There comes a point in every seller’s life when he or she begins to entertain the idea of automation.
You know you’ve hit this point when you start to imagine a world without sleepless nights. A moment when you can finally breathe and escape the stress of handling orders and putting out fires all the time.
But perhaps you still have your doubts or have been burned by a software in the past. If this is you, you’re not alone. Plenty of sellers have their reservations about automation software that promises big gains from one magical box of tools (and sometimes, one fat contract).
Below are complaints that sellers often leave about their ecommerce software. In this blog, we draw the line between common misconceptions and just bad software. We also cover some clear warning signs to watch out for before you put your money down.
And yes, we’ve added memes. Because why not.
Sophisticated software doesn’t always translate into good user experience. Ecommerce platforms can be cumbersome to navigate and may require a lot of clicks to get to the page you’re looking for. This issue is especially prevalent among software providers that are constantly churning out new features. Rather than thoughtfully evolving their UI over time, some tack on new reports as they’re built and end up with cluttered dashboards or massive menus that lack prioritization.
This issue is intensified by a poor understanding of user lifestyles. Smaller providers may also tailor their software too heavily to the needs of their biggest, high-profile clients—letting those brands dictate the development and usability of their product.
To avoid this, beware of:
Ecommerce automation requires lots of processing power. Softwares may lack the capacity or durability to support the large amounts of data flowing in and out of its platform at any given moment. Alternatively, it may not have a proper integration into your marketplaces or other technologies (e.g., your shopping cart, 3PL, shipping platform, etc.) to communicate updates correctly. Finally, it may simply be poorly or inflexibly designed. Any of these can lead to egregious errors like slow-to-load pages, poor data mapping or lost data altogether.
Keep in mind that no system will have perfect uptime. There’s always a chance of service interruptions or outages. But your software should never be down for hours or days. The team should be nimble enough to identify, fix and communicate issues quickly to keep your business running smoothly.
When you’re selling on multiple marketplaces—each with their own requirements, hangups and scheduled (or unscheduled) updates—you’re bound to run into errors. For example, eBay may update their universal return policy and suddenly require you to offer 15-day or 30-day returns on all listings in the clothing category. Or Amazon may reject your listing because it lacks a new required datapoint. These “channel errors” occur outside of your ecommerce software. Still, your software should be able to relay these messages to you, so you can address them immediately.
Unfortunately, most platforms lack a reliable error reporting tool. Many will bury them under other reports and/or fail to offer solutions or explanations for resolving these issues. In those instances, sellers are left feeling defenseless or frustrated, especially when channel errors contain obscure language.
It’s shocking how many platforms claim to automate your “end-to-end” operations when very few actually offer the mechanics to accurately and consistently do this. Many sellers still find themselves plugging in tons of data by hand or performing manual setup to get automation to kick in. Even then, automation may only occur across small, isolated tasks rather than enhancing the whole workflow.
Before upgrading to Zentail, one seller relied on a workaround to get his ecommerce software, (the only “full automation” tool he could find at the time) talking to his existing inventory software. However, this required him to run manual profitability formulas on each listing. He additionally had issues with overselling because the two systems couldn’t communicate well with one another. His situation isn’t unique from the difficulties that many other sellers face.
This often indicates an issue with inventory syncing: it’s either not updating accurately, or it’s not updating fast enough across all your sales channels. Say, for instance, you make a sale on Walmart.com. The same listing on your eBay, Amazon, Google and BigCommerce stores should immediately deduct one from the available quantity to avoid overselling—but this doesn’t always happen.
Every multichannel ecommerce system deals with data latency, but some handle this better than others. Latency in this instance refers to the time it takes for inventory updates to get sent and processed by your various channels. This time can range from several seconds to hours. One mid-tier platform, for example, takes a few hours to update inventory because it can only export quantities for one warehouse at a time.
Kits and bundles can also impact latency. Some platforms don’t support kit/bundle tracking at all, restricting you from properly managing component and master SKU counts.
Price matters. You’re likely experimenting with different price points on each sales channel to stay competitive and keep your profit margins high. But some multichannel management platform don’t offer the flexibility or automation you need to achieve this. This could be for a few reasons.
(A). They lack an algorithmic repricer. Algorithmic repricers offer the greatest advantage on channels like Amazon, where eighty-two percent of sales go through the buy box. They’re specifically designed to help you win the buy box. Unlike rigid rules-based repricers, they dynamically adjust prices against buy box owners and test prices to increase your profit margins.
(B.) They don’t support easy price overrides. One of our current customers explained the painful process of pricing with his previous platform: he had to fill out a number of different price fields, including a buy-it-now price, starting price, seller cost, etc. He then had to manually map these fields to the correct channels. Safe to say that this was inefficient and error-prone. There’s no reason why your platform shouldn’t offer an easier option for managing prices by SKU, channel and/or in bulk.
Every multichannel ecommerce software will require some data clean-up and implementation phase. But some processes may be riddled with complex steps that extend implementation time to four or five months. Or, appointments may be spanned out across two to three week intervals, delaying your time to onboard significantly. In general, your provider should be able to clearly outline the implementation process and articulate why each step is necessary.
The most expensive software on the market currently charges $1,000 per sales channel and anywhere between 0.5 to five percent commission fee of your income, in addition to a $12,000/year base price. Not only that, but sellers reportedly pay another several thousands of dollars for initial implementation of the system, ending up with a final bill of ~$33,000 for the year.
We agree. That is a lot. Your software shouldn’t nickel and dime you for every new feature or service you gain access to. We also believe it’s unethical to steal such a large, unfixed portion of your income, especially when you already owe fees to Amazon, eBay and every other marketplace you sell on.
But to be clear: if your software skews the complete opposite end of the spectrum, you’re not going to get the full automation or functionality you may be looking for. Like your WMS, ERP and/or POS—a multichannel automation platform is a business investment that, when built to scale and evolve with your business, will impact your bottom line by letting your team work more efficiently than ever. Developing a product like this takes time, money and a ton of expertise. Currently, platforms that are priced remarkably low aren’t able to offer the same robust enterprise solutions as its more fairly priced counterparts.
Customer support isn’t often the first thing sellers consider when choosing their software. But it’s a big reason why they leave. In fact, U.S. companies lose more than $62 billion annually due to poor customer service—a statistic that ecommerce software providers aren’t exempt from.
The worst offenders make you wait weeks for a response. Some make you pay for priority customer service. Still others won’t provide sufficient solutions and/or restrict you from talking to an actual human representative. At the end of the day, if your software fails, your team can’t. No system is perfect but your provider should be nimble enough to address your issues fully and promptly.
Not all software is created equal. When comparing two ecommerce platforms, you'll likely find that they differ drastically in their usability, reliability and overall capability. Make sure that the provider you choose delivers a true commerce operating system, not an expensive stand-in that derails your normal workflow.