Matthew has both positive and negative points to say about ChannelAdvisor, this is to be expected as he’s spent +4 years in direct competition with them.

Putting Channel Advisor’s tremendous PR machine to one side, ChannelAdvisor is able to offer merchants a tool that covers all the major platforms, eBay, Amazon, Web & more and has SEM (Search Engine Marketing) nailed down. Founded by Scot Wingo and Aris Buinevicius in 2001, ChannelAdvisor has attracted investment from numerous parties, including four (yes four) venture capitol companies and interestingly eBay.com too.

ChannelAdvisor is a solid, stable product and while it may not sport the same feature set and customisation of eSellerPro or similar tools, its been around longer than almost all the other contenders. Its the SEM piece of ChannelAdvisor that forms its most attractive service offering for merchants, with a self service, guided or fully outsourced option to suit all merchant types. Their reporting is absolutely superb and literally unrivalled by anything in this arena.

On a personal level, Matthew has both positive and negative points to say about ChannelAdvisor, this is to be expected as he’s spent +4.5 years in direct competition with them, at both MarketWorks.com (which was bought by Channel Advisor) and more recently, eSellerPro.com. Its unlikely you’re going to ask Matthew something he does not already know about ChannelAdvisor, you can contact him on his dedicated Contact Matthew page.

“Apples are Apples” or are they? – eSellerPro V’s ChannelAdvisor

Yesterday was an interesting day’s reading. On the one hand CEO of ChannelAdvisor Scot Wingo was elected to Shop.org’s board of directors, which is frankly quite a feat considering there are only five places for non-retailers & is a highly coveted position.

A quote Scot Wingo:

“I am absolutely honored to join a board of such diverse executives and e-commerce leaders to serve the Shop.org members and continue the development of such a prestigious program,” said Wingo. “I look forward to collaborating with these other industry leaders to influence and inform many of the top issues facing the world of e-commerce.”
Source: Business Wire

And on the other hand a few minutes later, this crops up on Twitter:

It really has been a fantastic year for eSellerPro so far. I joined the company as the new CEO in January,and since then we have seen several other key additions to the management team and the sales team has doubled in size. Our annual revenues have grown to £2.4M with more than 100% growth forecast for the current year. If that wasn’t good enough, the business now has more than 200 customers, including well-known brands such as BMW, Dixons Group, JJB Sports, Office Shoes, Maplins and Tesco.

It is a very exciting time for us all at eSellerPro, and as we continue to grow we can only expect things to get even better.

Keith Bird, CEO, eSellerPro
Source: eSellerPro Blog

While at least three of these are 3rd-party clients is almost irrelevant, what is interesting is the ~100% growth and disclosure (see here) that the platform is churning over £1M in transactions per day.

Summary

While some way from the $3 Billion USD ChannelAdvisor processed in a year[2010 ?], £1M appears to be rather small. However apples are certainly not “Apples” when trying to compare two SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms that operate in the same market, one has been around since 2001, the other is just getting started, however could this be where its heading?

Image courtesy of Fir0002

9 days to Go ChannelAdvisor Checkout Closing

ChannelAdvisorJust in case you’ve not had an update, the 3rd party checkout system that was employed at Channel Advisor is being removed on the 18th May. You can see the full update and requirements here.

This is a forced change by eBay to move all buyers through a standardised checkout flow. Although, as far as I’m aware they have yet to provide an alternative that can deal with the complex shipping and tax requirements of some businesses and countries. A huge benefit outside of these two requirements for the 3rd party checkout system was the ability to offer credit card processing outside of PayPal, I suspect we’re unlikely to see anything threaten the eBay revenue cow ‘PayPal’.

Note: While there is a tool for very large retailers called municipal-level tax calculator its unlikely that “normal” sellers would be allowed access.

While personally a fan of the 3rd party checkout system myself for the reasons above and having the chance to actually alter a 3rd party checkout system to how I actually felt it should look like and feel at eSellerPro with fully customised and branded checkout experiences.

The only real advice I can offer is that is look upon this as a chance to simply processes. Complex is great, but sometimes simple is just as easy and much easier for customers to understand too. Ultimately this is a win for buyers as it gives a unified checkout flow and it does enable the eBay shopping basket that eBay have been trying to implement for 3 or so years.

