Developing Channel Management Software

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United States United States
countingfish
Kudos: 50
Joined: Oct 25, 2014
Developing Channel Management Software
25 Oct 2014
Hi there,

My name is Josh and I am a software developer and new member of WebRetailer! In addition to being a programmer, I have always tinkered with selling/flipping things on ebay, amazon, craigslist and in the real world (flea markets). So, I recently decided to combine my two interests and have started to develop some software that helps me inventory, manage and list my stuff in an automated fashion. Looking around and through the forums here there seems to be many, many players in this space, but lots of people seem dissatisfied. So, I wanted to reach out to the forums here and see if I could get some insight from some seasoned web retailers about what they would like to see in a channel management system, as well as what works and what doesn't in the current ones.

Thanks!
United States United States
WebSeller
Kudos: 41
Joined: Jul 3, 2014
Re: Developing Channel Management Software
28 Oct 2014
@countingfish
I would love to have a discussion on this. I have an outdated technical background, but have been considering doing the same thing you are. I have been selling online for 15 years, and have been through many selling platforms. I agree that there is a strong need for good multichannel software.
United States United States
countingfish
Kudos: 50
Joined: Oct 25, 2014
Re: Developing Channel Management Software
28 Oct 2014
@WebSeller

Hey there,

Thanks for writing! I would love to discuss this more.

One take away that I have gotten from my research after I initially posted this is that any software should be simple and intuitive to use. That may be a tall order given the complexities of automating your listings, but I bet there is room for improvement.
Supplier
Derry United Kingdom
repricerexpress
Kudos: 185
Joined: Jul 24, 2013
Re: Developing Channel Management Software
29 Oct 2014
I'm unsure how much market research you have done here but the channel management software market is highly competitive with a number of big players.

To develop a solution will involve a heavy investment of money and time. After that, the challenge will be selling your solution, offering support and continually updating the solution.

Good luck with the venture if you do pursue it further.
Win the Buy Box more often with RepricerExpress Amazon Repricing Software.
United States United States
countingfish
Kudos: 50
Joined: Oct 25, 2014
Re: Developing Channel Management Software
29 Oct 2014
Hi there:

Thanks for your insight. Yeah, I realize it is a crowded space... but I am wondering if there is room for something more lightweight and easy to use than the big ones. perhaps I am naive?

RepricerExpress wrote:

I'm unsure how much market research you have done here but the channel management software market is highly competitive with a number of big players.

To develop a solution will involve a heavy investment of money and time. After that, the challenge will be selling your solution, offering support and continually updating the solution.

Good luck with the venture if you do pursue it further.
United States United States
WebSeller
Kudos: 41
Joined: Jul 3, 2014
Re: Developing Channel Management Software
29 Oct 2014
@countingfish
I'm not sure I want to post an email address on here, but we should definitely talk. I have been thinking about this for a long time. How can we connect outside this thread?
United States United States
countingfish
Kudos: 50
Joined: Oct 25, 2014
Re: Developing Channel Management Software
29 Oct 2014
I just sent you a private message

WebSeller wrote:

@countingfish
I'm not sure I want to post an email address on here, but we should definitely talk. I have been thinking about this for a long time. How can we connect outside this thread?
Turriff United Kingdom
Krys
Kudos: 37
Joined: Oct 27, 2014
Re: Developing Channel Management Software
30 Oct 2014

countingfish wrote:

Hi there:

Thanks for your insight. Yeah, I realize it is a crowded space... but I am wondering if there is room for something more lightweight and easy to use than the big ones. perhaps I am naive?
You are not naive! you just came out with idea - great btw,instead of using someone's.
I have developed some bots or small programs and scripts helping me with listing and managing ebay store on daily basis. Not a one from big players can handle what i need. So there might be more people like me but without skills we have not doing right business or overpaying big players still not getting what they hope.

I really support what you want to achieve. Happy to join

[Last edited by moderator: Fixed quote — 30 Oct 2014]
Supplier
Manila Philippines
2nd Office
Kudos: 550
Joined: Aug 19, 2012
Re: Developing Channel Management Software
3 Nov 2014

countingfish wrote:

Hi there:

Thanks for your insight. Yeah, I realize it is a crowded space... but I am wondering if there is room for something more lightweight and easy to use than the big ones. perhaps I am naive?

