Amazon, An unbelievable marketplace.

Amazon was the marketplace that threw investors during the dot-com boom because they had a ten year plan, while all the others had a a two week plan if they were lucky. The Year-On-Year growth of Amazon is to be ‘awed’ at and unlike other marketplaces, you never annoy their customers, because its their customers and they’ll kick you off with no chance of getting back on again for upsetting their customers. In short, Matthew aspires to eventually working with Amazon directly as the UK CEO.

Matthew has vast experience with launching merchants onto the Amazon platforms, including ‘Fulfilment By Amazon‘ or more commonly known as FBA.

Matthew is an Amazon expert and can help you leverage this channel effectively. You can contact him on his dedicated Contact Matthew page and see how Matthew can help your business.

Amazon to Use Pass My Parcel for SAME DAY Deliveries in the UK


You’ll have no doubt seen the news by now that Amazon have just scored a massive “one up” with same day deliveries.

Basically they’re hijacking the transport system that is used to deliver newspapers to newsagents.

This means that your customers will soon be able to order by 11:45 in the morning and have it in their hands by 4pm the same day.

That’s just sick.

However where is eBay in all of this?

We recently saw the pilot of the Argos Click & Collect “go large” to most business sellers on eBay UK in preparation for Christmas. Then in spring of 2015 this will be available to all. Which is great news.

I can see why lockers are well used, they’re convenient. Even Amazon have now said that they’ve seen the use of them double in the past year.

How does Amazon know that customers want same-day availability?
Deliveries made to Amazon Lockers nationally have more than doubled in the last year, it revealed.

Source: Ina, eCommerceBytes

Coming back to eBay, it is almost exactly one year to the day that eBay purchased Shutl (see here) and since then we’ve seen ni-on nothing as business owners that use eBay in the UK.

The Writing is on the wall

3 years ago in an article titled “Foretelling The Future of Commerce In 10 Years Time” one of the predictions was for “Same day delivery will be available for £1.00”.

While it might not be costing £1.00 as same day delivery is only open to Amazon Prime subscribers that costs £79 per year, to be fair I wasn’t far off :)

*puts trumpet down*

Convenience always wins.

As a consumer I’m extremely unlikely to use an Argos locker, my nearest Argos store is miles away and for now, I’m moderately happy with next day deliveries (and just for the record, if it’s not here next day, as far as I’m concerned it’s late).

But what I really want and what your customers really want, is their order in their hands for gratification as soon as possible after making the purchase.

This is one of the major negatives of buying online, you don’t get your product instantly, same day is going to be amazing. Dare I say it… “a game changer”?

And the thing is customers are going to be receiving same day deliveries very shortly from Amazon and eBay is no where to be seen.

If you were your customer, where would you shop?

Makes you think doesn’t it.


The Ultimate Guide to Multi Channel Software Book

The Ultimate Guide to MUlti Channel SoftwareHowdy,

I know that Multi Channel software can help you work smarter, save you time and help make your business grow.

However… Do you find Multi Channel Software confusing too?

One of the challenges that I have had and I’m sure you’ve struggled with over the past few years is working how which Multi Channel software is right for you and your business.

So I’ve written the Ultimate Guide to Multi Channel software especially for you.

If you already know myself & that any such book is going to be worth the read, click here to download your free +70 page copy.

If not, here’s an insight into the book you can currently download for free and have in your hands in seconds.


The Ultimate Guide to Multi Channel Software

Honeycomb-of-magento-ebay-and-amazonThe book is broken up into 12 chapters and first five chapters explain everything you need to know about Multi Channel software.

In chapter 1 you’ll learn:

  • What is Multi Channel software
  • The typical path that businesses follow to using software
  • The “Be Everywhere” strategy (more on this shortly)
  • What is the “Best” Multi Channel software
  • And how Multi Channel software can help your business

This entire book assumes no prior knowledge to Multi Channel software and I don’t stop at just an overview, you’ll also learn that:

  • You need a key, aka the Stock Number to keep stock levels in-sync
  • There are risks to being everywhere & that these can be reduced by using rules
  • An inventory management system can help you manage small & large numbers of products
  • Templates will great speed up the listing process and add “quality” for each and every listing
  • By combining orders into a single screen can help you process orders in bulk, saving you time
  • Couriers can be integrated and you can apply business rules to orders to change the delivery method

I’m keeping this brief as there are over 70 pages explaining how Multi Channel software can help you, how this software works and how it can help your business in 100% “Plain English”

Then together we’ll look at the different generations of Multi Channel software and I’ve included two simple to use tools that you can use for your business to help you work out which Multi Channel software is right for your business today and in a years time.

The Be Everywhere Strategy

In the previous book that I wrote on the “One Simple Rule to Sell More Online” we homed in on how your business is being seen by customers.

The “Be-Everywhere” strategy is the other side to this, this is being everywhere where your customers are when they’re in buying mode.

So this isn’t social media marketing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc… where your customers are in “social mode”, this is on eBay, on Amazon and on your own eCommerce website where your customer is in “buying mode“.

The math here is really simple:

More sales channels
= More eyeballs looking at your products
= A higher chance of selling
= More sales
= More profit

It helps you “be everywhere” your customers are and manage the processes in the background to help you work smarter each day.

Be there with them too.

Grow Your Business

I know that that Multi Channel software can appear confusing to begin. However, Multi Channel software can help you and your business grow.

The Ultimate Guide to Multi Channel SoftwareIt’s a decision that I personally put off for several months and it cost me thousands. Ask anyone in this industry and they’ll tell you immediately that the businesses, that employ the tools that you find in Multi Channel software will help you and your business grow.

With Multi Channel software you can:

  • Create better quality listings
  • Leverage templates to expedite the listing process
  • Open your business to cheaper resources, such as outsourcing
  • Sell on eBay, Sell on Amazon
  • Sell on your own website(s)
  • Manage orders from ALL your sales channels
  • Keep stock levels correct across them all
  • Work smarter each day

And I’m only scratching the surface here for everything you’re about to learn in your copy of this book.

Which Software is Right for You?

The simple to use tools in this book will help you work out the true cost of how much Multi Channel software is going to cost you.

You can compare one provider against the other and while it will take you a couple of weeks to fully leverage the tools you’ll find in Multi Channel software, it doesn’t need to be expensive anymore. You can start on a tiny budget of just £302 for an entire year (or £25.17, 31.36€, $42.09 USD or $45.07 AUD if worked out monthly).

I’ve also included a tool that you can use to compare the features by giving you all the questions you need the answers to and compare any 2nd Generation Multi Channel software this includes Linnworks, Seller Express, StoreFeeder, ChannelGrabber, BrightPearl, ChannelAdvisor, eSellerPro, Cascade, ChannelUnity, Seller Dynamics and the 3rd Generation too.

Download Your Copy Right Now

Use the form below to download your +70 page, Plain English guide to Multi Channel software

Enter your details to download the full book immediately:

You can start reading this book immediately and I’ll also email a copy over to as well so that you can read it at anytime you wish to.

I want your business to be a success too and I’ll be in touch a few days after you have downloaded the book to see how you’re getting on and including some extra tips & suggestions to accompany the book.

This really is the “Ultimate” guide to Multi Channel software, nothing like this has been written before and with that said,

To your success!

Matthew Ogborne
Author of The Ultimate Guide to Multi Channel Software

The Easy Way of Selling Internationally


This article is all about helping you sell internationally.

Included is an interview with eBay, success stories such as that of Nigel Matthews from Games Quest, together we tackle the question “Why even go International anyway?” and included practical advice on how you can leverage the world of international selling too.

I know I’ve been a little quiet over here for the past few months, the reason why is simple. I’ve been extremely busy somewhere else ( over here! ) and have produced over 150 video tutorials, written over 250 articles, held countless live events and build a community of several thousand business owners just like you in just over 6 months.

Anyway, back onto today’s topic, selling internationally.

You’ll need to bookmark this article, it’s laden with “Plain English” tips, suggestions and interviews and it’s doubtful you’ll eat them all in one sitting.

Pull your chair closer and at make sure your cuppa is at least lukewarm.

As always the best place is to start the beginning. And we need to ask the question:


Why Sell Internationally?

profitLet’s ignore all the fluff and marketing junk you’ve probably read.

The single most important reason why you should start immediately to sell internationally falls down to one single reason.


Your sole motivation for expanding internationally is profit.

Let’s pause for a moment and work out what this means.

If you sell in more marketplaces, in more countries and more people see your products, you have more chances of selling your products, thus you make more sales which equals… Yep you guessed it, more profit.

There is also another side to this, which is a spin off to profit.

We don’t go too far for this either, the other reason is profitability.

Thinking about this logically.

If it takes you 15 minutes to create a product for selling on to eBay, how long does it take you to create the same product for say Amazon?

It won’t be the full 15 minutes, in fact if you’ve got decent processes into place (and decent listing software, which we touch on later on), then listing into multiple marketplaces should be a minute fraction of the time it takes to create the original product record.

Profit is always key and the first reason, for me personally it’s the reusing of your existing product data that you already have for better profitability.

You’ll have spent a large amount of effort writing and building your inventory records and by reusing them over and over, in new marketplaces or aboard, you’ll be working smarter rather than harder and as a seasoned reader of LDOI you’ll know that data is the lifeblood of your business ( published in 2011, even more relevant today ).

For the next two or so sections, we’re going to be a little eBay heavy.

