Posts

The Responsive eBay Template Builder in Minutes

Howdy,

The full-house webinar we held for the launch of the Responsive eBay Listing Template builder was really good fun and we were at the limit of what GoToWebinar could handle, if you were able to make the live event, thank you!

However if you were unable to make it live, instead of you watching the full hour long webinar, I’ve created you a 12 minute overview where you’ll see us:

  • Start from no template at all
  • Create a unique listing template where you’re in control
  • Download the template code
  • Revise a live eBay listing using M2EPro & Magento ( this could be any 3rd party software )
  • And then… go back and make changes to the layout, design, widgets and colour scheme remotely

Remember, eBay say that over 40% of transactions are now touched by mobile devices.

You can still get an edge before Christmas!

The 12 Minute Overview

The shorter version is below for you:

Where to Get Started

All the major software tools are supported ChannelAdvisor, Linnnworks, eSellerPro, M2ePro, ChannelGrabber, BrightPearl, TurboLister, Selling Manager, Ad-Lister, SellerExpress, Inkfrog, InkFrog Open, StoreFeeder etc…

You can started with your very own fully responsive eBay listing template here:

https://widgetchimp.com/tools/register

If you would like to know more about pricing this can be found here as you can get started for just £9.99 a month and there are 2 months free for annual subscriptions too.

You can try the unique responsive listing template builder out for 30 days with a no-questions-asked refund policy.

We both need happy customers right?!

Matt

Responsive eBay Listing Template Webinar on Friday

Responsive eBay Listing TemplatesHowdy,

We know how big “Mobile” is for eBay, they say that 40% of all transactions are now touched by customers using a mobile devices.

The thing is, the normal listing templates that you’re most likely using don’t look great on mobile phones or tablets.

Your customers need to pinch and swipe to zoom in just to read your descriptions.

And that’s not a good thing.

We want customers to buy from you with as little fuss as possible.

For the past few months, I’ve been working on a 100% responsive eBay listing template builder as part of WidgetChimp and it’s now ready.

You can now carry your brand across all your eBay listings easily, no matter what device they are using, a mobile, a table or a desktop.

Free Webinar Friday at 2pm UK Time

You can see this truly unique listing template builder Friday 19th Sept at 2pm UK time, click the link below to save your seat:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1252949936142432002

If you’re in Germany, it’s at 3PM, Eastern US 9AM, Western US 6am or 11PM in Brisbane, Australia.

There are only 1,000 places available for this webinar and you should register right now.

I’m not saying this for some marketing ploy, I’m saying this as I’ve just sent emails out and there are 323 registered already. It will fill up completely before Friday.

See it in Action

You may know me personally and know how I’m wired to do things.

I didn’t stop at just 100% responsive eBay listing templates. Watch the video below and see what you could be leveraging right now. And I’ll show you everything on Friday.

Any Questions?

If you’ve joined myself & Dave for any of the UnderstandingE webinars or the eBay promoted Webinar we did earlier this year, you know that I will personally answer any questions you may have.

Even if it takes me an entire bank holiday as it did with the eBay & Magento webinar.

If you have a question, you can ask live on the Webinar. I’ll personally do my utmost to answer them then and there for you.

Grab your seat here and you will want to join early as this one is going to be maxed out.

Matt

 

 

 

The Ultimate Guide to Multi Channel Software Book

The Ultimate Guide to MUlti Channel SoftwareHowdy,

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

However… Do you find Multi Channel Software confusing too?

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

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

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

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

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

Enter your details to download immediately:

We respect your privacy

The Ultimate Guide to Multi Channel Software

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

In chapter 1 you’ll learn:

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

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

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

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

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

The Be Everywhere Strategy

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

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

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

The math here is really simple:

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

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

Be there with them too.

Grow Your Business

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

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

With Multi Channel software you can:

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

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

Which Software is Right for You?

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

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

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

Download Your Copy Right Now

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

Enter your details to download immediately:

We respect your privacy

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

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

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

To your success!

Matthew Ogborne
Author of The Ultimate Guide to Multi Channel Software

eBay Seller Updates – Autumn 2014

Howdy,

It’s the bi-annual update time again for eBay sellers, however this time around while there are some very cool things included, in many ways this is just a minor set of updates considering the epic changes that we’ve had in the past.