RepricerExpress wrote:

I'm unsure how much market research you have done here but the channel management software market is highly competitive with a number of big players.

Hi Josh,

You're not naive, but whatever path you take I would recommend creating a software that will solve the sellers problems.

Being a global company, we've seen a lot of software out there used by our clients. No matter how hard a software company tries, I don't think there ever will be a perfect out of the box SAAS software unless they are able to integrate into a multitude of plugins. Every ecommerce client has different needs, so it doesn't make sense to solve everyone's problems, but it does make sense to see which problems come up all the time and focus on those.

I would study your competition and see what others are lacking and fill that need. Don't try to do everything, but fill the basic needs each ecommerce store needs to function and do that well. After that, I would target a certain group of ecommerce sellers and build the software around that. If you want to specialize in drop shipping, then solve all the problems of a drop shipping seller, If you want to focus on manufactures, solve the problems that manufacturers face. Every seller will have different problems, I would start with solving the problems of 1 type of customer and expand from there.

Also, if you want to have an advantage over all the other SAAS multi-channel software, I would offer the following.

1. Superior customer support on an on-going basis, not just at the start of the service. You will be surprised how many software companies out there are charging top dollar and offer bad customer support. I myself have been an enterprise user for expensive multi-channel software as a seller back in 2009 when the space was just starting to get crowded, so I understand the pain online sellers go through. What retailers need is a dedicated account manager that can help them with the software on an on-going basis, and it shouldn't be charged at an extra cost. The support should be included with the monthly rate they are paying.

2. Listen to your customers and solve their problems - A lot of software companies have grown too big for their own good, that they no longer listen to their customers needs.

3. Focus on a certain market (USA, UK, AUS, etc.) in the beginning and move onto other markets once you have perfected the first market. If you're in the USA, I would probably focus on that market first.

4. Integrate with different solutions, this will help you attract established users. Example, I wouldn't create a shipping module if you could integrate into a great software like Ship Station. Just do everything ship station can't do.

Some standard functions every mult-channel seller will need.

1. Accounting integration
2. Order processing
3. Inventory Management
4. True Marketplace integration (some software's are not fully integrated, meaning they can only update stock or process orders, but not list properly)
5. Shopping Cart Integration
6. Web based
7. Inventory updates
8. Able to track Bundled or KIT Items
9. Good reporting and Analytic's
10. Shipping integration (integrate into ShipWorks or ShipStation if in the US, simple-merchant.com if in the UK)
11. CRM integration or basic CRM (maybe integrate into something like ReplyManager)
12. Re-pricing function or integration
13. Returns management

Hope this helps and good luck!

[Last edited: 3 Nov 2014]
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Supplier
London United Kingdom
Simple Merchant
Kudos: 38
Joined: Nov 4, 2014
Re: Developing Channel Management Software
4 Nov 2014
(I'm part of the Simple Merchant team).

Definitely agree with Carlo about focusing on a certain segmentation. Multichannel management software will need to do alot to be even considered a basic product to compete. There will be many different use cases that naturally segment merchants into smaller and smaller pools. There are so many kinds of ecommerce, flash sales, presales, vertically integrated, marketplaces, etc. All of them will have a common denominator issue but then quickly become niche.

Given that the competition is big, we started with only one pain which is the humble shipping label. We have created a simple/smart shipping label. We started solving our own problem because we ship over 500 units a day we knew we couldn't grow beyond a certain point.

Our shipping label includes Quantity and SKU and can even do MULTI SKU orders. It's smart enough to generate a filled out CN22 and airmail sticker when required. We even put page numbers on the labels so if you run out of labels or have a printer jam you know exactly where to start again. All of this finally eliminates the need for an A4 packing invoice, when you add all this up you save lots of incremental costs and time.
_______________
Abe Choi | Simple Merchant
Pick, pack & ship - all in 1 shipping label
United States United States
ScarfKing
Kudos: 333
Joined: Oct 7, 2014
Re: Developing Channel Management Software
4 Nov 2014
@countingfish

I admire your gumption!

