Multichannel E-commerce: What It Is (And Why It Matters)

Selling online is exciting, but it can also be extremely difficult. You’re competing against thousands of other merchants, each with unique strengths and weaknesses, and shoppers can afford to be extremely picky. You need to maximize your opportunities — and that’s where multichannel e-commerce becomes an important topic.

In this post, we’re going to look at the basics of this core part of modern e-commerce: what it is, why it matters, and how you can start using it to your advantage. Let’s get started.

What is multichannel e-commerce?

Put simply, multichannel e-commerce involves marketing and selling across a variety of digital channels — not all viable channels (that would be omnichannel e-commerce), but a selection of the most relevant and useful. For instance, instead of just selling through your website, you could sell through eBay, Amazon, Facebook, and Instagram.

The possibilities are even greater for multichannel marketing specifically: you can promote your products through forums, all the social media platforms, text messages, ad networks, and — most vitally — emails (the humble email address lies at the core of a comprehensive multichannel marketing strategy). The best multichannel strategies use channels in combination, treating them as linked parts of much greater marketing and sales funnels. The goal is clear: reach your prospective customers wherever useful.

Why is it worth pursuing?

Every time you bring your products to someone’s attention, and every time you list a product in your store, you increase your chances of achieving a sale and making some money. At a minimum, multichannel e-commerce significantly increases your chances by giving you more bites of the cherry — and it also allows you to get more sophisticated with your promotions.

For example, knowing that different audiences are at different stages in your lead-generation process (some people know nothing about you, while others have heard some things but need a little bit more convincing), you can distribute introductory marketing materials through channels you’re not very active on and point them to much more in-depth promotional pushes on channels you target heavily.

It also bears considering that 90% of customers want cross-channel buying experiences (such as getting information about a product through an official branded Reddit post, ordering it through a Pinterest button, and getting customer support through Twitter).

How you can implement it

Before you do anything else, you need to decide which platforms you want to target. Do you want your products listed on Amazon? There are pros and cons — more pros, I’d say, but still some cons that might dissuade you — such as Amazon eating into your profits. Do you want to market through Instagram? It requires detailed knowledge of the platform and its community, and getting it wrong could damage your brand.

Then, if you’re so inclined, you can use a hosted e-commerce platform that has solid multi-channel integrations, but you don’t actually need to, because this is all perfectly possible if you extend WordPress with WooCommerce. There are plugins — such as the WP-Lister Pro eBay plugin — that make it possible to seamless carry your products over to third-party marketplaces, allowing you to start selling elsewhere almost immediately.

There’s also a host of other multichannel plugins, such as the free Facebook plugin for WooCommerce (here’s a handy installation guide). In short, if you’re willing to do even a small amount of research, you’ll find that there are plenty of ways to expand your WooCommerce store and start making it a multichannel operation. Good luck!

About eBay accounts and security tokens

When you create an account on eBay you have to choose a unique user ID. This user ID is the one you use to sign in to your eBay account. As the name implies, a user ID is your “identity” on eBay. It is as important as your feedback profile. Your customers, trading partners and other sellers recognize you by user ID. Though you can change your user ID – once in a 30-day period – it’s recommended to choose one you’ll use for as long as you want to use your eBay account.

Why you might want to change your eBay ID – but shouldn’t

If you didn’t give much thought to choosing a proper user ID when you first created your eBay account you might later decide to change it to something that better represents your business – but you should think twice before you change your ID as anyone who will see a change icon next to your ID for 14 days. This could be mistaken for a “warning sign” which could scare away some customers.

You should also keep in mind that customers will remember you by your user ID and if it is changed, there’s a great chance that they won’t find you when they search for your old ID on eBay (unless of course you let them know one by one). You can lose customers and obviously that also means losing your sales.

It should be noted that changing your user ID will keep your positive and negative feedback as it is – the only thing that will be changed is your user ID but not your feedback history. So in case you’re wondering if you should change your ID to get rid of negative feedback, the answer is: No, it won’t work.

Changing your eBay user ID and updating WP-Lister

Changing your eBay user ID won’t do any harm to your WP-Lister setup. When you connected WP-Lister with your eBay account, eBay generated a so called security token which is independent from your eBay user ID or password. This means your eBay token won’t change when your eBay user ID is changed.

When you have changed your eBay user ID, you’ll still see the old user ID in WP-Lister’s settings. This won’t have any impact on how WP-Lister works, but in order to make WP-Lister recognize the new ID all you need to do is: Visit WP-Lister -> Tools and click the button “Update user details”. That’s it!

update ebay user details

eBay tokens don’t last forever

The first step when setting up WP-Lister on your WooCommerce site requires connecting WP-Lister to your eBay account.

