Matthew has previously worked with the team at eSellerPro for almost 3 years as an Implementor, he was the one that took a business and applied eSellerPro to the business and the business to eSellerPro. Do you have any questions? Just ask in the forums.

Matthew’s seen eSellerPro grow first hand and happily boasts he still remembers the vast majority of the system backwards and forwards. Not bad when you consider that at the time of leaving, there were over 1,500 user settings, although he also wrote the majority of the original Wiki on how to use eSellerPro.

One Click Solution?

Its certainly not a ‘One Click Solution’, however the level of customisation that is possible in eSellerPro is mind blowing. It can manage listing on multiple eBay ID’s, on multiple eBay sites, in multiple languages and then manage the orders from them all and multiple Amazon account orders, Play.com listing & orders, Pixmania, Priceminister and then has an interface to allow it to connect to any 3rd party application for inventory creation, order collection and status updates such as Magento, X-Cart, OSCommerce and so on… Oh and if you use a fulfilment company, like Royal Mail or ProFS, that’s certainly integrated too, along with SAGE for accounting and most UK couriers.

With its ‘customisation layer’, comes several issues, there is cost, not only in fees and also time to deliver, as the training requirements are huge. However once up and running, eSellerPro sports a backend system that blows any competitor away, its almost bespoke, but in a structured environment.

How Much Does eSellerPro Cost?

eSellerPro costs upwards of £2000 to get started, with extras such as couriers, websites, channels and other integrations adding to the implementation fee. The minimum fee is around £600 per month and if the total value of sales exceeds this value at 1-2%, then there are additional costs per sale to be added.

Its common for businesses to have issues during their implementation (as with any 3rd party tool, just amplified with eSellerPro due to its complexities), Matthew has run a business himself, he knows what you’re going through, he knows eSellerPro exceptionally well and also knows eBay & Amazon backwards. Its unlikely you’re going to ask Matthew something he does not already know about eSellerPro, you can contact him on his dedicated Contact Matthew page.

Website Integrations

Matthew has now has created numerous integrations that link eSellerPro to the common 3rd party website solutions. If you’d like to know more see the dedicated eSellerPro Website Integration page.

Magento to eSellerPro IntegrationOpenCart to eSellerPro Integration

The First eSellerPro Council

While I’m not going to cover who was there and what was covered in this article, I am going to share a key observation and ask you the question “what does this mean for you?”.

The Table

The table consisted of nearly all the largest, most influential clients of eSellerPro and together, probably accounted for a quarter of all turnover taken on eBay UK by professional business sellers or more.

Ironically there were only two businesses that I did not implement sat at the table, the others I had either implemented personally or were the reason why they were using eSellerPro in the first place and with half the room accounting for FSP’s, eBay “Full-Service Providers”, they represented the majority of the eBay Outlets. I did, on entering wonder why the hell I was there (although equally honoured to be part of it) and wore the hat as “moderator”.

My Observation

After picking myself off the floor, as eSellerPro has now got a documented “road map”, it was really interesting to look at commonalities between the people sat at the table.

In all instances, they were “people persons”.

They actually give-a-hoot about their staff and what they are trying to do. Yes, they were all highly motivated business people, but under each one of them, they each had teams of people assisting them.

In three cases, their trusted “right-hand-man” (or woman) were with them. Some had family members as part of the team, mums, sisters and brothers, aunts & uncles, but it extended further than that, much further.

They employed people as part of the ‘family’ and extended their family as part of their business. One even quoted, “I employ mothers, because when they need me to be lenient, than I know I will see the return two-fold in loyalty”, another accounts for a substantial part of an entire islands economy and the others making a significant difference to their local economies.

And that’s the observation, none of them would would be where they are today, sat at that table, responsible for some of the largest chunks of transactional value carried out on the on-line marketplaces without a trusted team below them, which knowingly or unknowing, treating them as “family”.

Summary

In conclusion, a multitude of topics were covered. Goodness knows what several members of the table actually thought of the interactions, although the feedback given to me personally was exceptional.

The one piece of glue outside of eSellerPro joining them all together was undoubtedly, they care about people and without them, none of them would have been sat there.

Stop - Take Action!So, to the original question.
What does this mean for you?


“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

Preparing for the Increased eBay Titles Before September Using eSellerPro

If you’ve been shelled up for the past few weeks, eBay are increasing the eBay listing title character limit from 55 characters to 80 in September. The eBay update around this (and some other updates too) is here http://sellerupdate.ebay.co.uk/august2011/space-write-better-item-titles.html

In this article I’m going to be covering how you can prepare for the updated character length in eSellerPro, however the same concept ports to other 3rd party tools also and if you’re not using any of these, then the excel part will work just as well, using eBay File Exchange.

To update or not to update

The biggest question here is should you or should you not update active listings that have sales on them. This is a nasty question because either way you’re going to loose out. I’ll explain.

eBay are not removing the lock on the revision of eBay listing titles for this update, this means that if your listings have sales on them you have two choices:

  1. Leave them alone, with the reduced 55 character title, but keep the sale counts visible on the listing
  2. End the listing and re-list it with the extended title

Now there is a third and this is the one you need to avoid. Do not end your listing and NOT relist it using the old listing number, if you do this you will loose ALL your best match history.

Now most 3rd party applications keep (or should keep, ask them explicitly) a listing history and when you end and relist a product/service, it should in the API call to eBay, reference the previous eBay listing number. By doing this, best match is carried across to the new listing.

If you are using eSellerPro, this is something I worked on and I can categorically state that if you end a listing and re-list it, eSellerPro WILL carry the best match over, because it keeps the history (in the listing history tab) and will reference the previous listing (infact, we got clever with this and if there is not the same type of listing available, eg a BIN, it will pick the next best option (handy when you’ve mapped listed items that came from another tool)).

