriate method for managing your ecommerce sales and fulfillment.

Tools and Resources

When deciding between Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM), it’s essential to familiarize yourself with various tools and resources that can assist you in making the best decision for your business. These tools can help you manage your inventory and logistics, as well as make informed choices regarding profitability and shipping costs.

Jungle Scout is a popular tool that can help you compare FBA and FBM by providing data on product sales, trends, and competition. By utilizing Jungle Scout, you can gain insights into which fulfillment method may be more suitable for your product offerings and overall business goals.

Another valuable tool is the FBA Revenue Calculator. By inputting your product details and costs, this calculator can provide an estimate of your potential FBA fees and profits. Comparing these projections to your current FBM expenses and revenue will give you a clear understanding of which fulfillment method may yield higher profitability.

If you are considering FBM, you might want to explore the Seller Fulfilled Prime Program. This program allows you to tap into Amazon’s Prime customer base by offering Prime shipping options without using FBA. To participate, you must meet specific performance and shipping standards set by Amazon. This program can provide your products with better visibility and access to a broader audience. However, keep in mind the additional responsibilities and resources it may require to maintain the necessary service levels.

Last but not least, it’s crucial to take into account shipping costs when weighing the pros and cons of FBA and FBM. With FBA, Amazon handles shipping and logistics, and the associated fees may be relatively more predictable. However, with FBM, you are responsible for determining and covering your shipping costs, which can fluctuate based on factors such as carrier rates, package size, and destination. Evaluating your shipping cost strategy is a significant consideration in deciding which method best suits your business needs.

By leveraging the tools and resources mentioned above, you can make a more informed decision in choosing between FBA and FBM, ensuring the best fit for your business model and long-term success.

Choosing the Right Fulfillment Method

When deciding which fulfillment method is best for your ecommerce business on the Amazon platform, consider the type of product you plan to sell, your existing infrastructure, and the scale of your operation. Each method has its pros and cons, with Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) offering different benefits depending on your business goals and resources.

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) may be a more suitable choice if you want to:

  • Leverage Amazon’s logistics infrastructure: With FBA, Amazon takes care of the entire logistics process, from storage and packing to shipping and handling returns. This allows you to focus on other aspects of your business operations and eliminates the need to build your own fulfillment infrastructure.
  • Increase selling speed and conversion rates: Products on FBA often see higher conversion rates and faster sales, as they are eligible for Prime shipping and Amazon’s trustworthiness as a reliable shipping provider.
  • Expand internationally: FBA simplifies the process of selling products to customers overseas by managing the required paperwork and handling the logistics efficiently.

However, keep in mind that using FBA comes with fees to Amazon, which might not be the most cost-effective solution if you have a low-profit-margin product or a relatively small volume of orders.

On the other hand, Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) may be a better option if you want to:

  • Control your business operations: FBM allows you to maintain direct control over all aspects of your supply chain, including inventory management, packaging, and shipping. This is particularly valuable for small businesses that want to keep a tight grip on their operations.
  • Lower costs: By handling fulfillment in-house or partnering with a third-party fulfillment service, you can potentially lower costs, especially if you have the infrastructure in place or prefer to manage the logistics part yourself.
  • Sell a unique product or provide customized services: If you provide value through personalized services or customization, FBM might be the better choice. This allows you to add a personal touch to your product fulfillment, which may be important for your brand or sales strategy.

Remember that in order to succeed with FBM, you must be prepared to dedicate time and resources to managing your inventory, warehouse, and shipping processes. Additionally, having a solid e-commerce platform and a reliable customer service system in place are crucial to ensure smooth and seamless order fulfillment.

In conclusion, consider all of the factors mentioned above when choosing between FBA and FBM. Ultimately, the right choice for your Amazon fulfillment method depends on your product, resources, and business goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the fee structures for FBA and FBM?

For FBA, fees typically include a monthly subscription fee, referral fees, and fulfillment fees based on factors like the size and weight of your products. FBM sellers generally pay a per-item fee or a monthly subscription fee, along with referral fees.

How do the services provided differ between FBA and FBM?

FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) handles storing, packing, shipping, and, to some extent, customer service on your behalf. With FBM (Fulfillment by Merchant), you handle these aspects yourself or use third-party services at your discretion.

What are the major benefits of using FBA compared to FBM?

FBA offers significant benefits, including access to Prime customers, faster shipping times, and better Buy Box eligibility. Moreover, FBA handles returns and refunds as part of the fulfillment process, which can save you considerable time and effort.

Which is better for different types of businesses, FBA or FBM?

Both FBA and FBM could be beneficial to various business types. However, if you want greater control over your inventory, marketing, and branding, FBM might be a better fit. On the other hand, if you prefer reducing your logistical and customer service workloads and focusing on sales growth, FBA could be an ideal option.

How do fulfillment times and shipping options compare for FBA and FBM?

FBA products receive a Prime badge, making them eligible for 2-day Prime shipping and generally have faster delivery times due to Amazon’s extensive network. FBM products do not have automatic access to Prime shipping, which may result in longer delivery times, though merchants can participate in the Seller Fulfilled Prime program with specific requirements.

What role does inventory management play in FBA and FBM strategies?

Inventory management is a crucial aspect of both FBA and FBM strategies. With FBA, you need to monitor and plan your inventory levels at Amazon’s warehouses to avoid stockouts and storage fees. For FBM, it’s pivotal to maintain an optimal stock, track sales, and ensure efficient shipping to customers. The right inventory management approach reduces inefficiencies in your supply chain and makes fulfilling customer orders effective for either fulfillment model.

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