Using Thirdparty Tools

Many other tools are available, provided by companies other than eBay, and are designed to help you manage your eBay business in many different ways. We recently found 85 different tools. Some tools attempt to do everything, while others specialize in a certain area, such as inventory management. Some integrate with QuickBooks, while some are adapted for Great Plains or Microsoft Office.

tip To find the Complete Selling Solutions list, go to solutions.ebay.com, and click the Complete vKÜ Selling Solutions link near the top of the page.

There's also another good reason to use these tools. As your business grows, you may find that you outgrow eBay. After all, eBay may be a huge market, but it's not everything. You may want to run your own web store, feed data to shopping directories such as Yahoo! Shopping and Froogle (see Chapter 25), sell through merchant sites such as Amazon.com and Overstock.com (see Chapter 28), and so on. Some of the third-party tools help you do just that.

The following products are some of the better-known eBay management tools:

■ Andale (www.Andale.com) This company has good research tools, too.

■ Marketworks (www.Marketworks.com) One percent of all eBay transactions are managed by this system. It doesn't just manage eBay sales, but other channels as well.

■ Channel Advisor (www.ChannelAdvisor.com) Also manages other channels.

■ Vendio (www.vendio.com) This product is used by 100,000 eBay users.

■ HammerTap Manager (www.HammerTap.com) This product also includes auction-research tools.

Notice that some of these tools are much more than eBay management tools. Perhaps the best known service provider is Marketworks (formerly Auctionworks). Their products manage 1 percent of all eBay transactions, for around 4,000 eBay merchants; that may not sound like a lot, but it comes in at around $340M worth of transactions every year. The Marketworks system (see Figure 8-10) combines the following functions:

■ An inventory management system

■ Product-data entry

■ Single-point order and customer management for all the sales channels

■ Automated data feeds

■ Reporting tools

■ For more sophisticated companies, a way to tie in the Marketworks tools with the customer's existing systems

FIGURE 8-10

How Marketworks views their role in online marketing: they want to help data flow between different channels

What does all this mean? Well, it allows a business to enter and manage all their data in one place. That data is then fed to their web store, to eBay and Overstock, to the Google and Yahoo! PPC systems (this component is coming soon), to shopping directories such as Yahoo! Shopping, Shopping.com, Froogle, and Kelkoo (and they may have already added NexTag and Shopzilla by the time you read this), and even to private merchant sites (Marketworks has a tool allowing site owners to create their own Amazon-like merchant sites). They're also currently in the process of adding an interface to Amazon Marketplace, and can even feed data to Yahoo! Auctions (though that auction site is definitely a backwater in the auction world).

When sales are made, the flow of data is, in effect, reversed. Now transaction data comes from the channels—from eBay, from the web store, from Amazon Marketplace, from Overstock, and so on—back to the Marketworks tools, where all sales, from all channels, can be processed in the same way. Without a system like this, your clerical staff will be opening up the different order-management systems, and processing orders in different ways depending on the channel from which they come. Marketworks also has advanced inventory-management tools, allowing you to, if you wish, keep track of which systems inventory has been committed to and lock that so inventory cannot be listed on other sites.

This system is very much targeted at small and medium businesses. The startup costs vary from "$0 to $6,000," based on what you want. Do everything yourself and there's no fee; have Marketworks set up and design the store and you'll pay for their services. Marketworks charges a 2-percent fee on each transaction, with a $29.95/month minimum, so operational costs are reasonable, too. Marketworks claims its merchants quickly benefit from increased efficiencies—one seller, they say, boosted sales from $30,000/month to $150,000/month after using Marketworks.

If you shop around for a service, check each one carefully. In particular, find out the size of the company. Some companies comprise just a handful of people, meaning they may be stretched to the limit supporting their clients (and may not be around next year).

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