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Sun Feb 24 2008 10:53:50

ChannelAdvisor Pro Alternatives

By: Ina Steiner

Sponsored Link

ChannelAdvisor is discontinuing its Pro product, which we wrote about here on Friday. I've been getting email from readers who are weighing their options. If you are a Pro customer, what are you going to do? Will you upgrade to ChannelAdvisor's Marketplace Advisor, or are you going to try a different program?



Comments (34) | Permalink

Readers Comments

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by: Eric

Sun Feb 24 12:05:50 2008

I read your article on CA Pro this evening with much interest.  I wasn't sure if you interviewed Wingo, if you didn't hear directly from him, would you mind letting me know the source where you obtained the quotes from him?  Specifically:

''For sellers who choose to move to an offering from another company, Wingo said his company would give them the ability export their data in CSV format.''

I think I would drop over dead if they actually did that.  As CA Pro has shown it's age, I've asked for my data several times and been ignored or given a short ''no''.   They've kept people stuck in that system for years who wanted to move on to something else - I've been there 5 years + and don't know that I've ever felt felt like a ''welcome'' customer.  They charged my monthly fee and I could use their system as-is, take it or leave it, but that's as far as customer service has ever really gone.
If you look at the forums, you'll see support has been handled mostly user-to-user for a loooong time.

So Wingo himself said that he's going to finally give us access to export our own data?  Wow!

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by: John

Sun Feb 24 12:47:14 2008

I am one of the ''grandfathered'' early customers who was guaranteed my original fee rate for life, and I am kicking myself for not reading the writing on the wall.

In the early days, their customer service was the best on the street, bar none.  I forgave them for the first reneging of our contract when ePay began charging CA / Auction Rover a horrendous fee just for access to each item on their site;  but when ePay discontinued that fee charged CA, CA did not discontinue the extra fees they were charging me.

In my world, that would have been the only thing to do to maintain my self - respect.  Not to have done so exhibited a lack of integrity and screamed for me to sever my relationship with them at that time.  They had at that time miserably failed the ''smell test''.

And this latest move is a prime example of the old American saying, ''Fool me once, shame on you;  fool me twice, shame on me.''  

Much like your commentator above, I don't expect Scott Wingo to do the right thing with the CSV export utility.  He certainly has the programmer manpower necessary to do this in a couple of hours, so there is a bit of a chance it will happen.

In reading the CA message boards recently, there was only one customer comment about the new program that Wingo wants us to move to, and it was as negative as you might imagine.  The transfer/migration software apparently doesn't work.  Further, there are no posted CA management assurances that CA Pro users will find the new software to be easy/hard/impossible or ??? to adapt to.  Add that to the fact that it will cost me 5 times the monthly fees ($10 monthly plus $40 in overages will become $250 or more) to switch to PLUS the fact I don't trust these people to find their buttes in the dark with both hands, and you can see that I will not be a passenger on that ship any longer (I feel stupid enough already).

I am looking at InkFrog and Auctiva, both of whom have excellent reputations.  My move will be made much more do-able with the CSV file from CA;  otherwise, I am staring an several days of hard manual labor on my keyboard.  In my opinion, CA owes me that in the least.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ina

Sun Feb 24 14:12:12 2008

Eric, yes, I spoke to Scot by phone on Thursday.

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by: Rhonda

Mon Feb 25 01:02:55 2008

I also am a life time member sense the Rover Days and I still wear my shirt with Rover on the back. I guess CA ''life time'' contract is not as long as our ''life time'' contract, and I too will be moving to another program as I am one of the ''under $1000.00 a month and can not afford CA any more at tripple the cost!

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by: Tim

Mon Feb 25 01:10:14 2008

Paying three times as much might be feasible for what his new product offers, but I will be paying 11 times as much per month - more than a 1000% increase.

I have a call into them but doubt any kind of automation will be sufficient to get me to go along with a 1000% increase - and that is for the bare bones MA service.  To go with the MA Premium service... well, I just can't even imagine what that cost would be.