ChannelAdvisor Catalyst Europe Keynote Speakers Released

ChannelAdvisorI’m looking forward to finally attending this years ChannelAdvisor Catalyst in May. For the past few years when asked by clients whether they should go, the answer has always been a resounded yes, you should.

Not only for the actual even itself and the highly topical conferences, but for the interaction between the other people there, merchants like themselves and for a day or two out.

If you look past the conference itself, its also a chance to look at the ChannelAdvisor platform in detail, it really cannot be dismissed as viable platform for merchants to use and their IDS and SEM stuff is crazy.

I can hardly comprehend that “some” $3 Billion went through their system last year, you just cannot imagine the sheer amount of data movement and even back when MarketWorks were bringing in external help and the stark comment from Oracle of “Its not supposed to work like that”; ChannelAdvisor have nailed issues that only the likes of Facebook, Google and eBay receive public notification for.

Back on to topic, ChannelAdvisor Catalyst Europe shouldn’t be missed, you can register here and the email notification is below.

ChannelAdvisor Catalyst Europe - 17th & 18th May 2011 - Riverbank Park Plaza Hotel - London - Register Now!
Register today to attend Catalyst 2011!
Don’t miss a special keynote presentation from Google at Catalyst Europe in May. 

John Gillan and Jens Münch of Google UK will explore the convergence of the fast-growing and fast-evolving social, local and mobile (‘SoLoMo’) spaces and share deep insight around the significant opportunities this holds for online retailers.

Catalyst is Europe’s best opportunity to learn from and network with 300+ leaders in e-commerce. Speakers this year include eBay, Amazon, Facebook, Practicology, PhysioRoom.com, B&Q, Republic, ChannelAdvisor CEO Scot Wingo among many others.

John Gillian and Jens Münch of Google UK
Don’t miss out, book your place now!
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No, No, No. Its Your Domain Name, Use It. ChannelAdvisor Not Advised?

ChannelAdvisor

Channel Advisor Seller Buy4Less

Oh this made me giggle, while researching after posting the earlier article on a ChannelAdvisor customer called ‘Buy4less’ and ‘Wasting Your Most Important eBay Marketing Asset‘ I stumbled across this chestnut.

The Search Results

Click this link and let me explain the results you’re seeing.

You are seeing two things, the first is the use of the site: command, this is very useful for seeing how many pages have been indexed for a site, while not 100% accurate by Google’s own admission (see Matt Cutts from Google explain it in this YouTube video) its a great indicator and the second is a baw-drop by ChannelAdvisor for one of their featured retaliers. Let me explain.

Errr What Happended?

Now for the first link I gave, it shows lots of URL’s that have been indexed, great, but look again, the URL’s start ‘stores.channeladvisor.com/buy-for-less-online’ whats happened to the thier domain name ‘http://www.buyforlessonline.co.uk/‘?

I’ll tell you what’s going with it

NOUT, NADA, Sweet FA!

There is a single page for this domain indexed in Google, what they’ve done is use masking on the domain name instead of setting up a CNAME alias or similar to make the server treat the real domain name properly. So then everything starts from buyforlessonline.co.uk rather than some horrid domain path like ‘stores.channeladvisor.com/buy-for-less-online/’.

Knowing…

If you’re using a third party tool such as Channel Advisor, don’t settle for a crap website setup, make sure everything is in your ‘domain’ name, don’t be afraid to ask for the assistance outside for unbiased views & guidance, automaton tools are only one part of your businesses success.

Getting Out of Such a Mess

If you’ve managed to do this this, don’t panic. Ask your provider to create 301 redirects for every page they’ve got to the new domain paths. The new pages on the correct domain name are forwarded from the old domain, so you are not penalised for what would-to-Google the entire site disappearing an popping up elsewhere.

Curiosity

I wonder how much was taken on their website last year, I wonder if anyone noticed. I suspect ‘not a lot’ of revenue was taken this year on ‘that’ site. Pity, I quite liked the visual design.

How to Beat eBay DSR’s – Use Positive Psychology with the Customer

I was reading an excellent post by Chris Dawson on Tamebay regarding the flaw in the eBay iPhone & iPad Apps where sellers can be rated for shipping on items that have free shipping and by their[eBay’s] own design, sellers whom offer free shipping are exempt from being rated & automatically receive a 5 star rating on this aspect.