Normally this deeper insight to the changes eBay have released would have been out on the morning of the updates, however in the UK we had routing issues for the eBay UK site, so that warranted 8 simple tips for things to do instead of panicking, plus I’m doing my best to complete a book for Friday which you’ll have no doubt already seen chapters already on tamebay here and here.

If you’d like to discuss the latest eBay updates with myself, then you can join me live this evening at 8:30 BST in our weekly meetup: http://understandinge.com/happyhour/ it’s free to join, just bring a cuppa.

Note: This is at 12:30 PM PDT ( Western USA ), 3:30 PM EDT ( Eastern USA ) and 05:30AM EST ( Canberra, Australia )

As always with these updates, pull your chair closer, grab a cuppa and let’s dig in.

 

New Reporting Tool – eBay Insights

I’ve put this first because I’m sincerely hoping this is actually going to be half decent for you.

Below are two screenshots, click them for larger versions and then look closely.

eBay Seller Insights Tool eBay Seller Insights Tool
Click for larger version Click for larger version

You’ll see that eBay now have the potential to mine the rest of eBay and suggest back to you changes to each individual listing on changes that you could make to increase sales.

In the screenshot on the right it’s no real surprise that price features twice as suggestions to increase gross revenue, however the lower two, well they’re interesting…

eBay appears to be picking up that you may be getting low of specific product and in the last example for the jacket eBay is telling us a specific stock number is out of stock and have attributed a value back to the list if you were to get this product back in stock.

The thing is while such suggestions are extremely useful, especially if you don’t have any reporting application or process in place to identify low stock levels or out of stock products, we’re missing one key thing, will you still make money out of the product if you were to decrease the price?

And that’s where the subtle link in the top right comes into play, see the link on the larger previews called “Export current view”?

What happens if you were able to export these suggestions and then cross reference to your inventory management system, then work out if it’s actually in your interests to lower the prices on the suggestions eBay have made based upon fact?

So for example in your inventory management system you’ll most likely have a cost attribute, if you know the cost of the item and have a formula say in excel to work out the eBay, PayPal and any additional costs for the products, you could then action what eBay is suggesting and know if it’s going to be a sound decision for you in the long run.

Now for the bad news on this new feature, it’s only available to Anchor shop owners.

eBay’s reasoning for this is because the bigger sellers are the ones that are most likely to abuse this the most, so that when they obtain feedback from the bigger sellers and then action those suggestions, when they open it up to other businesses that have basic or feature shop subscriptions it’ll be more robust and hopefully have more features included.

So if you have an anchor store subscription, look out for this right now.

Click & Collect Goes Sitewide

eBay Click & Collect Example LabeleBay’s Click & Collect service with Argos has done really, really well and we know this because eBay are now rolling this out to almost all businesses on eBay UK.

This means you’ll be able to join the ranks of the limited few that had access to this in the pilot program and open your doors to the buyers that want to buy on the tube, train, in the car on holiday etc.. and then collect at a time that suits them.

So what does this really mean for you?

In short joining in with Click & Collect is simple, what happens on any orders that you receive where the buyer has selected the C&C option is that the delivery address will look like the address over to the right.

So instead of the buyers address we have an Argos store and the part in yellow is extremely important.

This is what Argos uses to determine who the order belongs to, if you miss this out then they’ll have no idea who the package received belongs to :(

There are a couple conditions that you need to meet to be able to offer Click & Collect on eBay, the first is that the listing must sport Fast & Free and that you use one of 5 couriers, Royal Mail, Parcelforce, UPS, DPD or Yodel, the item must weigh under 20Kg and the parcel can’t exceed 120cm or on it’s second side 76cm.

Managed returns is now being forced upon us ( we knew about this from the eBay spring update here ), is this is a good thing?

If we look at eBay as a whole yes it is. However we both know it will take us all some time to adjust to the new process and if you’re in the group of eBay sellers that have been elected in for this, you’re going to be starting before Christmas ( they’ll notify you via email ) and the sellers that missed it, will be picked up next year.