The answer

Now to answer the tricky question, which was do you end them and relist them and my straight answer to this is yes, you should.

My reasoning behind this is as follows:

  1. If you using the above tools, or even manually, if you relist using the previous eBay listing number, then the best match sales history will be carried over.
  2. Your competitors are going to be doing this also, the faster you do this, the less time that is lost between now and Christmas
  3. You’re receiving 25 extra characters to use in the titles, this will help you narrow (yes narrow, not widen) the people that view the listing, ultimately resulting in more targeted views.

How to prepare for the increased titles.

This is actually going to be a really simple job in eSellerPro. Just follow these simple steps.

Part 1, make the custom field to enter the new title into

  1. Go to Maintenance and select the custom fields icon (looks like an excel icon)
  2. Press the new record icon to create a new group
  3. Name the group “eBay Titles”
  4. Make sure the group type is “Product”
  5. Add a new custom field as an edit box with both names set as “New eBay Title”
  6. Add another custom field called “Old eBay Title”

We now have two custom fields, one for the current (soon to be old) eBay listing title and another to place the new listing title in.

Part 2, Create a custom layout

  1. Go to Maintenance and scroll down to Export/Import layouts (its a yellow funnel)
  2. Press the new record icon
  3. For “Layout Name” enter “eBay Listing Titles”
  4. Set the delimiter drop down to ‘comma (44)’
  5. On the right under “Standard Fields”, scroll to “StockNumber” and press the button to the right (its call Add item or something, I’m writing this from memory so cannot be 100%)
  6. Then from the same drop down box scroll to “Listing Title” and hit the add button again
  7. Now we need to add the two custom fields, in the box below this one there is another wide drop down box, click on it and scroll down to the ones that read something like “eBay Titles/New eBay Title” and add them both, with the new one first.
  8. Now go back to the first drop down under “Standard Field” and near the top of the list, select <Unused> and add this to the layout also. (I’ll explain why in the next section).
  9. Press save at the top

You should now have a layout that has fields in this order:

  • StockNumber
  • ListingTitle
  • New eBay Title
  • Old eBay Title
  • <Unused>

Part 3, Preparing data

What we’ve done is create a layout which we can use to import and export the titles at will and only update the fields we want to work with.

Now go to Inventory and make a search for some inventory records, once the results have returned, hit the select all button in the bottom left to select them all (or just select a few if you want to test this first). Along the top there is an excel icon, click it.

Note: If you had the inventory tab open while making the template, close and reopen the section as I’m not 100% sure of the layouts are dynamically updated or not. This will be obvious when you go to export and the layout name “eBay Listing Titles” is missing.

A new window appears and along the top you want to select the “custom export layout” tab (again I’m writing this from memory and it may be worded slightly differently).

In the bottom left is the drop down box for the custom export/import layouts, select the layout we just made called “eBay Listing Titles” and press the export button. Set an apt file name save it to the desktop. You’ll also be given a file type to export as, select “CSV” as this option. Now open the file.

You will now have a spreadsheet that looks like this:

Excel Layout

Now copy the contents of column B, to column D, so we now have a backup of the original eBay listing title.

Critical note:

DO NOT EDIT COLUMN B

If you edit column B and import the changes you’ll bork your titles and the whole world will cave in. Seriously though, wait on this until later in this article. But for now DO NOT EDIT this column at all. Clear?

Click into cell E2 and put in this formula:

=IF(LEN(C2)>80,”Over 80 chars. Length: “&LEN(C2),””)&IF(LEN(C2)<77,”Under 77 Chars. Length: “&LEN(C2) & ” You can use ” & 80-LEN(C2) & ” more”,””)

And press enter. Now grab the right corner of the cell and drag it down (or double-click it if you have loads) to the bottom of the records you have.

Your sheet will now look a lot better than my example:

esp-titles-layout-2

Now you can work on the new titles in column C and column E will tell you if your title is over 80 chars and if its under 77 chars (77 is a OK, that leaves 3 or so over for an acceptable tolerance).

Using my example, I have now have this:

esp-titles-layout-3

As you can see, the first title is just about right, the second is too long and the last one is too short.

Part 4, Saving the files

It is now critical that you pay attention to the next few lines, this is where you’re likely to make a mistake.

  1. Save this file as a Excel Spreadsheet, NOT a CSV sheet.
  2. Work on all the titles so that column E shows no (acceptable) errors.

Once complete, save again in the Excel format.

Now before importing back into eSellerPro, save the sheet as a CSV sheet (Comma Delimited). I’ve included a screen shot as its really important that you save the working sheet as an excel workbook and the sheet you import into eSellerPro as a CSV sheet.

This is the option you select to save as a CSV file:

esp-titles-layout-4

You will now have two files:

  1. The excel file that has the fomulas in and is your master sheet
  2. The CSV sheet which we’ll use next for importing back into eSellerPro

Part 5, Importing back into eSellerPro

We now need to upload these titles, so that we can use them when eSellerPro and eBay update the title char length.

  1. Go to inventory and select the excel icon at the top, this time, select tab that’s (roughly) called “Import custom layout”.
  2. Along the bottom of this window is a upload button, hit it and upload the CSV file (not the .xls or .xlsx file). This will take a few moments.
  3. Once uploaded it will appear in the top left hand corner of the window you have open. If the file was called “eSellerPro 80 Chars Example CSV.csv”, it’ll show as “eSellerPro 80 Chars Example CSV”.
  4. Click and highlight this file.
  5. In the bottom left, select the layout called “eBay Listing Titles”
  6. Press import
  7. Another window will pop up, make sure you check the box called something like “Actually import the data”, its the only check box on this screen, tick it.
  8. Now press OK

You’ve now imported the updated titles into eSellerPro and are keeping them safe in a custom field and you have a backup of the original eBay listing title.

