The Ultimate Guide To Inventory Management for Multichannel Retailers
Chapter 3: Preparing Inventory For Multichannel Selling
With a solid foundation and inventory game plan, you’re ready to advance to the next step – preparing your products for an online audience. Listing your products just anywhere isn’t a smart strategy. In this chapter, we’ll discuss the top available platforms and their specific requirements, the art of categorizing your merchandise, and a quick guide to marketing those products. After this, you’ll be a multichannel ecommerce expert.
Section 1: Preparing Inventory for Ecommerce Platforms
You can only go so far selling from one channel. As ecommerce becomes more accessible and commonplace, new channels keep opening up to cater to different shoppers all over the world. Everyone has their favorite place to shop online, and — statistically speaking — chances are it’s not yours. To maintain a healthy influx of new customers, you need to branch out into multichannel selling.
Selling on a single channel is no longer viable as it once was. In general, ecommerce favors the multichannel approach for a variety of reasons:
- You can reach entirely new markets and customer groups
- Repeat encounters with shoppers on new sites lead to stronger brand recognition
- Presence on mainstream shopping sites gives your brand credibility
- Multichannel customers spend over 3x more than single-channel shoppers
In the last chapter, we discussed some advanced inventory management strategies, but now we’re going to get into the complexities of how you can unload that inventory on the main ecommerce channels.
The third part of our Inventory Management series is dedicated entirely to multichannel selling, so what better way to start than to introduce the main players. In this article, we’ll go through the best channels every ecommerce entrepreneur should consider and explain a little about what to expect from each.
Marketplaces Listing Requirements
To effectively list products on new marketplaces and shopping carts, you should be familiar with the requirements of each channel. A lousy product listing can get buried beneath your competitor’s items, hurting your chances of winning a sale. It can also get flagged by the site, putting you at risk for marketplace suspension.
But finding and understanding these requirements is time-consuming. That‘s why we’ve compiled a comprehensive breakdown of product listing requirements by marketplace. Keep this information handy when you need to list a product on a new channel.
Inarguably, the most powerful sales channel in ecommerce, Amazon lets you reach the most people.
Amazon offers sellers two different plans. The Professional plan lets you sell an unlimited number of products (and other perks), but charges a monthly fee, plus per-item selling fees. The Individual plan is for smaller investments, foregoing the monthly fee for charges on each item sold. If you expect to sell more than 40 items a month, go with the Professional plan; otherwise, the Personal plan will suffice.
Moreover, it may be worth selling on Amazon just for publicity: 47% of Americans start their product searches on Amazon, no matter where they end up.
Amazon Listing Requirements
|Title||The title is the name of the product you’re selling.||Echo Dot (2nd Generation) – Black|
|Description||The description is your opportunity to provide buyers with more detailed information about the item you’re selling.||Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device with a small built-in speaker—it can also connect to your speakers or headphones over Bluetooth or through a 3.5 mm audio cable to deliver stereo sound to the speakers you choose. Dot connects to the Alexa Voice Service to play music, make calls, send and receive messages, provide information, news, sports scores, weather, and more—instantly.|
|Quantity||The quantity is how much of the item you have.||50|
|Condition||The condition is the state of the item at the time of sale.||New, Used|
|Price||The price is the amount of money you’re selling the item for.||$50|
|Shipping Method||This allows you to expand your shipping zone to multiple countries and via multiple methods other than the “Standard shipping”.||Standard, Expedited, One-day|
|Amazon Standard Identification Numbers (ASIN)||Unique blocks of 10 letters and/or numbers that identify items on Amazon||B01B1VC13K|
|Stock Keeping Unit Number (SKU)||Number assigned to a product by the company for stock-keeping purposes and internal operations.||5578851|
|Universal Product Code (UPC)||12-digit bar code used extensively for retail packaging in United States.||841667112640|
One of the founding fathers of online shopping, eBay stays alive and well even today as an ecommerce institution. Like Amazon, there are two plans for sellers for either intensive or casual selling. The Business plan lets you sell unlimited items, removes VAT from the eBay fee, and displays contact deals on documentation for tax purposes (although it still takes a small fee on each purchase. The Personal plan limits vendors to a certain number of items per month and charges a flat fee on all listings. The intricacies of eBay fees can get complicated, so check out this chart from their seller support for specific prices.
