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Mon Feb 27 2012 14:55:33

Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sellers?

By: Ina Steiner
Sponsored Link
Dear Ina,
There is something I would love to hear both your as well as your readers' opinion on.

The past weeks (or has it been months..) I've been scouring the internet, looking for a good all-in-one solution to facilitate our transition from eBay-only to multiple channels, to automate a bunch of the processes we currently do manually, to give a clear overview of all our sales and listings, and to just generally make our lifes a bit easier.

Channeladvisor, eSellerPro, Linnworks, SolidCommerce and 247 TopSeller seem to be the big players. However, reading lots of reviews and forum posts, it really seems like all of these just make your online (and offline!) life a lot harder instead of easier. Tons of bugs, very unintuitive interfaces, and lacking customer support seem to be the three main issues.

Funny enough, almost all of the positive "reviews" and comments come from people that work for these companies (both disclosed and non-disclosed).

So, is it really a matter of choosing the lesser of these evils? Do you feel a software solution is really necessary to grow an ecommerce business past a certain level? Or does the proper amount of outsourcing work equally well?

Also, it would be great if anyone (who is not affiliated with these companies please) has positive experiences to share. Or would even go as far as to recommend the multi-channel solution they're currently using?

Looking forward to your response!
Best,
Mitch

Note from the Editor: Check out EcommerceBytes Ratings and Reviews for inventory management and listing tools.




Comments (12) | Permalink
Readers Comments

Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel   Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel
by: gnusis This user has validated their user name.
       Web Site
Mon Feb 27 16:56:39 2012
Well I am affiliated with a multi-channel company and I never post, but your article has really struck into the heart and vision of our company, thus I feel compelled.

The reason why many users have trouble with multi channel solutions is because these solutions focus on enterprise customers and solutions. They are extremely complex to build and difficult to maintain. If you want an escape from the complexity visit highwire.com and learn about our new eBay integration
Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel   Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel
by: go-figure This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Feb 28 06:31:40 2012
@mitch - Good luck finding a multi-channel service that actually practices any form of customer service. I can tell you from personal experience to avoid ChannelAdvisor, eSellerPro and IF/Highwire. Once upon a time, 2 of the 3 of these actually offered some customer service. But as is so often the way with tech service companies, as they get larger, their customer service radically declines.

Sadly, the best advice I can give you is Good Luck since you probably won't find the magic solution that you're looking for while AT THE SAME TIME getting respectable customer service!
Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel   Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel
by: MatthewOgborne This user has validated their user name.
       Web Site
Tue Feb 28 08:10:58 2012
Howdy Mitch,

My reply comes with a disclaimer, I have worked for two SaaS companies, one of which (eSellerPro) is mentioned above for 3 years and the other being MarketWorks (which is now owned by ChannelAdvisor), however I do *NOT* work with either of them now, but the businesses I work with do use 3 of the ones mentioned above.

Interesting note on "(both disclosed and non-disclosed)", as one of these companies has been cleaning up its reviews around the Internet, although the bad ones are still sat in Google's web cache.

There are 3 core processes that these services are "supposed" to solve:

1. Multi Channel Listing & Stock Input
2. Order Aggregation
3. Stock Control

A brief summary of these are the multichannel listing is spending more time on inventory data, so you have a portable inventory record and allow the input of stock levels to them. Order Aggregation saves you logging into multiple sites, in some instances allows courier integrations and business rules to be applied to orders and also because the orders are being aggregated, they know what sold where and can update the sales channels with the correct stock levels.

In short, using any of these companies for the right business will gain a benefit from using them. History tells me this, as there are always two spikes in an eCommerce business sales volume these are:

1. When they employ software to automate tasks
2. When they add more sales channels

Now I did use the term "supposed", as they all work differently and because it is software there is always likely to be hidden features (some people call these "bugs") and we're also not accounting the wet-ware (that's us humans) on the front end.

Please take this with no dis-respect to yourself (or anyone else reading this), some of these tools are complex and some people just don't "get" them.

I've seen this first hand a couple of times now, even with the best will-in-the-world, while you may not like it, the technical ability of the business owner or team will limit the businesses ability to leverage these tools (eCommerce is a data lead environment).

I spent 3 years at eSellerPro trying to create the single tool that would solve the challenges that face multi channel businesses, now two years on I believe that there is no and will NEVER be a single solution that fits a business of any size.

So to answer your question, there is no "ONE" tool that will solve your current issues now or in the future. They will ALL have bugs and ALL with have annoyed customers. Without a deeper understanding of what your business currently does and where, what strengths & weakness are within the team and what the desires are of the business are, I cannot comment on which would be better.

It has always been the businesses that leverage a combination of tools that lead the way in their sectors, as they all compromise somewhere either in areas such as functionality, cost or usability.