Part 6, When the time comes…

When eSellerPro updates the title field to accept 80 chars, not 55 and eBay release the extended titles in their API** your job is super easy.

This is because you’ve already worked on all your titles between now and and the update, date and for you, its a simple case of copy/pasting the contents from column C (the “New eBay Title”) to column B (the “ListingTitle”) and importing them in as a CSV sheet in Part 5 as we covered above.

** Please note here that its not uncommon for the eBay API to lag a few days behind on updates and why the SYI form may allow you to enter 80 chars in September, 3rd parties like eSellerPro may be limited by the API not allow it just yet.

Summary

To help you, I’ve uploaded the example file used in this article here.

In the steps above I’ve focused on eSellerPro, however the principle of importing, editing and the re-importing when the time comes will work for pretty much all 3rd party tools such as ChannelAdvisor, Linnworks and so on…

The hardest part of the above is actually updating the titles themselves as I suspect you may have a few thousand (or more). Using this method you can work on them between now and the date this update is released by eBay and be fully prepared.

I have neglected until now to state the obvious, which is that you’ll need to revise your live listings (when the time comes). The ones that fail the revision on the eBay title field, will need to be ended (assuming you only list GTC listings) and also assuming you are using the Channel Profile to list on eBay, the listings will go back up automatically.

If you are not clear on any of the stages above, the unpaid support I can offer you here is limited, you’re better off either talking to eSellerPro support or if you have complex requirements, such as the concatenation of data to use other fields to make best use of the extra fields, use the contact form to reach me along the top of this website.

If you’ve found this article useful, let me know by posting a comment below or if you have a topic you’d like me to cover, again pop it in the comments box.

eSellerPro At Lords in September

eSellerProIn case you’ve missed it, eSellerPro are holding their first public customer conference at Lords on the 15th September. The line up includes the usual suspects, eBay, PayPal and lunch. However MoneyBookers, Profulfillment & Priceminister have presentations in the afternoon, which is a first as I’m aware for an event such as this.

The two key parts I’m looking forward to are release of the product roadmap from Eamonn Costello, the new product development director & also the “heads up” from the CEO, Keith Bird.

A tour of Lords is also included and the agenda is below:

9:30Registration
10:00Welcome, eSellerPro, Vision and Strategy, Keith Bird, CEO, eSellerPro
10:30Product Roadmap – Eamonn Costello, Director of Product Development, eSellerPro
11:00Paypal
11:30Break
11:45eSellerPro Customer Case Study – Towequip
12:15eBay
12:45Amazon
13:15Lunch
How can you grow your Business Internationally
13:45MoneyBookers
14:00Profulfillment
14:15Priceminister
14:30Panel Q&A and Close
15:00eSellerPro Surgery, Meet the Team and network with our partners
SellerPro Surgery, Networking and Tour of Lords

You can register here and the full details are here. Looking forward to seeing you there!

4 Things You Didn’t Know eSellerPro Could Do

A bold title, but I’m sure at least two of these four you were not aware were features in eSellerPro. There is a story behind each of these, let’s dive in and see what they are and if they can help you and your business.

There are three key parts of eSellerPro that I see, these are sales order processing, collecting orders from many channels and being able to process them in a single location and thus keep stock levels updated, which leads me onto the second which is the channel profile, which is flexible enough to be able to manage stock updates of 100% across multiple channels in about a 20-30 minute window, while worth an entire article on both, neither of these are in these four features. The third that I’ll cover next.

Revise Active Listings

It was the time of my sisters wedding and I had decided to take a few days out from my eBay business and how horribly wrong did that go! I had received a slap for doing something naughty in my listings (I forget what now, I think I broke every rule & policy going) and ended up spending the 3 days prior to the wedding manually revising listings.

Revise 1 or 10,000 live eBay listings

You know what I mean, going into several thousand listings, changing one line of code in the template I had made, it took a total of 7 or so clicks to make the edits, which isn’t a lot, but when there were soooo many of them I had square eyes by the end of it.

For anyone who has gone through this kind of pain, then you’ll know how much value is to be gained from having the ability to revise live listings on eBay. Not only can you revise the descriptions (essentially reposting the entire listing, but keeping the item number) you can change almost every other aspect of the listing too. Well you can change the title, when there are no sales, but when you have a sale(s) made on the listing, this becomes locked, besides that everything is fair game.

Stacking Keywords

In my early days at eSellerPro, I made a mistake, I accidentally entered the {{ItemDescription}} keyword in the item description tab and then saw some interesting results, what happened was that the item description got parsed (processed) about 40 times and went right-off the preview window. It hit me then, we could stack keywords inside of each other and what was a bug, was veto’d to never be fixed and classed as a feature (as all ‘bugs’ are :) ).

what was a bug, was veto’d to never be fixed and classed as a feature

What this means is that you can put keywords inside keywords, one of the best examples of this application is that you can create a drop down selection box of options in custom fields (another key part of eSellerPro, but I’m not going to cover here, think of them as like options or eBay item specifics that you design) that contains keywords.

So if you were to create a paragraph (another key part, again think of them as short snippets of text) called “Computer-Mice”, now in the custom field if you were to create an option called “{{Insert:Computer-Mice}}” (“Insert:”. is the keyword to bring in the paragraph). This now becomes an option that is available in the drop down box, you can then make the data entry to creating inventory much easier, instead of using cumbersome item descriptions, you can break these up and make miniature, specific descriptions for each product type.