There is a reason for this, eBay did a better job at marketing than Amazon, thus it’s easier to use them as a reference.

Video Overview

Myself and Dave over at have put a video together on this article if you prefer to listen in, instead :)

Hit play below to listen in:

Low Hanging Fruit

Low Hanging FruitYou don’t need to hire me at £240 hr for me to tell you immediately that the lowest hanging fruit for the vast majority of eBay businesses is the adequate population of eBay item specifics ( see note #1 ).

The thing with eBay item specifics is that the majority of other businesses can’t be bothered to complete these fields out adequately

An oversight on their part, not yours. You now know how this is really important and worth the effort and normally the biggest win for you & your business ( see note #2 ).

The other thing with Item Specifics is that they generally port really well to the other eBay sites.

Yes you’ll need to put some spelling mistakes in for certain words if expanding onto or ( or vice-versa lol ) but generally they port like-for-like.

Remember this point, “like for like”.

And the same for the eBay category structures too.

Over the past few years, eBay have pretty much done away with local category support for the different international sites and the painful changes that you’ll have gone through over the past few years, today comes in really handy.

With the recent updates to the eBay categories in June 2014 the last major part of the category mess on eBay is pretty much cleared up now with eBay France, Italy & Spain receiving massive category changes.

So that point to remember “like for like”?

This almost completely applies to the category and item specifics structure across the eBay EU sites, Australia and to a degree as well.


  1. Yes that does make me the most expensive Marketplace eCommerce consultant globally. There’s a reason for that ;)
  2. If you’d like to know about all the major factors for eBay’s Best Match in “Plain English”, then you’ll want to watch the eBay Best Match 101 video myself & Dave created for you back in March 2014.

Time for a Success Story?

We released a Podcast interview with Nigel Matthews from Gamesquest last November.

You’ll hear first hand how Nigel started his online business from car boot sales and has been selling on eBay for over 10 years now.

And how his business has embraced selling internationally to grow a £1.5M multichannel business. Also Nigel includes one amazing tip for you, an outlook on sales calls and you never know you might also save 12.5% on your overseas courier bill too.

You can listen to the Podcast here on UnderstandingE or over on itunes over here  ( published in Nov 2013 ).

Interview with eBay

ebay_international-growth-online-reatil_ukWhile you can read the full interview, my commentary, tips & suggestions over here, in a recent interview with eBay, Hannah Hardiman explained that…

Sellers who list directly on our international sites generate up to 8 time more revenue per listing.


With an Anchor Shop subscription, you can list for free on most of our international sites.


By listing in the local language, you increase the visibility of your listings.


By using a tracked postal service or electronic delivery confirmation, you and your buyer have visibility around order status and delivery date.

Hannah also includes some tips around language translation, this is covered in it’s own section shortly as I have some simple, inexpensive tips for you when it comes to the translation of listings and crucially the easy wins on where you should get started with first when selling internationally.

The one that should immediately stick in your mind in the interview with Hannah is “Sellers who list directly on our international sites generate up to 8 time more revenue per listing.”.


Because that equals more profit.

And now for a little bit of Amazon

Amazon-Seller-RatingsAs noted above, eBay have been mopping up the category & item specifics mess for the past couple of years, which means when it comes to your time for expanding, you should find the majority of them like-for-like across the eBay sites.

When it comes to Amazon, if you’re selling anything mainstream then the likelihood is extremely high that you’ll find your inventory already on Amazon.

And that’s really important to know, because Amazon works quite differently to eBay, with ebay you generally need to make a unique listing each time you list a product regardless of the country, where as on Amazon you only need one magical thing.


The moment you have an ASIN for a matching product on Amazon, then life is sweeeeeet!

As listing to Amazon is a whole lot easier, infact 5 data points easier.

Assuming you have a selling account etc.. All you need to sell on Amazon if your product already exists is:

  1. An ASIN ( see Note #1 below )
  2. A price ( eg 99.99€ )
  3. A quantity (eg 12)
  4. A stock number ( Amazon calls this a “Merchant SKU” )
  5. And finally a condition ( New, Used etc… )

So if your products are already on any of the Amazon sites ( UK, US, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Japan and Canada if you’re media only ) then you’re laughing because selling there is 5 data fields in a spreadsheet and it’s almost “job done”.

And if Not?

If your products are not on any of the sites or only some of them where you want to sell to, then you’re going to need some to so some extra work to create your inventory on to those sites.

Yes I know this means that you’ll need to put some effort into to create the listings, however a couple of key points:

  1. At no point did I say this was going to be easy-peasy
  2. If anyone tells you it is easy-peasy, they’re talking custard
  3. It’s a massive opportunity for you

The opportunity part is where your attention should be.


If you create the product listing on Amazon for one of the sites, Amazon see you as being the original creator.

And why would that be important?

I’m sure you’ve seen inaccurate listings on Amazon.

As a rule of thumb, if Amazon sees you as the original creator of a listing, this means that is some plank updates the listing with junk ( inaccurate descriptions, images etc… ) , your changes will overwrite theres.

There are other topics worth noting for Amazon, such as repricing, the European Fulfilment network and getting a better deal with currency conversions, but those can wait until later in the “Considerations, tips & tools”  section at the end of this article.


  1. Or an ISBN for books, an EAN, UPC or GTIN for other products that matches an existing product on Amazon. And yes I have a video tutorial on all these terms for you that was recorded in Jan 2012 when I had more hair and no lapel microphone :)

How About Another International Success Story?

Afternoon Tea with UnderstandingE - 2 Seller Interviews Included! 13th May 2014While you’re reading this, fire up this interview with Richard & Yaniv.

I’m sure you’ll like Richard and Yaniv as much as I do, they’re entrepreneurs just like you.

Richard runs a US based business selling into Europe & Russia and yep you guessed it, making more profit. Yaniv, a similar story in reverse.

And yes that is just one of the weekly “happy hours” which we run live every week on Tuesdays for entrepreneurs just like you that are either selling on the marketplaces already, looking to grow or just want to hangout with fellow business owners just like you.

The Reach of eBay & Amazon

If you’ve taken the time to listen to any of the interviews above, then you’ll know that the reach of Amazon and eBay is massive and that’s a key point to note.

eBay & Amazon have lots of eyeballs looking at their sites ( and I mean lots! ) .

eBay’s first quarters growth were in basically in double digit growth for merchant sales ( see here ) and Amazon well, they’re just being Amazon who also sport squillions of page views by wanting buyers every single day just like eBay.

These sites are not social sites like Facebook & Twitter where conversion is really hard ( see this Podcast titled Social Marketing is a Waste of Time for more info ) where others are sharing stories about cheese sandwiches or that Katy Perry has tweeted a dancy minnie-mouse breakdancing.

They’re there for a reason.

People are visiting the marketplaces with a sole purpose of shopping.

And this is one the easiest win for you and your business.

If you’ve already got your products listed onto to say eBay, then porting them to the other sites is actually the most natural thing to do and probably one of easiest wins for your business because you’re not having to learn a brand new website (moving to Amazon for example or Amazon to eBay) or Adwords or affiliate networks.

We noted earlier that eBay item specifics and categories are generally a like-for-like match across the international sites, so you won’t be starting from scratch each time, you’ve already done the bulk of the hard work in the first listing you made.

And for Amazon, well, if your products are already listed internationally, you only need 5 data fields and you’re set.

A Quick Recap

To quickly recap where we are so far:

  • We’ve learnt that profit is the main reason you should be expanding internationally
  • Profitability is next because you’ll be working smarter with what you already have
  • The reach of the marketplaces is nuts and the easiest way to expand
  • A lady called Hannah at eBay says you should be expecting “8 times more revenue per listing”
  • We’ve seen some success stories from Richard, Yaniv & Nigel
  • We also noted that at no point we said this was going to be easy and if someone tells you that, they’re talking custard
  • And if you’re selling on Amazon, chances are your products are already there and if not, this is still “Happy Days”

Next up we tackle the language barrier head on and as you’ll find out, it’s not really a barrier at all to begin with.

The Language Barrier


Seriously. Have you tried learning a new language lately?

It’s not something you’re going to learn overnight, it takes years to perfect.

So why even bother shooting yourself in the foot trying to deal with one or multiple languages?

Would it not be better to “cut your teeth” on another two English speaking nations first and when that’s bedded in, then move onto the more tricky options?

Here are the rough sizes of the marketplaces going from largest on the left to the smallest on the right:

United States & Canada > Germany > United Kingdom > The other EU Sites > Australia

Or when it comes to languages:

English > German > English > Multiple languages > English

Hey wait, English is in there 3 times… This can be simplified even further:

Easy > Hard > Easy > Really Hard > Easy

So now given these simplified choices, which ones would you pick?

I know which ones I’d pick :)

Hold that thought we need to deviate for a few moments for the other thing that is lacking everywhere else, the software to do this.

Going International The Right Way

I’m putting off the considerations of currency conversions, shipping etc… until later, so for right now these things are assumed.

The moment you decide you want to list internationally the right way things change.

When I say “the right way“, what I mean by this is not the lame “International site visibility” paid option on eBay, that’s as much use as a chocolate teapot.

Instead what I mean is the setting up and use of software that allows you to share information across multiple inventory records so that you can list internationally with localised data, keep stock levels true and lessen the amount of work that you need to complete to list locally onto each eBay site (the proper way of selling internationally).