You can read the full article here eBay DSRs: Are you rated on dispatch or delivery time?. It reminded me of a simple tactic I used employ, which I’ll share with you in this article.

I’ve held off and releasing this article for a Friday, so you can ponder it, get to grips with the concept and let your orders back-up over potentially three days of orders and let rip this beauty on Tuesday, then watch the instantaneous results.

Knowing the Rules

Firstly knowing the rules and how to leverage them is just one part. By offering free shipping, you are immediately incur five stars for DSR rating for ‘Postage and packaging charges’ (although, from the Tamebay article, obviously eBay need to work on this a little for their Apps).

You can see the help page on eBay for the DSR’s here and I have quoted the interesting part:

If you provide free postage, buyers will see a note when they are rating your postage & packaging charges that a 5-star rating is appropriate

Not forgetting this exit too:

No detailed seller rating can be given for local pick up items

Did you know the latter one? I had forgotten, a neat exit point. Offering free shipping and offering pick ups for orders can be two variables worth experimenting with.

The Despatch Process

You most likely contact buyers them when they buy, pay (as for eBay the paying part is not always immediate) and when you ship their order.

Notifying a buyer you’ve received their order and their cash, that you value you them, the order is not in some black hole, have reassured the customer that you’re dealing with the order is great and is an important part of the despatch process, even eBay’s SMP (Selling Manager Pro) does this rather well.

You should do everything you can, to work out a process or employ software that makes the despatch process the most efficient possible, however my questions is, why leave yourself open to the lag of delivery?

Lets bend the perception of time in our favour, after all, we are the time keeper in this process. I’m suggesting while you may have a rapid despatch process, the latter part of the process can be tinkered with, in your favour.

Didn’t you mention positive psychology?

For this you need to use positive psychology with your customer. Let me spell this out in simple words as some might not get this:

Mark your orders as despatched the day AFTER you despatched the order.

Yes that’s right, instead of eagerly marking orders as despatched, flag them as despatched instead and here is the key, then the following morning, mark them off as being despatched.

The automatic despatch email will kick in and the customer will be notified that the order has been despatched.

Imagine your sat your desk and receive the email from company XYZ. The order you made yesterday has been despatched. Sweet. The paradox is later this afternoon it arrives. Has that not exceeded ones set expectations of tomorrow? Have we just warped time in the eyes of the customer?

time-warp-spiral-colck-face

Its all about how time is perceived

If you’re using a slower services say 2nd class or may be a 48hr courier rather than a 24hr courier as your default courier service (I am ignoring any courier rules you may have in operation, for where orders match criteria their courier service alters, eg an order over £20 goes to recorded and so on…) then by marking the orders shipped as a day late, then you’ve already won a day back from the slower courier service. Essentially the 48hr courier service is now a 24hr service.

Note: You should be offering more than one service, gaining sweet upgrades on courier services, people will choose these if its perecived to be faster.

Does it Work?

I know this works because I used to employ this tactic myself. Amusingly my partner just entered my office and asked what I was writing, I explained the article and she giggled. She remembered reading the feedback comments on eBay, where people were leaving comments like ‘I got my item before the despatch email A++++’.

This is also why I have saved this article till today (a Friday), because if you let Saturday, Sundays AND Mondays orders backup (processing them and actually despatching them of course) but marking them as despatched in your back-end system on Tuesday.

So customers receive notifications that their order has been despatched, but the likely-hood is, that their order is going to be with them that day. Quite a paradox.

Try it, for one day

First we reassure customers that we have their order and their money, this is the customers major concern, if they know the company has got their order and is processing it, they feel reassured. So for this I am assuming you have set up automatic notifications that let customers know that you have received their order (and payment if its separate, like on eBay for non immediate payment listings).

Flag your orders for that day and despatch them as normal, however do not despatch them until at least 9am the next day, as we have the weekend tomorrow(this article was posted on a Friday), you should have lots of orders to prove this with. Then on Tuesday, mark them as despatched, even though they left on Monday.

Say you used a 48hr courier service, we just switched it into a 24hr courier service, even better if you used a 24hr service, this shocks the customer because at 9:34 they get an email to say their order has been despatched and at around lunch time, the posty stuffs it through the door.