I am a little disappointed with Scot who seems to have caught eBay's math ability.  $300 a year is only if you don't sell anything!  There is a 2% commission (and higher for some purchases) on everything a person sells.  There was NO commission on the CA Pro product.  So, it is $300 a year PLUS 2% (or more) of all your sales.  Scot, use real math and real statistics and not eBay math and eBay statistics.

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by: Tim

Mon Feb 25 01:16:42 2008

The real problem for me with CAPro closing isn't even the huge price increase so graciously offered us... but the fact that I have thousands of photos on hundreds of eBay store ads that I will have to change if I discontinue using CA/MA.  And as you know, eBay doesn't allow any ad changes after an item sells.  So, I will have to cancel hundreds of listing - one at a time -  to change the picture URLs - one at a time.  This could cost me a month of productivity!

Scot could offer a reasonable priced picture hosting service for us old-timers (been there more than 8 years) which would solve the problem.  But, that would take away the stick they are trying to use to force me into a 1000% increase to use their new service.  Scot???

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by: KenMast

Mon Feb 25 01:39:21 2008

I learned a long time ago to be very careful with 3rd party suppliers.  You put your eggs in their basket and they drop the basket.  Whenever possible be self reliant!  Good Luck to CA Pro users.

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by: KasiKirby

Mon Feb 25 10:52:35 2008

I too was grandfathered in for being loyal to Rover, GoTo and then Channel Advisior at the $120 lifetime rate...Well evidently my lifetime just ended, as I was told in an email that my rate would not be honored  with them.

I put a pencil to it, just for a couple of months ,not the lifetime I have had with them and my increase in fees to them would be over 800%increase....Not only that but if I had been on their new plan I would have done ebay auctions in Nov and December and lost money for all the work I did ....

Currently there is no way for me to download my ad copy(almost 4500 of them)

Steve Rover did give us a way to download our pics (but it didn't work for MAC) but Krazyeric a nice CA subscriber just like me, gave me a work around and I was able to download all my photo's.....only took 6 hours of keyboard time to do that.

My invoices which contain my clients email addresses and home addresses  you can download into Quick Books or  a tab delinated file, but it doesn't give me ALL the info off my invoices that I need, but I downloaded what I could....another 3 hours of keyboard time.

But my big problem is the ad copy. Currently there is no way to download that info other than open each ad , then copy and paste it into a word document on my computer....I need those ads for all the research that is contained in the ads...AT almost 6000 ads I have no idea how long that will take, and does channel advisior seem concerned....not only no but H*** NO.

They gave us 2 months free if we mitigate to the new marketadvisior, but there are a lot of complaints on the boards from sellers who ARE mitigating that they can't find there stuff .... I as a small powerseller can't justify the fee increase unless I want to work for free, and that really is not my desire.With the new FEE INCREASE from Ebay and then the New FEE INCREASE at CA, then all profit would go byebye.

 They would not tell me how long they will give me(time wise) before they lock me out of my account since I don't plan on upgrading.I have 2 weeks before my ''LIFETIME RATE'' EXPIRES....LIFETIME, that's a laugh...Is their customer service interested in helping me...No...

So much for internet promises even when they are in writing in the contract I originally signed when I joined them...sigh...sounds just like ebay doesn't it.Lets get rid of the small collectibles seller that doesn't sell NEW stuff imported from China and only needs to run the same ad over and over and in great volume...

Is our society becoming so jaded that we can break promises just because we feel like it, with no regrets.....evidently.

How sad


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by: Scot Wingo

Mon Feb 25 13:00:50 2008

Hi Ina,

Thanks for covering this story and dispelling some of the misinformation that is flowing around.  I wanted to specifically address the comments to date:

@Eric - I'm sorry to report that you may have to drop over dead.  We have posted in our public forum detailed instructions for how to get images out of the Pro system.  Also if you move from the Pro software to MarketplaceAdvisor during the FREE timeframe, in MarketplaceAdvisor you are able to export things such as inventory and order data.  You didn't specify what other data you are looking for, but images/inventory/orders pretty much covers it for most sellers looking to get their data.