This does mean that you’ll need to look at multi channel software that can do this. As this varies greatly between 2nd Generation software providers, I’m going to be focusing on the 3rd Generation using Magento & M2EPro as a reference point.

Let’s say you’re selling sunglasses and you have a product called SUNNIES.

SunglassesThese sunnies will have the at least the following details:

  1. A stock number
  2. A listing title
  3. A stock level
  4. A description
  5. A category
  6. Item Specifics
  7. Images
  8. A cost price
  9. An ideal selling price

One of these details is in bold and there is a very good reason for this.

If you’re going to be selling internationally long term, you ideally need software that can cross-link the stock levels for a product such as out sunglasses, so that you can create a duplicate inventory record and keep your stock levels true.

Also in whatever tool you’re using you’ll ideally want the software to be working in such a fashion as it inherits from the original product.selling-internationally-on-ebay-using-Magento

So for example, in Magento if you were to create a new store view and called it “eBay US”, the product Magento by default inherits all the original information about that product in the new store view.

But crucially you can change that information for the “eBay US” store view as required.

You might not have come across this way of working before, so I’ve included a screenshot over to the right.

Click the image for the larger view.

  • The box that I’ve highlighted in Red is in grey because Magento is using the original product details for that field
  • The box that I’ve highlighted in Green has had the option to override the original product details with updated information just for that store view.

What’s also going on in the background is that if you have 12 in stock for the SUNNIES product, this stock level is available for use on multiple marketplaces.

This is why using basic software that can’t help you list internationally properly is being brought up now as a consideration. So that rules out the likes of Selling Manager, Turbo Lister and some 2nd Generation multichannel software tools too.

To help here are 4 questions you should either ask or investigate with your current software provider:

  1. Can I reuse the same product record more than once to sell internationally?
  2. If I make a change to that product do my variations of it inherit the changes where desired?
  3. Does this keep the stock levels correct if selling on multiple sites and multiple sales channels?
  4. How are different currencies handled, for listing and sales orders? Can you have different prices for different marketplaces?

The Easy Way

The Easy Way of Selling Internationally Earlier I mentioned the low hanging fruit for most businesses, when it comes to selling internationally the low hanging fruit should now be super clear to you.

It’s called “English”.

And thinking back to the language barrier section above, it would be nuts to consider trying to learn a new language and get ourselves into an awkward situation unnecessarily when we have two super easy options available to us.

And also thinking back to our sunglasses, if you consider the effort in translating all these details to say German, that would be a lot of work.

For the sunglasses, we would need to translate all the details and the only thing that would remain untouched, is the images and stock levels.

Sounds like wayyyy too much work for you right now, especially if you’re just starting out and need to learn how to handle multiple inventory records in your multichannel software ( or find out if your current software can or cannot do this for you properly, hence the four questions earlier to get you on track. We need to know about this early on so it doesn’t become a limiting factor later when you do move on to other languages ).

And the easier way to get started?

Go Simple, Go English

So that means you ignore the hype about Germany and the other EU sites because those require large amounts of effort on your part.

I’m not saying don’t do other language based sites, what I am saying is that you’d be better off starting off on English speaking sites first, err because they are in English…

And then once you’ve got the software and processes in place, then move onto the trickier options.

So that basically means you should consider one or all 4 of the following options first:

  • eBay Canada
  • eBay Australia

Update: As I was kindly reminded on last night’s “Happy Hour”, we must also not forget too as English is their main language.

They all speak English and for the American & Canadian sites, you only need to put a few spelling mistakes in to be spot on ( eg Color = Color or in reverse Color = Colour to the UK & AU sites ).

This means that customer service will be easier, listing will be easier, there is no need for new invoices or in fact any major change to support other native speaking English counties to your business.

See the “Easy Way”!

And Now for the Other Considerations, Tips & Suggestions

Now that together we’ve worked out that causing ourselves grief early on with language translations would be nuts considering there are at least 3 options waiting for you in English, it’s time that we take note of other considerations around selling internationally.

These aren’t in any particular order and if I miss anything, do let me know in the comments section at the bottom and I’ll update this section accordingly.

Automated Translation Tools


Let’s make my view on automation tools like Webinterpret very clear from the beginning.

Webinterpret is a brilliant tool for you to easily see if there is a demand for your products on other eBay & Amazon sites.

Notice how I’ve phrased that, “to easily see if there is demand“.

The moment that you have confirmed that there is demand and it’s working for you, do it properly.

As with anything the better way, in this case selling internationally in different languages, is harder and most likely more expensive. But if done correctly you would be expecting to gain more results and that impacts the bottom line in more profit.

So should you consider using such a tool?

Hell yea!

But once you see where the demand is, take it in-house, build a process around it, a team of outsourcers or a dedicated company like Intercultural Elements if possible and do it the right way, which means no machine translations and to use human translations.

Think about that, you’ve been writing your product descriptions etc… in your native language, why would you not do the same for international sites?

Note: You can meet the team over at Intercultural Elements in a Podcast we recorded earlier this year here. Scott & Anja really do know their stuff and if you’re looking to expand into Germany, they should be #1 on your contact list ( because they do it properly… ).

While on the topic of automation tools, a personal suggestion that is better than Google Translate is to use Bing Translator. The results tend to be more accurate and if you’re using their developers API for automatic translations, the costs are much lower in comparison.


We covered how to research the marketplaces in April in a Premium webinar where we looked at how you can easily investigate the marketplaces for ideas and suggestions on what you should be looking at to sell.

As that content is locked down to paid members over at UnderstandingE, here is a brief overview of your options:

  • Look at using eBay’s completed items search option
  • Research the performing eBay listings for your categories on alternative sites
  • Note and investigate those sellers further
  • Consider using tools such as Terapeak to research factual information on sales

Use a Content Delivery Network

This is primarily aimed at businesses that are using Magento & M2EPro.

However if you’re using a 2nd Generation multichannel software product, ask if they are using a CDN for your images and if you have a website with them, that your website and static files are using a CDN too.

There are many benefits to using and CDN, such as to lessen the burden on your web hosting, better SEO, faster page load times. Plus they’re super cheap now, we’re talking less than $10 a month with MaxCDN.

And crucially if you’re using the #media_gallery# keyword in your eBay listing templates in M2EPro, the images will be served from your CDN, which means that they’ll load faster for eBay customers across the globe AND not massively impact any bandwidth limitations you may have.

Here is a video tutorial that covers what a CDN is, how they work ( with pretty pictures ), what the benefits are and how to set one up within a few minutes in Magento.

Note: This is just one of those 150 video tutorials I mentioned back in the beginning. See here for the others.

Delivery of Orders & Couriers

Just like orders in your native country, when someone buys from you, you need to deliver the order to them.

This is a challenge that only really you can answer for your business ( because you could be selling anything from a tea-cosey to a juggernaut ).

It will be a fine line between speed of delivery, trackability and ultimately cost ( because that affects profitability ).

Here are some tips for you:

  • See what other businesses are offering for international orders
  • Try the courier you’re most used to first
  • Ring and speak to other potential couriers for international deliveries
  • Don’t be afraid to move couriers if needed

And my final tip is:

The grief of lost parcels probably takes up 80% of your customer service time, sometimes paying more is actually going to save you money long term

Currency Conversions

As you’re going to be listing locally on to the foreignWordFirst Podcast sites, you’re going to be listing in their local currency.

My favourite tool for simple currency conversions is a website called and also a couple of notes here are:

  • Factor in a good 5-10% to allow for fluctuations
  • Don’t think it’s a “set and forget thing”, you’ll need to set a reminder say in a months time to see if they conversions need updating
  • Make sure you’re making money after the marketplaces and payment processors (eg PayPal) have taken their cut

And while we’re on the topic of currencies, I absolutely hammered Jason from WorldFirst with all the dumb questions about their service a couple of days back so you don’t have to.

The devil is in the detail of PayPal charging you ~4% or Amazon ~3% on currency conversions. This is a hidden cost to you selling internationally.

Basically transferring 2,000€ you could save an extra £30 compared to PayPal, 200,000€ is something like £3,000 saved. Huge amounts of cash that is potentially being lost in translation, err conversion :)

You can listen into the Interview with Jason from WorldFirst here Saving Money on Cross Border Trade with World First. Top marks to Jason, he withstood me hammering numbers at him within instant, accurate answers, they know their stuff.

Oh and one by-product of using WorldFirst, they are able to provide you with a bank account in the local country where you’re selling. This can be a hurdle with the international marketplaces and one less thing for you to worry about.

VAT & Tax

I’m steering well clear of this one as I’m not an accountant nor an expert in this area.

Basically, go careful and read this article and consult with a qualified professional ( which may not be your accountant, see Scott & Anya from Intercultural Elements for help in Europe ).

Consider Amazon FBA

Fulfilment By Amazon - FBA

Fulfilment By Amazon might be a coo-for-you as they do all the grunt work for you just like in the UK.

So you’re sending just a handful of larger packages to Amazon’s fulfillment centres and they’ll do the rest for you.

One of those things is customer service and a point that you don’t see mentioned that often is that say you’re selling on Amazon Germany, you must reply to any customer service questions in German.

If you’re using FBA for Amazon sales, they do that part for you. Result!

Be wary of Amazon EFN

I’ve put this in bold because if you don’t work out the numbers right from the beginning, Amazon’s European Fulfilment Network may sound attractive, but it can be very expensive and you could end up paying your customers to buy from you.

Check their rates out here for the UK:

Amazon Repricing

While on the topic of Amazon, what about repricing?