eBay Listing Requirements
|Title||This is the name of the product you’re selling||Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate Monitor Fitness Tracker Wristband|
|Image||Listings must have at least 1 picture of the item||Photo of the Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate Monitor Fitness Tracker Wristband|
|Description||This is your opportunity to provide buyers with more detailed information about the item you’re selling.||Make every beat count with a fitness wristband built with PurePulse heart rate, multi-sport modes, guided breathing sessions & interchangeable bands.|
|Item Specifics||These are details about the item you’re selling, such as brand, size type, size, color, and style. These details appear at the top of your listing description, in a consistent format, making it easy for buyers to get the facts about your item.||Brand: Fitbit Features: Alarm, Average Heart Rate, Bluetooth, Calorie Monitor, Clock|
|Condition||The condition is the state of the item at the time of sale.||New, Used|
|Product Identifier||New, refurbished, and most branded items must be associated with one or more recognized product identifiers (MPN, GTIN, UPC, ISBN).||810351029328|
|Price||The amount of money you’re selling the item for.||$127.99|
|Selling Format||Choose from multiple selling formats, such as auction-style, fixed price, and Classified Ad formats.||Buy It Now|
|Selling Duration||When you list your item, you can select a listing duration of 1, 3, 5, 7, or 10 days. If you’re using the fixed price format, you can also choose a 30-day or Good ’til Cancelled listing duration||Good ’til Cancelled|
|Payment Methods||Offering your buyers safe and convenient payment choices can help your sale go smoothly, earn you positive Feedback, and bring them back for more.||PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, American Express|
|Shipping Methods||You can charge a flat cost to all buyers or calculate shipping costs based on the item you’re selling and the buyer’s location, or you can offer free shipping to attract more potential buyers. You can also offer local pickup to buyers who live near you||Standard Free Shipping|
|Return Policy||All sellers on eBay are required to specify a return policy, whether they accept returns or not.||30-day returns. Buyer pays for return shipping. 10% restocking fee may apply.|
Specializing in handmade crafts, Etsy targets more of a niche market. While you may not sell many tech gadgets or luxury goods on their site, if your brand focuses on traditional, novelty, folksy, or unique products, you may find more of your target customers here than anywhere else.
Technically creating a shop on Etsy is free, but the site charges fees for listing a product, transactions, and processing payments.
Etsy Listing Requirements
|Add Photos/Adjust Thumbnail||Start by adding images to your listing. Click the Add a photo icon to add files from your drive. Your thumbnail photo is the photo that buyers will see in your shop home, in search results, and in various other places on Etsy.||Your images should be at least 1000 pixels wide, but the height can vary.Your first image becomes your listing’s thumbnail in searches, your shop, and elsewhere on the site.|
|Title||The title is the name of the product you’re selling||String Art – Customizable String Art – Blessed String Art – Nail and String Art – Rustic Decor – Rustic Sign – Blessed Sign Farmhouse Decor|
|About This Listing||The first dropdown menu next to About this listing determines whether your item belongs under Handmade, Vintage, or Craft Supplies.||Handmade|
|Category||The dropdown menus next to Category positions your item within a category on the Categories page. You’ll then be prompted to describe the item further by choosing subcategories.||Customizable Home Décor|
|Attributes||Attributes allow you to include standardized information about your items. Adding attributes like color, occasion, or holiday will help make your items more relevant in search results.||Measures 10″x22″x2″. Materials: felt, wood, nail, string. Interested in a different message? Feel free to send me a message and I would be more than happy to open a customized sale for you! I am willing to do just about anything you would want! I can also do something of a different size. This listing is just one of the examples I can do so don’t hesitate to ask!|
|Description||The description is your opportunity to provide buyers with more detailed information about the item you’re selling. Make sure to include the size, materials used, how it was made, and any unique features||Our string art is made from wood that we stain and brace together. We then hand nail every nail and string each letter based on the coloration you want. We strive to make everything perfect and we will accept nothing less than that, so you can expect your order to look like the picture if not better.|
|Price||The price is the amount of money you’re selling the item for.||$65|
|Quantity||The quantity is how much of the item you have.||2|
|Shipping Profile/Cost||You can charge a flat cost to all buyers or calculate shipping costs based on the item you’re selling and the buyer’s location, or you can offer free shipping to attract more potential buyers.||Shipping will take about 2-3 days via priority mail shipping|
|Publish Your Listing||You’re ready to sell! Click Publish to finish your listing. The $0.20 USD listing fee will be added to your Etsy bill.||This listing is now available to shoppers. Tell potential buyers about your new item and share it on Facebook or Twitter.|
Walmart recently surpassed eBay in the American ecommerce marketplace standings. However, it is a bit exclusive about who sells on its site and prefer to work with established brands. That’s why Walmart is more for experienced online sellers than beginners, so it’s practically a necessity to develop an online presence before you even apply.
