Low-cost alternative to multichannel software

Because of the ever increasing cost of multichannel applications, I’ve looked for an alternate solution. Until recently I haven’t found any. I have now. I use Linnworks, an order management system. I’ve used it for several years. I pay much less than advertised rates, as I am a longstanding customer. I’m therefore tied in with the business. If I moved to a different service and didn’t enjoy it, it’d cost me a whole lot to return.

That’s the major reason I haven’t fully utilized the alternative that I’m about to detail. A merchant with over a few thousand SKUs would probably find my method awkward. It is, however, ideal for a merchant trying out multichannel sales. It doesn’t require much investment, but it will help to understand the basics in a hands on way.

So, here is my choice, in a few simple steps, for multichannel management program.

Low-cost alternative to multichannel software

The center of any multichannel system is your stock database. Make your own database by setting up a WordPress site and installing WooCommerce, the ecommerce plugin. Load your product database on WooCommerce. You may use this as a public ecommerce website, but for reasons I will detail later, it’s likely not a fantastic idea. For the time being, hide it in a subdirectory that requires password access, or block it by IP.

I’ve outlined how to set up WooCommerce, at “From Magento into WooCommerce, Part 2.” If you’re not going to market from the WooCommerce website, there’s absolutely not any need to worry about templates or search engine optimization or related difficulties.

Ebay

There’s a terrific WooCommerce extension named WP-Lister. The free version allows you to load some or all your merchandise onto Ebay. It detects if you change a price or a detail about a product in WooCommerce, and flags it for upgrade on Ebay. It’s a vital extension just as a result. If, however, you pay the yearly fee of $149, the expansion syncs the stock between your website and Ebay. When a product sells on either Ebay or your website, the stock is reduced on both. Further, if you set this up, the Ebay orders are made on the WooCommerce website.

Amazon

There’s another extension named WP-Lister for Amazon. It, also, has a free version, which lets you record your products on Amazon, or connect your current listings on Amazon to goods on your website, or import your Amazon listings to create products on your website. This last feature is priceless. I’ve long searched for a way of extracting their pictures from Amazon, and this just does it in a really simple way.

When you pay the $149 annual fee for the Pro version, this expansion provides inventory management and copies the Amazon orders into WooCommerce.

Another feature of the Pro version is that it’s a re-pricer, to automatically change the prices of merchandise available on Amazon. I don’t normally like re-pricers; but they have their place and for some they’re worth considering.

Conclusions

Used together, for only $300 per year you’ve got a system that nearly rivals solutions that cost more than ten times that.

There are, however, limitations.

The software links by SKU. You need to use the exact SKU on all channels so as to link to a single item on the WooCommerce database. Whilst in theory this is fine, in practice it restricts your choices on Amazon. This is because Amazon can have duplicate entries for a product. But as the SKU have to be unique on that one Amazon, so as to sell that replicate listing, you’ve got to get a different SKU. Thus you can’t link to a copy without likewise replicating the thing on the WooCommerce database.

This workaround, with copies, rather defeats the objective of one inventory item for good stock control. Further, having duplicate products in your WooCommerce website — if it is a public website — does not look good for the shoppers or for Google. As a final caution, having duplicate goods on Ebay is a fantastic means of getting suspended. So in the event you decide to create duplicates (to adapt Amazon) you have to make certain they are not in a public opinion and aren’t loaded onto Ebay.

Second, even though you can connect multiple Amazon catalogues to a WP Lister Pro account, from the documentation it appears that the inventory management is just on one of these. This isn’t as big a problem as it might initially seem. This is because in case you use the exact SKU on all Amazon catalogues, then Amazon itself will sort out the stock levels. By way of instance, if you have one item selling on Amazon France, Germany, and the U.K., if it sells just one of those Amazon will automatically remove it from all three.

Third, whilst WP-Lister pulls the orders to your WooCommerce website, thus providing you with all your orders in 1 location, to obtain the most benefit you’ll have to port this site with your preferred shipper(s) and prevent having to cut and paste address tags. Based on your favorite shipper(s), there might be an extra cost.

These constraints can be overcome. It’s only that additional resources are required to do it. A smaller retailer will have the ability to easily run this sort of system. But as soon as you get active, have a great deal of orders, and have a growing stock, and then it will likely help you to develop to a more expensive automated system.

Having said that, having gotten your hands dirty and implemented this system, you would be in a far better position to pick the suitable solution for you. You will learn what works and what to look for in a complete solution.

I use the free versions of WP-Lister which I described above. They’re easy to work with and WP-Lister updates them regularly to keep up with the changes on both the Amazon and Ebay. I don’t have any hesitation in recommending them — even if you never update to the Pro versions, with their purchase and inventory features.