Multi-channel software, love it or hate it, if you’re selling online and using the online marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon, you need it and it makes a massive difference to you being able to run a successful online business or having to wade through the endless repetitive tasks each day manually.
This is part 1 of a 3 part series on that covers the history of multi-channel software and is the beginning of a journey that will change the future of multi-channel software.
If you were wondering, this is directly related to main reason why I have been so quiet lately and together (thats us & you) will be changing the world of multi-channel eCommerce software forever and dipping our toes into the world of 3rd Generation multi-channel software.
However before we can get to the really cool stuff, we need to start our journey from somewhere and the best place to do that is to reflect on where we have come from and where we are today and this is what this article, part 1 and accompanying video is all about.
Part 1 – The History of Multi-Channel Software
Myself & Dave have put a video together to explain the history of multi-channel software below.
You can subscribe to the UnderstandingE YouTube channel here: youtube.com/user/understandinge
Proprietary, 1st & 2nd Generation Software
From it’s beginning where proprietary tools like Turbo-Lister (eBay) and Seller Desktop (Amazon) were created by the marketplaces themselves, then through the demands of businesses to expand further and add-in several missing features tools like InkFrog (1999), Auctiva, AMan Pro (for Amazon) and ChannelAdvisor who appeared on the scene in 2001. The 1st generation of software born and was there to help businesses be more productive with these channels.
Then the 2nd generation came around in the latter part of the naughties (around 2008/2009) where “Auction Management Software” turned properly into “Multi-Channel software” and was needed by businesses as they really started to leverage both eBay & Amazon and other online sales channels. We suspect this was because the Amazon marketplace really started to take off around then and the requirements changed for online businesses, they were selling in more than just one location, they had eBay, they had Amazon, their offline trade and the website platforms out there were getting better & better.
A Change in Requirements
This change in the landscape of business requirements spawned multiple 2nd generation providers that include ChannelAdvisor, who jumped from 1st generation (as they added in Amazon support), MarketWorks, ChannelGrabber, Linnworks, eSellerPro, SellerExpress and numerous other software companies who have come in later such as Brightpearl & StoreFeeder that have woken up to the apparent lucrative world of multi-channel software and whom we see today.
Some companies haven’t made the jump from the 1st generation at all, InkFrog, Auctiva & AMan Pro haven’t really strayed from their original selling platforms and that’s “ok” if that’s all you need for your business.
In the cases of eSellerPro and 247TopSeller, these were created by the failings of the original two providers that serviced the United Kingdom, ChannelAdvisor & Marketworks to adapt to the UK (and Europe for that matter) fast enough.
eSellerPro started as a shipping solution and with an integration to Sage from MarketWorks that then evolved into the tool we see today (see here for the unofficial history), as for 247 TopSeller well this was born in the same 2-3 months time window of eSellerPro because neither of the existing options (CA & MW) would meet the requirements of UK wholesaler.
Cost, Cost, Cost
The current options for business owners like yourself that use multiple sales channels (including the marketplaces) all fall into one of the two camps when it comes to pricing, fixed price and a percentage of sale.
Generally the “smaller” providers offer fixed price software where you pay a set amount each month to them for them to help you manage one or more marketplaces, these are generally medium cost and viable options. The more expensive options appear from the larger providers such as eSellerPro and ChannelAdvisor, where you’ll have a committed minimum monthly bill in the region of £500-600 and if a percentage of sales (around 1-2%) exceeds this value, then you pay more. That’s why you’ll find numerous businesses paying in excess of £1,000 a month for multi-channel software.
It doesn’t matter which path you have followed up to today, all the current 2nd generation multi-channel software products offer good-ish value for money.
As a whole, they all do the same tasks with similar features when we look at them from a high-enough level (in some cases it has to be really high with a slight squint). When we get down to the minute detail, there are major differences which explains the differences in the amounts that different providers charge and it’s these smaller details that generally depict which business uses which software provider because their business needs these small, less “transparent” options.
It took a mistake by one of the 2nd generation providers to force this path to be explored and when we joined the pieces of the puzzle together we ended up with something that is greater than the original parts combined. What has been missing up until now is for us all to work out that this is actually viable and what we found, personally I was very surprised by.
The 3rd generation is a completely new take on multi-channel eCommerce software and while I say completely new, this has been around for the best part of 3 years already. We’ll cover more on this in part’s 2 & 3.
We don’t have all the answers, frankly we never will, however we know this path works. It’s highly flexible, ridiculously inexpensive and leverages the might of both open source and the backing of a massive corporate umbrella. For the past 7 months, I have followed it myself and there are examples of businesses turning over millions each month using this method.
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“
We’re going to leave you with the vision of the future of multi-channel eCommerce software and we’re starting a journey today and we both invite you to join in at UnderstandingE.com/NOW.
PS.You can find part 2 here, where I admit I was wrong. But what about?