During this authorization, eBay will generate a security token – after you signed in on eBay and you agreed to grant WP-Lister plugin an access to your eBay account – which is stored in the database once you’re redirected to WP-Lister’s settings page and click on “Fetch eBay Token”.

This eBay token is a unique key allowing WP-Lister to communicate with eBay on your behalf. This way WP-Lister doesn’t have to store your private eBay password – but there is one catch: eBay tokens do expire after two years.

WP-Lister does check your token expiry date on a frequent basis – and it will show a warning if your token expires in less than two weeks.

What to do when my eBay token has expired?

Error: Please login again now. Your security token has expired. (#90002)

When you see this error message while working with WP-Lister your eBay token has expired and you need to re-authenticate WP-Lister with eBay.

To do this visit WP-Lister -> Settings, click the “Change Account” button and follow the instructions.

re-authenticate WP-Lister eBay token

These are just some few things worth knowing about your eBay account – especially for those of you who have been using WP-Lister for almost two years and will have to update their eBay token soon.

Please share your thoughts and ideas with us by leaving your comments below.

Why you should keep WordPress updated

When using WordPress, it is vital to keep your site updated. There are three parts of a WordPress site that can be updated:

  1. The WordPress core
  2. The plugins you are have installed
  3. Your WordPress theme – provided that your changes went into a child theme

One of the reasons why WordPress website owners or managers don’t take advantage of the updates available is because they are unaware of its benefits. That’s understandable since not all WordPress users are designers, developers or webmasters.

Updates fix bugs and security issues and improve your site functionality and performance. Ignoring these updates means leaving your WordPress site open to vulnerabilities and attackers – as if a red carpet is rolled out inviting hackers to add spam on your site.

You can see in the report below that WordPress dominates as top web publishing platform for blogs and CMS sites in general. More than 60% of them run on WordPress which makes it a juicy target for hackers.

We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to regularly upgrade your WordPress site and your plugins.

You won’t miss an update for WordPress itself as WordPress prompts you to update when there is a new version available – but outdated WordPress plugins are the ones that are less noticeable. When you see that red little circle with a white number that appears next to the Plugins menu, there are new updates available and you should update as soon as possible.

Updating WordPress is almost too simple – an all updated site is only a few clicks away. However, you should take some precautions before you updating. You need to have a recent backup of your site – which should be created a regular basis anyway. It can happen that an update introduces new issues – or even a tiny chance it might break your site – so if something goes wrong while upgrading, you need to have the option to restore the previous version from a backup.

There are major updates which you should test on a staging site first – upgrading WooCommerce from 2.0 to 2.1 for example. There are different ways to clone your live site to a staging site:

  • If you went with wpengine.com, you’re lucky as your site already has a one click solution built in.
  • There is the free Sandbox plugin on wordpress.org. Read more about it in this post on wptavern.com.
  • Another hosted solution would be wpstagecoach.com – but you’ll need to sign up as a beta tester for now.
  • If all fails or you’re looking for more manual control, have a look at the WP Migrate DB plugin – there is an excellent Pro version available as well.

Is your WordPress website updated?

Maybe now is the time for a routine health check 🙂

WooCommerce – #1 eCommerce platform

It’s official: WooCommerce is the world’s most used e-commerce platform.

According to WooThemes who recently published some statistics based on data from BuiltWith, WooCommerce is installed on more sites than any other e-commerce software. WooCommerce outranks not only other WordPress plugins like WP e-Commerce or Shopp, but all self-hosted solutions including ZenCart, PrestaShop, osCommerce, Shopify, you name it. It even surpasses Magento – while it should be admitted that Magento still has a greater share with high traffic sites.

You should read the blog post on woothemes.com – there are many interesting stats and diagrams about countries or business types, but my favorite is certainly this one:

WooCommerce market share - January 2014

http://www.woothemes.com/2014/02/monitoring-woocommerce-growth/

If you’re a developer or theme designer who has used other content management systems or e-commerce platforms in the past, this is the time to reconsider – and focus on WordPress and WooCommerce. With WooCommerce powering over 10% of all e-commerce sites and WordPress powering more than 20% of the whole web – both numbers are still increasing exponentially! – there is no doubt where all the fun will be in the future…

If you’re a shop owner and thinking about migrating to WordPress / WooCommerce: Do it. It will require some one time effort, but you’ll be rewarded with a stable, future-proof and maintainable e-commerce solution which is loved by developers and search engines alike. No more “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I can’t do that” from your dev guy because implementing your wishes would require messing with the core your e-commerce software and make future updates a nightmare – a skilled developer can do almost anything with WooCommerce, without every touching the core.