The nice thing about the 'bridge' we've been able to build from Pro to our MarketplaceAdvisor product is it does now give the former Pro user access to more functionality including bulk exporting that was not supported in Pro.

@John: Hi John, we never guaranteed any rate for life.  Over the last 10 years or so we offered our original charter members a $120/yr unlimited plan in Pro to thank them for their support in the early days.

Unfortunately we are going to have to pull the plug on Pro so we are no longer offering that charter rate as the product will cease to exist.  

All of our products have some form of a per transaction fee because our software  does more 'stuff' the more transactions there are and thus we need to charge more.  

If you'll read my comment to Eric, the way to get your data for images is on the Pro message boards and you can move your data to MarketplaceAdvisor and then do a bulk export.

The transfer/migration software may have had some hiccups, but I assure you we have a great team working on that and any issues will be addressed.

I don't think it's fair to say the software is bad until you've tried it.  MarketplaceAdvisor has over 2000 users and tens of millions of GMV a month flow through it and millions of listings a day.

I assure you I can find my butt in the dark with both hands (sometimes even one), however you are free to try other products and the ones you mention I'm sure are excellent.

@Rhonda - Hi, I have about 5 Rover shirts that still have some wear in them and they are definitely great nostalgia items.

We never offered any lifetime pricing and to be honest that is just a myth that is somehow perpetuated by people that want us to offer some kind of lifetime pricing.  Even if we did have this mythical lifetime pricing, it would be the life of the product and good old Pro has run its course.

I regret seeing you leave us a customer but understand that some businesses may not be able to need the advanced functionality offered in MarketplaceAdvisor and subsequently not be interested in paying the fees associated with it.  The eBay tools (Blackthorne, SMPro, TL, etc.) have matured in the last year and you may want to take a look at them as they are near free.

@Tim - A lamborghini is 10x the cost of a Volkswagon and the reason why is they are very different offerings. It's not fair to compare the Pro pricing to that of MarketplaceAdvisor.  They do very different things.  Instead, I encourage you to look at the features and functionality you need for your business and the ROI the cost delivers.  Could it make you twice as efficient?  Could you double your business without hiring anyone?  What's that worth?  We have countless case studies of exactly this kind of thing happening where after coming onto our MarketplaceAdvisor software, sellers see substantial increases in sales, without an increase in variable or fixed costs to their business.

(more later as I have filled this comment field)


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by: Scot Wingo

Mon Feb 25 14:05:55 2008

(I'm back)

@ Tim - part II.

My $300 quote to Ina was in response to a user that had emailed saying their fees went from $10/month to $300.  It was not meant to say that everyone will be charged $300/month, I apologize that it came across that way (It's clearly Ina's fault ;-) ).

@ Tim III - We have provided detailed instructions on how to retrieve all of your images and we'll be glad to email those if you want to shoot me an email.  

The average store listing is 30 days so as those listings mature, you will be able to replace them with listings from another source (hopefully one of ChannelAdvisor's products). Thus I don't understand your argument that we are forcing you to take down any eBay store listings.

Here's how it should work:

StoreItem1 ends
You put up StoreItem1 with new image URL.

@Tim IV - We're not in the business of image hosting.  There are literally hundreds of image hosts out there that are probably cheaper than we are and more flexible.  Our business is helping sellers sell more through ecommerce channels like eBay, Amazon, etc.

@Kasi - Comparing the price of Pro vs. MarketplaceAdvisor doesn't take into consideration the growth to your topline or savings in other parts of your business thanks to the topline.  If your fees go to approx $80/month vs. the $10, yes that's a 800% increase, but what if it saves you $200/m in UPI fees or time managing UPIs because it is now automated?

One way to get your inventory information out is to go ahead and do the move to MarketplaceAdvisor and take advantage of the bulk export there.