While Shmuli from Feedvisor that would argue that my simple Amazon repricing rule is too basic, it does work. However to do that properly you will need repricing software to leverage this.

Check if your current provider can support repricing for all the Amazon sites and also consider that your pricing calculations could need to factor in extra values or different upper and lower price limits so that you still make money.


And finally outsourcing.

This topic is worth of an entire course, which I hasten to add we will be covering as a dedicated course over at UnderstandingE later this year because there is definitely a right way and wrong way of approaching this.

However in the interim, think as the globe as being your potential source of new members of staff.

You can pick up qualified staff, at much lower costs to your business if you do your homework and treat the process as you would do if recruiting someone for your office.

If this sounds like something you’re a little wary of but want to explore this further, then speak to Carlo from Tell him Matt from LastDropOfInk sent you and you’ll get preferential rates.

And In Summary


We’ve covered a lot of ground here because the whole topic of cross border is sometimes blurry and there is a lot of fluff and nonsense being kicked around ( pointless whitepapers *coff* ).

Why on earth would you want to bog yourself down so early on with language translation issues for product data and customer service?

The one thing I hope you walk away with from reading this article is go for the easy options first, the low hanging fruit of the English speaking countries.

The key reason for you to expand into international marketplaces is make more money.

No other reason, it’s not bragging rights, it’s not to keep an account manager happy, it’s profit and profitability.

Moving to other eBay sites isn’t as hard as it sounds, we found that eBay has been preparing for this for years and most categories & item specifics are like-for-like matches.

For Amazon, if you’re selling mainstream products, the likelihood is that your products are already on the international Amazon sites, so only 5 things are needed ( the ASIN, Price, Quantity, You SKU and a Condition ) and if they’re not, then that’s still happy days as you can become the creator of the new listings there.

And in both cases to do this properly, a primary concern is that you have multichannel software in place that can support you and your business in this expansion and that it doesn’t cost the planet to do so.

So you reuse your product descriptions, titles etc… wherever possible and with as less fuss as possible too ( hence the 4 questions to ask your current 2nd Generation provider earlier ).

Remember it’s all about the product data, if you have good product data you can do anything, “quality in equals quality out”.

We also heard from a couple of cool chaps too, Nigel from the podcast last November, Richard & Yaniv too and the one thing that you didn’t hear them say, “Its Easy” and the reason for that is because it’s not.

So start off small, start with the easier path first and then expand steadily as your business can.

This is the longer way of selling internationally, however I want your business to be a success and to do that means that you have to do things the right way.

And with that said, I wish you all the best,

Go grow your business the right way,


PS. If you’ve found this article helpful, help me by pressing one of the share buttons below, I’d really appreciate that little vote of support :)

Why Does Multichannel Software Cost So Much?


Three questions for you to ponder:

  • Why does multichannel software have to cost so much?
  • Why do you get oversells?
  • Why can’t that developer just add in that one extra box that you need?

That’s the questions I’m going to be exploring in this article, feel free to jump in and add your 2p worth in the comments at the bottom.

If you have any interest on what actually happens in the background to multichannel software, the software that manages your business across multiple marketplaces like eBay, Amazon or your own website, say Magento, you’ll want to pull your chair closer and grab a cuppa.


The Entire Process Simplified

Before we start, let’s simplify the process down to it’s simplest of form.

Listing Process

The process to create a new product listing onto a marketplace, collect the order and then process it, you as a seller have to go through several key stages, these are:

  1. Add a product to a database
  2. List it onto eBay (or insert another marketplace here)
  3. Collect the order
  4. Despatch the order
  5. Update the marketplace

That’s pretty much the entire process in 5 steps, create, list, collect, process, update.

And that’s where the simplicity ends.

Product Data Fields

If we think about step 1 for a moment “Add a product to a database”, this product could be anything, from a microphone to keyboard, a painting to a tent, there will be common attributes about each product, these are:

  • Title
  • Description
  • One or more images
  • Categorisation
  • Price
  • Condition
  • Cost price
  • Stock quantity

As you can see this will get deep very quickly, in fact it is, let’s pick on the products description for a few moments.

A products description could just be a block of text, but more likely it’s going to be broken out into many parts.

Picking on Product Descriptions

Listing a Product onto eBayFor example, let’s pick on a pair of shoes, picking on the bare minimum of requirements for listing a pair of shoes onto eBay, you’ll need to set a Shoe Size and the product Brand.

So that’s now 3 fields just for one product!

No seller in their right minds would just use the bare minimum and looking at the eBay Sell Your Item form for the boots category on eBay, it’s suggesting 10 product attributes  to add and 3 additional fields as secondary attributes and you could add in your own custom attributes  as well if you wanted to.

And we’ve not even considered that the business probably wants to separate their data out, so that they have say 5 key bullet points that they can use on Amazon and on their website, let alone another sales channel too and the main product description.

If we now consider the data requirements that are needed here, we’ve just sprung from 8 or so fields to way over 20. But also to use any software easily, then an interface would need to be built so that it’s easy for a business owner like you to be able to actually enter this information in.

We’re dealing with “expandable” and “unlimited” data, so while in boots category there maybe Shoe Size, Brand, Style etc… if we pick a completely unrelated category say tent’s for example, I’m now looking at a page where we have Type of Tent, Berth, Style, Sleeping Areas, Brand, Season, Model, MPN and the ability to add in extra options too.

There have been several different ways to invent this, there has been the just give the seller 20 fields and let them sort them out and match them up manually, there has been custom fields route where you define what the input boxes could look like and mix in a few different input types, such as an input box, a drop down box or a checkbox.

The Need for a Framework

Oh and as I’m assuming that you maybe a larger business, you would probably want to set these fields up manually first and then use an import/export system to create, update and append information about your products.

To get to that stage a framework would need to be built that can handle that kind of data input, allow it to be searched upon (which is no mean feat over lots of fields of data) and an import/export system as well.

So have we just gone from a simple product description to a squllion fields? For which more than half were dictated by a marketplace to create?

I think so and this is just one of the challenges any inventory management system needs to cope with.

So let’s assume that this was written from scratch, this wouldn’t happen over night, it would take months, if not years to get right.

Changing Tack to Stock Control

10 Pens for Sale on the MarketplacesAgain keeping this as simple as possible, let’s pretend we have just have a plain old pen (unchewed) as a product and we have 10 of these in stock, sat our shelf.

So get that product onto the marketplace, an integration would have needed to be built that allows you to actually send the product “up” so that it can be made for sale (we’ll come back to this later), but let’s assume the 10 pens are on the say eBay. Fantastic!

A customer buys one of these pens, so we have an order for a pen and we also have the customers details, their payment details, and the selected shipping method.

Again we’re assuming that an integration has been made to the marketplace, eBay in this case and also PayPal too to collect the payment (which isn’t a small task for even a seasoned developer).

But hey we’ve sold one, happy days.

When we’re dealing with just one marketplace, then stock control is pretty simple, we have 10 in stock, 1 sold, so we now have 9 available. Or you would have thought so.

What happens if that sale was an auction, the customer has not paid yet, so that 1 pen we just sold is now sat in a holding queue?

That then means you need to track your actual stock quantity and the held quantity and probably another integration to eBay (using eBay in this example as it has a lot of API’s) to handle disputes.

Let’s ignore that for now, we sold one, ace!

Going Multi Channel

Amazon- LogoWhat’s the point of software if it’s only just going to do one sales channel?

We like our multiple sales channels as that means we can sell the same 10 pens across all the available sales channels, reach more potential buyers and basically sell more stuff.

Chucking in Amazon into the mix now, we had 10 pens listed on eBay and we had 10 pens listed on Amazon. And we sold one on eBay.

That now means that we need to let Amazon know that we only have 9 left.

Amazon uses a reports system for their integration, which basically means you send them a file that contains your stock levels, they sit on it for a while (5-15mins normally), don’t actually tell you that it went ok, only if something bad happened (and even then, they pass back a message that basically says “Huh?”), you have to assume that and with both of us crossing our fingers that it was received and processed.

Easy-peasy, we sold an item, eBay was already at 9, no need to update them, Amazon, we lobbed them a file, they didn’t go “huh?” at us about it and we’re all down to 9 now.

Our Magento WebsiteWhile all this was going on, we just took an order from our website.

Let’s say it’s a Magento website (I like Magento websites so we’re having a Magento website) and through another integration to Magento, the order has been collected and we now have 7 pens in stock, because the customer just bought two pens.

So our multichannel software has to kick in again and this time, tell eBay that we now have 7 (which is pretty quick via their API and it tells what was wrong, unlike Mr Huh? have the file back, there was an error “somewhere” in it), we tell Amazon that we also have 7, they don’t go “Huh?” at us and we’re all good.

Timmy on the phone takes an order for the last 7 pens (a real big spender that one), he enters the order manually in and assigns the last 7 pens to Mr Big Spender.

Oh pants, we need to let eBay know we have 0 left, great that will end the listing on eBay, take it off Amazon too and the Magento website.

But when we end it on eBay, we need to remember that we ended it and what the item number was, so that when we more of these super fast moving pens in again, when we list them again, we want to reference the previous eBay Item Number, so that what little best match ranking is carried over to the next listing.

Oh and we send a file to Amazon which may go “Huh?” or give us the silent treatment and we also send an update to Magento to take the item off the site and change the stock status to “Out of Stock”.

