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=”http://understandinge.com/”]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.

Embrace the Struggle


We’ve been super busy interviewing the “cool people”. The cool people are business owners just like you.

Hear their fantastic stories of how they started their businesses using the marketplaces and listening to the challenges they’ve had along the way.

Here is 6 to choose from or you can download them all via iTunes here.

Journalist Quits BBC to Sell on eBay

Hear from Jonathan (38,000 feedback on eBay) who quit the BBC after 14 years to turn Plan B into Plan A and the challenges he’s had along the way. Jono is also super-stoked about the 3rd Generation. Listen in right now here.

£2K in their Pockets & Only an Idea

Hear from John from Bamford Trading (+330,000 feedback on eBay) who left the corporate world to go to the NEC with two grand in their pockets and the determination to make it happen.

They have now made half a million orders on eBay & John shares his top tips for business owners just like you.

50% Growth this year?

You can also hear from Ian from Spirit Footwear (32,000 feedback on eBay) and how Ian & his wife turned a hobby into a successful business.

You’ll hear how he’s aiming for a 50% growth this year online, what Magento has meant to his business and how he tackled the warnings from Amazon to update all his pictures in 14 days or less.

Cross Border Trade in Plain English

Cross Border Trade is bounded about by everyone now, but you can hear what it actually means to Nigel from GamesQuest (+61,000 feedback on eBay) and how Nigel & his wife took a hobby of collecting books at carboot sales to a business turning over £1.5M a year.

You’ll also hear how Nigel looks at every phone call as an opportunity and where that can lead to.

Stop Making Support Tickets!

Alex is moving to the 3rd Generation as his current provider told him to stop raising support tickets for something that he paid for. Hear from Alex, how he went from a few pallets to containers and how he deals with a large number of products that vary in condition.

2,000 Orders a Week

And finally hear from Gurpreet who basically though paying software providers a “percentage of sale” was crazy, he processes 2000 orders a week using Magento & M2E Pro and is now expanding out into a trade/whole sale site using Magento.

These are REAL Business Owners Sharing their Story with You.

These are Entrepreneur’s at their finest, no matter what the challenge, they’ll chew it and spit it out and say bring it on.


Are you wired that way too?

Listen into the cool people using any of the links above or if you use iTunes, subscribe here and listen to them in the car, train or on the bus.

See you there,


Why is Content Marketing Like a Bicycle Wheel?

This very topic came up earlier as we recorded another Podcast for The Entrepreneur’s Corner with John Hayes and it’s the metaphor that was used to explain the step into email marketing with using a blog for your business as the hub of the activities.

You may remember John from two other Podcast’s we did together, “Social Marketing Is a Waste of Time” & also we discussed one of the books he published “Becoming THE Expert“, if you haven’t listened to these yet you can pick them up on iTunes here.

John is covering “Why is Content Marketing Like a Bicycle Wheel?” in a free Webinar next Wednesday at 2pm GMT how to leverage content and treat it as a bike wheel. And because it’s John we know it’ll be in plain English and you’ll have lots of actionable take-aways.

  • How to find the inspiration to create compelling content
  • How various content marketing channels work together to build a watertight strategy
  • How to use email to generate leads, sell more and maintain relationships while reducing your reliance on (high cost) paid advertising
  • How to engage your prospects with social media as well as win local, national and global media coverage with well-placed PR Campaigns
  • How to improve your rankings on the major search engines, shorten the sales cycle and reduce the need for cold calling techniques

When & Where?

This is taking place on Weds 27th November at 2pm GMT.

To register, click the monstrously huge button below:

[button size=large style=round color=blue align=left url=https://event.on24.com/eventRegistration/EventLobbyServlet?target=registration.jsp&eventid=704413&sessionid=1&key=69B1E7EEE514DDBDC2DCB335F1A067EE&sourcepage=register]Register to Join the Free Webinar with John Hayes [/button]

We’ll see you there!



Hear from a Business that is Moving to the 3rd Generation

Last week we shared with you an interview with a business owner called Gurpreet that processes 2,000 orders a week and pays no commissions.