Walmart also looks at positive feedback and reviews, so make sure you clean up any blemishes on your accounts as best you can.
Walmart Listing Requirements
|Title||The title is the name of the product you’re selling||Google Home Mini|
|Product ID Type||This field is where you indicate which identifier you are using. If you are using UPCs, put ‘UPC’ in this field.||UPC|
|Product ID||This is where you put the value for the product identifier.||566767622|
|SKU||Number assigned to a product by the company for stock-keeping purposes and internal operations.||5578851|
|Brand||Brand name of the product.|
|Description||The description is your opportunity to provide buyers with more detailed information about the item you’re selling. Can gave long and short description.||Get hands-free help in any room with Google Home Mini. It’s powered by the Google Assistant, so you can ask it questions. Tell it to do things. It’s your own personal Google. Just start with “Hey Google” to get answers from Google, tackle your day, enjoy your music and entertainment, control your smart home, or entertain the family. And when you ask for help, it can tell your voice from others for a more personalized experience.|
|Image||URL that directly links to the product image.|
|Product Category||Items must be categorized.||Electronics/ Smart Home/ Google Home Products|
|Item Specifics||Attributes allow you to include standardized information about your items.||Model VIPRB-GA00210-US
Assembled Product Weight 2 lb
Manufacturer Part Number GA00210-US
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H) 0.85 x 1.65 x 3.85 Inches
|Price||Original item price value and currency.||$49 USD|
|Shipping Method/Price||This lets you to broaden your shipping zone to multiple countries and more methods other than the “Standard shipping”.||Free 2-Day Shipping|
Newegg is a great place to expand your technology business. It offers 3 seller plans. The lower option is best for sellers who don’t want to build any brand awareness and have less listings. The Professional and Enterprise plans offer more listings, customized marketing programs, and access to their fulfillment program (like FBA). In addition to the monthly plan fees, there are various commission and seller fees.
Some critical rules it enforces are ship within 48 hours (orders will be canceled after 72 hours), excellent customer service (inquiries must be responded to within 24 hours), and a 30-day return policy on all products sold.
Newegg Listing Requirements
|Title||The title is the name of the product you’re selling||Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Tablet (12-Inch, 64 GB, Intel Core i3, Windows 10) + Microsoft Surface Type Cover|
|Description||The description is your opportunity to provide buyers with more detailed information about the item you’re selling.||Microsoft combines the portability of a tablet and the performance of a laptop with the Surface Pro 3 64GB 12″ Multi-Touch Tablet. Weighing just 1.76 pounds and measuring just 0.36″ thin, the Surface Pro 3 packs 4th-gen Haswell Intel Core processing power into a magnesium casing with a silver finish.|
|Item ID, MPN, UPC, or ISBN.||Number identifier for a specific product||4YM-00016-BUNDLE|
|SKU Number||Number assigned to a product by the company for stock-keeping purposes and internal operations.||5578851|
|Product Weight||The overall weight of the product||3 lbs.|
|Price||The price of the item you’re selling||$549.99|
|Quantity||The quantity is how much of the item you have.||60|
|Shipping Information||The shipping price and method you will use for your product||Standard Ground: $9.99|
Takeaway: The One-Armed Octopus
A one-armed octopus doesn’t go very far. Octopi, like ecommerce stores, need multiple arms to survive and thrive. If you want to compete at your best, you need all the resources available to you, and that means as many “arms” as you can get. The more channels you have, the more markets you can reach at the same time from the same place.