As a suggestion, have you tried speaking to users of the above companies whom appear successful?
(99.9% are really nice people and will genuinely help you)

Hope that helps,

Matt










Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel   Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel
by: Bad Karma This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Feb 28 08:46:40 2012
I currently use the Vendio platform to coordinate eBay and Amazon, and I have found it very useful. Except for a few issues getting used to the platform (I had to ask Amazon to transmit our order data in xml format) I have not had problems with the software.

The best part, for me, is the customer service. I have not had to wait longer than 24 hours for a response to a problem, and usually I receive a reply within 1 or 2 hours. As MatthewOgborne said, every MultiChannel program has its intricacies and they all have a learning curve, but Vendio has really provided good support for their platform.  
Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel   Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel
This user has validated their user name. by: Nan
       Web Site
Tue Feb 28 09:29:30 2012
I _wish_ there was a multichannel interface that didn't cost an arm and a leg, but so far I have not been able to find one.

For now, I use the HomeBase3 desktop software (available at abebooks) to update all my book inventory via FTP, across ABE, Alibris and Biblio.  

My Amazon inventory is exclusive to Amazon/FBA, so I just let the system update itself, and add new inventory manually.

For my non-book inventory (art stuff), I store it in TurboLister and (when it doesn't go to eBay) cut/paste it to Etsy, Artfire or Yardsellr.

And then there's my website, which I update manually.

Wow - I'm tired out just reading over my post.  No wonder I have no spare time!  :D
Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel   Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel
by: Arch This user has validated their user name.
       Web Site
Tue Feb 28 11:40:53 2012
Hello Mitch,

I went through a similar search in July of last year for a good multichannel solution. At the time however I was just restarting my e-commerce operations and had to go with a low-cost solution. For me that was Vendio.

The fact that I could sell on eBay, Amazon and my own site all  controlled by one inventory solution was very appealing.  I also looked at some of the other companies you mentioned but their expenses were too high.  

Vendio is very buggy.  Here’s a few of the problems I’ve had:
1. In January 2012 ALL of my shipping profiles were corrupted.  I had to reweigh all 1500 of my listings.  THIS is a huge mistake.  They gave me a $20 credit. Ugh. It cost me 40 hours of my time.
2.  Amazon interface does not work well making is unusable for me.  After 6 months they alerted me to a fix which I am about to try out.  
3. Shipping interface is very bad.  Unusable and no flow- easy to  make mistakes and time consuming. Printed packing slips can NOT print out customer requests.  Does NOT automatically email tracking numbers are two of the biggest problems.  I just switched to Shipworks which I love and highly recommend. Saved me a ton of time.  
4. Many other bugs.
a. When there is an error listing an item it does not tell you.  So many listing on eBay do not launch and you don’t know it.  
b.  Thumbnails are too small to be very useful.
c. No way to list items for sale.
d. Promotional coupons sent out immediately after shipping. 2 weeks later would be more effective.
e. page navigation is rough. After you make a change it bring you to a beginning screen.  You need to redo a repetitive search from scratch.
f. keep getting charged for Gallery Plus fees.  Ebay blames Vendio. Vendio blames eBay.  Vendio promised to look into for me though and 4 months ago and has NEVER gotten back to me.  
g. I have made about 30 suggestions on how to improve their software.  NONE of them have been implemented including the issues I have recommended above. I really wonder if there are any software engineers over there?
5. A couple times a month the software goes down for part of a day. Unable to do listings.
6. There are no useful video tutorials on how to use the software including any updates made.  You are simply expected to figure it out on  your own.  Often it is intuitive, but often it is NOT.  

On the plus side of things:
1. Ebay listing module works pretty well.
2. The customer support gets back to you right away.  So for minor things they can help you out quickly.  For big things though mentioned above it just goes into the suggestion box vacuum.  

As you might guess I am looking to make a change too.  Messing up my shipping profiles was kind of the last straw for me.  But it takes a lot of research to find the right provider.  I am very interested to hear from anyone using some of the other companies you have mentioned.  Also, why not share the results of some of your research in this forum?  I would love to learn from you why don’t like Channeladvisor, eSellerPro, Linnworks, SolidCommerce and 247 TopSeller.  If you had to choose one of them, which would it be?

One other thing.  I have hired remote workers in the Philippines.  I am paying them about $5/hr with no benefits and they are doing a BETTER job than American employees in many cases.  I import Japanese products and they actually translate product description for me into English for $5 per hour.  

I also had my website designed and programmed with their help.  Other duties are  data entry, accounting, and item creation by these employees. It has been an extremely valuable shortcut for me.  I am working with reputable people over there for about 4 years.   This is another creative out of the box way for you to take your business to the next level.  
Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel   Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel
This user has validated their user name. by: Tula
       
Wed Feb 29 16:20:36 2012
@MatthewOgborne makes some very good points. We all sell different items on different combinations of channels, so our businesses have different needs. Having a single too that will work for anyone and still be reasonably-priced with stellar performance is a pipe dream.

