EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 318 - September 09, 2012 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 6

ChannelGrabber Helps Manage Inventory Across Multiple Channels

By Greg Holden

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Multi-channel sales - including sales made through a brick-and-mortar store and one or more websites - are an effective strategy for keeping a small business thriving in the twenty-first century. But how does a small business manage to maintain inventory in all those locations?

For example, if someone buys a T-shirt in Rock Shop Music and Comics' physical location in the Mall of Georgia in Buford, GA, that T-shirt needs to be removed from the inventory available to its website, its eBay and Big Commerce stores, and from the channel where most of the business's online sales come from, If owner Brad Owens adds a rock band's cap to one site, it has to be added to all sites. Doing this manually is an impractical idea.

"We were looking for a solution that would manage our inventory across multiple channels," says Owens, who has been selling online for about five years. "We had to have a solution that could manage inventory for our size variations between our three stores."

Owens chose ChannelGrabber, a UK-based ecommerce provider, because it was "user friendly and we really like that they are a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution. Instead of manually going into each channel and adjusting our inventory when an item is sold, it will do that automatically. We can also manage orders within one interface. It's also very easy to add items to a different channel."

That must be music to the ears of Daniel Williams, 25, who founded ChannelGrabber two years ago with 20-year-old Matthew King. Like ChannelAdvisor and other such companies, ChannelGrabber helps businesses manage inventory across multiple online storefronts. What sets ChannelGrabber apart from the competition?

Williams said ChannelGrabber tries to differentiate itself by making things as simple as possible to have the least amount of impact on customers' current sales. "We do this by importing all live listings and merging them together," he said. "Many other systems do not allow you to bring in live listings to be managed. They either require ending the listings and recreating them, or importing all product information and then attaching listings to them. We also have a unique way of dealing with inventory items and listings by showing them in a logical way alongside our traffic light system to indicate when a product has a live listing and where it does not." A customer-centric focus and competitive pricing also distinguish the company, he adds.

In addition to presenting all of a seller's products and sales channels in grid format (products go down the page; sales channels are arranged in columns across a single page), ChannelGrabber gives store owners a way to create products from scratch.

The software is available in three versions. Prices on the website are listed in British pounds. The Standard package costs 60 pounds per month with a 60-pound setup fee; Professional costs 240 pounds per month; and Premier's price is based on a percentage of each sale. Each package includes access to telephone support, though some packages charge for this service (U.S. customers call a national phone number).

US pricing is as follows: Standard: $200 for the first month, $100 for each month thereafter; Professional: $400 a month; Premier: Negotiable - is a percentage-based model, however, flat fees can be arranged.

Beware the company does not refund its set up charge.

"We currently have 500+ users on our system, we do not have a free trial," he said, adding that the annual revenue of ChannelGrabber customers ranges from 60,000 pounds all the way to 10 million pounds or more.

Williams and King met not while doing business online, but while playing an online game. "What brought us together was our similarity in wanting to start our own business," says Williams. "We used to spend hours each night saying how we wanted to start our own business but we never knew what we could do. I knew some PHP (Web development language) and HTML/CSS, and Matthew was keen to learn, so we started messing around with a few ideas and I started to teach him what I knew."

After starting to create a site for landlords to manage tenants, they switched to ChannelGrabber. "I ran an ecommerce business on behalf of someone and that entailed selling on Magento, Amazon and eBay and it was a nightmare to manage them. I used to sell on eBay and Amazon which is how the whole concept came up," said Williams.

In moving to the U.S., ChannelGrabber has faced several challenges. The biggest: marketing. Another is the number of service providers (eBay, Amazon, Magento, Shopify, Volusion, etc.) to connect with. A third is structuring tech support to be available at "U.S.-friendly" times while the company continues to operate from the U.K.

ChannelGrabber is only available in English, so most of its customers are in the U.K. After focusing on the UK's online business market its first two years, ChannelGrabber recently expanded to the U.S. "We are trying to create a global piece of software that is simple but effective, the world is getting smaller and the next logical step for ChannelGrabber is fully supporting our friends and neighbours in the U.S."

One of those friends, Brad Owens, advises prospective ChannelGrabber users to check out the YouTube tutorials on the service, and to make sure that the software is compatible with your current shopping cart. "We're expecting this to really increase our sales on eBay and our comic listings on our BigCommerce site," he says.

About the author:

Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.

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