In the Ultimate Guide to Multi Channel Software book that we’ve written, in chapter 9 there are a collection of questions that you need to ask of 2nd Generation Multi Channel Software.
In this blog post I will answer every single one of them for you for the 3rd Generation.
With that said, let’s dive in!
Stock Control Questions
The following questions are focused around stock control however as you’ll have worked out by now each of these sections are interlinked and I’ve deepened the explanation to each question as required to help you.
Q: Can I set rules to set minimum stock levels to end or pause listings?
An example would be that if you get down to your last two of a product, to either end the listing or mark the listing as unavailable. This helps build in tolerances, especially for fast moving lines.
Thinking back to the chapter where we learned about templates and managing the risk of over selling, we saw that in M2E Pro that this was possible in a “Policy” and we were able to set these as separate templates so we can have different rules for different groups of products.
A: As we saw in the book, yes you can.
Q: Can these rules be set per sales channel?
Different sales channels work in different ways. For example eBay orders can be collected instantly, whereas orders made on Amazon can take a minimum of 15 minutes to appear.
If we consider very fast moving product lines, such as fancy dress items around Halloween, having different rules for different sales channels will help you put into place sensible rules per sales channel.
This came full-circle in the order management chapter, for this to work as effectively as possible you need your sales orders being processed by the software and the faster the orders can be collected, the quicker stock updates can be pushed back out to your sales channels.
It’s realistic to expect that orders from your sales channels will be collected within a 30 minute window, however the faster the better.
A: Yes. In the book you only saw the settings for one set of templates, you can set up multiple policies in M2E Pro, which means you can control them per eBay account, per eBay site and per Amazon account & site too.
Q: Can I set rules to auto list when conditions such as stock levels are met?
You may have had a product that has done really well in the past and temporarily you’ve run out of stock. As soon as the stock is back in place, then having that top selling product relisted and made available for sale would be an advantage for any business.
We saw that this was an option in the M2E Pro synchronization policy example earlier. The last thing you want is for a product that has been selling really well previously not to be automatically added or listed again when it comes back into stock.
A: Yes using the M2E synchronisation policy and you can set M2EPro to not end eBay listings, but hide them from the eBay search results too.
Q: Are there any other rules I can set?
The reason for this question is to see if the software has other rules that you may be able to leverage. This could include the automatic pricing of products based upon rules or equations. Ask for examples of how other businesses use these rules.
A: Yes, the best thing here for you to do is take a look at the video tutorials on M2EPro that we have. The video tutorials for this can be found in this course. If you just want to get to the meat of the configuration, go straight to video tutorial number 4.
Inventory Management Questions
We learned earlier that you’ll most likely have been using an inventory management system all along and that you may have not heard it labelled as this before.
It’s a page or screen from where you can manage all your products on.
A: Sure, using M2E and Magento means that you can do things like get M2E Pro to do Price Calculations or even use the automatic actions feature that you can find out about here: https://understandinge.com/tutorial/ltm-009/
Q: Can the software sync categories between your software and your website?
Just like creating a universal product record that you can use to list onto eBay, Amazon and your website, look to see if there is the ability to manage your website categories from the multichannel software, this will save you time on keeping different systems up to date.
Using Magento as an example here as we’re using Magento for the inventory & order management systems, the website categorisation and management is included as that’s an integral part of Magento. If you’re looking at a 2nd Generation provider, see what options they have for you to filter or group products together.
A: Yes it comes as standard functionality in Magento. As you’re using Magento for eBay, Amazon and your website this is all built in for you.
You can also do some extremely cool things with Magento & M2EPro, such as “Automatic Actions” which allow you to put a product into a website category and then that will trigger the product to be listed onto eBay. You can find out more about these in this video tutorial.
Q: Can I selectively export products?
This question is aimed to help you explore what export options you have available in the software to export products for editing outside of the software in excel or an external database.
Exporting hundreds or thousands of products can take quite a while, being able to selectively export products will save you time waiting for the export to complete.
A: Absolutely you can selectively and bulk export in Magento into a spreadsheet file.
You can do this in Magento using Dataflow Profiles. We have a video on Youtube that explains these in action.
Q: Can I export just some of the product attributes, say just SKU and Price?
Similar to the above question, why export all the values when you only really need just one or two attributes?