Overselling is Going to Happen

sad-face-icon_newTo recap, we’ve just had multiple integrations to different marketplaces:

  • One that we need to remember what we did on it for next time (eBay)
  • One marketplaces that gives us the silent treatment (Amazon)
  • A Magento website
  • And Timmy who took a phone order for Mr Big Spender

Now let’s times that by the other 999 products we had in our inventory system (or insert however many you have right now), is it any wonder that oversells happen from time to time?

Oversells, they suck nuts, but it’s amazing we don’t see more of them every single day.

It’s one of the side effects of the be-everywhere strategy that we see with multi-channel or “omni-channel” catch phrases being bounded around. If you sell on more than one marketplace or even on the same marketplace more than once, you’re bound to have an oversell sooner or later.

And the thing is, the software in the background has just been working it’s little leggies off try to do all the above as fast as it can, so that it’s users (that’s you) don’t phone up their account managers and give them an ear bending about DSR’s, Amazon Scores or some lerry-nut-job whose order couldn’t be fulfilled.

So if you were building multichannel software, then you’d need to add in the ability to track changes to products and update the outside world with those changes.

Piggy In the Middle

Piggy in the MiddleIf we think about what our multi-channel software does on a daily basis, it’s no small feat.

Tens of thousands of hours would have gone into making it work right for near-as-damit 99.9% of the time. But because it is a separate system from the marketplaces that it’s interacting with, in many ways it’s piggy-in-the-middle.

This is just like the school playground game, but this time, the ball is the stock levels, orders and updates and the software is the one chasing the marketplaces around rather than the other school kids.

Let’s now say that you have one product, but you have 2 in stock and two marketplaces, eBay and Amazon

The challenge that we have when dealing with marketplaces are:

  • Constantly updating API’s
  • Constantly changing products (stock, descriptions etc…)
  • No control over the the interfaces uptime
  • And hopefully a consistent stream of orders and their updates as well

Note: API = “Application Programming Interface”.
It’s the Nerd term for how you can connect to a 3rd party system using a set of calls or instructions to add, edit or remove things. Typically the 3rd party such as eBay provide these and document them accordingly (pages and pages and pages of it)

The multichannel software needs to sit in the middle and work out what is happening with the marketplaces, what needs updating, what doesn’t and doesn’t just deal with one interface to speak with the marketplace, probably several.

Piggy in the middle is the best analogy for all this.

If it was for just one business, things would probably run quite smoothly, however the off-the-shelf providers (insert any name here, eSellerPro, ChannelAdvisor, Linnworks, StoreFeeder, SellerExpress and so on….) want to scale their multichannel software to more businesses, it’s how they make money, either through a monthly fee or a percentage of sale model.

And scaling up chaos is crazy (crazy good fun though!)

King Piggy

officesThe one dynamic we’ve not covered to yet is the business itself that is using the software.

The software doesn’t just run by itself, there is oodles of human interaction to it as well, this could be a member of staff adding in new products, updating images, importing a stock update file or processing orders.

And not just one member of staff, probably lots!

If you thought that being piggy in the middle to the marketplaces, with their quirky interfaces or creating an inventory management system that can cope with extendible data that could come in any shape or form was tough, let’s account for the users (that’s you) that are working with the software everyday.

A typical day in any business will involve the following tasks:

  • Creating new products
  • Updating existing products
  • Adding more stock
  • Processing orders

You’ll note that I’m missing out luxuries like reporting & customer services, that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

Up until now we’ve only really covered the first 3 of these, we’ll get on to the processing orders task in a minute.

The thing is that while most businesses complete the same tasks, they don’t all go about them the same way.

One business may prefer to work heavily in excel spreadsheets, another with just the interface of the software, so not only does the front end of the software that the staff actually use need to be slick and easy to use.

This is the layer sat on top of the database that is being used in the background to store all the products and keep track of changes and the database is being hammered to try and keep the marketplaces in touch with the latest changes as well.

Order Processing

giftA topic which we only just touched a few moments ago, order processing, So we’ve managed to collect orders from different marketplaces through their different interfaces, now what?

Those orders need to be processed, this  involves some form of document being created, normally lots if we include emails as documents (such as order received, order despatched etc…).

Those need to be templated somehow and spat out either on demand by a member of staff pressing a button to print out an invoice or via some rules in the background, that send them out automatically.

So let’s say that’s happened and oh, we’ve brought in the payment for the order and matched that up to the right order (a feat in itself I hasten to add as they don’t always match up exactly, for example what happens if the customer paid too much or too little?).

Anyway, we have the order printed out in front of us, that order hits the real world, is picked and packed. But we’re missing something, that something is the courier label.

If we’re just dealing with Royal Mail, then we could have just printed out the PPI logo on the invoice. However a courier, well that’s another kettle of fish.

Unlike the USA where it’s pretty clear cut who the main providers are for actually sending orders (USPS, FedEx, UPS and DHL) with inexpensive integration tools like ShipStation or ShipWorks which costs peanuts, in the UK it’s a friggin mess.

Each courier has their own API and they all work differently, there is only one main software tool that has licked this and that’s Metapack. Metapack uses a SaaS model (software as a service) so that it’s pay-per-use and costs upwards of 12p per label. This is either a complete bargain or a massive expense, it depends how you look at it.

Many of the current software providers (in the UK) looked at it as an expense and built their own integrations into the couriers directly, thus adding another layer of complexity to the software that they built (and bloating it out even further).

Business Rules for Order Processing

courier-logosOne  area we’re missing here is that just because the customer selected Royal Mail 2nd Class, that doesn’t actually mean that it’s how the order is going to be sent. There are business rules that most likely need to be processed on top of the order to work out which method the order should be shipped.

If we think back to the example of the pens earlier, they are really light and have no real size to them, a letter would do. However what happens if the customer also bought some other office supplies at the same time and the weight hit 1.2Kg and the order value hit £35.

Suddenly the method that the customer chose and paid for doesn’t become cost effective, so instead a business rule may be that such an order because it has gone over 1.2Kg and went over £30, to send it via a courier instead.

But what happens if that customer was in the top of Scotland and our normal courier would charge us a surcharge, then a secondary rule would need to be put into place to switch the order so say Royal Mail tracked. It might not be as quick, but surely saves the £12 surcharge.

MetapackSo any software that deals with orders and the despatch process needs to account for business rules that need to be applied to orders and this is where something like the 12p to Metapack becomes more attractive because they have this level of rules ability built in. Different software products have different ways of working with such orders and some have elected not to tackle it at all (ie ChannelAdvisor).

Back onto topic, we have the invoice, the courier label and we then ship that order off to the customer. Happy Days right?

We then have at least a carrier that was used and most likely a tracking number. These details then need to be passed back to the order source, so that the customer can be updated and in the case of Amazon, so you can get paid.

This involves another call back to the marketplace or order source (for example the Magento website) to update the order and change it’s status to shipped. And most likely at the same time, the inventory system has been altered to confirm that item has sold, a record was kept and possibly an email was sent out too.

Not as straight-forwards as it looked originally?

Pricing Multichannel Software

Generally there are two ways that multi-channel software providers will charge you:

  • Fixed price
  • Percentage of sale

Some multichannel software providers go with a tiered system, if you have X number of products or orders then you pay this amount and the cost increases the more products and sales that you make.

Others go with a percentage of sale. It’s this one where the costs can really spiral out of control and it’s no uncommon to find businesses paying £30K, £50K or even £80 or £120k a year to such providers.

Yes, obviously they’re turning over millions, but at these kind of numbers, we’re getting into the territories of buying houses with the amounts being paid to multi-channel software providers.

There is another billing method worth noting here, is that it’s pay per user. So you pay say £80 per user head in the business to use the software.

It doesn’t really matter how you cut it, the more you sell, the more you should expect to pay.

How much you’re actually willing to pay is a completely different topic!

So why does multi-channel software have to cost so much?

The thing is, up until now the current 2nd generation providers have been building their own bespoke systems to cope with inventory, orders, the marketplaces & other business rules. This takes a shed load of time and a lot of money.

As the software grows, so does the complexity (and we’ve already seen some of the complexities including in the basic 5 steps, create, list, collect, process, update) which then adds in the requirement for an on-boarding team, staff that can help businesses migrate to the new software and of course a development team to keep everything working as it should.

I know from personal experience of doing this twice, first time around at Marketworks (eBay auction management software), also doing this myself with my own business, migrating to a software product can be painful, especially if prior to the migration all you’ve been using is the eBay Sell Your Item form or 1st generation or proprietary software like Turbo Lister.

Oh and the second time around at eSellerPro, sometimes it can take months. Every business is different and so are their requirements and it’s not as straight-forwards as it looks.

The more customers that are added, the more depends are put on the software to do feature x, y and z. Some multi-channel software providers just draw the line in the sand (ChannelAdvisor is a good example of this) and “say we do this”, then find partners for everything else. And others try and do everything under one roof.

We’re also missing a sales team, support staff & marketing, oh and a management layer as well somewhere too.

Everything & everyone has to be paid for.

In Summary

Any multi-channel software is good software. I whole-heartedly believe that.

A business even using excel has a competitive advantage over a business that isn’t using excel. It’s that simple.

Remember those 5 stages create, list, collect, process, update from the beginning? Even simple nowadays is complex when it comes to managing multiple marketplaces and this complexity causes overheads, costs that need to be accounted for.