You could then make several descriptions per product type, say “Computer-Keyboards” & “Computer-PSUs” and have slightly different descriptions for each, however make the process of adding them to inventory records easy peasy and crucially have three key factors included,:

  • Easily selected by lesser skilled members of staff
  • Easily imported against (as no cumbersome HTML descriptions)
  • Each key section of data that is displayed, held in its own mini description allowing for absolute control.

Neat eh?

Import/export layouts

It was becoming apparent that it was just impossible to include every field users wanted in the standard import & export sheets, plus this was compounded by Java having a 2Mb or so limit for processing excel based files (ended up being capped at about 2500 records), so an alternative needed be found.

The section you’ll find in maintenance called “Export/Import Layouts” (with a funnel image) is exceptionally powerful and exceptionally flexible too. Not only can you change the format away from the clunky & bloated excel format and use CSV, PSV or TSV, you can select which fields you want and also which field is the ‘key’ to import against.

This means that you can actively work on just the data that needs to be updated, include more records than is possible with the excel format and also use a different ‘key’ other than the SKU (Stock Number). Sometimes using the ASIN or Barcode might be needed when updating data from multiple sources, you can also use some of the advanced features to drop images, treat the stock as a delivery (*coff*, think fulfilment) and so on.

Note: There is a ‘script layout’, that I don’t believe actually ever worked to the degree that users needed, this would be to pre-fill certain parts of the data or run logical tests/alternations on the data that is being imported. This had a lot of potential, although can easily be worked around by processing import files outside of eSellerPro in the next step using other programming languages like PHP or Pyhon.

The key point here is that you can design your own import & export layouts, this is critical for the next feature.

Import Automatically via FTP

This one again comes with a story, bear with me! It got to the stage that the time it was taking to actually import the new inventory that was being created with a client was taking longer than it took to make the inventory in the first place, somewhat ironic as the inventory being created was in some cases exceeding 100 records. Also numerous issues were being found with the data being sent to Amazon, generally it was caused by inconsistent data being populated, so a solution needed to be found.

Import product data automatically from remote sources

The time being wasted importing data using the layouts mentioned above and the Amazon issues were both quashed by using FTP imports to import the data into eSellerPro.

There is a section called ‘Reference Data’ in maintenance (if you cannot see this ask eSellerPro support to enable this, also with the lack of screen shots, here ask for assistance in setting this up) that allows the collection of files via FTP. There are a couple of types, but the two big ones is that you can specify an export/import layout (as mentioned above a custom layout, so you only import the data you need to import) and an Amazon import layout.

The Amazon import is the export sheet you can get from the Amazon tab on an inventory record and if you populate this in-accordance with the amazon inventory creation sheets you get from Amazon, you can pretty much quash 90% or more issues with Amazon regarding data; Because IF you’ve done the homework and made sure that the data that is in the sheet is right, so when its sent to Amazon, the bounce rate for failures due to crappy data should be much much less and saved a whole heap of time waiting for files to import. Result.

Conclusion

The sales order processing and the channel profiler are topics I have been meaning to write about for some time, however between these four features found in eSellerPro, with some consideration, there are huge benefits of time, scalability and consistent data entry to be reaped.

Question is, did you know about these features before this article and would they be of use to you?

Are There Alternatives to eSellerPro?

I’ve been asked this question too many times to ignore it. As you would expect there is some general unrest amongst users of nearly all the systems I’ve come across, not just eSellerPro. And the larger the business using eSellerPro, because they take a percentage-of-sale, the more expensive it becomes and monthly bills of +£7,000 are not unheard of.

This article was originally published in March 2011 and it’s sorely been due an update for quite some time. This is the updated version for the end of 2013.

I’m looking forward to clearing up a few areas in the following sections and also aiming enlighten you to what the “2 year cycle” is that causes account churn. Also this should save me typing/having long conversations and have a resource to help anyone else that asks :)

Disclaimer

I feel it is important that I state, clearly and openly the following facts regarding myself and my interactions with eSellerPro. Read the full version in The Unofficial History of eSellerPro (that has changed too as they have one CEO leave [see here] and another non-marketplace oriented CEO arrive [see here] in late 2013).

  1. I am a Former Employee of eSellerPro
    I used to work there for almost three years. I am not a shareholder
  2. I work with businesses that use eSellerPro
  3. I’m not a Sales Rep
    I do not get any “kick-backs” for writing about eSellerPro (maybe a mistake on their part as this is the updated version for 2013?)

The Underlying Questions

This might not be pretty reading for you but I feel its absolutely required to state these questions, because that’s what is really being asked. These questions can be boiled down to four main areas, these are:

  1. I’ve been using eSellerPro for X months, its great, but I am not feeling the ‘all singing all dancing’ I was sold
  2. I’m annoyed with little support and no development time I used to get and feel trapped
  3. I am an eCommerce manager, I need to weigh up if my decision to use eSellerPro was the right one or not
  4. I feel like a change, what do you suggest Matt?

These are all ugly questions and I’m sure there are others too, let’s dive, answer these and if you have any other questions the forums are here.

The Four Nasty Questions Answered

Below I do my best to answer these four underlying questions for you:

Q1: I’ve been using eSellerPro for X months, its great, but I am not feeling the ‘all singing all dancing’ I was sold

What you must remember is that you are buying access to what is an extremely complex system, that gives you lots of processes to make your business operation more efficient. Sometimes in its complexity is its beauty, but other times it can cause confusion and utter frustration. I whole heartedly feel for you.