You said we won't tell you how long you have to use Pro. Here's the details from the Pro migration FAQ:

• May 20, 2008: ChannelAdvisor Pro customers will have the option to upgrade to MarketplaceAdvisor until May 20, after which Pro will no longer allow new listings. Customers will have an additional 60 days to close out existing listings and export this data to a new MarketplaceAdvisor account.
• July 22, 2008: ChannelAdvisor Pro will no longer be accessible and the web site will redirect to the MarketplaceAdvisor site.

As previously stated, we never offered a lifetime rate.  We offered a fixed-price annual rate as a benefit to charter members.  Even if we did offer a mythical lifetime rate, it would be for the lifetime of the product, not your lifetime.  I've been in the software world for a long time and have never heard of a lifetime rate.  The only thing I've seen is TiVo offers a lifetime subscription for the lifetime of the device.

I'd love to see this lifetime contract you reference.


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by: Christine

Mon Feb 25 17:19:08 2008

The entire 3rd party issue is a dilemma. I was an early Auctionworks user and liked the product very much. When it became Marketworks, there were some serious glitches, but they seemed to work out and customer service improved enormously. Now with the new Marketplace Advisor, my fees are increasing more than I'm comfortable with. eBay fees are increasing. Postal rates are going up. My vendors will be looking at increases soon too. All of us who run online businesses have got to be a lot more savvy about how we do business. Happy to hear ideas about restructuring.

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by: Tim

Mon Feb 25 18:25:23 2008


I appreciate the response.  1) MA will have to some really amazing things to justify a 1000% increase.  

Maybe my business is just not big enough to benefit. To use your example, automating the UPI process:  I did 7k in January and had 1 UPI.  And that was a buyer error that needed to be handled a bit differently than just an NPB.  Your potential automation of the UPI task certainly isn't going to justify hundreds of dollars more a month.  

I really do not see how any amount of automation can save me enough time to justify a 1000% increase - and I suspect it will be much more because if I am going to jump into a system like MA, it appears that I really need MA Premium.

2) As for ending eBay listings because of the URL change if I go elsewhere.  You've been around eBay for a long time, so I suspect you know the problem... CAPro did not support the eBay Stores GTC duration - but most store owners do use GTC.  As I do.  And did quite successfully with CAPro... those are the listings, hundreds of them, representing thousands of picture URLs, that I will have to end and change one at a time.

3) I know picture hosting is not your primary business, but you do indeed 'do' picture hosting.  I think it would be doing your long-time supporters a 'solid' to work out a picture hosting contract, but I suspect for reasons outlined above (the "stick") that it is not an option for CA.

Yes, your folks offered a very clumsy, very slow way to get my pictures out... but you know you guys ought to offer an FTP method.  You offer FTP upload, why not FTP download?

But, that is not my problem.  I've kept all my pictures.  But that doesn't help me one bit when CA goes dark and stops supporting the URL that is in hundreds of my ads.

Scot, I will give your people a call, I will look into MA... but unless your system can automate inventory across multiple platforms - including deincrementing eBay ads when something sells on Amazon or my own web site, I just don't see how I can justify the 1000% increase.

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by: Eric

Mon Feb 25 22:07:57 2008


Thank you for taking the time to at least respond to us.  

Unfortunately MA is simply not a viable  alternative for my business and for my situation, don't see much benefit in the features.  I already use a lot of free or much less expensive solutions to handle the things that MA would "add" for me.  Marketworks was available when I signed up for CA Pro.  I signed up for CA Pro because I didn't want/need marketworks, and I didn't want to pay the FVF at that time either.

The problem still exists that there is no way to get AD DATA and INVENTORY data out of CA Pro. The "solution" posted to get images out mostly works, however it's pretty much a browser hack and there are definitely some issues - IE, spaces in file names, I've spent hours in the last three days either helping your customers complete this or doing this for them as it's not something that's especially straight forward for the lay-user.