Using Magento as an example for these 3 questions you can use a “Dataflow Profile” to export specific products and specific attributes about those products. This can also be automated so that you can have scheduled exports from your Magento site to perhaps feed a repricing tool for Amazon.
A: As noted above the Magento Dataflow Profiles make this super easy to do.
Q: What happens to products that already exist in the software when I import them?
You’ll need to know what happens when making updates, both to the attributes that you have updated and also attributes that you haven’t updated.
A: When using a tool like Magmi for importing you can set a rule to either update/overwrite or ignore existing products in Magento.
Q: What happens to new products when I import them?
This is a crucial question as if you are adding lots and lots of products, creating them in Excel could save you a lot of time when adding new products. Can they be flagged somehow so you can find them easily afterwards or maybe, just maybe be automatically listed on to your sales channels?
Putting this together with everything else that you have learned in this book and using Magento & M2E Pro as an example here, you can set up something called “Automatic Actions”, what this means is that when you assign a product to a category in Magento, M2E Pro can kick in and then automatically add that product to a listing group, which then in turn means that the product can then be automatically listed into the marketplaces.
This is a very cool feature so specifically look out to see if anything similar to this available.
A: As noted above what happens to your products on import is up to you thanks to “Automatic Actions”
Q: Can I import my product images using image URL’s?
This option isn’t in all software tools and if your suppliers are providing you images from their website, this could save you oodles of time by not having to download the images manually and the software just goes to the image and downloads it for you.
A: Once again, using Magmi you can import images using their existing URL’s. Did we mention that Magmi was free and we have a non-geeky version of it available?
Q: How do I create variation products?
Look to see how variation products are created one-by-one. This is to see how they are made and how you can update them later.
A: In Magento variation products are handled by product types called simple and configurable products.
They allow you to have all of the variation products linked to the Parent product making it super easy to list and manage in Magento.
This is covered in this video course.
Q: What does a setup look like for a size variation, a colour variation and a size AND colour variation?
The likelihood is that you’ll not always be creating just one type of variation for the marketplaces and your website. So see how size, colour and Size & Colour options are handled.
The reason why you’re specifically looking for Size, Colour and Size & Colour options here is because of Amazon.
Amazon allows you to make 4 product types, a simple product that has no variations and products that come in these 3 types of variations. If you’re able to do this in the software and customise the options you’re looking at good Multi Channel software.
A: Magento can handle all of the above variation styles and we have tutorials dedicated to this here: https://understandinge.com/tutorial/su-0020/ and here https://understandinge.com/tutorial/su-0021/
Q: Can I import these using Excel or a CSV file?
Creating variation products one by one is ok if you only sell the odd one or two products using variations, however if you’re receiving or creating lots and lots of variations, then using Excel or CSV files can greatly expedite the process.
I can’t over emphasise the value of you being able to use excel to import new products into any Multi Channel software.
While this may sound scary to you right now if this idea is new to you. As soon as you get the hang of creating new products in Excel and then importing them to be listed (maybe with those automatic actions I mentioned earlier) has the potential for you to save heaps of time because you’re not going to be manually filling out forms and going through one or more pages to create each product individually.
A: Once again Magmi has the answer here. You can import variation products really easily and again we have tutorials on how to do this here: https://understandinge.com/tutorial/imp-0007/
Q: Are you charged more for having more inventory records in the software?
The reason for this last question is that some software providers charge you more for having more inventory in their system.
I’ve included this for completeness, however you would have identified this using the 10 business attributes table when researching Multi Channel software providers.
A: Absolutely not.
The only consideration is you may need to upgrade your web hosting to deal with excessive inventory counts.
I love templates and I know you will too as soon as you get the hang of them. They can save you hours upon hours and making one change to a template is much easier than making one change to a squillion listings.
Q: Does this software allow me to create templates that I can reuse over and over for payment, shipping, descriptions etc…?
In the earlier chapter on templates we used Magento & M2E Pro as the examples here. Look to see what template options you have available to you, each software tool is different and you may find the depth of options explained in the examples or you may find very few options.
A: Absolutely, Magento & M2E have some really powerful template features and many of these were covered with you in the book and of course we have these in video tutorials too. The best place to start is in this free video course.
Q: Can you name the templates that you can create?