It does not matter if we’re talking eSellerPro, ChannelAdvisor or any other platform here, the same applies. You are using a tool to make your operation more efficient, they all just differ in the depths of ability and each have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Now for the smarter business owners they relieve themselves of the day-to-day tasks and move up so that they can deal with the important business things. This is called leverage, they use a tool to automate as much as possible and then go about setting themselves to work ON their business not IN their business, eSellerPro is just one of many tools that are available to aid this.

Q2: I’m annoyed with little support and no development time I used to get and feel trapped

Bluntly put, this is to be expected. eSellerPro has had multiple rounds of VC funding and things are going to be different.

The VC company is there to make money and of course there is bound to be a disparity between what the original ideology for what the tool should have become and what the VC company needs to do to make their money back (and a lot more, because remember they invested to make money, not in ideology or a utopia to make the the tool as best as it can be).

Think of it as a mother weaning her offspring, it hurts but everyone grows up. If you were expecting the same kind of attention you got in the early days, sorry those days are on their way out, if not gone by now. You’re probably feeling trapped for a good reason, the product is deep & wide, if you’ve got all the different business operations running through eSellerPro, such as accounting, inventory control, order management, couriers, supplier management and anything else this beast does. I’d feel trapped too.

eSellerPro is a monster system that was designed to cover every aspect of a multichannel business and now in hindsight an approach that I have openly admitted to being the wrong approach [see here].

Q3: I am an eCommerce manager, I need to weigh up if my decision to use eSellerPro was the right one or not

This one is tricky because it needs a good understanding of where you came from, what you are doing now and where you’re going.

However a generalisation is that if you business can cope with the barrier to entry for the eSellerPro product (Fees, training time, staff costs, need for systems etc…) then you’ve probably made the right choice until the monthly fees start to really become expensive.

Q4: I feel like a change, what do you suggest Matt?

I don’t bull-shit and know my stuff backwards (which is to be expected from someone who ran their own business for 3 years & has worked with two software providers over the past 10 years). So please don’t take this personally when I suggest the following:

It’s my opinion that instead of changing providers, you try and change first.

Regardless of the current provider you’re using, I’m suggesting that you try and change first. This is because the real cost of moving providers can be huge.

Lets say you have a team of 10, how many hours do you think it will take as a team to change providers? Now triple it. Us human’s are the worst estimators, if I say something is going to take an hour, that normally means three.

Because these software platforms are so deep, the cost of moving from one to the other can be immense. It would be fair better to attempt to take a fresh look at your situation, speak to a mentor or someone outside your business who you trust and see if there is a way you can work with the system rather than against it. Take a holiday, do something before you commit to changing your software, especially with something like eSellerPro because it is so deeply tied to your business..

The 2 year Churn

This is a natural process and it goes on all the time regardless of what arena you are in, its why you hear unconfirmed rumours that ChannelAdvisor sell 200 accounts each month, but equally loose 200 accounts per month globally. People frankly get bored and after a while get itchy and start looking at what looks like “greener grass”.

This is a human trait, the grass always looks greener on the other side, we get bored. I’ve known businesses jump from one platform to the next yearly and of one specifically that has used all the major ones at least once! I’m just pointing out, that if you are thinking this question, that you maybe wondering what the grass is like over the hedge and sadly the real answer, that few can honestly tell you, is that its probably just the same, just a different interface.

The Alternatives

I’ve answered some of the underlying questions you might be asking yourself right now, I’ve also hopefully done as much as I can in a single article to point out the following:

  1. Being uncertain is a good thing, its only natural.
  2. The grass might be greener somewhere else.
  3. Think through moving providers extremely seriously and weigh up the true costs of moving providers.

Now onto the alternatives.

The critical piece of information that no sales representative of any company is going to tell you is that “this system you are looking at its not the perfect system for your current business“. Something has to give, namely you.

Thankfully there are several alternatives available across the globe, they all vary in depth of functionality & costs. The next comparable 2nd Generation software to eSellerPro is ChannelAdvisor.

ChannelAdvisor has the same kind of pricing structure as eSellerPro, a minimum amount to be paid, say £600 a month and a percentage of sale from 1 to 2%. If this percentage of your gross sales goes over the 1-2% amount, then you pay this instead. This is why with both of these companies can be insanely expensive for larger businesses with businesses paying them thousands of pounds every month (which might be one of the reasons why you’re reading this article right now, it’s getting silly you’re paying more but getting exactly the same level of service).

Yes there are others, ChannelGrabber, StoreFeeder, SellerExpress there are lots and lots of 2nd generation software providers. Sadly I’m getting bored with the offers of “come see XYZ” and they’re receiving back messages saying, “In less than 100 words, explain why your system is not the same as everyone else’s” for which I rarely get a reply or if I do it has something to do with price and not functionality or an entirely different way of working (that would be a 3rd Generation of multi channel software).

All 2nd Generation multi-channel software works in a similar method, either a flat-fee per month or a percentage of sale. The level of expertise in each software product varies and so does the functionality too.

An Obvious Alternative?

esellerpro-logo-200eSellerPro.

Yup that’s right, you may of picked up the hint from earlier that this was coming. The alternative that you have not been thinking is staying put and changing yourself to match the situation you are in. This goes for any provider, not just eSellerPro.

Think back to why you wanted to use eSellerPro in the first place, write down the reasons and now go back and achieve them. If you can whole heartedly say you’ve tried every option, then maybe its time you weigh-up the alternatives.

In Conclusion

I’ve answered the four underlying questions that are being asked. I know full well that saying certain things straight is not always the best way, however sometimes these things needs to be said and if you’re reading this, its too late :)

I sincerely hope that I have given you an insight into possibly what you are really asking when you say “Are there any alternatives to eSellerPro” and that there are options and an option you might not have been considering, changing yourself.

