Matthew Ferguson takes on his hardest question yet: how to choose a multichannel management tool – the octopus of your ecommerce zoo!
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We sell a number of goods from several different suppliers, and we can’t keep it all organized with spreadsheets anymore. We sell on Amazon and eBay, and want to sell on Walmart and others. We were looking at systems out there and there’s so many. Inventory managers, listings tools, etc. I have no idea where to start. They all seem to do different things. Help?
— Chris from L.A.
Software and services for Amazon/eBay market research, importing, private labeling, arbitrage, wholesale, liquidation and dropshipping
Good sources of inventory aren’t just lying out in the open for everyone to see, you have to go looking for them. But the quest to find profitable products is not easy – it’s almost like searching for buried treasure.
First, you’ll need some sort of map to guide you, rather than just wandering around at random. But don’t expect to have an X marking the perfect spot.
You’ll also need “pieces of eight” to invest. The more gold doubloons you have at your disposal, the more options and leverage you will have with suppliers.
Then you’ll need the right tools for the job. A compass and telescope won’t get you far, but there are software and services available that can help a great deal.
In this post I’ll walk you through the Product Sourcing category of the Web Retailer directory. It covers market research, product evaluation, importing and private label, online arbitrage, wholesale, liquidation and dropshipping.
When marketplace sellers get together, the conversation often turns to multichannel management software. Many sellers will talk knowledgeably about different vendors, but others will look on blankly.
After a while, when there is a break in the conversation, one of the sellers “in the know” will notice the vacant stares. How can they explain what they’re talking about? Maybe by saying how this kind of software synchronizes stock levels across marketplaces, creates listings and manages orders? Well they could, but normally they don’t. They just say, “Oh you know, like ChannelAdvisor!” And the blank looks fade instantly.
ChannelAdvisor is pretty much synonymous with “marketplace management software”. They’ve been in this business since 2001, longer than almost anyone else. They have over 2,800 customers globally, and in 2015 managed $6.8 billion in GMV (gross merchandise volume – total sales). ChannelAdvisor supports over sixty sales channels around the world, and the company went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2013. There’s no-one else like them among the many multichannel software vendors.
I caught up recently with Mike Shapaker, ChannelAdvisor’s Managing Director for the EMEA region (covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa). We talked about how this industry giant came to exist, the features they have been working on recently, and the company’s plans for the future.
The most popular software category in the Web Retailer directory is also the most complex: Multichannel Management.
That’s no coincidence. Selling on one marketplace (Amazon or eBay for example) is hard enough. Throw multiple marketplaces into the mix, and maybe your own webstore too, and you have a recipe for disaster – if you try to do it without the right system in place.
So this post is all about multichannel management software: what it is, what it does, key features, how to choose a supplier and more.
The first time I heard about ShipStation was back in 2011. I received an email from Jason Hodges, one of the founders, who at that time I knew as the developer of eBay shipping tool Auctane Pro.
Jason told me that he was launching a new multi-channel shipping application called ShipStation. I’ve been running the Web Retailer directory for 13 years now, and I’ve seen a lot of tools come and go, so it’s not easy to get excited about new products. I just thought, “OK, that sounds interesting. I’ll keep an eye on them.”
Now, most new tools launch loudly and then go quiet while they wrestle with the messy demands of customer support, staffing, technology bugs and all the rest. But not ShipStation. They just got louder and louder, as they released one new integration after another. There was none of the usual post-launch bunker mentality from these guys.
In just a little time ShipStation had support not only for the top marketplaces (eBay and Amazon), but other sales channels including Magento, Volusion, 3DCart, Storenvy, Prestashop, OpenSky and many more. A new integration seemed to come out every week, covering parcel carriers, marketplaces, shopping carts, fulfillment services and mail consolidators. That’s a breakneck speed of development, and it continues today.