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

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

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

 

Keywords!

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

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

“Our UK Delivery is just £1.99”.

The uses are almost endless.

How Big Sellers Manage Their eBay Listings

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

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

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

We Need Your Help

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

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

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

So… Myself & Dave need your help.

This is How You Can Help

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

M2E Pro Vote for Keywords to be Added

  1. Go to this page: http://support.m2epro.com/forums/137040-m2e-pro-ebay-magento-integration/suggestions/4720248-m2epro-system-keywords-variables-for-ebay-listi
  2. Check over the specification I have written and add a comment you feel appropriate to the bottom
    (something like “OMG we need this” would be appropriate)
  3. In the top left-hand corner there is a “Vote” button
  4. Press the “vote” button
  5. Enter your email address
  6. And press “3 Votes”

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

Again the direct link to this feature request is here: http://support.m2epro.com/forums/137040-m2e-pro-ebay-magento-integration/suggestions/4720248-m2epro-system-keywords-variables-for-ebay-listi

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

Matt & Dave

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

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

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

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

 

A Re-Cap

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

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

The Vision of the Future

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

I Used To Think…

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

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

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

The Glimmer of Hope

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

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

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

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

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

The Stark Reality

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

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

The reality is that:

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

And Wrong Again? Maybe Not….

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

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

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

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

Hold on to that thought for a few moments…

Breaking it Apart

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Current Approaches

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

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

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

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

So a Time for a Different Approach

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

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

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

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

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

And Then Consider

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

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

Interesting theory right?

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

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

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

Find out more at UnderstandingE.com/NOW

And in part 3, we reveal all :)

The Four Standard Physical Product Business Models

The following two video’s are part of the UnderstandingE project I have been working on & I’m sharing them here for any feedback you may have.

This hasn’t been clearly defined before (that I know of) and will be an immense help if you are considering an eCommerce product business for eBay, Amazon, transactional websites, the other channels etc… Or as I’ve found, to help realise that you’re actually using one or more of these and why you’re actually using more than one of them.

Four Standard Product Business Models

There are four standard product models that a business can use when it comes to physical based products which are intended for resale, this applies to almost all incarnations of an eCommerce product based business.

These are:

  1. Stocked
    This is like a retail shop, where the items are pre-purchased, then used as the inventory to drive data for the online channels and to fulfil orders. I cover the advantages in the video, however this has one major disadvantage, the outlay of cash to fund it.
  2. Manufacture
    This doesn’t have to be as hardcore as making glass, where you take sand (silica) and add other additives such as lime (calcium oxide) and then adding immense heat & other processes, it can be the combination of two or more products to make a unique third product. In the second video I use the example of the lighting in my office, taking stands, plugins, blurbs & softboxes and combining them into a kit, which is a unique product offering.
  3. Virtual / Just-in-Time
    I personally hate the phrase “drop shipping”, a more apt description would be “virtual” or “just in time”.
    This is typically where stock is made available virtually and then put on offer by the business, when an order is taken, the stock items are ordered and then fulfilled. This may be directed to the customer, but also to the business for sorting and then sending out (as I learned two days ago, the correct term for the latter part is called “Cross Match”).
  4. Asset Recovery
    We can also include refurbished products under this model, as essentially they have gone through the asset recovery process and been re-manufactured. This model can enable the highest returns, but also some major downsides, such as availability and quality.

In their Purest Form

In the video below I cover each of them in the purest forms, you’ll need to watch this one before moving to the second as without the explanation of them in this form, the hybrid models won’t make sense.

Hybrid Business Models

However, in reality, there are very few business that use only one of these, instead in this video, I explain how and why you would want to use a hybrid of these standard models for your business.

I also cover a model that I have not included in the four standard models called “Flipping”, as I explain in the video, this is not a scalable model and if you do find a product base that you can scale with, then I would suspect that it falls under the asset recovery hat.

Summary

Documenting these have been exceptionally useful for me & I’m sure for you also.

I’ve found when talking with business owners about these, this has helped them realise why they’re doing what they are with their businesses. It also makes it a pick & mix exercise, however you can now see why you would want some elements of each, but to limit as much as the negatives as you can by combining them together.

Stop - Take Action!Which models are you using?

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