Seeing that 96% of the UK population live within 10 miles of an Argos store, this could be quite a win for you and if you’d like to know more about Click & Collect and also managed returns, there was a webinar with eBay a week or two ago and we covered this on the UnderstandingE site here:

http://understandinge.com/ebay-webcast-click-collect-managed-returns/

Oh and if you were wondering, if the buyer does not collect the order within a week, the order will be shipped back to you free of charge. So don’t forget a returns label!

Extended Returns for Christmas

ReturnseBay are keen again this year to extend the returns window for orders to include hassle free returns for unwanted presents.

So from September you’re going to be able to extend any returns window available to buyers until January the 31st 2015.

And the good news is eBay have done this the right way! You can set this option on a per listing basis and if you’re using any Multi Channel software, look out for updates for you to be able to do this.

And that seems like perfect timing to note that over on Tamebay there is a 5 part series that is being published each day this week on what Multi Channel software is, the chapter that is being released on Thursday will be about templates, using such templates will allow you change the settings with ease.

So if you are using decent Multi Channel software, this should be relatively easy for you to update listings with this new option if desired.

Selling Car Parts & Accessories on eBay?

We all know that the parts & accessories category has been the last category to adopt the changes around duplicate listings and in this update you’re not going to like this update as this is where eBay kick-in and start enforcing a limit of 5 duplicate listings on eBay.

The full list of affected eBay categories is here and with the increase in compatibilities we saw in the last update, in theory you should be able to cover almost all compatible cars over 5 listings as eBay upped the limit to a more sensible figure earlier this year.

Selling Manager & Turbo Lister Gets New Features

There are now bulk editing tools available and several new features that have been added to Turbo Lister and Selling Manager.

I haven’t personally used Selling Manager for years ( because just you, we’ve all been using 3rd Multi Channel software ), however not to dismiss SMP or TurboLister, they work great for smaller eBay businesses and this is the first major update I’ve seen in a long, long time.

The new features include:

  • Draft listings
  • The ability to create new listings in bulk using an import file
  • A quick editing pane
  • A copy function for existing listings
  • An export tool

Below is the video from eBay regarding the tool changes:

Ewww Category & Item Specific Changes

We all hate these updates as it means that if you don’t take notice of them now, before you know it you’ll have listings in the “other” category on eBay.

As always it’s a matter of perspective here, let other sellers find out too late that there has been updates, and for yourself, work these updates in now and take advantage of them because your competitors might not do so and you’ll have gained an easy advantage over them.

The full list of changes can be found using the link below.

http://pages.ebay.co.uk/categorychanges/

Note: If you’re using Magento & M2EPro, we created a video tutorial on how to update the eBay categories in Magento. It’s the click of a button and the video tutorial is here http://understandinge.com/tutorial/ss-0005/

eBay Global Shipping Programme

This is what I would class as being aimed at smaller businesses on eBay.

The businesses that are unable to negotiate decent international shipping rates but want to test the waters to see what fruits international selling could bring them.

Basically, eBay will do the international fulfilment for you. So what this means is that if you’re selling a product with £2.99 shipping, a customer from abroad can buy the product at the  full price plus shipping and then pay eBay extra to have the order shipped to them in their country.

As far as you’re concerned as the seller, you were paid in full for the UK shipping price and you then despatch the order to a UK distribution hub, this order is then sent on using eBay’s courier service to the buyer.

This on face value sounds like a really good idea ( for which it is, it’s enabling a massive amount of listings to be effectively delivered within the EU ), however there is one whopping great big flaw.

What if the customer wishes to return the item?

The seller is then left to tackle the returns process with customer and sending an item back from say Germany isn’t going to be cheap. Plus still no help with international trade in Plain English from any of the marketplaces, as a seller you’re just left to figure this out yourself.

So while definitely a step in the right direction and a hat-tip to eBay to being able to work a process out like this and actually delivering it, we’re only being given part of the process that as a business owner we need.

Fee Changes

Yep there are fee changes in this update, but nothing that will be a surprise to you from the earlier eBay updates and they only affect optional upgrades.

So that’s Gallery Plus ( don’t panic, if it was free in your category it is still free! ), Adding BIN to auctions, adding in a subtitle and the listing designer have all gone up in price.

All I’m going to say here is “phew”.