Matt

PS. If you’re sick-to-death of 2nd generation providers, say hello to the 3rd generation UnderstandingE.com/NOW

The Unofficial History of eSellerPro

Introduction

esellerpro-logo-200This is the first of several articles I have lined up, the best place is to start is in the beginning and with the history of the eSellerPro.

In the next few minutes I will be sharing the previously untold history of eSellerPro, then in future articles moving into the top three reasons why I believe eSellerPro is better than comparable products such as ChannelAdvisor, then I will be taking a look at other parts of the software from an outsiders perspective and how it can be applied to your business.

Disclaimer

It may seem odd to be starting with a disclaimer, rather than at the end, however I feel it is important that I state, clearly and openly the following facts regarding myself and my interactions with eSellerPro.

1. I am a Former Employee of eSellerPro.
Starting as their third implementer to deploy the software to clients, I very quickly picked up the product from my past experiences as both a seller and managing similar clients previously at MarketWorks. In a relatively short space of time, I was the Implementations team leader and not only training new staff, managing the implementations team.

2. I am an Advocate of eSellerPro
Now this may seem contradictory, however the line is very clear, I left eSellerPro due to personal reasons, one of which was how the company was structured at the time. Since then funding has been sourced and the company has moved from a solely CTO led company, to now a board of directors, with an externally appointed CEO to lead the expanding team.

eSellerPro (as in the product itself) is in my mind, is brilliant. I have to say this as I enjoyed influencing the way it built up over the ~3 years I was part of the team. It was once interestingly described as “a core product with a customisation layer”, although it just so happens that the customisation layer is rather deep and can be quite complicated at times.

I have the upmost respect for team there and have no wishes to upset any carts. I was once amusingly asked if I was a “eSellerPro Pro”, today if asked, I’d reply with no, “Im Pro eSellerPro”. How’s that for a tongue tie?

3. I Use eSellerPro
I now work directly with My1stWish Ltd, they were actually the first business I implemented with eSellerPro. They use eSellerPro as their base software product and it is still used today to demonstrate how the eSellerPro system can be deployed to prospective clients.

4. I’m not a Sales Rep
I am not a sales rep and I am not receiving any commission. If you are seriously considering using eSellerPro and haven’t spoken to them yet, do so and ask for “Miles”.

The Unofficial eSellerPro History

I used to use Marketworks for my own business, after wrapping that up, I ended up working for them in implementations and as their UK support representative. This is how I know where eSellerPro started from and also why. I’ll explain in detail in the next few hundred words or so.

eSellerPro most interestingly started because of the failure of Marketworks.com & ChannelAdvisor to adapt to the UK Market properly. A Software developer was brought in by a customer of MarketWorks (I will now abbreviate to MW) to integrate their MW account and sales orders to Royal Mail, for invoices and large scale despatch. Remember this point, I’ll be referring to it later as I feel there might be a silly mistake about to be made all over again.

The Landscape in 2005-2007

marketworks_logoAt the time there were only two real contenders in the ‘Auction Management Software’ arena, MW and Channel Advisor. Yes there were others such as Afterbuy, Spoonfeeder, eBay’s own Selling Manager Pro (SMP) and the likes of Auctiva and similar. They were all pretty basic, it was only CA (ChannelAdvisor, I’m abbreviating that as well) and MW that could offer a eBay selling tool to a degree of complexity and offer (relatively, for their time) semi-decent websites.

Interestingly, the developer who was brought in by the MW customer, developed another application for processing MW orders into SAGE. This was quite interesting to MW as they saw the chance to secure more customers with this and I believe an agreement was made to deploy this to customers for a set monthly fee (as they did not have this, CA had it via TradeBox). I can only remember two customers who purchased this application, although I am sure there more.

The entry point into ‘Auction management Software’ must have been enough for the developer, Chris Farrelly to realise that this is potentially a market for a similar product to MW, although quite a good product for its time and ChannelAdvisor was in front a little, both were extremely US orientated and there could be the opportunity for a product to rival both, but home grown and UK centric.

A side note here, this that unbeknown to me until quite recently, because of MW and CA’s short sightedness in the UK, led to the development of another software product called 247 TopSeller which had to have been started in a 2-3 month window of that of eSellerPro being first developed.

I left MW a few months after, it was a team of 4/5 that turned into a team of 1, the then “EU Director” Mike Searle’s, after his unprecedented hatred and consistent rants about CA, their questionable and I add wholly unethical practices at the time (they have got better), actually left and joined CA. That marked the beginning of the end and not long after, Marketworks.com was bought by Channel Advisor on the 12th September 2007 for an undisclosed sum (an unconfirmed rumour was it was a “fire sale”).

An Amazing Stint at eSellerPro

I was working for a Diamonds firm in London when I received a call from a chap called Matthew Dean, he knew too much about me (quite flatteringly actually), as he had been trying to track down the right individual to help him expand a company that he had invested in, which was called ‘eSellerPro’ and my name kept appearing.

I met Matthew several times before agreeing to terms, one thing I quite happily boast about seeing the eSellerPro product for the first time, is that I could either see that the product that could solve every issue that I had at Marketworks, both as a user and a supporting party or could, with my guidance, solve them better than anything that had been conceived before. And today it does.

From the day I first met Chris, to the day I left the team, it was one hell of a coding bender and quite a ride. I’ve heard phrases such as ‘working 18 hours so that you do not have to work 8 hours for someone else’, however this was different, Chris’s lust for development was and probably still is unprecedented by anything I have ever seen and will ever see again.