That’s why I predict a huge number of talented developers will be focussing on WooCommerce and WordPress in the future – eventually it might be hard to find someone skilled enough to fix your ZenCart site…

Let me know what you think in the comments. Is WooThemes doing right? 

How big will WooCommerce or WordPress be in one year from now?

Create custom listing shortcodes for WP-Lister

If you have ever wondered how you could create custom listing shortcodes to be used in your WP-Lister listing templates then read on… it’s easier than you might think.

Where to start

Since WP-Lister 1.2 each listing template has its own functions.php file – which is different from your WordPress theme’s functions.php. Both work in a similar way, but your theme’s functions.php affects your whole WP site while a listing template’s functions.php affects only your eBay listings and preview.

Why not use your theme’s functions.php? For two good reasons: First custom listing shortcodes should be bundled with the listing template where they are used, so when you duplicate, download or upload listing templates, the required code will always remain attached. Second, if you make a mistake or typo, you won’t shut down your entire site – only the listing preview won’t work.

Simple example: Hello World

To get started, open up your listing templates functions.php (from now on referred just as functions.php). You can use your favorite code editor to edit the file via FTP – but you can just edit the template and scroll down until you see the current functions.php content.

You will find some example code – which is inactive since it’s wrapped in a /* ... */ comment block:

/*
function my_tpl_process_html( $html, $item, $images ) {
  $html = str_replace( '[[my_custom_listing_shortcode]]', 'MY CUSTOM CONTENT', $html );
  return $html;
}
add_filter( 'wplister_process_template_html', 'my_tpl_process_html', 10, 3 );
*/

Remove the comment wrappers to activate the code and change the shortcode and content to whatever you like. A simple hello world example would look like this:

function my_tpl_process_html( $html, $item, $images ) {
  $html = str_replace( '[[hello_world]]', 'Hello World!', $html );
  return $html;
}
add_filter( 'wplister_process_template_html', 'my_tpl_process_html', 10, 3 );

Save your template and use [[hello_world]] somewhere in your template. You will see that it gets replaced with “Hello World!”.

However, you wouldn’t want just to replace some text – that doesn’t make much sense as you could write “Hello World!” right in your template.

Usually, you want to fetch some product details from the database, check if it’s empty and if not, prefix it with some label:

Real world example: Special Price

The code below will fetch the product meta field _sale_price, format it using woocommerce_price() and prefix it with “Sale Price: ” – unless it’s empty:

function my_tpl_process_sale_price( $html, $item, $images ) {
  $sale_price = get_post_meta( $item['post_id'], '_sale_price', true );
  $sale_price_html = '';
  if ( $sale_price ) {
    $sale_price_html = 'Sale Price: '.woocommerce_price( $sale_price );
  }
  $html = str_replace( '[[sale_price]]', $sale_price_html, $html );
  return $html;
}
add_filter( 'wplister_process_template_html', 'my_tpl_process_sale_price', 10, 3 );

Now you can use  [[_sale_price]] anywhere in your template – which will be replaced by the formatted and labeled value, or removed if there is no sale price.

Complex example: Product Reviews

As an example for a more complex shortcode, let’s look at the following code snippet, which shows the latest product reviews in your eBay listing:

function my_tpl_process_product_reviews( $html, $item, $images ) {

    // get all approved comments
    $comments = get_comments( array( 'post_id' => $item['post_id'], 'status' => 'approve' ) );
    if ( empty( $comments ) ) return $html;

    // build reviews html
    $reviews_html  = '<h3>Reviews</h3>';
    $reviews_html .= '<ul class="product_reviews">';
    foreach ($comments as $comment) {
        $reviews_html .= '<li>';
        $reviews_html .= $comment->comment_content;
        // show author and date - remove the next line if you like
        $reviews_html .= '<br><small><i>' . $comment->comment_author . ' on ' . date(get_option('date_format'), strtotime($comment->comment_date) ) . '</small></i>';
        $reviews_html .= '</li>';
    }
    $reviews_html .= '</ul>';

    // replace shortcode with generated html
    $html = str_replace( '[[product_reviews]]', $reviews_html, $html );
}
add_filter( 'wplister_process_template_html', 'my_tpl_process_product_reviews', 10, 3 );

As you can see, you can just use any WordPress function as you would do in a plugin or any other code snippet. With a a few lines of PHP you can create custom listing shortcodes for almost anything.