If there's a bridge to move data out of CA Pro, why not give users access to the data.  I don't want to move anything into MA.  From other users's posts on yoru own boards, the transition is anything but seamless.  In addition, once your data is moved TO MA, there's no way to continue to post or manage within Pro, right?  That means a migration of TWO systems which doesn't make sense.  Why not give us output in whatever format your bridge is working with.  Obviously it gets it from the Pro DB and does....something with it.  Give us a raw SQL, CSV, Access db, doesn't matter. Ebay's own TL csv format is probably a pretty universal guide to follow but none of us would be too picky.

Customers are moving to another solution are primarily moving over the pricing issue.  Whether or not you allow data export of Inventory and Ads, you're not going to retain a lot of Pro users as a matter of economics. So locking up our data really  works out only as a bad PR situation.  You knew as you planned to drop Pro that you'd lose x% of the userbase.  Why not have a db engineer throw a few hours at getting an export out and let us happily go on our way, thanking CA for at least being a good corporate citizen and doing the right thing.  I'll bet a few of us with larger inventories and ad counts would chip in to cover a day or two of a devs time to make it happen.  Personally, I'd rather do that than spend a week having things bungled up in the migration to MA just to get an export to start all over again.

I read your recent blog post on customer service being king in 2008.  You are right, it matters now more than ever - and my DSR isn't going to take a hit over this. I'm in the process of saving saved ads and recreating inventory elsewhere and I get a little more bitter at how we've been treated with every hour I have to invest.

How you treat your customers DOES matter.  Remember Scot, you're changing the rules, not us.  We didn't ask for this.  So be a sport and let our final months of transition away from Pro come with some level of mutual respect.  I can respect that you need to change your business model and Pro IS dated. Best of luck to you and those who find MA a good fit.  Perhaps a little respect for those of us whose needs aren't met by MA and need to find other solutions.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Bill

Tue Feb 26 08:54:36 2008

Hi Ina,

I got caught up in the Channel Pro switch as well. I am one of
those smaller (60 auctions a week) sellers, that makes his living selling on eBay. I am not sure that MA is really designed for the smaller private business person (the ones that actually got eBay off the ground).

While I am disappointed in the loss of the ''grandfather agreement'', I am
more upset because it appears that Channel Advisor will not be exporting the Ads, only the Inventory info and pictures. I will be WAY behind the 8-Ball if Channel Advisor does not also provide a way to shift the already produced ads. About 1/3 of my auctions are repeat items and to have to recreate all of those ads again (I don't keep them in inventory) would be extremely cost and time prohibitive.

I am considering, but I would prefer to stay with Channel
Advisor. Can you ask Steve or Scott about the Ads switch?

Thanks for all your efforts,

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by: Judy

Tue Feb 26 10:23:12 2008

I am a charter member as well.  I am totally crazed about the loss of my 13,000 ads.  It is a rich resource that I use dozens and dozens of time a day.  It is a big time and money  investment I made creating them  and I really need to be able to download the information.

I tried the migration to the new format  and though my inventory did make it over the ad data would not preview and there was no place, I could find,  to download my ads.  I contacted the help people and they were no help at all.  I have resigned from the new program and I am only asking for a download for my ad info.  I think, after all the years and fees I have paid, it is the least that CA can do.  

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by: Cowbell

Thu Feb 28 06:26:00 2008

Scot says: ''I don't think it's fair to say the software is bad until you've tried it.''

I've been using the service since it was called Auctionworks, so I have an informed opinion.

Here's what to expect:
1. Useless customer support. There is no support at night or on the weekends, unless you want to pay $50 extra per month. Even then, it might takes several tries to get your point across.

If your problem can't be solved on the users' message board, it won't get solved.

2. Just about every bit of automation requires setting up a complicated profile. Some of these profiles don't work tohether very well. Don't expect much from the help files or support. (See #1) Your ''free'' period will expire long before everything is set up properly. Of course, they offer you the opportunity to pay for ''training.''