New Seller Standards & Seller Protection

And that leaves us with the last major topics, seller standards and seller protection.

In the call with eBay prior to the updates, they were really keen to make the point that they really are batting for our side when it comes to seller protection.

Remember that “Report a Bad Buyer” option that was introduced?

They really are using you feedback on buyers to help clean up the community and you’ll hear words like “large-scale automatic detection systems” being used. While rouge buyers will be a fact of any community, with your help their numbers are going down and you may have noticed some new messaging on your seller dashboard if you’ve been affected by a naughty one.

eBay have put together a snazzy video which I’ve included below for you. Before you hit play, note the number of video’s have included in this update, I’ll be commenting on this shortly.

Buyers are going to be required to post any post-sale questions via their My eBay purchase history, keeping this firmly within eBay. You want this to be in eBay so it’s trackable as that new seller dashboard and standards they’ve set you, it’ll help eBay to easily track the communications in the background.

Cancelled transactions won’t be classed as a defect if the buyer has requested this from you, however if you didn’t have the stock, yes you’ll still receive a defect from eBay on this.

The feedback policy is now being removed and being labeled up as a defect policy, basically it’s the same thing, but is now taking into account the defects.If any of these conditions are met, then it’s happy days!

  • Your buyer doesn’t pay for their item.
  • An eBay Money Back Guarantee or PayPal Buyer Protection case is ruled in your favour.
  • The defect was a direct result of an eBay site issue or programme error.
  • If eBay determines your buyer’s activity violates our buyer practices policy ( this is what we mentioned a few moments ago about eBay protecting you in the background ).
  • If eBay or PayPal instruct you to hold a delivery or if eBay cancels a transaction.
  • If the defect was because of systemic problems such as carrier delays, items stuck in customs, or power outages due to extreme weather conditions.

And in Summary

It’s fantastic to see that the Argos Click & Collect programme has been successful and is being rolled out to everyone else.

There are some criteria you need to meet for this and I know this won’t suit everyone, especially around the free shipping requirement. If you’re in on the first wave of eBay sellers that have this available to you, then it may be worth giving this a whirl and see how many orders you do gain from C&C, after all they’ll be easy to spot as the delivery address will be for an Argos store.

The extended returns policy that is available in September, if you’re selling seasonal products, such as toys, this could be quite a coo for you to gain early sales as we all know that the second that the kids go back to school, the mums will be in Christmas shopping mode.

If you’re a parts seller, the limitations on duplicates are going to hurt and no one likes category & item specifics updates, however if you jump on these as soon as you can, you can gain an edge over everyone else before they realise. Again the link to the category changes is here.

For me personally in the Spring update we had the new eBay shops as the “Cool Feature” ( see here for the video introduction to these ), in this update if you’ve got an anchor store, the eBay Insights tool could be quite a win for you.  get pressing that download button in the top right and see how you can marry up the eBay suggestions to your cost values and pop a process in place to see if you can leverage these suggestions for your listings.

Have any questions?

And finally, if you’d like to join myself and other business owners just like you, join me live this evening at 8:30 BST in our weekly meetup at http://understandinge.com/happyhour/ it’s free to join, just bring a cuppa.

See you there,

Matt

How to Sell on eBay using Magento Webinar Recording

Howdy,

Below is the recording in full HD of the webinar held on Friday.

We show you how easy it is to sell on eBay using Magento & the eBay endorsed extension called M2E Pro in just 60 minutes.

There were over 200 questions asked and while we did our best to answer them all live, sadly many were missed. So if you go here http://understandinge.com/ebay-magento-webinar-recording/ you’ll be able to read every single answer to the questions asked.

If you’re tight on time and want to get to the meat of the webinar, skip the fluffy starter stuff and get stuck in at 16 minutes in or follow this link.

Enjoy :)

 

We’ll show you:

  1. How to install Magento live with you ( takes 2 minutes and 5 or so clicks )
  2. A tour of Magento for the first time
  3. How to create your first product in Magento
  4. How to install the M2E Pro extension
  5. How to configure M2E pro following their advanced setup wizard
  6. List a product live on to eBay
  7. Revise the item live on eBay
  8. Purchase the product
  9. Process the order
  10. Confirm that the shipping details have been updated on eBay

All in 60 minutes without a “degree in nerd” being required.