Let me know in the comments if you liked this post – or what you would like me to blog about next. 😉

Matt

What’s new in WP-Lister Pro 1.3

Version 1.3.1 of WP-Lister Pro has been released today and should show up in your WordPress dashboard soon. This release features some important updates to the inventory sync process that you should know about.

Locked Listings

WP-Lister 1.3 introduces the concept of locked listings which can be very useful if your products have been imported from eBay – or if you just want to keep the inventory synced but nothing else.

When a locked listing is revised, WP-Lister will only revise the inventory status / stock level on eBay, but leave other details untouched. This will happen by default each time you update a locked product in WooCommerce – it’s very fast so you probably won’t notice the delay – and you won’t have to revise all changed items after updating locked products.

Transactions vs Orders

In the past, WP-Lister fetched information about new sales on eBay by requesting the latest transactions – which was the only available way to do so when development on WP-Lister started – and it could not combine multiple transactions into a single order in WooCommerce.

The new version though fetches the latest orders from eBay and will create combined orders in WooCommerce – all you need to do is to switch the update mode from Transaction to Order in general settings. This will replace the old Transactions page with a new Orders page, but you will still be able to access the old transactions via a link on that page.

Other new features

There have been countless fixes and improvements since version 1.2.8:

  • new permission management
  • create eBay customers as WordPress users
  • customize WP-Lister main menu label
  • archive listings instead of deleting them
  • search box and status views on orders page
  • auto complete eBay sales when order is completed option
  • disable email notifications when orders are created by WP-Lister
  • support for shipping cost paid by option in return policy
  • support for cash on delivery fee
  • lots of bugs fixed
  • new action hooks for 3rd party developers
  • tested with WordPress 3.7 and MP6

See the changelog for the full list of changes – and please report any bugs to [email protected]

The free version on wordpress.org will be updated next week.

Thanks,

Matt

Import your products from eBay to WooCommerce

Great news for active eBay sellers who want to sell their products on their WordPress powered website as well:

The new Import from eBay to WooCommerce plugin will create an exact copy of your eBay store right in WooCommerce – including all products, variations and store categories.

Since this plugin uses WP-Lister to connect to eBay, you need to install WP-Lister first – both WP-Lister Pro or the free version will do. In return you’ll find all your listings already set up in WP-Lister after the import – so you are ready to go if you want to use WP-Lister to manage all your products in one place from now on.

You’ll find more details and screenshots on the plugin page.

If you have any questions or feedback please contact us or leave a comment below.

 

WP-Lister supports MarketPress

We are glad to announce that we’ve added support for MarketPress to WP-Lister.

This not only means that another 5 digit number of WordPress shop owners can list their products on eBay now – it means you can choose and migrate any time between the four most popular e-commerce plugins for WordPress: WooCommerce, WP e-Commerce, Shopp and MarketPress. While keeping all your listings and settings!

If you want to test drive WP-Lister on MarketPress, contact us to become a beta tester. This invitation won’t last forever 😉

Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog or follow us on twitter if you want to get informed of latest updates. We’re going to have some interesting news.

Update 29.07.13: Support for MarketPress had been deprecated – future versions of WP-Lister will support WooCommerce only.

List your products with item specifics recommended by eBay

Hi everyone,

We’ve just added an exciting new feature to WP-Lister Pro: Custom Item Specifics

What are item specifics?

Item specifics are custom product attributes like Brand or Size. While including item specifics in your listings is optional for most categories, eBay requires them for some categories like Clothing & Accessoires.

So if you want to list T-Shirts for women on eBay, you would select this category…

… and you will be presented with all required and recommended attributes:

If all your items share the same brand and style, you can enter these right here in the profile.

For some item specifics eBay only allows to choose from a list of provided values – like “Size Type”. For other item specifics you are free to enter your own values, but you will see some recommended values while typing.

If you want to use a custom attribute as a source for an item specific value, you can select any already defined attribute in the third column. WP-Lister will pull the value from there when listing your products.

On WP e-Commerce you will have to use the “Custom Meta” feature, on WooCommerce you just set up “Attributes” with a single value like this:

I hope you like the new feature. More will come soon.

If you have any questions, just write a comment or an email.

Matt

WP-Lister is preparing for launch

We are pleased to announce that WP-Lister passed the eBay compatible application check and we are now preparing for launching version 1.0 beginning of next month.

If you still want to get a free license by becoming a beta tester you should do it now.

We made a screencast about the general workflow using WP-Lister:

Besides, we are currently implementing basic support for Shopp – which will be included in the final release.

stay tuned,

Matt