Keith Bird, CEO at e-commerce solution supplier, eSellerPro, talks to Retail Times editor, Fiona Briggs, about his company’s turnkey solution for internet retailers
eSellerPro is a one-stop shop for internet retailers.
In a nutshell, the Gloucestershire-based company, offers a complete e-commerce ERP(Enterprise Resource Planning) software solution, which integrates the entire online sales processes.
The technology simplifies and automates tasks such as inventory management, product listing and scheduling, sales order processing, payment and dispatch, customers’ communications and accounts posting.
“It’s a software system that allows an internet retailer to do their business end-to-end on one system,” says CEO Keith Bird.
In particular, the solution is aimed at internet retailers, which want to do business on multi-channel marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Play.com.
And it has one major benefit.
“It gives internet retailers access to more marketplaces than any other solution on the marketplace,” claims Bird.
“The reason why that is important, is that retailers don’t want to be dipping in and out of different systems – our system enables them to run their business through one dashboard,” Bird says.
As well as opening up new routes to market, the system enables a retailer to expose its inventory across all platforms, rather than allocate stock piecemeal to different sites.
Put simply, if a retailer has 100 teddy bears to sell, and eBay sells 10, all platforms know there is 90 left, explains Bird. This prevents overselling, which can destroy a company’s ranking status, he adds.
The results? Great market reach and visibility of the inventory allows retailers to focus on offering superb customer service.
Cost savings are another benefit. Bird says the platform helps online retailers save time and money, enabling managers and employees to focus on the business and its customers.
Bird reports one US customer is employing two fewer personnel as a direct result of the eSellerPro solution.
“Listing is a huge challenge for retailers but our system enables them to plug their inventory into platforms very easily,” he says.
Since the business was launched in 2006, eSellerPro reports it has experienced exponential growth and the platform already processes more than £200m in annual sales.
“Our customers are growing at around 100-120% year-on-year,” says Bird.
They are varied too and include BMW, which sells its spare parts on eBay via eSellerPro; major high street names such as Tesco, Maplins and Dixons, which sell electrical returns on sites like eBay; plus a raft of small internet-based retailers, selling a diverse range of products.
Growth in the online channel is shaping the sector and Bird believes two types of marketplace are emerging.
Firstly, there are the industry-based marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon, as well as emerging marketplaces, which no one would have even considered previously, he says.
Secondly, big retailers like supermarkets, which have a lot of the customer data of a big percentage of customers in the UK, will be considering whether they can turn themselves into a marketplace, says Bird.
In the US, department store Sears is one large retailer doing just that.
“Those are the intelligent discussions a lot of the boards of the largest retailers will be having today,” he says.
But it is those retailers who are online in multiple marketplaces, which are the ones that are outstripping market growth, he adds.
Where multi-channel once meant store and web site, today the internet has exploded the breadth of online channels.
Social networks, like Facebook, are increasingly an important part of a retailer’s marketing mix, says Bird. B2B customers, meanwhile, are using Linked In as a tool.
According to Bird, Facebook will be used to build relationships and brands. The e-commerce element won’t be huge, he says, but will develop over the next 12 to 18 months.
“People are nervous about buying through a social network but eventually everyone will become comfortable transacting on Facebook stores,” he says.
Bird claims the retail sector will break further into distinct groups.
At one end of the spectrum are high street branded retailers, which will become more sophisticated and extend their breadth and reach by grabbing land; but will look very different to how they appear today and will be considering if they can become a marketplace.
The second group are internet retailers, which will get more and more niche but very deep in terms of their reach, says Bird.
Using his teddy bear analogy, this trend would see a business, selling teddy bears out of a small warehouse in the UK, for example, start selling in Europe and beyond.
“A lot of small internet-based retailers today will create global brands,” Bird claims.
The investment costs versus expanding a traditional bricks and mortar retail business are minimal.
“The trader just pays the marketplace a commission,” he says. “It’s the reverse to opening a store, an internet retailer can open up in no time and build a brand with more marketplaces grabbing customers from day one.”
Crucially, the eSellerPro solution enables that to happen.
Winning customer influence will also be key for successful internet retailers, says Bird. He reports eSellerPro has its own customer product council to uncover what different features its customers wish to see.
“Customers are smart people these days,” he adds. “The internet give them access to so much information and the key is to tap into what the customer is looking for.”
The expansion of click and collect services by major hight street retailers is a massive opportunity, he says.
However, Bird claims retailers are missing a trick. Retailers are promoting the convenience of collection as the biggest benefit when instead the biggest customer benefit is derisking the purchase, he says.
“It’s a different way of looking at it,” says Bird.
Click and collect offers further retailer benefits, he adds, and could help change the way they manage their inventory.
“Most retailers have a big distribution centre and then regional distribution centres. Shops could become regional distribution centres but retailers will have to rethink the business model and re-engineer their distribution flow.
“Click and collect provides customer convenience and an opportunity to look at logistics,” Bird says.
Multi-channel marketplaces will continue to gain traction, Bird adds. “Retailers are increasingly turning to them and top store brands are looking at them as a route to market to move discontinued stock, for example.”
As e-commerce takes off and retailers sell more online, customers too become more confident in the process, including mobile purchasing.
Bird says eSellerPro customers already have their stock listed through the Amazon and eBay mobile apps, so it is focused on delivering customers with their own mobile browser optimised websites.
A one-stop and very mobile shop indeed.