To list effectively on new channels and optimize your listings for maximum results, you need to be familiar with the rules and regulations of each marketplace or website. You can’t (or shouldn’t) list items without first thinking it through, considering the nature of the sales channel, and then making smart decisions.
Our multichannel listing tool allows you to quickly set up your inventory, launch new product lines, control quantities, restock and re-list items as needed, so that you can increase your sales and visibility, too. When you’re ready to push listings out quickly and maintain visibility into which product listings are sold, queued or active, sign up for a free trial with ecomdash.
Section 2: Categorizing Products
Ecommerce channels like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy all have their own product categorization guidelines. Here, we explain how you can optimize categories for each.
When is a camera not a camera? When it’s categorized as an electronic.
Categorizing products the wrong way can lose you sales and exposure. In the riddle above, people who don’t see a separate camera category might go straight to the electronics page and think you don’t have cameras. Or, if you get rid of your camera category altogether and merge it with electronics, other shoppers won’t think to check electronics and assume you don’t have cameras either.
Product categorization on your own online store is hard enough, let alone for multiple sales channels like Amazon, eBay, or Etsy. In this section, we go through the differences in how the popular ecommerce channels categorize their products and then share 3 expert tips to optimize product categorization for multichannel selling.
Product Categorization by Marketplace
For quick reference, here are the links to the product category lists and guidelines for the major ecommerce sites.
- Amazon Product Categories. Amazon has a pretty straightforward guide and specifically lists which products go where. However, watch out for categories that require approval; these are exclusive to Professional Selling Plan subscribers. Also, used goods sellers have restricted access in some categories.
- eBay Product Categories. eBay keeps meticulous notes about changes in its categorization system.
- Etsy Product Categories. For Etsy, a lot of the searching optimization is done with tags and descriptive words in the product titles like “vintage” or “handcrafted.”
- Walmart Product Categories. Walmart’s guide to categories and subcategories clearly defines which items are acceptable, and also which are not.
Not all sites list out their product categories in such an organized manner, so some require a little elbow grease to find out how categories are organized. Here is what we could find for these sites:
- Sears Product Categories. Sears threatens to remove items if they are not properly categorized. You must log in to download this list as a CSV. Use the link above, navigate to the first section labeled Support Files, and click the link labeled “Item Class/Attributes Mapping,” which downloads a list all item classes.
- Newegg Product Categories. Newegg has over 2,000 subcategories. We were able to find a link to their taxonomy list to help you choose what works best for your products.
3 Expert Tips on Multichannel Product Categorization
1. Change Them Up for Each Channel
Different channels have different types of customers with different shopping habits. Product categorizations for niche markets may work on your own site, but miss the mark on the vast range of shoppers at Amazon. Moreover, channels each have their own guidelines, so what works for one may not work for all.
You always want to consider your particular market on each site. If you’re using a channel to net a specific group, tailor your categorization and tags around that group.
2. Experiment to Collect Data
Because product categorization isn’t always black and white, it requires some extra effort to reveal what works best for you. If, for example, you must choose between two mutually exclusive product categories, why not test both and see how they compare.
Try to keep each trial period as equal as possible. People have different shopping behaviors depending on the day of the week, month, season, or holiday. Minimize the differences in trial periods to maximize accuracy.