When I first started, eSellerPro did have an employee in the USA called Karen Newton, quite frankly she was not that well supported (probably my fault to be honest, I should have realised) that well and with what was nightmare of a customer, it was no real surprise that we were told that she was no longer working on US clients and they were to be handled by support (there were no true support representatives at the time, the queue was managed by implementers and developers directly).

The Past CEO

I believe it was around May 2009 that a CEO was brought in, a chap called Paul Ayres, it was quite a momentous occasion, as for the first time I personally saw a chance for the business to gain a commercial aspect (as you can imagine, a CTO led company is extremely development focused and could become frustrating after a long enough period of time).

This sadly did not actually last for long and we were told, rather unceremoniously in a meeting that Paul had departed the company. Why things didn’t work out with Paul I’m not 100% sure, maybe it was too early, maybe it was a clash of true interests. I understand that he is now working on a social networking product called ‘MyCube’ and wish him the best for his new venture.

The Investment

In September 2010, several months after I had departed, it was announced that eSellerPro had secured funding by Notion Capitol for £2 million pounds, a new board would be created and a CEO employed. Frankly this was the second best thing to happen to eSellerPro after Chris’s & the teams relentless work on the product.

Now I did not realise how major this sell out was until I looked at the submitted accounts. Business Finance is a personal weakness and I need to nail this for my pending MBA studies, so what better place to start with is companies that I know about first hand.

Before the investment (see here for press release), the share distribution looked something like this:

Pearce – 70
Barker – 50
Milton – 100
Newton – 50
Dean – 70
Terry – 52 (Ordinary B)
From a total of 1052 shares, this left 660.

However on checking the share make up after the sale, they looked quite differently.

Barker – 50
Milton – 0 (these were transfer on 11-06-2010)
Newton – 50
Dean – 70
Terry – 52 (Ordinary B)
Dean – 70
Notion Capital – 420 (Ordinary B)
Ben White – 15 (Ordinary B)
Ian Milbourn – 15 (Ordinary B)
Shares allocated for staff & other parties – 167 (Ordinary C)

From a total of 1052 shares, this leaves just 143.

With the shift in assets appear as quite a drop for Chris, however to have managed to retain a decent chunk of the coupled in with the likelihood of contractual benefits as part of the process; Chris has most likely done very well, especially if you consider the background of Notion Capital in technology based companies.

A side note here is that I personally don’t think Notion Capital really knew what they were buying, it is not a ‘Lemon’ by any means, however I personally do not believe it will be a quick flip that they have enjoyed with previous ventures like Brightpearl.

eSellerPro Lite

Unbeknown to most outside parties, there is a secondary product called ‘eSellePro Lite’, a web based version of eSellerPro developed for RoyalMail. I am not sure on the viability of this option, although in theory, it could be a direct like-for-like rival to CA as it is browser based.

The United States is an obvious place to expand to, I’m aware that an office is being sourced, although a friendly tip here to eSellerPro is to remember the history of eSellerPro and why it started. Making the same mistakes that originally spawned the idea would be a bit silly, especially on their home turf.

Now at the present day, eSellerPro has bulked out quite heavily head-count-wise, there are dedicated support representatives, the development team has literally tripled in size and the same can be said for the implementations team. A board is in place, with Chris, Ben White, Ian Milbourn and the CEO Keith Bird.

The End…

This concludes “The Unofficial History of eSellerPro”. I hope this has given you an insight to eSellerPro that you’d never been told of elsewhere and an understand of where it has come from and possibly where its going too.

If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section at the bottom of this article.

Part 2: Using the Split Keyword to Break up Your Data

eSellerPro LogoThis article is a continuation of a previous article called Part 1: Comma Separated Keyword/Tag Blocks in Your eBay Listings? if you’ve not read this article then nip back and read through it, as we’ll need to know the original steps to where we are now.

So we left off with me saying that we should not process further keywords unless we have qualified the custom field so that we actually have something worth continuing with. We did this by using this keyword setup:

{{IFNOT/[[CustomFields:Variations:Other Colours]]// do something }}

So if the value of ‘Other Colours’ is not blank we should ‘do something’; Well lets look at the ‘something’. This is where it really gets good:

{{Split/Value To Split/Spilt Character(s)/ __SplitValue__ }}

Scary? Na, lets pop some values in here and we’ll talk it back in plain English on what the ‘Split’ keyword is going to do for us:

{{Split/{{CustomFields:Variations:Other Colour}}/, / <b>__SplitValue__</b>}}

Keeping this simple, lets assume we have ‘Blue,Red’ in our custom field for ‘Other Colours’ and that you know that the <b> and </b> are HTML tags and make text bold. So here it is:

Foreach ‘Split’ of the value of ‘Other Colours’ we are going to make <b>__SplitValue__</b>

Easy eh? Lets no use this with the two values ‘Blue,Red’ in our custom field for ‘Other Colours’, it would make the following:

<b>Blue</b><b>Red</b>

Wow, are you getting the power of this keyword yet? I hope so, lets keep going and beef this out into something more usable. As the complexity of the keyword is going now grow rapidly, I’m going to be using syntax highlighting on the code so its easier for you to read:

{{IFNOT/[[CustomFields:Variations:Other Colours]]//

	

	{{Split/{{CustomFields:Variations:Other Colours}}/, / 
		Find more items in __SplitValue__
		 , 
	}}.

}}

So this would make the following:

Find more items in Blue, Find more items in Red.