The thing is that some of these multichannel software providers (some with the help of myself) have taken the level of complexity, features and options to a whole new level, levels that were not thought possible only a few years ago and it’s the percentage of sale software providers that can get really, really expensive, the more you sell, the more you pay. It sounds nice, but the thing is, it gets to a stage where the amounts being paid is just plain silly.

A Different Take on Multichannel Software


Two questions for you:

  • What if multichannel software didn’t have to cost the earth?
  • What if you knew of a way to deliver multi channel software that can meet the needs thousands of cool people?

What would you do?

Sit on it? Work out a business plan to bundle it up and sell it as typical 2nd generation software? Or would you go a different route after trying both?

I’d like to share a story of what happened last year, when looking for multichannel software to launch a new business onto eBay, Amazon and to build their own website and the typical options out there, just didn’t work.


Backed into a Corner

backed into a cornerBack in March 2013 we were looking for multichannel software to launch a new business onto eBay, Amazon and to build their own website.

The natural option eSellerPro wasn’t an option and neither of us were fans of ChannelAdvisor, plus both of these were really expensive for a start up (you’re talking +£500 a month and £2,000 upfront costs), so we picked the next best option.

After 3 weeks in all the stuff I took for granted was missing.

  • What do you mean we can’t import 61,000 products in one go?
  • What do you mean we’ve got to assign one of the variations as being the parent sku?
  • And where on earth are child sku’s?

As we dug deeper we soon realised that the normal alternative wasn’t going to work (I’m doing my best not to name them), it was so far away from what I was used to. What I took for granted that should be in multi-channel software, well… was missing.

This just isn’t working out is it? What are the options?

I don’t know we’ll try a different provider, after a phone call they also wanted £500 a month and 1% of sale because we had soo many products (61,000 is apparently lot for most companies).

This is just nuts, how could you start a multi-channel business without the software that was so sorely needed? There was no way this could be done manually. There was just too many products to do it with.

What about?

Magento Usage Statistics Feb 2013Magento?

It can cope with that number of products easily, it can handle complex product relationships, variations, multi variations and so on…

After all it’s the most popular open source software to build eCommerce sites with and powers 26% of the top 1 million eCommerce with (see here), so it’s at least got to have a decent founding.

So that’s the inventory & order management part taken care of. Ok what about the eBay & Amazon part?

Why don’t we give M2E Pro a whirl? It can’t be that bad and hell it ain’t going to cost us £500 smackers to get started with is it?

So that’s what we did and what we ended up with something quite different.

Note: If you’ve never heard of M2EPro before, it’s an extension for Magento that allows you to use Magento for the order & inventory management and allows you to sell on to the marketplaces using the same inventory. Oh and it’s subsidised by eBay too.

Sipping Coffee

CoffeeDid we just replicate eSellerPro?

As near as dammit we had.

Yea not everything & all the bells & whistles, but it was close. Scarily close.

An import system that could take all 61,152 products in one hit, a templating system that allowed us to make comprehensive listings onto eBay with keywords, the stock levels were kept up to date pretty much in the same manner as what the Channel Profile does.

And for orders, well the framework was there to automatically deliver the orders to the supplier, then once the order was shipped, grab the tracking numbers and delivery back into Magento which in-turn, M2E Pro would pick up and notify eBay & Amazon.

Holy moo-moo, what if we bundle this up into a business?

So we did, we put the numbers down on paper, moved them, added, removed and that’s where we got stuck.

The numbers just didn’t work.

It wasn’t really until year 2 where after a huge amount of risk a lot of unknowns that such a business would hit any form of black. And that’s where it got curious…

If we couldn’t make the numbers work on software that was basically free, how the hell do the existing providers actually turn a profit? And that’s where things started to make sense, they do but they don’t. SaaS products/services tend to be highly lucrative,  however the life is being sucked out of them by bloat.

So to support N number of businesses you need N number of support staff, N number of developers, N number of account managers and so on… Humans need humans, especially if you’re looking at a high monthly fee product and especially one that takes a percentage of their sale. It just doesn’t scale very well.

Basically, none of us particularly liked the numbers, great idea but we were all out.

Now What?

Icon-round-Question_markI’m sat there with the tools and the knowledge to make a massive, positive difference to the world. But the normal thinking of bundling this up doesn’t work.

WTF now?

Dave, what if we gave it away for free?

Dave looked at me oddly.

Yea seriously what if we gave away the knowledge on how to do this?

It’s not the original business model, but we know that won’t work, the numbers say it won’t. So why don’t we take a completely different tack and share. I know that if you do something with passion, the money part kinda sorts itself out, I’ve seen this time and time again. I know it works.

Note: This is not for the faint of heart, you have to have some heavy form of commitment to even consider doing something like this, a topic for a different day

So that’s what we decided.

Show the world how they could gain access to low-cost multi-channel software, that didn’t cost £500 a month, didn’t come with all the expensive bloat and if you needed something extra then you bought it off the shelf, without paying oodles to support 100% of a product for which you were only likely to be using a mere 40%.

We hammered out a vision that encapsulated this, a goal for us to follow that followed this line of thinking and we came up with this:

“A hybrid of both free and paid for open source software where multi-channel business owners can pick & choose the tools that suit their business, both now and in the future.”

Quite a hefty goal, but that’s where we’re swinging for.

Last Year

And that was back last September.

Since then we’ve been working our little socks off, mainly because I set such a ridiculously high goal that we’d have to think differently. Did we hit the final goal? No, but we got bloody close though.

We called it “UnderstandingE”, a name that I been sat on for a few years, it seemed perfect for what we wanted to do and that’s what we rolled with.

What I needed TEN Years ago

When working at Marketworks & eSellerPro, I always kept in the back of my mind, what did I need when selling online. “How does this port to what the person to I’m speaking to right now?” and crucially “How does that port to the multichannel software that I working with right now?

I think that’s the key reasons why working at eSellerPro was like being a pig-in-poop, if it was a good idea and the demand was there, then it got put in. That was some wild times, but ultimately ended up in a product that has issues dealing with such a veracious amount of development being applied to it.

Basically in hindsight, it was overkill. Really good overkill I hasten to add and nothing has even got anywhere near it since.

Stuck in a rut

The thing is, businesses that are using current software tools they’re used to paying silly amounts each month and there does come a time where the brighter business owners work out that they’ve just paid way over £30,000 (say $50K USD) for software that yes has helped them to get them to the stage where they are at, but for that kind of money it’s starting to hurt and hurt bad.

Some of you reading this you’re just too far down the line, you’re too comfortable with paying this kind of money, as much as you hate it, you’re stuck with it.

And my advice for a long, long time has been not to move software providers, it’s painful and doesn’t happen over night. It’s really up to you to work out how much of a difference it would make to you and your business.

A Different Way

But what we can do is make a difference to the businesses that have not got to this stage of lock-in yet, that can still be nimble.

So thinking back to the original questions:

  • What if you knew of a way to deliver multi channel software that met the needs thousands of cool people?

Yea I’m standing up (Dave too) and are firmly planting ourselves off the fence and are saying there is a different way. It doesn’t have to cost oodles, we’re not saying it’s free, but we’re saying that it’s a damn-sight cheaper than anything else out there and it’ll get you far, wayyy far down the line.

And there is nothing quite like putting money-where-your-mouth is, so that’s what we’ve done.

UnderstandingE went live on January 1st 2014 at around 4pm (kicking & fighting, we had to do an emergency site move the day before).

It’s not finished, it will never be finished. But we’ve started and that’s what matters.

Rabbit Hole

rabbit holeLet’s see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

I don’t know where it leads, but to be honest it doesn’t matter where it ends, as it’s about the journey to find the end.

Fancy coming along for the journey?

Whack the button below and get dug in.

[button size=”large” style=”round” color=”blue” url=””]Say Hello to the 3rd Generation[/button]


PS. If you’re looking for me to write anything about eSellerPro over the next year, it’s doubtful. Even with my ability to remember screens and how things interact, that knowledge has been put aside, what’s been left undocumented is just that undocumented. It’s time to move on.

30 Seconds of Silence as the Penny Dropped

We were on a call yesterday with what you could say is your “typical” multi-channel business owner, in many ways he’s probably just like you.

Business is doing well, it’s been a slog this year and literally this weekend has just started to show signs of picking up. One eBay account, one Amazon account, a website that could do better and nothing really that complex to put high demands on pretty much any of the 2nd generation multi-channel software providers.

But why on earth did he go completely silent on us, for what felt like hours?

Read on and you’ll find out why.


Typical Business As Usual?

Being in the most demanding categories for the marketplaces, fashion, he has to deal with complex inventory, sizes, colours, mixed sizing, demanding buyers, demanding marketplaces and most of all, the challenge of seasonality.

Fashion has to be the #1 toughest category to do well in online and this chap is rocking it & is set for his highest turnover Christmas ever.

On the other hand, in many ways it’s not a complicated setup they have, we’re only talking one eBay account with a couple of thousand listings, Amazon does really well for them now they’re settled in and from an operational standpoint, the team is experienced.

The booking in system for new lines is fast as they use excel & a couple of macros to create the variations & the order processing system is simple, no real warehouse control per-say, but a simple system that works and can manage 200-400 orders a day with ease.


As the conversation progressed he brought up the project me & Dave have been working on. He had seen a couple of the emails, read some of the articles and was wondering what was keeping us so busy. So we told him.

For the sake of this article and because he’s switching providers in January to the 3rd Generation we’re going to call him “Mohammed”, plus the numbers quoted are vague to protect his business.

