What You Need to Know Before Investing In Multi-Channel Ecommerce Software

choosing the right multi-channel ecommerce platform

The daily costs of doing business without enterprise multi-channel ecommerce software are quickly becoming greater than the cost of implementation would be. However, with so many different options to choose from, selecting the right software for your current and future needs can be difficult.

You must find out how much custom development will be involved, what team resources will be needed to support it, and if it can collect and leverage real-time sales and supplier data.

In addition to pointing out these and other important considerations, we also compiled a list of questions to ask and mistakes to avoid to help you navigate the process. Here’s a preview of what you will learn.

  • Who should be included in the decision-making process and why
  • Why end-to-end integration should be a feature at the top of your list
  • Other non-negotiable features your software must have
  • What to consider when choosing between a SaaS platform and in-house platform
  • Questions to ask and things to look for when vetting out potential vendors
  • Why post-implementation support can’t be overlooked

Why Platforming Should Be a Team Decision

Reaching a consensus on a multi-channel ecommerce software requires careful internal analysis and focused discussions across multiple departments. However, by defining current and future business needs before potential solutions are even considered, you can select one that meets your criteria and won’t cause unexpected headaches and delays later on.

If you’re a multi-channel merchant attempting to scale in a high transaction volume, high SKU count, multi-supplier environment, an enterprise operations platform is no longer optional. It should be the foundation of your business strategy. A well-informed purchasing decision must be made so you can prioritize how the platform will help achieve your short and long-term goals and invest accordingly. This requires assembling not only your marketing, information technology, and executive management divisions but also your logistics and supply chain teams to determine which platform to buy.

Because CEOs and chief financial officers know that success online hinges on selecting the right platform, they are becoming more involved in the decision-making process. As a top executive you’ll want to see a measurable ROI within the first year of implementation, as opposed to the promises of profit that may or may not appear over time. You’ll also want to find out the total upfront cost of ownership, including all installation and support fees, before investing capital in a platform.

Gathering input from the information technology, logistics, and supply chain teams is also necessary since they will be interacting with the platform on a daily basis. If one group is missing from the discussion it can lead to problems down the road.

The Importance of End-to-End Integration

Evaluating a multi-channel ecommerce software starts with finding out whether or not it includes the functionality required to replace your standalone operational systems. Merchants should look for a platform that integrates both the sales and supply sides of their business so it can collect and analyze this data in real time and automatically make the best inventory, repricing, and fulfillment decisions possible. When they use standalone systems for each of these core operational areas it slows down their ability to grow because all of their time is spent merging systems and data. Ensuring that their operational systems connect to a “single source of truth” is a consideration that often gets overlooked when merchants are making their purchasing decision. By consolidating all of these systems into one fully integrated end-to-end solution, their focus can shift from running their business to growing it.

Non-Negotiable Features Your Platform Must Have

Merchants know the importance of publishing channel-specific product data. However, many of them struggle with actually doing it. In order to manage products in different units of measure (each, 2-pack, 4-pack, etc.) and the corresponding product data each channel requires (quantity, price, image, weight, item description, etc.) merchants often create duplicate SKUs. This makes inventory management/replenishment nearly impossible. Activity reports for each SKU must be generated and manually aggregated as often as necessary to find out which SKUs are selling, how many are selling, where they are selling, how many to reorder, and when to reorder. This problem can be avoided with a master SKU infrastructure that allows merchants to avoid duplicate SKUs by controlling costs and inventory availability at the SKU level while controlling product data at the listing level.

To prevent overselling, negative feedback, and account suspension, merchants should look for a platform that also offers dynamic inventory allocation and delisting. This will enable them to maintain accurate inventory levels with no manual intervention by automatically updating availability across all channels as they buy and sell.

SaaS Ecommerce Platform vs. In-House Platform

One of the biggest decisions multi-channel merchants face when it comes to platforming is whether to go with a SaaS-based solution or custom build an in-house solution. SaaS-based platforms are less costly, since hosting isn’t required and developers aren’t needed to build and maintain it. Instead, SaaS providers usually charge monthly fees. Plus, SaaS-based platforms typically come equipped with the latest features and can be set up more quickly than in-house platforms, which is also a big consideration, as you want to minimize downtime. Since there is such a substantial difference in cost and functional capability between the two, there is a shift taking place in the industry away from in-house platforms and toward SaaS-based platforms.

What Else to Look For When Selecting a Vendor

Once you’ve determined what features you want in a platform and whether to go with a SaaS-based or in-house solution, your next step is to select a vendor. When evaluating vendors you should review customer success stories and average growth rates. Also, if a high percentage of merchants are replatforming with a specific vendor, this would indicate that the vendor has the functionality merchants need to be competitive both now and in the future. Lastly, you need to understand how you will be supported from platform implementation to post Go-Live.

Questions you want to get answered before making your decision include:

  • What level of pre and post Go-Live support will be provided?
  • Who will be providing the support?
  • Do you offer dedicated account management and/or escalated technical support?

When evaluating vendors you should also make sure that you will be assigned an implementation specialist who works closely with members of your organization through the complete project lifecycle to ensure your implementation delivers the expected value on time and within budget.

Whether it’s conducting readiness assessments, providing planning checklists, or testing the application from your management environment someone should be there every step of the way to ensure your entire organization is prepared for Go-Live.

And because Go-Live is really just phase one, a dedicated account manager should help maximize adoption by supporting end users navigate the platform while rolling out the next phase. Whatever success looks like to you organization three, six, or twelve months after Go-Live, your account manager should meet with your account lead regularly to review your short and long-term goals and provide strategic, highly customized recommendations.