A quick note on the URL I used, I just simply went to eBay, picked the nearest store, in the search box on the left I entered ‘Blue’, but crucially ticked the box called ‘in titles & descriptions’ and chopped of the _SID=NNNNNN off the end, if you’re unsure, leave a comment on this post. I chose the ‘in titles & descriptions’ option, as I very much doubt any of you are spamming the titles with all the colour variations and for the super smart ones out there, instead of searching for just ‘Blue’, you would be prefixing these style colours with something like ‘sBlue’ so that the colour matching using this technique is absolute in its results (not clouded by junk results on ‘blue’).

Next Steps

Taking this further, lets assume you have made some colour swatches in images that are 50×50 pixels (we could do some further IF statements to use HTML colour codes, but thats way out for the purpose of example) and also you have entered your sizes into the ‘sizes’ custom field we first discussed, this could make something like:

{{IFNOT/[[CustomFields:Variations:Other Colours]]//

	

This item is available in other colours, pick you colour:

{{Split/{{CustomFields:Variations:Other Colours}}/, / Find more items in the __SplitValue__ colour }}

	
}}
{{IFNOT/[[CustomFields:Variations:Sizes]]//

	

This item is available in other sizes, pick you size:

{{Split/{{CustomFields:Variations:Sizes}}/, / Find more items in the __SplitValue__ size }}

	
}}

Summary

Thats quite a chunk of code to take in, but in simple terms for each colour it’ll bring in a swatch image of that colour and link it, then do similar task for image that are named ‘size-3.png’ etc… Neat eh?

Now some might say, ‘well eBay do variations now, I don’t need size or colours in the listing…’, thats right they do, but this example can easily be expanded upon for other values, like years of manufacturer if you’re selling roof racks, or perhaps this item is part of a range that is not being listed as multi level variations just single variations. You’re only limited here by your imagination the application of your data.

The point is with some thought and the right application of the tools & data at your disposal, you can actually have a targeted exit strategy to your eBay listings.

PS: For the XHTML junkies out there ‘border=”0″‘ is not valid, you’d want to use a CSS style or something :)

Part 1: Comma Separated Keyword/Tag Blocks in Your eBay Listings?

eSellerPro LogoClearing out my old files earlier and I came across some old keywords I used on numerous occasions. Instead of just detailing one, I’m actually going to join a few together here to make a example anyone using eSellerpro could use with a little thought.

Lets Make a Real-Life Example

Lets assume that you have two customfields the first with ‘Other Colours’ and another with ‘Sizes’, both in the custom fields group called ‘Variations’. These are two very common fields for anyone who deals with variation products, they could of course be ‘Languages’ for say DVD’s or ‘Years’ for of applicable models and so on…

So lets get right in and cover the first keyword, which is lets get value of the first field out so we can use it:

{{CustomFields:Variations:Other Colours}}

This keyword is in the format of ‘CustomFields:GroupName:FieldName‘. CustomFields calls the Custom Fields, GroupName is vitally important because it was found that the keyword only pulls in the values of the customfields from previous customfield calls, so if the value we were looking for was in a different group, then it would not be resolved; And finally the FieldName which is the internal name of the custom field (as opposed tot he display name which can be different).

So using the keyword ‘{{CustomFields:Variations:Other Colours}}‘ we can pull out the values in the ‘Other Colours’, for the sake of this example these other colours are ‘blue,green,red’. Noticing they are separated by commas, this is extremely important, as we’ll be using the ‘comma’ to spilt them up shortly.

Wait!! Lets Error Check

Now before we go any further, we need to error check ourselves. What do I mean by this? I do not think its a good idea to show or process any further code if there are not any ‘other colours’ to be showing to the viewer, we do this using another keyword.

There is two variations of this new keyword, IF and IFNOT. Both of these allow to check to see if a condition is true (there is another for IF/ELSE and IFNOT/ELSE but thats not required for this example, plus you could just alternate the IF/IFNOT to capture the alternative if its a 1:1 check, anyway back on topic…). These keywords are in the format of:

{{IF/Value being Checked/Value to Check Against/Output if True}}
{{IFNOT/Value being Checked/Value to Check Against/Output if True}}

Looks scary right? Naa its easy, lets do a real example. Lets pretend we have an colour blue in our custom field ‘Other Colours’ and IF we find blue, lets bring in an image that is the colour blue (for the smart ones, you can see where we could go with this):

{{IF/[[CustomFields:Variations:Other Colours]]/Blue/ <img src=”some-blue-image.png” />}}

Now you’ll notice the use of [[ & ]] and not {{ & }}, this is for a very good reason, image the custom field value contained ‘Blue/Red/Green’, this would break the earlier format of {{IF/Value being Checked/Value to Check Against/Output if True}} and a good practice is to always use the ‘square’ brackets and also do your best to avoid forward slashes ‘/’ in you data.

So if the value of the ‘Other Colours’ was ‘Blue’ then we would have had an blue image appear and if there was not, ‘nothing’ would have been output from this statement.

That brings us very nicely onto ‘nothing’, going back to previously mentioning its not a good idea to show or process code when there is no need, we need to check to make sure the ‘Other Colours’ actually has something in it, so we can continue, we do this by using this keyword set up:

{{IFNOT/[[CustomFields:Variations:Other Colours]]// do something }}

This says in plain English: IF the value of Other Colours is NOT blank (thats what the // is ) then do something.

End of Part 1

This feels a good place to stop, I’ll cover off the next stage of this little session in my next post. I hope I have at least got your creative juices flowing, I know what I’m thinking, perhaps we could have a set of colour images and those images being linked, so that customers could pick their alternative colours or sizes using a user friendly block to your eBay listings or may be a ‘year picker’. Hey the options are endless!

View part 2 here: Using the Split Keyword to Break up Your Data