Deploying this in Real Life

An interesting point raised when running a draft copy across some peers, was in eBay’s Selling Manager Pro (SMP) it would be a waste of time adding the tracking number one day and the next having to go in and marking it as despatched separately. I checked this on one of the eBay seller accounts this morning who had SMP and saw while this is not totally correct, you can add a tracking number and just save it, although not marking it as despatched at the same time would be be rather silly. I think that was possibly his point :)

I have strong beliefs, one of the core ones is that to be manually doing any task that can be automated by either paid-for software or even free software, is categorically not the best use of ones time.

I did at first consider writing an iMacro to automate this task, that worked from a CSV file that would automate the input of tracking numbers and then marking them as despatched, I’d have this working in a few minutes. But there is no need, with eBay’s File Exchange you can do this using their despatch template at the bottom of this page.

For more advanced tools such as eSellerPro, Channel Advisor, 247 Top Seller or similar, most of these have flags in their sales order processing section which can be used to mark batches of orders.

It was also suggested (twice) that this may be of benefit to businesses that generally offer a poorer service or elect a cheaper, slower service. Yes, this would give such sellers an advantage, especially for media products were margins are extremely tight, using such a tactic as explained in this article would give a business the appearance of giving a higher service than they actually achieve, but keeping overheads to a minimum.

How much saving would you make, if you shipped everything you are currently sending via 24hr courier, to a 48hour courier, if it had no negative effect to customer satisfaction?

If you are already despatching orders within really good time frames, buy yourself an extra days grace and that that 4.7 DSR rating to 4.8 or 4.9. As I pointed out in an earlier article, the eBay Top Rated Seller status can be easily abused and you need every advantage you have to ensure you keep it, as it pretty much guarantees you 20% extra sales volume.

Your Feedback

Try it for two days and see if you see the difference in the responses from customers, it worked for me, it can work for you too, ‘Time Lord’.

18% Wasted – Your Most Important eBay Marketing Asset

ChannelAdvisor

Channel Advisor Seller Buy4Less

Thats right here is the best way to waste 18% of your most valuable asset on eBay, the Listing Title. You make your listing titles on eBay look pretty by including ‘=’ and ‘-‘ symbols.

No idea what I’m taking about? See this item: 230526814009. Here is the listing title:

THOMAS TAKE ALONG === Thomas&The Jet – Die Cast === NEW

So lets count this up there is:

  • 6 x ‘=’
  • 1 x ‘-‘
  • 3 x ‘ ‘

They’ve included these characters at the expense of the formatting and crammed ‘Thomas&The’ together to make it fit. That is 10 out 55 wasted, now thats not the best bit, wait for it, it gets better, brace yourself… Really silly question, where is the keyword ‘train’, it IS a train right ??

Lets get this straight, do not waste your most valuable marketing asset on eBay, the listing title. If it was not bad enough that you’re only given 55 characters to cram your description in, something like 80% of purchases are made by search and this search is now the ‘best match’ search which favours ‘top rated’ sellers and items with a few sales on, so your requirement to be as efficient as possible as describing your products has newer been so paramount.

About Buy4Less
Apparently they sold 3000 plus orders a day last Christmas, so crap titles can’t matter that much eh? Must have been the Amazon sales that bolstered this figure. You can read the ChannelAdvisor case study here.

The Facts: ChannelAdvisor’s Featured Retailer – LeSports

ChannelAdvisor

ChannelAdvisor

One of the huge benefits of being a consultant, is that you can enter a business with a completely fresh look at it. Not influenced by any of the day-to-day operations, any historic issues or misconceptions created in the business by itself and can work from the cold numbers.

A few weeks back I was intrigued by the big Channel Advisor PR wheels moving and spotted one of their featured sellers ‘LeSports Ltd on YouTube.

The video is below features James, really nice chap, he explains what most e-commerce businesses have issues with, management of inventory across many channels and order processing; And that he is using CA to promote his products across new sites and that it saves him time. Great.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxPB5nt2sQQ

BUT…

With this increase of automation, I wonder if they’ve failed to notice the extra cost at which it has taken to do this. Please do not get me wrong, automation is fantastic if done well, there are many tools that can aid a business in its day-to-day operations that will save hours & hours a day. But… this is where it could go wrong and the numbers need to be kept an eye on. So lets look at the numbers:

All figures are based upon data from Terapeak for the date range 01 Sept – 30 Sept 2010, the direct link to this search is here. Noting, a Terapeak account is required to view this.

