Multichannel expansion is becoming an increasingly important strategy for Amazon acquirers—with none other than Thrasio leading the charge. As Thrasio celebrates another $1 billion in fresh funding, it is reportedly eyeing opportunities to expand outside the Amazon ecosystem, where untapped audiences await.
However, the unicorn faces the same major challenge that brand owners face today: the fact that multichannel selling is a big undertaking. To make the economics work, they need a reliable (preferably automated) system for managing operations across various channels.
Naturally, Thrasio and its counterparts are confronted with the age-old question of “to buy or to build?”
Here’s why the answer should be “to buy.”
4 Core Challenges of Building Your Own Multichannel Tool
It’s not uncommon for dominant players in any industry to want to keep work and innovation in-house. At the same time, mere willpower isn’t often enough. It’s not always practical nor feasible to keep things in-house.
Building a multichannel solution is one such thing. Many acquirers have tried to produce their own automated solution, only to be surprised by one of these four harsh realities.
1. It Requires Tons of Upfront Work and Ongoing Maintenance
Ecommerce moves exceptionally fast. Amazon itself regularly makes a bunch of tweaks to its search engine and user interface, which has historically left both sellers and integrators scrambling to adapt.
Case in Point: Let's Talk Shoes: Amazon's New Shoe Size Requirements
Speaking from firsthand experience, the job gets exponentially harder the more channels you add. Your dev team needs to keep their eyes peeled for changes that could impact the integrity of its software, lest their product listings and seller accounts get suspended for noncompliance. Moreover, your dev team will need to sift through documentation from various sources, some of which are more mature than others.
Because of this, Amazon acquirers have yet to build a system that can truly automate multichannel management. At best, we’ve seen acquirers create their own dashboards that pool together data from various channels and data warehouses. But even these systems quickly become impossible to maintain because of the sheer number of external factors that need accounting for.
2. Every Marketplace Has Its Own Taxonomy
Getting a product listed to multiple channels requires lots of data processing and translation in the background. Each marketplace is set up with its own categories, subcategories and product attributes.
Newegg, for instance, has more than 1,600 product categories and 20,000 product attributes. The average brand owner needs to weed through these categories and figure out which one his or her product belongs to, then manually map each product attribute to the right fields.
Needless to say, building a tool that can automatically ingest, translate and match attributes by channel takes a lot of time. You’ll need to learn the ins and outs of each marketplace and teach a machine to understand these nuances.
Believe it or not, some of today’s most well-known multichannel platforms still struggle to automate this process. Some incumbent platforms are only partially automated and still require users to set up their own listing templates per channel to initiate the right data-matching.
3. Each Marketplace Has Its Own Rules of Engagement
Any multichannel software worth its salt needs to be able to adjust to these varying requirements. At minimum, you should be able to customize product listings, prices and other settings by channel to maximize your chances of ranking (and to minimize your chances of getting suppressed).
The best solutions also keep 24/7 watch over a brand’s performance, alert you of issues and/or resolve issues automatically. However, building a solution that’s both easy-to-use and flexible enough to support this level of customization is a mammoth task.
Not to mention that some marketplace-prompted errors are notoriously cryptic. It’s not always obvious what your system needs to do in order to correct an issue.
4. There’s Very Little Room for Error
Truth be told, there’s a lot at stake when you entrust your business with an automated solution. This is especially true for a multichannel solution, which is responsible for handling active product listings, orders and inventory.
If inventory isn’t synced properly, then you could be looking at a long list of backorders. If listings aren’t mapped properly, then you could be selling your toy chairs as regular furniture by accident.
These blunders could have a domino effect, beginning with angry customers, order cancellations, negative reviews and...in the worst-case scenario, suspension. A lot of money is tied up in each step of the selling process, and so there’s little room for you to make a mistake or experience downtime in development.
4 Benefits of Outsourcing to an Existing Solution
With all that said, it’s important to cover the benefits of working with an existing multichannel ecommerce platform. From greater cost efficiency to increased reliability, there are various advantages that acquirers can look forward to.
1. All-in-One Software (and Zero Dev Costs)
Your team no longer has to front the money for developing a solution and maintaining it on an ongoing basis. By contrast, you can gain access to a platform that has already been tested by many users before you.
Rather than Frankensteining your own solution, you can additionally lean on a platform that already knows how to sync listings, orders, inventory and other data across your sales channels. You can achieve faster time to market and if any connection goes awry, you can trust that a team of engineers is at the ready to tackle the issues.
2. Access to Multichannel Experts
By onboarding to a new platform, you can get connected with a team that has real-word experience selling or managing accounts across various marketplaces. They can serve as a sounding board for your team when questions come up, such as “Which channels should I offer this product on?” or “How do I best optimize listings for this channel?”
Instead of hiring a strategist for every channel that you’re lacking expertise for, you can put one brand manager in charge of all of a brand’s assets. With the right software, your manager should be able to easily oversee a brand’s activity on Amazon, eBay, and other channels—plus consult the system’s support team with any immediate questions.
3. Existing Advantages and Permissions
The top multichannel providers are part of developer councils and have official partnerships with today’s major marketplaces. Because of these relationships, they often receive updates long before the general public ever learns of them, and help their users get pre-approved for special programs.
Zentail users, for instance, can add Walmart’s 2-day badge to their Walmart listings—a privilege that isn’t automatically granted to sellers, even if they have the capability to ship within two days. They can also receive quicker responses on their Walmart Marketplace applications by denoting that Zentail, a trusted Walmart partner, is their integrator.
One misconception that we often hear is that by building your own solution, you can customize it to your needs. But the reality is, you’ll likely be able to work more freely when you have a tool that’s already built and proven to work.
You no longer have to spend any of your time making sure that a tool is simply functional. Instead, you can spend your time building custom reports and automation rules that are fit for your business. Or, if you use a system like Zentail, you can connect your platform with other third-party seller applications to augment your solution. Zentail supports a number of readily available integrations, including popular WMS platforms, OMS platforms and more.
Let’s Get Real
Time is of the essence—Amazon acquirers know that better than anyone. However, a lot of them waste time trying to recreate a solution that’s already built and inevitably works better than any system that they try to cobble together.
“Why not spend your resources on your core competency, rather than building a worse version of software that already exists? You wouldn't build your own ERP, would you?” - Daniel Sugarman, CEO of Zentail
Don’t let your company make the same mistake. Evaluate various software systems at your disposal. Evaluate your needs. And of course, holler at us if you ever want to test drive Zentail.
Schedule time with a Zentail expert to see how we can transform your Ecommerce business.