And remember:

  • No sales person will call you
  • You pick & choose what you need “off the shelf”
  • M2EPro is the only eBay endorsed extension for Magento
  • Magento is Open Source & there are thousands of extensions available, this is just one of them
  • There is a community of over 1,000 business owners just like you on UnderstandingE to help you out ( if needed )
  • And of course, over 70 full HD video tutorials right here to show the how and the why to setup your own multichannel software

Matt

Sell on eBay using Magento in 60 Minutes – Live Webinar

Update:

Howdy,

The webinar took place on Friday 2nd May. A recording will be made available this week and I’ll pop a blog post up for you the moment it’s ready.

The blog post is now ready, see here http://lastdropofink.co.uk/tools/magento/sell-ebay-using-magento-webinar-recording/

Matt

Howdy,

This Friday, 2nd May at 2pm myself & Dave are holding a free webinar and you’ll learn how easy it is to sell on eBay using Magento.

We wanted to make it a challenge for us and for you to be able to get the most out of 60 minutes. So we decided that starting from scratch would be the most challenging for us, but also help you the most.

eBay Magento and M2E ProAfter all the best place is to start from the beginning right?

We’ll be starting from nothing and you’re going to learn the following:

  1. That Magento only takes 2 minutes to install
  2. The basic UK settings for Magento
  3. How to create your first product in Magento
  4. What attributes are and how they’ll help you list smarter on eBay
  5. How to install the eBay endorsed M2E Pro extension
  6. How to list onto eBay using Magento
  7. And how you can revise live eBay listings easily
  8. How to process orders from eBay in Magento
  9. And heaps more

All in just 60 minutes.

< Sorry registration is now closed, check the UnderstandingE blog for the recording once live. >

Sell on eBay Using Magento?

You might not have known this, back in 2011 eBay bought Magento after having a 49% stake for quite some time.

Not a bad choice if you ask me, as Magento powers over 26% of the top 1 million eCommerce websites so it was only natural considering Magento’s open source base that sooner or later an extension would be created to allow business owners like you to sell on eBay using Magento.

M2E Pro (which stands for Magento to eBay), an extension for Magento does just that and the cool thing about this extension, it does everything you would expect from multi-channel software, but without the whopping monthly fees or a cut of your sales (and no sales person will call or nag you either).

eBay have been subsidising the extension for the past few years and is set to continue for the next 3 or more years or so. Other marketplaces such as Amazon are supported too.

M2E Pro has been downloaded over 50,000 times by business owners like you across the globe and has a rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 over 179 reviews (really high for a free extension!).

Here are just a few things that Magento & the M2E Pro extension can help you achieve:

  • Sell on ALL 23 major eBay sites
  • Manage stock levels & prices across your marketplace accounts
  • Help you sell internationally, locally into the other eBay sites (Cross Border Trade)
  • Sell on eBay using custom listing templates with comprehensive keywords available
  • Revise live eBay listings
  • Collect and manage eBay orders from your Magento sales orders dashboard
  • Everything you would expect from 3rd Generation multi-channel software

Magento ConnectMagento CE is Open Source, there are thousands of extensions available on Magento connect (the online library of extensions) off the shelf.

If you need something that doesn’t exist (most cases, unlikely), because it’s written with the two internet staples, PHP & MySQL that’s not a problem. There are millions of developers available that can help you.

Oh and of course, you can have a Magento website too, but that’s optional.

So just because you’re using Magento, you don’t actually need to use it for your website, what I’m sure you’re most interested in right now is the stock control, inventory management and sales order processing abilities for eBay (but more on the website in a few moments).

All the major couriers have integrations to Magento, including extensions for Royal Mail DMO, the same goes for accounting too, Sage, Xero, QuickBooks, Kashflow, they can all be integrated with Magento.

magento-website-themeBack onto the topic of using Magento as a website.

Owning a Magento website doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated.

The one thing you cannot skimp on is decent web hosting, so none of that £1.99 hosting. You’ll need web hosting in the £20 mark per month and the good news is that there is specialised Magento web hostings all over the world, SimpleServers in the UK or SimpleHelix in the USA for example.

As for a great looking Magento website design.

