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.
Shipping seems simple at first. You pick the order, package it, and send it out. That’s it.
But as your business grows, it gets more and more complex. There will be unexpected spikes in order volume. You have to manage staff and perhaps juggle multiple carriers. You will certainly need to create and continually improve processes which keep everything running efficiently and accurately. If you want to ship overseas, that’s yet another level of complexity.
But shipping is not just complex, it’s expensive. Even while fuel prices fall, shipping rates still go up every year. UPS and FedEx raised their rates by around 5% this year. Online sellers either have to absorb the costs or pass it on to their customers – which can impact sales.
So in this article, I wanted to find out if it was possible to save money on shipping without adding any more complexity, and without downgrading the service offered to buyers.
After a lot of research, I’ve discovered three ways to do exactly that.
In this article I’ll say what those approaches are, and highlight some companies that provide tools or services in those areas. Then I’ll explain how they work and how much they cost. If you have any questions, fire away in the comments at the end.
This post is by Todd Ryan, a Florida-based IT manager who has been selling online since 1999. He currently concentrates on the Amazon marketplace, growing 100% year-on-year and employing three people in the business. Todd uses a range of applications, including automated repricing software since 2012. He has tested more than a dozen repricers in the sub-$500 per month range including RepriceIt, Appeagle, Sellery, ChannelMAX and BQool, and regularly advises other sellers on repricing.
For an up-to-date list of repricers, with reviews, see the repricing category in the Web Retailer directory.
On the Amazon Marketplace, the Buy Box reigns supreme. Almost all sales go to the seller who is “in the Buy Box”. Few buyers even realize that they can choose to buy from another merchant, because it’s an integral part of the experience to trust that Amazon has already found the best offer for you.
So as a seller, you really need to “win” the Buy Box to make sales, and one of the most important factors in deciding who wins is price. For better or worse, price also happens to be a factor that you, as a seller, have complete control over. By regularly adjusting prices you can potentially make a huge difference to your sales.
It’s quite common now for Amazon sellers to use automated pricing tools, and dozens of repricers have sprung up in recent years to meet that need. Most repricing tools use preset rules and algorithms to frequently adjust prices.
However, there are still many sellers who are wary of repricers, for a variety of reasons – some of which are way off the mark! In this post, I will tackle the most common myths I hear about repricing. I’ll try to pick apart the reality from the myth, and address the biggest concerns which sellers often have.