The Ultimate Guide to Multi-Channel Software Part 1

Matt OgborneMatthew Ogborne is co-Founder of UnderstandingE.com. He’s also worked for various multi-channel management companies and been involved with ecommerce and specifically marketplaces for over a decade. He not only knows first hand the demands on an Internet based business and their owners but has seen the day-to-day operations of literally hundreds of such businesses.

This week Matt is authoring a five part series on Tamebay – “The Ultimate Guide to Multi-Channel Software”, starting today with “What is Multi-Channel Software?”.

What is Multi-Channel Software?

Multi Channel SoftwareHowdy,

In this 5 part series starting today, together we’re going to be looking at what is Multi Channel software and how it can help you and your business grow and work smarter.

I know you’re likely to be reading this during the summer months, however right now is the perfect time to be selecting the right Multi Channel software and will help you prepare for the silly season.

Wherever possible, I will be adding in “pro tips” to help you during this series and also to make it extremely clear from the beginning, if I mention anything you are not sure upon, I personally work to a rule which is “there is no such thing as a daft question if you don’t know the answer”.

So if you have a question, you can ask at the bottom of this page and I’ll ensure that either myself or my business partner Dave Furness personally responds to you.

This series is based upon my own experience of using software to go from £15,000 a month to a cool £78,000 in just 4 months, that from almost 5 years of working for such software companies and helping companies like Tesco Outlet & Office Shoes and literally hundreds of business owners just like you use multi-channel software.

This first part is a general overview to why you should even consider using such software, the typical path followed by a multi channel eCommerce business like yours and what the subsequent parts of this series that we’ll be looking at together are.

On Friday I will cover the topic of order aggregation with you and a downloadable book of this entire series will be available to download. In this book I will arm you with all the questions you need to ask, tips & suggestions to selecting the right Multi Channel software for your business which are not covered in this 5 part series and two simple tools that you can use to rate any Multi Channel software tool.

There is over 15 years of marketplace eCommerce experience in this series and in the concluding book, leverage this to your advantage.

With that said, let’s dive in!

What is Multi Channel software anyway?

This is simply software that can help you manage products, listings and orders across two or more sales channels.

In the eCommerce world sales channels refer to Marketplaces and your own website. In the simplest terms, a Marketplace is an electronic shopping mall, similar to a brick and mortar mall, where one goes to buy many different products from different sellers. In this book, we will be exploring the two most important and biggest Marketplaces, eBay and Amazon.

Yep it’s that simple.

Obviously this topic goes a lot deeper and we’ll be looking to the features that such software can offer you over the rest of this article and into the following parts of this series.

One thing is key though, this is the be-everywhere strategy ( more on this in a few moments ).

And to do this effectively and have some hair left, you’re going to need to leverage the power and automation that software can provide to help you & your business expand.

The Typical Path to Using Software

When you first started selling on eBay, just like myself you will have started using the Sell Your Item form.

This is where everyone starts out on eBay and they’ve done a great job over the past decade to make using this form a lot easier. You can now set defaults and instead of lots of pages, they’ve nailed it down to just three pages, category selection, an input page and a summary.

However filling out forms is by-far not the best use of your time.

If you have lots & lots of products to be loaded then this is just one example of where software can help. You can template your products so that when you go to list a product, you enter only the details about the product and templates do the rest for you. We’ll be learning about these templates in part 4.

You may have then moved onto tools such as Selling Manager Pro or Turbo Lister. These are fantastic tools to bring you into the world of software usage.

In fact both of these tools are perfect examples of two different types of software that are available.

Turbo Lister is a desktop application that connects to the internet and Selling Manager is a tool that is web browser based. Remember these two types as they will be an important factor for you when selecting software in the final part in this series.

Also both of these software tools are proprietary software provided by eBay to help businesses like yourself list more and manage orders effectively. And for the sake of reality, if you were to only ever be selling on eBay, then it’s known that several of the largest eBay sellers only use these tools.

Be Everywhere

We now live in a world of multiple sales channels, there is no one strong contender anymore and your customers are everywhere. They’re in Google, they’re on eBay, they’re on Amazon and wherever they are you need to be there with them.

For the sake of simplicity we’re going to be keeping this series focused on just 3 sales channels, eBay, Amazon and a website. If you sell elsewhere, look specifically for the support of other marketplaces when researching the software and tips on this are included in the downloadable book.

Coming back onto topic, this is where I am going to be assuming you are. You’ve got started with at least one of these sales channels and are looking to expand as part of the be-everywhere strategy.

The good news is that software can help you accomplish this. It can help you sell onto multiple sales channels ( eBay, Amazon, a website and more! ), help you manage your orders from a single orders screen, keep stock levels in sync, connect with couriers, accounts packages and save oodles of time too.

Now to answer a couple of immediate questions that I’m guessing you’re already thinking.

Which is the best multi channel software?

I’m asked this question numerous times every week and the thing is, after using most UK based multi channel software available, spending the best part of 5 years working for such software companies and helping hundreds of businesses like yours. I can categorically say there is no such thing as the best or even a perfect Multi Channel system, no matter what a salesperson or flashy website says.

Instead, there are options for you to choose from and it’s more of a case of finding a software solution that can help you and your business today and the for the foreseeable future.

This series will help you understand the key principles and terminology used, so when you’re choosing such software to help you, you’ll know what to ask and to look out for. I’ll be arming you with simple questions that you can ask or investigate to help identify which software is right for you & your business.

How can Multi Channel software help me & my business?

Keeping this as simple as it should be, the reason for you to look at any software is straightforwards:

The software you choose should help you spend less time on your business by allowing you to work smarter and automate or expedite your key business processes.

Keeping with simple, if we consider two businesses, one that uses Excel and one that doesn’t.

The business that uses Excel has an advantage over the other business because they have a software tool in place.

That was of course a very simple example. The software that is available today far exceeds anything that I had available to me when I first started out, here is a outline of the key features that any decent Multi Channel software will sport:

Stock control ( this is covered tomorrow )
Sell across multiple marketplaces at the same time and keep your stock levels true

Single inventory system
Manage complex inventory much more easily

Templates
Use templates to expedite the creation, listing and updating processes

Order management
Combine orders into a single screen, connect with couriers and be able to bulk process orders from multiple sources and update eBay, Amazon & your website when orders are shipped

And it’s these 4 areas which we’ll be covering together in the following parts of this series on Tamebay, with the final book on how to choose the right Multi Channel software for your business available on Friday.

And in Summary

In short multichannel software helps you sell everywhere and be-everywhere.

Software doesn’t sleep and can be working for you in the background every second of every minute of the day, of the week of the year, hey even while you’re away on holiday if you wanted it to.

It’s about leveraging tools like this to help you and your business work smarter, gain an advantage over your competitors, by being able to list & sell products faster, automate tedious processes and ultimately make more money.

I don’t have all the answers and I can’t tell you which software you should choose. But what I can do is help you by empowering you with the knowledge, the insight and the questions you need to be asking & considering in order to make an informed decision on which Multi Channel software is right for your business.

So far we’ve learned that software can help your business and I’ve already hinted that we can use templates to expedite the process, but we’re only really scratching the surface here and in the next part of this series, we’ll be starting off with the “key” to be able to do this, the “stock number”.

I will answer why you need them and how using them will allow you to expand your business into new marketplaces and across the globe.

Between now and tomorrow for the second part of this series, do you have any questions about using Multi Channel software? Have you been using a tool to help your business, how have you found it, how much has it helped your business?

Let me know in the comments box below and I’ll respond to you personally.

Matt
Co-Founder of UnderstandingE.com