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10 questions you need to ask when considering a Multi-channel partner

By Dan Wilson December 10, 2013 - 8:45 am

Multi ChannelThe array of different third-party, multi-channel software partners out there is quite dizzying and the choice is getting busier. You can see some of the different players in the Tamebay guide.

We quite often get emails from readers asking: Which multi-channel company is best? And our reply is always the same. It’s up to you. You know know your business, you know your goals and you should choose the company that best fits you. It very much is a case of horses for courses.

But there are some key questions to consider before taking the plunge. Here’s 10 for starters, you might have other suggestions:

1) What are your business needs?
It could be streamlining your back office, sleeker inventory controls, expansion onto Amazon, better accounting. There’s all sorts of problems that multi-channel software services can solve. Be clear in your head what your priorities are as you consider the field.

2) Do they serve the marketplaces you want?
Where do you want to sell? It could be just Amazon and eBay or also Play/Rakuten or you might want international expansion. Just make sure the solution serves the marketplaces you want to sell on. Beware of: “it’s on the way” if the marketplace you want isn’t on the list already.

3) How easy is set-up?
There is inevitably going to be some work and effort transferring to a new system but make sure you know roughly how much. Too much disruption is bad, but might be worth it in the long run. Just be clear about the size of the task before you start.

4) How good is support and service?
It’s difficult to gauge this one and some multi-channel services actually charge for better customer service or phone support. But what do you need and what do they offer? Turn bullshit detector on.

5) Backend integration?
So what are you actually going to get and how will it link up with what you’ve already got? Here knowing your business operations intimately will be crucial.

6) Is it easy to integrate with your postage/shipping services?
Depending on what you use, can you easily plug into any postage or courier networks you already use with the new software? Some do, others don’t. And it all depends what you need. But getting despatch right really is vital so make sure you can integrate the two properly.

7) Is there room to flex?
Every business changes, for all sorts of reasons. It could be growth or contraction, or change in direction or focus. Can the third-party tool accomodate your changing needs?

8) Can you find positive peer reviews?
It’s worth casting your net wide for evidence that a business like yours is thriving with the multi-channel provider you choose. Seek out a similar merchant and have a proper conversation. The provider should be happy to help if they have nothing to hide.

9) Is the price right?
Multi-channel services cost and there is a selection of pricing models. It can be a % of sales, a monthly sub, a mix of the two or you can craft a bespoke package. There are also sometimes freebie months or incentives, but don’t get too excited about these.

The best way to look at pricing is not in terms of cheapness/expense, but rather to consider what you can realistically hope for in terms of an uplift in sales. If such a service can reasonably offer a 10 – 20% increase in sales (and that’s not implausible if it works out) a 3% charge on sales isn’t outrageous.

10) Can you get out?
If it all goes wrong, circumstances change, you make the wrong choice, can you get out? The only answer to that question from a supplier must be “yes, without charge or hassle.”

  • Glenn
    3 years ago

    Great article Dan and concerning point 1 “What are your business needs?”

    There is a temptation to consider profit above all other considerations and although I do not dismiss profit for me profit and time spent to earn that profit are equally important.
    I choose to sign up to “Fulfilment By Amazon” primarily because it would give me greater control over my working hours and lets me make sales even when on holiday. However as any experienced FBA seller will tell you, its not all roses and things can go horrible wrong.

    My point really is to consider what you really want from your business and just how much time you want to commit to it. Earning money is great but spending it is far more fun!

    • 3 years ago

      Yes, I agree with that.

      I was talking to a seller recently who wanted to work less. :O) (What an admirable ambition!)

      A look over her business showed she could seriously trim down the lines she sold (which were all profitable but tended to be more time consuming) and rather concentrate on what are essentially easier sales.

      It’s very much a case of looking at your business objectively and with a cool eye most of the time. But that can be hard as you keep the slog up day in day out.

  • Jason Cooke
    3 years ago

    I’d be interested to hear negative experiences using such services. The majority of people I speak with use channeladvisor or just the standard FBA tools.

  • Dom
    3 years ago

    We use ChannelUnity to run everything through our Magento site, synchronising with Amazon, eBay and Play. It is not perfect but the support is good and it takes into account pending sales on Amazon which is essential at this time of year.