There's a saying we have in software development about the three key features: speed/ease of use, accuracy/performance, and cost. You can have two out of three, but having all three at once is near-impossible. I think it applies to these tools quite well. You can get something easy to use that fits your business perfectly, but it won't be cheap. You can get something cheap with a simple interface, but it won't have great performance or suit your business perfectly. And so on. Everyone will have different tradeoffs.

For myself, I found all the existing tools were too expensive and didn't meet my specific needs, so I'm building my own tools. I'm a computer geek and software developer, so I have that option, but most people don't. So you're essentially stuck with choosing one of the available packages or services, hiring someone to build something custom for your business, doing it all manually for each venue, or hiring someone to do it manually.  All of these have their own associated costs, whether it's cold hard cash or lost hours (time is money!). Everyone needs to weigh the pros and cons of all of these and decide which works best for their businesses.  
Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel   Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel
This user has validated their user name. by: Tula
       
Wed Feb 29 16:39:30 2012
@Arch:
With regards to your outsourcing, the only reason overseas people would perform better is that you can't buy decent US talent for $5/hour. My day job is as a contract software engineer and I don't even look at anything that pays less than $65/hour on a W-2 basis, or $90/hour on 1099. Granted I live in a high-cost area (Boston) and have 20+ years of experience. You can get decent, mid-level talent for $40+/hour up here, and likely a bit cheaper in less expensive corners of the country.

You'll find that in most cases, domestic workers will excel at the more complex and creative tasks. I've worked with overseas groups quite often, as well as "insourced" H1B people and have found that they do fine as long as things are clearly spelled out and straightforward. But don't expect much "outside the box" thinking. That's simply not how they're trained. There are always exceptions, of course, but by and large, that's been my experience over many years in this business.

Outsourcing your more basic rote tasks on the cheap is a good money-saver, though, as much as it pains me to see anyone handing more jobs to non-domestic people. I still prefer to look homeward when I need to outsource any kind of tasks, but that's just my own preference and desire to help my fellow countrymen stay employed :-)
Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel   Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel
by: tb This user has validated their user name.
       
Sun Mar 4 13:16:39 2012
My experience? I am an armchair programmer, and I have all but figured out EBay's API (it's pretty complex). So I have been able to pull orders and place them into my websites backend system, automatically transmit feedback tracking and ship statuses, and have been able to sync inventory with my website. There's lots more to do, and I wonder whether some of the bugs people are experiencing are because of Ebay's API. Last night I ran an API that gave me an entire list of all the items I'm running. I ran that API an hour later and it was different! Items showed up that weren't on the first pull.

I have a little more work to do with Ebay, and then it's off to figure out Amazon.

You never know, you may find someone that does this on a freelancer site from like Bangladesh or something that is willing to do it for you for the cost of a years worth of subscription to one of these companies mentioned. Love it or hate it we're in a global economy and you definitely won't have to pay $90 an hour (not that this rate is unfair or undeserved).

Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel   Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel
by: TheCrabDock This user has validated their user name.
       Web Site
Sat Mar 24 03:40:53 2012
I am lucky enough to be a beta tester of a new multi channel software lister and record keeper as well as keeping track of shipments and finances called "Intarsa". It can be found here. https://www.micromerchantgazette.com/widgets/AboutIntarsa.php

I have been very happy using this software so far and have used others in the past.  It is in baby stages but I am hoping this software will become a giant one day.  It is not so much a template program as it keeps my inventory (which ebay does not do), and has many wonderful features I have not seen in other programs.  

They also offer 'Widgets' or little tools that are very interesting and helpful.http://www.micromerchantgazette.com/widgets/
Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel   Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel
by: springer This user has validated their user name.
       
Wed Jun 20 04:35:47 2012
I do't agree with the comment about linnworks, I've been using them for a while and they are very professional, they don't use underhand tactics to promote their software (if nothing else I find them not very proactive at promoting their product).
Yes every software/system you use is bound to be imperfect, but I would definitely recommend them, the level of support is very good.
Since using them I can now list on several channels, and the software has been very reliable for me.
I've looked at Magento Go as well, and let's say that their PR/Marketing is way better than the support and technical side, lots of limitation, incredibly complicated to use.
Highwire looks interesting too, but I've never used it.
Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel   Do eBay Multichannel Listing Tools Really Help Sel
by: ishop247 This user has validated their user name.
       Web Site
Wed Feb 13 08:08:46 2013
we use linnworks and we are very happy with them, the support on the top package is great. We have used eseller pro (pile of poop) and channel advisor which was similar. Linnworks is very cusomisable and script etc can be written to control almost all tasks that wouldnt be included in any of these multi channel softwares. We have our configurered very well and the whole proccess is automated from the orders coming down to formatting (removing charaters/ putting spaces in postcodes) the addresses, Printing the invoices, scanning the invoice to print a label it and much more


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