While we’ve not got another story like this to share with you right now (3 more coming very soon!), what we can do is share with you the story of Alex’s business, how & why he’s moving to the 3rd Generation right now.

Hear how he started selling a few items on eBay, turned it into a full time business where he is buying containers and his struggle with multi-channel software. Alex is now in the process of moving to the 3rd Generation of multi-channel software.

Oh and you can hear how his current provider phoned him up and well, you’re not going to believe what they said, that’s at about 10 minutes into the interview…  You can listen to the interview here.

The 3rd Generation is REAL

This is where we can tell you outright, we are helping business move to this new generation.

We might not have all the answers and that’s ok, we’re learning and if there is one thing to take away from this podcast, the 3rd generation is REAL. It’s been around for years, the thing is the business owners that are using it are keeping quiet because they’re saving oodles every month and the other software companies out there don’t want you to know about it either.

I’ve been accused of being a used-car-salesman and one cheeky-minx implied I have “really annoying west country drawl” in the past few days after the Podcast we published last week. But the thing is, I don’t work for a software provider any more, I have no involvement with any of them and I am not here to please everyone either.


The person I am here to please is you, the multi-channel business owner in my world, you are the “cool people”.

But please understand I’m smart enough to know how certain businesses work, I know how they tick, remember I’ve been around for over 10 years in this industry as a seller like you and with two software providers and I can’t share with you everything just yet.

Some of these companies have shown their true colours and I have wised-up to know when to shut-up (trust me that is really hard) and I can’t share everything that we’re up to right now. In this interim period between now & January, it’s going to be dribs & drabs of information and to some people I’m going to look bad and that’s ok, I know, we know what is on the other side.

Meet the Cool People

Next week you’re going to start hearing from more “cool people”, businesses owners like you, entrepreneurs, how they started, what challenges they have had from all over the world, the UK, Australia, Germany, Vietnam & the United States.

And if that sounds like something you’d like to be involved in too, you can get in contact with me directly here.

Oh and of course don’t forget to listen into Alex’s story, click the monstrously huge button below to tune in right now:

See you soon,


Do You Like Being Called “an Entrepreneur”?

  • Have you had to struggle to get your business where it is today?
  • Do you like being called an Entrepreneur?

If you’ve answered yes to either or both of these, I would love to hear from you and for you to join myself & Dave on the UnderstandingE Podcast we’re calling “The Entrepreneur’s Corner”.

It’s so that we can share the challenges that marketplace business owners like you have experienced, how they’re handled and for you to listen to like-minded entrepreneurs.


Share Your Story

It’s the story behind the never-ending challenge of running your own business is what we’re looking for.

We know how tough it is to start a marketplace business, rules changing every 5 minutes, sometimes with no warning at all. Once you’ve got past your first years trading, then the years that follow are tougher than the first.

And it’s this story we’re looking to you to help share with other like-minded entrepreneurs. How people just like you suck-up the challenges that you’re thrown, spit them out and say “bring it on”.

Some examples of the questions we would ask you:

  • Can you tell a little more about what you business does?
  • How did you start selling online?
  • What challenges have you had along the way?
  • What one tip would you give someone listening to this who wanted to start selling online right now?

And of course:

  • No hidden or sly questions
  • You don’t need to share your turnover
  • You don’t even need to share your business’s identity (but you can shamelessly plug it if you wish)
  • Just be you

Contact Us!

If this is something you would like to be involved in use the contact form below and myself or Dave will be in touch shortly:

1 + 3 = ?

Credits: Image

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: http://support.m2epro.com/forums/137040-m2e-pro-ebay-magento-integration/suggestions/4720248-m2epro-system-keywords-variables-for-ebay-listi
  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: http://support.m2epro.com/forums/137040-m2e-pro-ebay-magento-integration/suggestions/4720248-m2epro-system-keywords-variables-for-ebay-listi

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 UnderstandingE.com/NOW 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 UnderstandingE.com/NOW

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 UnderstandingE.com/NOW

And in part 3, we reveal all :)