If you’re on a budget, how’s $100?

There is a Magento theme called Ultimo which has been sold over 7,600 times and comes with free support & updates. Plus we’ll be including a step by step video course on how to design your own Magento website with zero coding over at UnderstandingE.

The Webinar

I’ve got all excited and gone slightly off topic. The webinar….

< Sorry registration is now closed, check the UnderstandingE blog for the recording once live. >

It’s free to join and we’ll show you how easy it is to get started.

The webinar will be held live and that means if you have any questions you can ask them there and there.

So with that said,

See you on Friday, it’s going to be fun!

Matt

UnderstandingE After Just One Month Live

Howdy,

It’s been a month since UnderstandingE launched and frankly it’s been crazy.

If you’ve been hidden under a rock for the past few months, we decided that it was time for a new generation of multi-channel software, a generation that leveraged open source software such as Magento and we’re in the process of joining all the dots together so you too can have access to enterprise-grade software to list onto eBay, Amazon, Play & your own Magento website so you don’t have to.

Well, it’s been a month since launch and you can hear how we went from ni-on zero-page views to 44,000 page views in a single month.

Play

Because this is may be new to you, above is a green play button. Press play and you’re off!

If you’d like to download the podcast for listening to on your iPhone, Driod or iPad you can do or you can press the “Play in new window” button to be able to listen to the Podcast while browsing.  If you use iTunes, you can subscribe here.

 

The Podcast

In the Podcast myself & Dave reflect on what was actually achieved in January and the thing is, the stats are crazy.

  • From ni-on zero to 44,000 page views in 29 days
  • 1,736 unique visitors on day one
  • Launched with 35 guides that took 4 months to build
  • Published the following 29 guides in a matter of days

We also take the opportunity to ask each other, “What could you have done better this month?”, the replies that you’ll hear are not what you would expect. And the saying, Jab, Jab, Jab, Hook will make complete sense to you too.

Never Been Done Before

“One never notices what has been done, one can only see what remains to be done” Marie Curie

Because I can count the number of people in the world on one hand that could actually pull it off, I doubt that we’ll be followed with the level of insight between all the different components that are needed to pull such an ambitious project off.

The thing is, to do this needed a “degree-in-nerd” (one of the phases that Dave coined during the guides) and it doesn’t need to be like this any more. Because we’re documenting the process for you to follow, all in Plain English so that anyone can pick it up.

Basically, we’re building the system I needed 10 years ago.

However I’ve been through two multi-channel software companies since then, seen and spoken to more marketplace business owners than most people will do in their lifetime and we’re implementing this insight into something you can pick up and learn to do at your own pace.

With Passion You Cannot Fail

I’m a strong believer that 90% of the battle is actually won by turning up.

If you turn up you can fight, the thing is most people just don’t turn up and if you sprinkle in the passion for multichannel business owners like you that I have, then that’s going to be one interesting combination.

We’ve had one crazy month and with thanks to your feedback, it’s only going to get even crazier.

Oh and while we were plodding along and the pace of “caffeine-obsessed-mad-men” we were shortlisted for the Real Business Future 50 nominations which is a project to recognise the UK’s most exciting, most disruptive early-stage businesses. Curious one that one :/

If we did this all in one month, WTF are we going to have achieved by the end of February for you?

I know what’s written on my whiteboard to deliver to you and it makes Dave cringe when I start whiteboarding ideas, because he (and you will too if you listen into to the Podcast) now know how aggressive I can get when I focus on targets and looking forwards, I have so much to deliver it’s just nuts.

Anyway dive into the Podcast and the 3rd Generation… it’s there waiting for you, UnderstandingE.com.

Matt

Why Does Multichannel Software Cost So Much?

Howdy,

Three questions for you to ponder:

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

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

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

 

The Entire Process Simplified

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

Listing Process

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

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

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

And that’s where the simplicity ends.

Product Data Fields

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

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

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

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

Picking on Product Descriptions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Need for a Framework

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

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

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

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

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

Changing Tack to Stock Control

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

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

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

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

But hey we’ve sold one, happy days.

