Basic Principles of ChannelUnity
ChannelUnity is a unique cloud hosted service which synchronises the listings on your online store with your marketplace accounts. It also works to import orders back to your online store (where supported) and send shipments to the marketplace which the order was placed on. On top of this, it can also be used to 'competitively reprice' your products which - in short - attempts to make you the cheapest seller for a product within strictly controllable rules.
As an overview, the key benefits of using ChannelUnity compared to manually operating marketplace accounts are:
- You do not need to visit multiple marketplace websites daily to keep your stock levels and product details updated.
- Orders can be handled in the same way as orders on your website; there is no additional management needed.
- Product details only need to be updated once; this removes the risk of finger-travel causing typos or errors within product details.
- Price parity can be maintained with ease; extremely useful when you offer a price matching promise.
- Changes in stock levels are rapidly communicated between your marketplace accounts; in most cases this happens while orders are still pending payment clearing to help prevent overselling in peak periods.
- Invented by ChannelUnity, 'Describe Product Details' and 'Describe Categories' dramatically reduce setup time as the system automatically knows the best category for your products on new marketplaces, as well as knowing how to communicate each information field. This means that you can also add new products to existing categories and simply tell ChannelUnity to publish the product.
- You can sell on more marketplaces than it is possible to realistically sell without dedicated employees; there is little or no additional management time needed when using ChannelUnity versus simply selling on your own website.
- You can expand internationally. Many marketplaces offer a barcode lookup service; this means that if you sell branded goods which are available worldwide our platform can find a native-language listing for the product you wish to sell and list your item alongside this. We are also working on adding human translation service integration too; this means that if you manufacture your own products, these can be translated into the native language of a marketplace by native speakers before being published - all in a very seamless way.
- We track changes in the marketplaces we support. Occasionally retailers develop their own integrations into marketplaces or more often list by hand using saved files / templates. It happens all too often where one day these methods stop working causing upset customers, cancelled orders and more - all because the process broke down.
- We give you extra insight into what, and where, you're selling. You may have spent a weekend collating sales data into a spreadsheet to see when your busiest time of day was or where you are selling the most; as you'll see with ChannelUnity, this is information which is available at the click of button on-demand.
After registering for an account, you will be asked to install a small connector kit onto your online store, or enter access details for your shopping cart solutions Application Programming Interface (API). From the moment this is completed, ChannelUnity will maintain a continual synchronisation between itself and your shopping cart.
Initially, all product categories and product attributes / information fields are imported into our secure cloud. Our cloud then imports all products in a gradual process so as not to affect the performance of your online store. Typically, 250 products will be requested every 5 minutes and therefore this may take around a day to complete on substantial catalogues. For reference, 72,000 products will take around 24 hours to import. This process is gradual however; after just 1-2 minutes you will be able to publish your first (up to) 250 products to a marketplace of your choice.
Once this process is complete, ChannelUnity then remains in continual synchronisation with your shopping cart. When a new order is placed on your website, our cloud is alerted instantly to the change in stock levels caused by the order. When product details are saved, our cloud is instantly updated with the new details. Add a new category to your website; our cloud is again, instantly updated. Think of this as the first half of synchronicity.
The second half is of course synchronising this information with your marketplace channel accounts (or account). ChannelUnity features a 'Unity Store' which works a lot like an App Store or a "Marketplace of Marketplaces". All marketplaces are available as 14 day fully functional free trials, too.
Scenario 1: Lets imagine that you already sell on a marketplace channel. To connect ChannelUnity to this marketplace channel account, you would simply go to the Unity Store, click on the marketplace you sell on, click 14 day free trial and then follow the wizard to sign in to your account & authorise ChannelUnity to use it.
As the connection is made, ChannelUnity checks for listings which are already on your marketplace account, examines their SKU codes and links these listings to matching SKU codes within your account. You are then asked which features you would like to enable for the marketplace. This allows you to only update stock levels, or prices, order import, shipment upload... We give you full control over how synchronised you would like to be.
If you choose to upload product data, ChannelUnity will then work to keep your marketplace listings in synchronisation with itself. And, as it is being kept up to date with your website, synchronisation is achieved.
Scenario 2: As a new retailer to marketplace channels, you visit the Unity Store and browse through the channels supported. Settling upon one, you contact the marketplace channel to set up an account. You then click '14 day free trial' and follow the wizard to sign in to your new account & authorise ChannelUnity to use it.
Once the setup wizard is completed and you have chosen which types of update you would like ChannelUnity to synchronise with your marketplace account, you begin to use the 'Listings' screen to publish products onto the marketplace. As listings are accepted, they are tied to the products within your ChannelUnity account, which in turn is tied to your online store, and hey presto, you have end-to-end updates between your shopping cart and your marketplace account.