3. Don't expect anything broken to ever be fixed. If something is broken, they'll tell you a ''new tool'' is being developed to do that. Sales histories have been broken for three years. No new tool in sight.

A *lot* of stuff is broken. Do not expect accurate inventory counts. Do not expect all paid orders to be marked paid. The automated UPI system is not fully automated. You must update manually or MW will let your disputes expire.

Now the cost of the service (for me) is increasing 120%, with the promise of future ''improvements.''

A price increase *may* have been justified if they had fixed anything that's been broken for months or years.

Nice timing, Scot, on the heels of the eBay increase. I guess you're trying to make room for more mega-sellers.

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by: marina

Fri Feb 29 09:24:32 2008

Well Scott, I believe what was said was that we early supporters would have the grandfathered rate as long as we stayed with the company.  Once we left, we could not come back at that rate.  I remember one question specifically of someone who had an account in one name and wanted to open another at the new grandfathered rate and your response was  no, just one grandfathered rate and that would be for as long as you stayed with CA. Yes, you changed the name, but I am sure you did not do that just to get ride of subscriers!

The basic difference that I see is that your new product is inventory driven rather than ad driven.  It does not work for those of us who sell unique, one-of-a-kind collectible antiques.  You have chosen to support the other side of the picture.. the sellers who offer cases of new items that they can enter in once and sell repeatedly off that listing.  Now I know that this is a very viable part of ebay and online selling... but the original core.. the sellers with first edition books, artwork, pottery, etc.  do not fit that mold and you can no longer service them.

I have checked into moving over to MA and have been told by your staff that it probably is not the place for me to operate most efficiently.

I would like to see, as a thank you for years of support, that you would send each grandfathered seller a printed and bound record of all of their sales while they were CA members.  A parting momento, if you will.

I was also told by one of your staff members that this has been in the works for 4 years!!!  Way to go Scott!!


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by: Eric

Thu Mar 6 13:08:31 2008

Wow, been in the works for four years?  

Must not have gone too well for them trying to develop their own product - - they just bought MarketWorks last year.  Don't think I'd have much faith in a company that can't even develop their own product to support something they acquired.  Explains the poor product training CA's own staff seems to have with MA.  

"We can't build our own competetive sales management tool, but we can buy someone else's and market it".

Have a feeling the same thing will happen to MA that happened to Pro.  Once the core MW people are gone, it will be CA staff scratching their heads on how to maintain and support it....and you'll see an announcement about MA shutting down due to marketplace changes, blah blah blah......but they'll be happy to move you to the new and improved product they acquired for 4% of your FVF.......

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by: Eric

Mon Mar 10 17:03:11 2008

Wow, check out the CA Pro boards - the only active posts popping up now seem to be poor folks who migrated to MA and aren't getting any support and whose business have been brought to a halt.  One guy who must be one of the larger Pro users has 70K+ auctions he had scheduled that got botched in the conversion.  Ouch.  And you'd think the MA folks would be salivating all over themselves to get in the guys pockets with that # of listings....  I was wrong in my previous post...they ALREADY support MA as badly as CA Pro, the MW devs they "acquired"  must have fled to greener pastures already.

If you value your business and/or data, don't get even consider utilizing ANY ChannelAdvisor product.  Trust me, this comes from somebody who WAS their customer for 5+ years.

Run!  Before you're assimilated!  Once they get their claws in you......resistance is futile.......

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by: Michael

Wed Mar 19 00:50:26 2008

I tried Marketplace Advisor for two weeks. It was clunky, it messed up a lot of my auctions, and I just gave up on it. I, like many others, am a small-time seller. MA is just too much of a hassle. I went over to Auctiva, and am pleasantly surprised. It's fairly simple and I've spent the last three weeks tweaking my ads to the new format. A bit of work, but it's FREE (at least for now) and it's not hard to navigate or figure out, like MA was. I too am disappointed, as I was "grandfathered" in from AuctionRover, and really like CA, but all good things must come to an end, right?

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