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

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

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

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

Going Multi Channel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overselling is Going to Happen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Piggy In the Middle

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

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

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

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

The challenge that we have when dealing with marketplaces are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

King Piggy

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

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

And not just one member of staff, probably lots!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Order Processing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Rules for Order Processing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not as straight-forwards as it looked originally?

Pricing Multichannel Software

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

  • Fixed price
  • Percentage of sale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything & everyone has to be paid for.

In Summary

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

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

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

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

A Different Take on Multichannel Software

Howdy,

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]

Matt

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.

2,000 Orders a Week With NO Software Commissions

Would you like to hear from a UK business owner on how he manages 2,000 orders a week using the 3rd Generation?

Meet Gurpreet in the Podcast we just published over at http://understandinge.com/2000-orders-a-week/.

His business sells on eBay, Amazon, his own Magento website and he’s in the process of creating a trade website as well and he pays diddly-squat in commissions to software providers.

 

If it Can do Complex… What Could it do for You?

The first business we setup using Magento & M2E Pro was in the Clothes, Shoes & Accessories category on eBay. We couldn’t use the current providers because they were too expensive, it was a start up and no sales and the one we did try, didn’t do what we needed it to do. That’s how we found the 3rd Generation, backs-to-the wall, entrepreneurs fight through, because we had no other option.

Gurpreet was recommended this approach as you’ll hear in the Podcast and here is a brief summary to what he’s up to:

  • Runs a fashion based business which is the most complicated categories to manage on the Marketplaces
  • Has complex products with size, colour & multi-variation based products
  • Pays no-one any commissions on sales for software usage
  • He uses Magento & M2E Pro
  • A true multi-channel business
  • Sells on eBay
  • Sells on Amazon
  • Their own Magento website
  • Working on a wholesale / Trade only site
  • Royal Mail DMO integrated into their system
  • What they need, they buy off the shelf or have developed for their own use. They’re completely free of restrictions & able to innovate.

And Finally

You can only take a horse to water and say drink, the rest is up to the horse.

I’ll leave you with one question and one link.

The Question:
“If Gurpreet is using the 3rd Generation and it works for him in the most complicated category, Fashion and processes ~2,000 orders a week. How much would you save?”

The Link:
http://understandinge.com/2000-orders-a-week/ <= Listen to the Podcast on this page ( IT’S A LAKE! )

Are You Being Overcharged on eBay Too?

Just like most of you, I bet it was quite a while ago when was the last time you dug in to your eBay invoices. Digging into the transaction history in one eBay account identified an expensive flaw with eBay’s billing when it comes to multiple eBay categories resulting in the account being heavily over charged.

Read on and let’s see if you’re affected too by this.

2nd Categories

There is a flaw in the way eBay handles the billing for fashion categories on the eBay UK site with second eBay categories, this results in your account being over charged, £2.70 every time or if you’re lucky just 36p a pop.

When you list into the eBay fashion categories on eBay UK, you are given a free picture pack.  This is great, you can add lots of images (12 of them, “happy days” springs to mind) which are especially important in fashion related categories. 

You don’t ask for this on the sell your item form or via the eBay Trading API, you are given it for free whether you want or actually use it

Remember this point, it’s important.

The problem occurs is when you list into a fashion related category as your primary category and then add a second eBay category that isn’t a fashion category. This second eBay category may not have a “free picture pack” and because you were given this without choice on the 1st category, your listing is imposed the upgrade fee of £2.70 per listing for the picture pack.

But it doesn’t stop there… as we’ve found you can also be charged 36p “Picture fee” on other items per listing that is listed into secondary categories, although the listing only has one image and there are no additional images. Oh and to top this off, on the account we found this on, the images are externally hosted as well. So that means anyone using 3rd party listing tools are also affected.

Ouch This Hurts

This is the direct feedback from a eBay UK business owner that is affected by this, I’ve checked their account this morning and the fees are there in their billing history exactly how they describe:

Hi Matt

Over the last few days I’ve revised some listings into different categories. Big mistake if I’d have deleted the listings and reuploaded I think I’d have saved £400 ish.

So I’ve uploaded an item into Clothes, Shoes & Accessories >Womens Clothing >Activewear (category ID 137085) and ebay have by default added a free picture pack (we didn’t set it).

