My good friend Miles of InDemand in Australia is the Managing Director of the largest eBay merchandiser down under. While all of here in the states are enamoured with Amazon, our friends in GMT +10 dont give Amazon a second look. eBay is the dominant marketplace in Australia and as Miles will tell you, the rate at which companies are adding eBay to their multi-channel strategy is accelerating.
Extending your sales channel to eBay is not a simple project. Consider a company that sells products through a traditional store and a web site. In the store, the Point of Sale system has no need for helping a company categorize products for web shoppers. ERP systems dont care about categories and product classifications for web channels either which makes for an interesting exercise (and often neglected step…more about that later) when a company wants to take their products to any web channel.
When you integrate eBay into your channel strategy, you need to define each of your products using eBays classification system. You can imagine the legwork involved in this type of effort and some of the problems this produces for companies that are trying to expand sales. Many companies struggle with trying to balance the return on the investment when they consider the amount of time they will spend manually managing data and orders through their new eBay channel.
Some of you may know that eBay acquired Magento about 18 months ago – and you can see the strategy behind the acquisition. Several Magento extensions already exist to connect Magento sites to eBay – but these connectors are not without their issues and wont solve the data management issue for companies whose primary sales channel is something other than their web store.
Heres why. To extend your sales channel to eBay youre going to need to solve 4 problems:
1. Identify and manage item classifications that fit how your customers search on your web store. You may have figured this one out already, and I feel your pain. This is an excercise that many companies dont place enough emphasis on when creating their web stores. You know your products better than anyone. Work with your web designer or a service provider well versed in merchandising for the web (like InDemand).
2. Identify and manage item classifications that fit how customers will search for your products on eBay. You may have figured out Problem #1 already, but youll need to do that work all over again because eBay has their own classifications that they want your products to fit into.
3. How to get item data from your item master to your channels. Your item master is the system or software where you first enter your products. This could be an ERP system, your accounting system, a Point of Sale system – and for e-Tailers – it might be their eCommerce solution. You have three choices really. You can
a.) Manually re-enter your items into your web site and/or eBay or
b.) Manage an export/import process in which you export data from your item master to a spreadsheet, change the categories to match your web site and then do the process again for eBay classification or
c.) Figure out a way to affordably integrate these systems to your item master so that the mapping of categories/classifications and other item information is done automatically. (This what nChannels eBay connector will do for you by the way – shameless plug sorry).
4. Figure out how to manage orders, inventory, and customers without losing your mind. This is the bain of multi-channel strategies. You want your products in as many places as possible but with each channel you choose, you have to:
a.) get the item information up there
b.) Manage the items once theyre there (pricing, changes, additions, deletions),
c.) Get your orders
d.) Get those orders entered into your accounting system and/or the system that you’re using to fill orders an track your inventory
e.) Update inventory in your channel systems so youre not selling inventory you dont have
f.) Fulfill the orders, communicate order status with your customers
g.) And the final phase that many of you skip…collect all your customers and figure out how to remarket to them effectively.
Yep – youre going to need to do the legwork to make this strategy work – but as Miles will tell you – those companies that figure it out reap the rewards of the exposure eBay can give you and your products. nChannel will soon be launching our eBay connector that connects system you master your items in with your other sales channel systems. Well be previewing it in the coming weeks and of course, if youre considering an eBay strategy you cant do enough planning up front. Let us know if you want to speak to an expert before you proceed, like InDemand, we work with partners that understand multi-channel strategies and that can help you get there. Contact us for partner referrals, were happy to help.