The conversation went something like this:

Dave: “We’re building the training guides for the 3rd Generation of multi-channel software”

Mohammed: “So what does that mean exactly?”

Dave: “Well you know you’re using <removed> right now to manage, eBay, Amazon & your website?”

Mohammed: “Yes”

Dave: “Matt found a way of using Magento for exactly the same thing. You’ve heard of Magento?”

Mohammed: “Yea, I want to move our website to that after Christmas. We’ve been frustrated not being able to add anything to our current site”

Matt: “If you’ve looked at Magento, you’ll have seen it can handle fashion products just like yours, sizes, colours, shoe sizes etc… It has basic stock control and does pretty much everything you’re used to right now on your website.”

Mohammed: “Yes, my cousin uses it for his site and it does well”

Dave: “Matt was asked earlier this year to set up an eBay/Amazon & website business for a friend, he couldn’t use the software you were using as it’s too expensive so we had to look alternatives. He had already been working on Magento for a connector for eSellerPro, so knew it well. What he ended up realising was that Magento & an extension called M2E Pro could do pretty-much the same as the software you’re using”

Matt: “That’s right. They aren’t too dissimilar to your setup, but they had more products. Well 61,152 to be precise and roughly 2,400 variations. We were quoted £500 a month + 1% from one of the providers, it was a new business and there was no way that the business could afford that. So we have to look at other options

What I found was as Dave said, pretty much exactly what you have set up right now and we automated the supplier feeds in and the orders go off to the suppliers directly. We downloaded Magento for free and M2E Pro is also free because eBay subsidise it. He’s only just added his website now, as we’re using Magento not for the website part, but for the inventory & order management capabilities”

Mohammed: “Free & Free, I like the sound of this already”

Dave: “Yea we thought you would. The thing is besides the work the that Matt & the client put in, they’re only paying £114 a month for a server”

Mohammed: “What no commissions?”

Matt: “No commissions and the only reason he using such a ludicrously expensive server is because he complained about speed of one of my small servers. They’re not built for Magento, plus I didn’t want the hassle, so I got him a pair of xenon quad core processors, 16Gb of RAM and two SSD disks with hardware RAID 0 and dared him to complain about speed again. After that he never did, probably was a little over-kill if I’m honest”

Mohammed: “So he runs his business using Magento & M2E Pro, the same channels, has more inventory than us and pays £114 a month?”

Dave: “How much did you pay <removed> last month?”

Mohammed: “I’ll get the invoice, it’s here somewhere”

Mohammed: “Got it”


We heard the chair creak in the background, the sound of paper shuffling and then a deeply exhaled breath.

It must have only been 30 seconds or so.

But it felt like hours.


Dave finally asked, “did you find it?”

Indeed Mohammed has found his invoice, it had £1,500 on it  (approx $2,400 USD).

What I had set up for a client earlier this year can scale and for Mohammed came in at a tenth each month of what he’s paying right now and is set to save him around £17,000 – £19,000 next year.

UnderstandingE goes live on January 1st, what do you think he’ll be doing that day?

The Pieces are Almost a Picture

We’ll be open with you, the pieces of the puzzle are not all there yet, but we’re getting close, very close.

For Mohammed’s business, he’s going to need a couple of extensions to get all the backend features into place, two order extensions & two courier integrations (Royal Mail DMO was one of them) and a couple of the extensions we’ve been building to get him going. Plus we should never forget the training of the staff (which is where UnderstandingE comes in) and the time to migrate products between systems.

And on that note.

Say Hello to the 3rd Generation

We silently put the UnderstandingE site live a week or so ago. The reason why is simple, it doesn’t matter what you do for a launch party, it’s what you do for the next 6 years that truly matters.

While the guides are not published yet, they’re being released on January 1st, the forums are open and we are listening.

We’re listening to business owners like Mohammed and business owners like you.

Tell us what you need
Tell us what you cannot live without
Tell us how you want to innovate in your business once again
Rid your business of bills costing tens of thousands each year

And the best thing is…. We will show you how for free.

The 3rd Generation, everything you’ll need to know. It’s a click away (click here!!!!)

Come over & say hello to the 3rd Generation.

And we’ll see you there.

Matt & Dave

What’s The One Thing Missing from the 3rd Generation?

We’ve been working hard in the background trying to fill in as many blanks as we can so that when we go live in January we have all the bases covered for both new businesses, but established businesses as well.

However there is one thing this is missing and we need your help.



If you’ve used any of the current multi-channel software providers, most, if not all of these offer keywords (also known as macro’s or variables) that help you create informative & comprehensive eBay listings.

Even simple keywords like the image URL’s help you make great looking image galleries in your listings or maybe a keyword to bring through your domestic shipping cost, so you can add a simple line of text saying something like this:

“Our UK Delivery is just £1.99”.

The uses are almost endless.

How Big Sellers Manage Their eBay Listings

This is how the really big sellers on eBay make fantastic looking listings that look like they have uniquely made each listing, but they separated their data out in the management tool so that only the small bits of information, like a product title or bullet points need to be added.

This saves them countless hours each month when adding new products and when it comes to redesigning an eBay listing template, because the product data is removed and keywords are left in their place, upgrading or tweaking designs is made sooo much easier.

Note: If you have never come across this idea of keywords before, I’ve written two articles on this to show you exactly how they could work and reverse engineer a live eBay listing, you can find part 1 here and part 2 here. And if you’d like a glimpse at what you can potentially do with such keywords, see this article.

We Need Your Help

help-imageM2E Pro, one of the core components of the 3rd generation supports all the common Magento attribute values and you can even in add in an image gallery within a few clicks that looks great. But we’re missing some vital keywords and that’s where we need your help.

I’ve put together a comprehensive list of keywords that I know that you will need for the 3rd Generation (huh? 3rd generation, see here for that that is).

This is using my experience from the past 10 years, as a business owner that used eBay, two multi-channel software companies and hundreds of business I have  had the pleasure working with. We need these extra keywords and we need your help making the point to the development team over at M2E Pro that you need these too.

So… Myself & Dave need your help.

This is How You Can Help

Note this is not only for yourself for when you migrate to the 3rd generation, this will help every business owner that also moves to the 3rd generation, globally.

M2E Pro Vote for Keywords to be Added

  1. Go to this page:
  2. Check over the specification I have written and add a comment you feel appropriate to the bottom
    (something like “OMG we need this” would be appropriate)
  3. In the top left-hand corner there is a “Vote” button
  4. Press the “vote” button
  5. Enter your email address
  6. And press “3 Votes”

This shouldn’t take more than 1 minute of your time and in doing so, you can help make the world a better place with new functionality for everyone to use.

Again the direct link to this feature request is here:

Make your contribution to the 3rd generation today, and for that myself & Dave, thank you.

Matt & Dave

Does This Look Familiar to You?

If you were unfortunate enough to miss out on the no-holes-barred history to the 3rd generation at the eCommerce Expo two weeks ago, it’s about time we give you a little teaser to the 3rd generation (if you missed this, see here for part 1)

Today’s article is a sneak-peak at the progress being made & what the 3rd generation could look like, if you want it to look like this at all.


Order Processing

If you’ve ever used or seen eSellerPro the image below should be familiar to you. If not, it’s really simple to follow, I’ll cover the colour codes with you in a moment

Multi-Channel Order Processing

This screenshot is from a test system that shows orders in different statues, each row is an order. Here is the breakdown on the order colours:

  • Pink is pending a PayPal payment
  • White is processing and good to be processed
  • Brown, well those orders are brown for a very good reason, they’re fraud or reversed payments
  • Green is shipped or complete
  • Yellow the order is pending payment
  • And the blue, the order is on hold

As a business owner you now know exactly which orders should be processed and where they came from too.


There’s a caveat, I didn’t write a single line of code to do this.

It already exists, the whole 3rd Generation already exists.

But there are some people that don’t want us to tell you what it is…

A Different Way

Hit play on the video below:

Then go to and change your business forever.

See you there!

Matt & Dave

Meet the UnderstandingE Team @ eCommerce Expo (2 Oct)

By now you’ll have heard quite a lot of buzz about UnderstandingE, we believe it’s going to put you back in control and change the world of eCommerce forever and we bet you’d like to know more and here’s your only chance before January.

This is something never done before, we have a clear vision and a single goal of what we are going to achieve and using the passion we have for eCommerce we truly believe that what we launch in January will be of benefit to soo many online sellers like you.


Find Out What UnderstandingE is

Myself and Dave Furness will be making our first appearance as UnderstandingE at the eCommerce Expo next week.  We will only be there for few hours on Weds 2nd October because of the epic challenge we have set ourselves between now and January 1st and need to get back the grindstones.

We are arranging a special meetup at one of the stands at 2:00pm.  This way we can get to share with you, the cool people, the business owners what exactly it is we are up to and how with your help, together we’re going to create something amazing.

Here are just a few of the comments we’ve had in the last few days:

“We never considered using it like that before”.
We know, we didn’t realise this ourselves until earlier this year when we had no other option

“You telling me that this will work?”
Yep, we’re using it ourselves, we know it works

“That’s going to save us thousands”
Yup, that’s us off the Christmas card lists

So Which Stand?

