Selling on multiple marketplaces is hard. Everything is different and disconnected: categories, images, pricing, stock levels, policies and more. The only way to hold it all together is software: marketplace management software.
So selling on complex, diverse platforms requires software. That’s hardly a revelation. But what does fascinate and surprise me is the dozens of competing tools out there, all designed to solve that same problem.
The market looks saturated, but more contenders spring up each month. And yet more are thinking about entering the market with their own software. Why is that? I don’t have the answer, but would really like you to help me figure it out!
A Short History of Marketplace Management Software
The longest-standing multi-marketplace tools that I know of started as software just for eBay sellers. As new marketplaces emerged, their users started expanding onto them, and those tools adapted to support them. Many from that era have fallen by the wayside: anyone remember SpoonFeeder and Auction Hawk? Others were taken over by competitors, like Marketworks, SpareDollar and Andale (by ChannelAdvisor, inkFrog and Vendio respectively).
The next generation, as I see it, were the tools created with multiple marketplaces in mind. UK-based eSellerPro was one of the first to lead the way here, in 2006.
But it’s just in the last few years where we’ve had a real explosion in marketplace management software. Some of that growth has been from order management tools like Linnworks and Teapplix adding feature after feature, until they became end-to-end solutions.
Many others grew from scratch as multichannel management tools, including Brightpearl, SellerExpress and StoreFeeder in the UK; Ecomdash, SureDone and Stitch in the US. More recently, companies like UnderstandingE have been promoting Magento with the M2E Pro plug-in as a complete solution.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. We currently have fifty multichannel management tools in the directory here, and I know there are more out there.
Why Are There So Many Tools?
Unlike my previous posts, I’m not going to answer my own question. I’m really not sure what the answer is! In the forum post I linked to earlier, discussion starter countingfish got the sentiment just right though:
…there seem to be many, many players in this space, but lots of people seem dissatisfied.
That’s exactly what I see and hear too. Why is that? I have a few ideas:
- No one has really cracked the problem yet.
- The software works fine but it’s too expensive.
- People aren’t as dissatisfied as it seems, they’re just a vocal minority.
- Sellers don’t realise there is so much choice, so go with the tool they find first.
- Multiple marketplace management is a really tough problem and can’t be made simple by software, no matter how good it is.
I’d love to know what you think. Is the “perfect” software solution for this yet to be made? Or are the available tools as good as they ever can be? Maybe I’ve just read it wrong, and most people are pretty happy with what they’ve got? Let me know in the comments below.