Channel-Management-Software Options for Your Online Business

By Greg Holden

A special kind of service provider is designed specifically for businesses that maintain multiple sales channels — online, brick-and-mortar, flea markets, arts-and-crafts shows — to help maintain their stores’ very different inventories.

For example, Brad Owens sells T-shirts and other merchandise at his Rock Shop Music and Comics store in the Mall of Georgia in Buford, Georgia. When a shirt is sold from that location, it needs to be removed from the inventory of Owens’s online store or from his inventory on eBay, Amazon, or BigCommerce.

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Owens, who has been selling online for several years, doesn’t have the same selection of merchandise in his stores. He needed an automated solution for adjusting inventory.

“We had to have a solution that not only would work with Amazon, eBay, and our BigCommerce store, but could also manage inventory for our size variations among the three,” he says. “Instead of manually going into each channel and adjusting our inventory when an item is sold, it does that automatically. We can also manage orders within one interface. It’s very easy to add items to a different channel.”

Owens is talking about ChannelGrabber, a UK-based service provider that specializes in managing multiple sales channels for businesses. ChannelGrabber’s interface presents a business with all of its stores and products in a single spreadsheet-type grid: Stores are arranged in columns, products in rows. A seller who manages multiple online stores can keep track of it all by looking at a single screen.

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You pay a monthly fee to have such services handle your business. That’s on top of your Internet access fees, your store hosting fees, and other fees. ChannelGrabber, for example, costs 60 British pounds per month for its least expensive Standard package, which lets businesses sell up to 5,000 products per month. Here are some other channel management offerings you might consider:

  • ChannelAdvisor has been helping businesses manage their inventory for years. The price you pay this service provider depends on the features you want, so e-mail them for a quote.

  • Volusion is a store provider and a shopping cart and payment service provider as well as a resource for managing more than one store. You get a website, mobile store, and Facebook store, plus a 10 percent discount on any additional stores you open. Plans range from $15 to $195 per month.

  • Monsoon Pro, part of Monsoon Commerce, lets businesses list products in multiple storefronts and track inventory. Fees vary depending on the number of products being sold, but they start at around $500 per month.

  • Stone Edge isn’t a channel management service per se, but a specialty back-end software provider, also part of Monsoon Commerce. Stone Edge enables businesses with multiple presences manage their fulfillment needs. Pricing is different than with other services; you purchase a license for multiple workstations. Plans start at $4,000 per year for up to five workstations.

Each of these services represents an investment, to be sure. But if your business is your livelihood and you aren’t able to maintain a large staff or IT department, a management package might make sense.

Make sure you get a return on investment (ROI) before investing in a channel management solution.