Having spent lots of time shopping this sector and with a less than positive experience with one provider, I would say the general problems with multichannel software are: poor or nonexistent customer service and overly complicated and poorly documented user interfaces. Software integration is inherently complex and bug-prone, and claims made by company web pages have to be taken with a huge block of salt. Once you sign and start getting deeper into it, you find out what the real limitations are.

More germane to this discussion, there are very few entry-level platforms out there that enable a small business to grow.

I sell on 3 platforms (Ebay, Amazon and BigCommerce) and have a brick and mortar store running Microsoft RMS POS. I can't just ignore store sales if I want to have accurate inventory figures online. I suspect that there are many smallish ($500,000 to $1,000,000) click-and-mortar businesses out there like me who can use and afford reasonably-scaled software, but most multichannel software co.s pretend that brick-and-mortar stores don't exist. I have found that there is very little out there that will integrate store POS systems with the multichannel hub that companies are promoting. I would suggest you look at that sector. Microsoft RMS is used by tens of thousands if not millions of businesses, but only a couple of companies offer any sort of integration with the web. Quickbooks POS is another widely-used POS platform.

So, while the multichannel market has a lot of big players, the brick and mortar integration sector is wide open.

Hope that's helpful. Keep counting (and catching?) fish!
Supplier
Bristol, UK United Kingdom
Zenstores
Kudos: 35
Joined: Nov 4, 2014
Re: Developing Channel Management Software
9 Nov 2014
@countingfish @invworld

Definitely agree with you that although its a competitive space, there's a lot of unsatisfactory products out there. Even the best of them can be too expensive for smaller sellers or just too complicated to use. At least that's what we found when running our canvas printing company selling through eBay/Amazon and a number of our own web shops.

That's why 8 months ago our team set out to create a new cloud-based platform called Zenstores to make processing orders from different channels easy for anyone (regardless of turnover or expertise).

We've taken a few twists and turns, and I thought that it might be useful for you and others if I shared a few learnings that we've made..

- Creating a flexible eBay listing tool is very technically challenging and quite fragile (due to the eBay API)
- Doing anything with the Amazon API is slow - some actions can take up to 12 hours to return a result. In other words, both eBay and Amazon API's are difficult to work with.
- SKU's are not required on eBay, but they are on Amazon - it's pot luck if sellers supply an SKU on their eBay listings, which makes matching the products in a 3rd party tool difficult (without some manual process).
- The best software will be led by honest conversations with other sellers.
- Although businesses can be grouped into segments (e.g. drop-shippers, manufacturers, etc) everyone has slightly different needs - the key is to find the common problems between all of them.
- Focus on doing one thing really well - rather than trying to fix all of the problems in 'multi-channel' commerce at once. It sounds like you've decided to focus on Inventory / product listing, a good start.

Speaking of focus..

We're focusing on order processing - saving time, streamlining workflow and creating invoices/packing slips for small businesses selling on different channels.

We've just started beta testing our web-based app, if anyone would like to check it out (currently free) see our website www.zenstores.com or email me for more info (ben [at] zenstores [dot] com).

Always looking to chat to sellers and developers about multi-channel so feel free to reach out.

Cheers!
United States United States
JerryB
Kudos: 22
Joined: Aug 29, 2015
Re: Developing Channel Management Software
29 Aug 2015
August 2015 - would be nice if someone would UPDATE the subject. The need is growing.
Midlothian, VA United States
Jax Music Supply
Kudos: 2,361
Joined: May 25, 2009
Re: Developing Channel Management Software
30 Aug 2015
What kind of update are you looking for? The challenges are still there, there are lots of choices available. It has only been a few months - nothing much has changed in the multiple marketplace world.
Supplier
Manila Philippines
2nd Office
Kudos: 550
Joined: Aug 19, 2012
Re: Developing Channel Management Software
31 Aug 2015
@countingfish

We're all curious to see if there are any new developments regarding your software?
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XSellco
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