To find out which stand we’ll loitering on at 2pm, pop your name & email on the UnderstandingE site here and we’ll let you know on Wednesday morning.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Matt & Dave

Why there will NEVER be 4th Generation of Multi-Channel Software (Ever)

The only direction for the 3rd generation of multi-channel eCommerce software to go is to take ownership. To write, to own the software that will directly integrate your business into the marketplaces, this is exactly the piece that you never want and I’ll explain why.


A Mirror Image

It’s just like what we have right now with the 2nd generation, a multitude of multi-channel software providers, all with varying levels of integration and complexities. A “one-size-fits-all” approach and as I’ve already admitted, this approach isn’t the right approach anymore.

Let’s imagine for a few moments if you owned one of the software companies. You would have to deal with never-ending updates from the marketplaces, couriers integrations, bug-fixes, feature requests from your ever expanding user-base, the list just goes on and on and on and on… It’s software that is never finished and the thing is, it never can be finished.

So to step into the responsibilities of managing multiple marketplaces, the direct API integrations is not a world you want to be in as a business owner.

It’s expensive, it’s complicated, it’s ever-changing and unless you’ve got the experience, clear requirements and have a skilled development team on hand, you’ll be strangled by the overheads needed to be able to keep abreast of the highly-dynamic environment we use to operate businesses in and restricted by the one thing that keeps any business going, the ability to innovate and adapt.


In conversation for the past eight months with the “cool people”, (that’s business owners just like you), “innovation”, “being able to innovate” has come up again & again.

I know you’re not happy.

The 3rd Generation allows you to innovate, it breaks you free of the massive overheads and allows you to focus on your business exclusively and when you need to add in extra functionality, then it’s optional. Think of it as a salad bowl, you can pick & choose and it’s exclusive to your own requirements.

The 3rd Generation isn’t bogged down with the really complicated parts, that’s the 4th stage of the life-cycle, the taking ownership of the integrations yourself and for 99.9999999% of you reading this, you’ll never want to be involved with this, ever.

January 1st

January the 1st, for most of you will be the same story, you will have just had the busiest season online ever.

You’ll have seen the best and worst of your multi-channel software when you needed it most. You’ll also be sat there with probably the largest bill you have ever had if you’re using one of the multi-channel software providers that take a cut of your sales.

And on January 1st 2014, we’ll be sat there with another way, the next generation and that’s our deadline.

Part 3, where we bare-all is Coming Soon

Think of this article as a delicious appetizer between now and then, but also think of it, that with this open commitment to you, we better deliver what we’re talking about…

We don’t pretend to have all the answers, sadly we never will, but an option where you’re not tied down is already out there, we just need to show you how.

And the thing is, we know we can :)

Matt & Dave

PS. If you’ve not yet signed up to be notified the moment UnderstandingE is launched yet, you can here

Part 2 – Hands Up I Was Wrong – But What About?

In this second part of the History of Multi-Channel Software, we’re starting a journey, a journey to find the utopia and a journey that we’re going to share openly, wins, failures, the lot.

The utopia for multi-channel software that can fit the needs of any business regardless of size, type, location or revenue both today and tomorrow.

And to do this effectively, I need to admit I was wrong.


A Re-Cap

In part 1 of the History of Multi-Channel Software we covered how we have ended up where we are today with the collection of software providers that offer pretty much the same options, all wrapped up into different interfaces for multi-channel businesses to use.

I also shared with you the vision for the future which I’ve put below, the “utopia”, the goal that we’re aiming for and the commitment that I believe together we can achieve. I also admitted that I don’t have all the answers and never will but are willing to share this journey as we go and we invited you to join in.

The Vision of the Future

“A hybrid of both free and paid for open source software where multi-channel business owners can pick & choose the tools that suit their business, both now and in the future

I Used To Think…

I used to think that multi-channel software had to:

  • Fit the needs of every business perfectly
  • Have every single feature, bell & whistle going
  • Advanced to the point of being over complicated
  • Do everything, anyone could ever want
  • Be one system that encompassed everything

And the thing is… Hands up, I was wrong, so very wrong.

The Glimmer of Hope

Crude by today’s standards, I had built my own eBay order management tool back in the early 2000’s using excel, outlook, an addon for Outlook and some VBA (Visual Basic for Applications).

I was parsing the notifications for “end of auction” and “end of transaction” emails from eBay using a plugin for Outlook (which amazingly you can still buy it today, see here), loading them into an excel spreadsheet and then using VBA to process them, adding in notification flags for a pick/pack/despatch process with mail merges to create invoices , then email mail merges to email customers their order received, packed and then despatched notices.

I’m probably being a little mean to what I built back then by calling it “crude”, it took me from using a paper tracking system to a semi-automated system, which then led the business to a stage where it could afford more advanced software such MarketWorks or ChannelAdvisor (the only two options we had back then) at around £15-20K a month turnover and then we added in MarketWorks, we ni-on quadrupled the business in 3 months.

I have always wondered “what if the business could have afforded the best software available earlier on?”.

As I sat there in the cyber-cafe looking at eSellerPro for the first time, I genuinely felt that “this was it”. What had frustrated me as a business owner myself and through having seen hundreds of business at Marketworks, seeing them struggle with a slowly developed product with the possibility that those frustrations could be answered and what you use today in eSellerPro is part of the answer I saw back then (after a ~3 years stint that is).

The Stark Reality

I believed one product could fit the needs of every scenario thrown at it and that is where I was wrong.

  • No software product will fit the needs of every business perfectly, ever
  • Software doesn’t need every cool idea in it for it to be viable and meet the needs of the vast majority of businesses
  • Who needs complicated when straight-forwards will work just as well?
  • Why does software need to do everything for everyone, when the core essentials are all that are needed?

The reality is that:

No single software product will ever meet the needs of every single business perfectly

And Wrong Again? Maybe Not….

I know many of you will cringe at the idea of ChannelAdvisor, having a core system and with bolt on modules, using specialists in their own areas, it’s a “hybrid system”.

Frankly speaking, you’re most likely scoffing at the idea because it doesn’t help that the base system is so expensive it rules it out as being a viable solution for +99% of all multi-channel businesses.

The thing is, I believe we were all wrong about this “hybrid” approach and I’ll explain why.

Take the massive cost out of this hybrid approach, so let’s say we take £600 monthly minimum fees and floor them by 95% to just £30 (yes that is thirty quid or $47 USD, or less but that’s a topic for another day) and suddenly it’s a lot more attractive don’t you agree?

Hold on to that thought for a few moments…

Breaking it Apart

Let’s boil everything down to the three key parts of a multi-channel software product.

An inventory management system, an order management system and listing abilities to marketplaces. This goes for any of the 2nd generation providers regardless of origin.

Inventory Management
The inventory management system would need to be able to with both simple and complex products (variations), kits, virtual products, stock control, imports, exports and customisable fields that you can match to eBay & Amazon item specifics.

Order Management
Then the order management system which would need to aggregate orders from multiple channels, websites, multiple eBay accounts, multiple Amazon accounts (if you’re being naughty lol), have order stages, customisable despatch options, links into couriers and back to the marketplaces for order updates. Email notifications, while they’re not an essential they are a nice to have and are of notable value for any order management system.

Listing Abilities
Being able to match up to existing listings on the marketplaces, create new listings and keep prices, descriptions and stock levels updated. And be kept upto date with the updates that these marketplaces like to do every few months.

These 3 are the key components for any multi-channel software product. I am missing one other part on purpose though, support. Because this component it is so special, I need to be address it specifically at a later date.

The Current Approaches

As we saw in part 1 the vast array of options, there is no one right way of approaching each of these components and when we look at the different providers out there, they have all come from different angles and ended up with varying levels of success for each of the 3 components.

Let’s pick on two other providers as an example. StoreFeeder, StoreFeeder came from a fulfilment background so as you would expect the despatch process in StoreFeeder is amazing. I love how you can batch process orders easily and I’ve not seen anything to touch it at the price point they offer. ChannelGrabber, they needed simplicity, so ease of use is unparalleled.

Each and every multi-channel software has come from a different direction and ended up with something that can (or is being) labeled as “Multi-Channel Software” and they can all be boiled down to these 3 components.

Again, hold onto that thought for a few moments too…

So a Time for a Different Approach

Keeping the key components in mind, 3 questions for you to seriously consider.

#1 What if we took the ChannelAdvisor, hybrid approach. One core system that has inventory management, order management and listing abilities and bolstered it with industry expertise?

#2 What if we took away the costly overheads and we leveraged a platform that was open-source and getting back to that £30/$47 I mentioned earlier, what if it would run on shared web-hosting, which is available anywhere, globally, inexpensively?

#3 What if we then said because it’s open-source, you can extend it further and gave you the power to innovate?

What if the listing abilities were available for free to eBay and Amazon was ridiculously inexpensive?

And Then Consider

Originally I thought this hybrid approach wasn’t the correct path to follow. It’s expensive with the current providers but on the flip side allows us to bring in industry expertise in each area, when you need it, if you need it.

So what happens if we floor that massive overhead, leverage the already existing technologies that are proven globally, bring in expertise when needed, if needed at all and open the doors to be able to innovate through open source? The potential is huge?

Interesting theory right?

Like we said in Part 1, we know that this new approach works, it’s not a theory for us or you anymore.

All that is needed is a journey to be started, for knowledge to be shared and for each of us to work together.

We have the the vision of a world where you can use a hybrid of both free and paid for open source software where you can as a where multi-channel business owner you can pick & choose the tools that suit your business, both now and in the future.

Find out more at

And in part 3, we reveal all :)