3. Spy on Competitors
When you’re stuck, sometimes it’s best to see what everyone else is doing. One approach is to search for your item in different ways, mimicking common online shopping behavior. For example, try finding a particular product by using the search field, and then again by using the category trees. Which is easier? Which would your target customers prefer? What areas can you improve to make the search even easier?
Another approach is to look up particular competitor products and see what works for them — and what doesn’t. Compare the top sellers’ choices against those of the low sellers. Are there any differences in categorization? This can also add a lot of insight into shopping behavior in a certain channel, which can be extra useful if you’re just breaking in.
Takeaway: Real Data
For areas like product categorization, it’s tempting to choose the option that makes sense to you. It’s crucial to remember that your opinions only represent your own personal shopper group — not necessarily your company’s target shopper group. Rather than relying on guesswork and conjecture, you should base your decisions on previous shopping data. That’s why our tips above focus on observation and experimentation, so you can choose the categories proven effective.
Section 3: Multichannel Marketing Strategies
The same ecommerce marketing strategy won’t work on different channels. As you can imagine, the best way to market yourself on Amazon may not work on eBay, and vice versa.
Below, we offer up a quick guide to marketing on each of the different channels. Keep reading to learn how to optimize your marketing strategy for each platform.
SEO is crucial for Amazon, and not just for selling your products on the site. Considering that 47% of online shoppers start their search on Amazon, that means online stores everywhere can benefit from solid Amazon SEO.
On Amazon, the best place for SEO keywords is your product titles. Your titles should include:
- Brand Name
- Product Name
- Descriptors (color, size, etc.) for long-tail searches.
If you’re at a loss for which keywords to use, start typing a particular product in the search window and see what populates the autofill. Amazon’s A9 Algorithm factors in both relevance and popularity, so sellers can use it as an SEO tool as well.
Once you’ve mastered your product listing SEO, you can provide an extra boost with Sponsored Product Ads. These give selected products a prime location in the search results when shoppers enter a particular keyword or keyword phrase. However, these ads work on a bid system, so winning popular keyword searches can get costly.
eBay relies more on specific product searches, so getting to the top of the search results is the best marketing strategy. The fastest way to do this is through their Promoted Listings feature. While not free per se, eBay only charges you when a promoted item sells, mitigating a lot of the risk.
However, using Promoted Listings isn’t a cure-all solution for poor-selling items. If you advertise products that customers generally don’t buy, you’ll increase traffic to those pages, but not sales. Promoted Listings is best used to give a more competitive edge to already popular products.
Marketing on Etsy works a little differently than the other channels. There are less technical strategies and more emphasis on customer relations. In fact, the most effective marketing strategy for Etsy is to encourage repeat sales from existing customers. You can do this by offering:
- Discounts on repeat orders
- Exclusive deals if customers sign up for your newsletter
- Store credit on orders over a certain amount
- Referral discounts
- Birthday discounts
For the same reason, interacting with customers on social media is especially important. Be present and proactive in engaging with customers.
Aside from customer relations, you want to make sure you make full use of Etsy’s tag system in your listings. It pays off to do some extra research beforehand, rather than just guessing which keywords are best.
Sears Marketplace & Walmart Marketplace
Marketing for the online marketplaces of Sears and Walmart is pretty by-the-book, probably because these are brick-and-mortar store offshoots. You’ll want to follow the marketing fundamentals to a T, especially when it comes to prioritizing SEO in product titles and descriptions. Likewise, you want to make sure you select the appropriate categories for your products to ensure visibility.
Perhaps as these marketplaces develop online, more specific strategies will arise. But for now, mastering the basics is enough.
Takeaway: To Each Their Own
While some tactics work universally on every channel — SEO keywords, enticing product images, strategic pricing — if you want to optimize sales on each channel, you need to tailor your approach to that channel.
Before moving forward, the first step is to identify which marketplaces are your main selling channels and which are strictly complementary. It helps to prioritize all your channels in a list so that you know where to focus your efforts most. From there, you can allocate budget and time based on your main breadwinners. That will tell you, for example, that you should spend more on Amazon Sponsored Products or eBay’s Promoted Listing.
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