This will save you lots and lots of time later when amending or updating existing templates. Also investigate to see if there are any limits on the number of templates that you can create.
A: Yes you can. Call them any name you like.
Q: Find a list of available keywords that you can use.
The keywords that are available vary greatly between software tools. Locate a list of the keywords and see how comprehensive the options are that are available to you. As a bare minimum you should be looking for all of the attributes I mentioned in the inventory management chapter, price, title, sku, item specifics and so on…
A: Basically any Magento attribute can be used here and as covered in the book, numerous extra keywords to bring through eBay specific details, such as the sell pricing, your eBay category number and so on…
Order Management Questions
Just like templates, having access to all your orders from a single screen or page is going to save you oodles of time each day.
We also need our orders to be collected by the Multi Channel software so that any orders that are made, the software is able to go back to the other sales channels we are using and update the stock levels.
Q: Can I apply business rules to orders to change the shipping method to be used?
Remember these are your business rules to change the shipping method that the customer chose to a shipping method that makes more sense to your business.
Just see if this is possible and move onto the next question.
A: At the time of publishing Moogento are on the verge of releasing an extension that will offer the answer to Courier Rules in Magento.
Check back soon for a link to the extension in our UnderstandingE Store.
Q: What are the order attributes that I can use in such rules?
Specifically look for options around order source, so you can have different rules from one eBay account to another, to Amazon to your website. The order total, number of line items, weight and order destination are also useful.
This is important as you’re likely to want to have separate rules from eBay to Amazon. Plus as Amazon only gives you two shipping options, “Standard” and “Expedited” you’ll need the other order attributes to be able to apply any business rules you have for despatch to the orders.
A: Check the above answer for the business rules regarding shipping. If you would like to see this in action. Below I’ve included a screenshot for you.
Q: Can I send emails using the software?
Some software tools don’t have this option at all, hence the question. Look for options to send emails on different events and also the ability to block specific emails. Remember Amazon doesn’t like you sending order dispatched emails so that’s one perfect example to investigate.
A: Yes this feature is built into Magento.
You can also use Mailchimp and Mandrill to manage as discussed in the book. The video tutorial on how to do this is here.
Q: How often are sales orders collected?
This might seem like a daft question, however in one or two providers you have to press a button for the orders to be downloaded. This is far from ideal and look for software that can automatically collect orders on your behalf and find out how often they are collected.
Remember that note around Amazon earlier, expect the collection time for Amazon orders to be a minimum of 15 minutes, eBay should be every 10-20 minutes and the same for your website too. Basically a lower number here is more desirable because going back to the chapter on stock control you’ll need these to be collected frequently to keep the stock levels true.
A: This will depend on the setup of your web hosting. Expect it to be anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes.
Q: How are Amazon pending orders handled?
This is an extra question not included in the earlier chapter. Some orders on Amazon can show up in a status called “Pending”. The software needs to know about these pending orders so that it can allocate the stock levels correctly to your other sales channels.
Explicitly ask this question so that you don’t have unnecessary backorders or oversells.
A: You can set M2E Pro to reserve the quantity on Amazon pending orders, then they will move from Pending once confirmed by Amazon usually well within 24 hours ( normally only a few minutes! ).
Q: Are you going to be charged more per sales channel & account?
From the 10 business attributes you’ll have found out how much this is going to cost you today & in the future too.
Make sure you’re happy with how this works and that you’re clear on the total costs.
A: Absolutely not.
Currently you can add as many sales channels and accounts as you like in M2E Pro with no added cost.
Q: Does it cost you more for additional members of staff to access the software?
We touched on user accounts the order management chapter. A factor when selecting Multi Channel software is to look out for any additional charges that may apply on a per user basis.
A: No, this is standard functionality in Magento.
That you can add multiple users, and as many of them as you need at no extra cost.
Q: Do I have any control over different staff member’s access to the software?
Some software tools don’t have any user access control at all, that means no ability to stop a warehouse person from printing off sales reports about your business.
Look for options around different staff roles and the options that you have available to limit specific users access within the software.
You can control what access your staff has using user roles to enable or disable specific sections and even the ability to view or amend specific parts of Magento.
Do You Have a Question?
If you have a question that hasn’t been covered here then you can get in touch in two very simple ways:
Myself Matt, Dave or one of the community will be back to you shortly.
See you there!
Matt & Dave