Research indicates that multichannel shoppers are more valuable than customers who shop via a single sales channel, but findings by San Francisco-based firm Modalis Research Technologies show that multichannel buyers expect the company to know everything about their transaction history across all channels.
Integrating all transaction information, feeding product information to shopping and auction sites, keeping track of incoming orders from multiple sales channels and communicating sales information to the shipping department can potentially overwhelm an ecommerce firm.
There are various tools in the marketplace an ecommerce owner can deploy to help manage sales across various channels, such as an order-management system.
Managing sales from different channels
“The idea is to help you with all of your day-to-day operations,” said Barney Stone, president of the company that produces Stone Edge Order Manager. “It typically starts with importing orders from your shopping cart or whatever other sales channels you have, building the customer list that you can use for marketing, updating your inventory so that it is checking for out-of-stock items and subtracting what has been sold from your quantity on hand, sending out email confirmations to customers, sending drop-ship orders to vendors and sending other orders to fulfillment centers if you do not do your own fulfillment.”
According to Stone, costs for an order-management system can range from around $1,000 to $15,000, or more. “If you buy $1,500 worth of software, and it saves you even a minimum-wage type of person, you are talking 1,000 percent return on your investment,” said Stone. “It does not take saving more than an hour a week to justify a $1,500 investment.”
In addition to Stone Edge’s Order Manager, there are various order-management systems a business owner could purchase to integrate with his current shopping cart including Mail Order Manager from Dydacomp, Mach2K and others. Stone advises merchants to do their research. “Everybody’s business model is different and has different requirements,” he said. “It is good to have a system or use systems that can be customized, if necessary.”
There are some shopping carts that come with an order-management component as part of their all-in-one package. However, keep in mind that if you get involved with a cart that can’t scale to meet your future needs, you’ll have to find a new order-management system if you switch carts.
“The order management and the fulfillment pieces are really key to consider in your ecommerce operations to be successful in today’s Internet market,” said Mimi Peiris, vice president of product management for all-in-one solution NetSuite. “Some shopping carts or some ecommerce solutions are getting beyond just a shopping cart, providing a complete ecommerce solution. For a small company, it is much more feasible to get an all-in-one package because they do not have a lot of IT resources.” Beyond helping manage orders as they come in, there are several companies that help provide tools to get products from a website to a shopping site or marketplace.
Scaling over multiple marketplaces
“It is one thing if you are listing a couple of things here or there, but if you really start doing volume over multiple marketplaces, what becomes critical is that you have a system that allows you to act once and sell everywhere, so that you are not doing individual listings to all the different marketplaces,” said Ralf VonSosen, vice president of Infopia.
Infopia, ChannelAdvisor, MerchantAdvantage and other companies in that technology space provide customers with tools to automatically “feed” product data to shopping sites. In addition, these providers typically offer an analytics package to show a merchant what products are selling well in each environment. For instance, I might see that my company’s lamps are selling well on www.shopping.com and www.buy.com, but not selling well on Froogle and eBay. That information helps me alter my marketing strategy accordingly.
“When you are looking at providing access to your products in multiple places, you want to have that visibility of what is selling through which channel––most importantly, so you know where to invest your time and your efforts as well as your dollar resources,” said Peiris. “Because when you sell product through eBay, they take a transaction fee versus closing that sale through your own site. You need to weigh the return on investment at each of the different channels you are using. In order to do that, you have to be able to aggregate that information back at some level.”