TeraPeak

Overview:

Total Sales£28,632
Total Listings2,811
Successful Listings1,105
Total Bids1,920
Items Offered7,097
Items Sold1,692
Bids per Listing0.68
Sell-Through39.31%
Sellers per Day1

So for this month of September we have a gross sales value of £28,632. Now lets split this between GTC (Good Till Cancelled/30 Days) listings and auction based listings (10 days or less).

Bid Auctions:

Total Sales£4,847
Total Listings1,509
Successful Listings348
Total Bids576
Items Offered1,509
Items Sold348
Bids per Listing0.38
Sell-Through23.06%
Sellers per Day1

So we can see here that for 1509 listings, £4847 was sold over 348 items. Lets crunch some numbers to see what this really means.

£4847 is 16.93% of their eBay sales (or 4/25ths), each sale has an average value of £4847/348 = £13.93, now here is the curious number, 23.06% of their listings sale. Now this is not distorted by multiple quantity listings because Terapeak says this ‘Total Listings = 1509, Items Offered = 1509’, so they’re all single item listings. This is an important factor as GTC listings normally have multiple quantities and skew this number heavily, to the point its almost worthless.

Now, this is where the numbers can lose their accuracy, so please allow some error of fees here as I am going to assume no discounts for seller fees and we are using averages.

There were 1509 listings at an average start price of £13.37, Terapeak also tell us clearly that there were no listing features used, so we can assume a straight auction fee. Now knowing this, lets crunch some more numbers:

1509 listings x 0.25 insertion fees* = £377.25
348 sales x (£1.22 Final Value Fee + £0.67 PayPal fee) = £657.72
Total = £1034.97

Some notes:
* I checked manually in eBay and also verified with http://ecal.altervista.org/en/fee_calculator/ebay.co.uk/index.php.

** This assumes no discounts and standard PayPal account and that all buyers paid via PayPal (probably true for 90% or more of sales) and that Channel Advisor fees of around 1-1.5% are not not included.

So for £4847 worth of sales, it cost around £1035 to actually sell the 348 items to customers, or 21.35%. This is of course excluding the item cost, packaging, staff time for the 222 questions (assuming 65% asked a question) they asked and the time taken to create the inventory record in the first place.

So… Using Using Auctions, is it Worth it?

Frankly, yes it is for them.

Why? 21% is far from the worst overhead I have seen, yes its pretty high, but there are a large number of sellers out there that are hitting 30-50%. I know for a fact at one time it was costing me 32% (the fee structure was different then). But its the ‘fact of knowing’ which is key here, if you know what your sale cost is, then you can work on it. Not knowing it is literally business suicide. I strongly suspect Jame’s know’s these numbers and is why he’s actually doing a great job.

If this dropped to say 15%-18% through optimising the time windows of sales and utilising the other four days of the week (the listings only end on a Sunday ,Monday & Tuesday) and testing outside of their normal ending windows of 7pm to 10pm, it would be tidy win for Jame’s.

Some Quick Numbers:

We’ve only focused on their auction style listings as these are the most expensive, here are some quick numbers on James’s ‘Fixed Price’ listings:

Total sales = £23.423 over 1223 listings of which 727 sold, for 1302 items, this is a positive percentage @ 106%, which means more items sold than that was listed as separate listings (I suspect due to multi level listings). With an ASP (Average Selling Price) of £17.99 the fees would come in 1302 * (0.20p insertion fee @ Basic level + 1.78 FVF + 0.81 PayPal) = £3632.58. Which is a very good 15.5% excluding any PayPal, Channel Advisor or eBay discounts.

Its a pity (or a positive) there is no ability to mine data on Amazon or the web to gain a true picture of LeSports. For anyone that is determined, using Terapeak to gain the last 365 days worth of data to get one set of data and a report for a tenner from companies house can easily do the maths…

eBay: http://stores.ebay.co.uk/LeSports
Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/shops/A3DKHE7UJOAC3O
Web: http://www.lesports.co.uk/