Then I have revised the item and added a second category

Sporting Goods >Exercise & fitness>Exercise Clothes & Shoes>Womens Clothes (category ID 79758)

When adding this second category it has picked up the free picture pack on the original category that ebay has added and charged. £2.70.

It’s also charged for picture upgrades on some at 36p & I have listings that are the same as above moved into identical categories and have been charged the correct amount 1p. (anchor store listing with 2 cats).
eBay have recommended two options to stop being charged in the future

a) Remove the second category from any listings.

b) Upload blank images to delete all images from the live listings. Then re-upload the correct images back onto the live listings. But can’t give me any guarantee that this would work.

the option they didn’t say was to delete all listings and re-upload as this would cancel any future issues. But I think this recommendation would be too close to admitting there is a bug in their system. It should have dropped the picture pack when I added the second category.

I have been told that the picture pack charges are down to me as they are advertised clearly on the fees page. I have told them that at no point did I ask for a picture pack to be added to the first category so it can’t be my responsibility.

Unfortunately moving forward there is no setting in ebay to stop additional images charges.

Now there’s not much option but to remove any second categories from my listings resulting in me not using ebay properly and giving my competitors a massive advantage.

We’ve worked out how much this has cost this business this month, it wasn’t pretty as it came in at over £400.

Penalised for Playing Fair

This really does feel we’re being penalised for playing fair.

I know many of you use 3rd party tools and to duplicate your entire inventory, switch a few titles around wouldn’t take more than a few hours, but we generally don’t (most of you anyway, *coff*) and could easily list products into other categories, but in this case we’re adding the second category to play fair and not duplicate list everything.

After all, eBay has gone to such lengths to remove duplicates from the site such as the August 2012 where the a single fixed price listing was imposed, a duplicate listing tool back in 2001 to identify duplicate listings and I’m sure you’ve received them, the bot that scans eBay and slaps you for having duplicate listings with policy warnings.

Are you Affected Too?

A serious question, when was the last time you scanned down your eBay listing fees? Quite a while ago like the rest of us I’m betting.

Take a look at your eBay “Account Activity”, you can access this page from My eBay > Account > Seller Account > And clicking on the “View All activity” link at the bottom or  a direct link is here http://cgi3.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewAccountActivity.

Tip: A download option to CSV files is also available on this page too for those of you that have a large amount of transaction history and you can filter the charges using the data filter option in Excel.

My questions for you:

  • So are you affected by this as well?
  • Do you agree with me that this really is not fair for playing fair?

Let me know in the comments box below.

eBay Dynamic eBay Store Categories Script Updated

Dynamic eBay Categories ExampleOver the weekend several updates were added to the Dynamic eBay Store Categories Script were released.

If you’ve not heard of this before, this is a “eBay Compatible” widget that allows you to add in your eBay shop categories into your listings remotely and have complete control over how they appear and look.

The Updates:

The updates to this script are as follows:

eBay Store search added

You can now have a eBay search box at the top of your categories bar in your listings that allows customers to make searches in your eBay shop, straight from your listing. Add in your eBay shop URL and set the setting to true to enable this feature.

Ability to order the categories

This was a feature request because sometimes the ordering that eBay gives you in the “Manage my Shop” section isn’t good enough and now you have the option of setting the ordering of the categories either to follow the eBay ordering or to order them alphabetically on each of the 3 levels of categories

Speed improvements & better compatibility with more hosting providers

Not all web hosting is born equal, several changes have been made so that you don’t run into challenges with hosting provided by the majority of the UK & US web hosting companies. Also added to this were several faster ways of rendering the final output code too and cache management

Upgrading

If you’re already purchased & are using this widget to bring in your eBay shop categories in your listing templates, the upgrade details are in your email inbox :) You can download the latest version from your account on this site and I’ve increased the download limit by 2 to allow you to grab the latest version.

Would you like your eBay shop categories in your listings?

eBay compatible applicationThis is a stand alone script that runs from your web hosting for maximum control and allows you to not only show your eBay shop categories in your listings, but also includes a search feature and is completely configurable through the template system I added last year as well.

You can find out more about this script here (there is a video included too).

Matt

PS. If you’re a web designer, there is a special web designers version also available for use with multiple clients which is being used by several high profile eBay shop & listing template design companies