As sales start to come in to your marketplace accounts, they are downloaded into ChannelUnity automatically as fast as the marketplace will allow. In many cases, this is done while the order is still in fraud screening status at the marketplace.
ChannelUnity then instantly sends the order details via a secure, encrypted message through to your website and waits for a response confirming successful receipt - this ensure that ChannelUnity does not assume successful message delivery; it will keep attempting to send the order to your shopping cart until confirmation is received. At the same time, ChannelUnity also contacts any other marketplace accounts you have and updates the stock levels.
The order is now created in your shopping cart, and can be handled in the same way as ordinary website orders - we've worked hard to ensure that as many popular order management plugins for the shopping carts we support are compatible with ChannelUnity. When the order is shipped, ChannelUnity is alerted instantly, and sends a communication to the marketplace to inform it that the order was shipped. Many marketplaces escrow payments from retailers until the order has been dispatched, and therefore timely communication of shipment to the marketplace is vital.
With this, your online store / shopping cart and your marketplace account(s) are now in perfect synchronisation with each other and you can choose where to start selling next.
Imagine selling on 100 different marketplace channels around the world by hand. Each day, you would need to access each marketplace multiple times each day, update stock levels, download order, update prices, post shipments. Then your supplier makes a big delivery of new stock to 100 existing product ranges to your warehouse. How long will that take you to update the stock levels across all marketplaces?
Now imagine if you logged into your websites administration area having received the same large delivery. You update each product within your website, and know that within minutes, all 100 marketplace accounts - some in other languages - have been updated rapidly to reflect your new stock levels. Take the afternoon off - you deserve it. ChannelUnity's got this one...
If you're reading this, its likely that you're a retailer, and it's unlikely that you're a developer - they're but a skype call and an hourly charge away.
Thankfully, ChannelUnity has been designed from the ground up as a tool that you can use. Our easy to follow setup wizard will guide you through how to install the connector plugin - in most cases, its like installing an app on your phone. Then, our clearly written and informative Getting Started Guide (hello!) will help you get started with our platform - we've included some step-by-step walkthroughs in this guide too.
But first time setup isn't everything; sometimes its the ongoing hassle of keeping something up to date which causes it to be hard to use. Thankfully, we've invented two key methods which key setup easy to use and simple.
Category Mapping is a technical term for the method we call 'Describe your Categories'. Here, you are asked to teach ChannelUnity which type of products you sell within each of the categories on your website by selecting a category which best fits your products. Our team, together with another invention we call D.A.T.A. (Digital Autonomous Taxonomy Assignment) has worked hard to find the best matching categories on each marketplace we support for a standardised tree of more than 13,000 categories.
This means that once you tell ChannelUnity that the category 'Socks for Men' contains 'Mens Socks', we know - even across language barriers - which category to publish your products into. Add additional products into this category on your website and we still know where to publish your products.
Field Mapping - or 'Describe your Product Fields' as we call it - is a method where you are asked to tell ChannelUnity the type of information your keep in each product information field (on some shopping carts these are referred to as attributes) from a standardised list of attributes. As you describe your product fields, you are mapping your product information fields onto another standardised list - this time product attributes - which we then use to understand how to communicate products onto the marketplaces you are selling on.
For example, if you have an attribute named 'BatSize' and you teach our platform this contains the battery size for your products, our platform then knows how to send this information to every marketplace we support. Add more products with a 'BatSize' specified, and we still know how to send this information to the marketplaces you are selling on.
And so, to bring these two inventions together; you can now add products to categories on your website, and all that's left is to tell ChannelUnity where you would like to sell them.
Inspired by the popular Google Chrome Extension Store, the 'Unity Store' is the heart of ChannelUnity. Over time, it will expand to feature not only transactional marketplace channel integrations, but also fulfilment service integrations, price comparison integrations, add-on services such as SMS messaging, shipment label printing and more.
We are working hard to give you as much possible insight into the customers of each marketplace we support. From demographic analysis to insights into what sells well on marketplaces and the fees you will be charged by the marketplace for selling on it, we hope to build more and more information and intelligence. Imagine in the future if ChannelUnity, knowing the type of product you sell, could suggest where to sell in countries which cover time zones opposite to your busiest trading hours. This is the future of Unity Store.
As a company, we have been helping online retailers worldwide since the launch of our first marketplace integration tool in 2009. As we have grown to serve more than 1000 businesses of varying size and location, one thing has always remained clear: Support is Paramount.
Therefore, we offer freephone telephone numbers in 4 countries - UK, USA, Germany and France with more planned as our customer base in these countries grows. Call us with sales enquiries or with support queries and you will be greeted by the same warmth and pleasantry as all of our customers receive from our team of in-house staff. We don't outsource any of our customer support (or any of our development, for that matter) - and this allows our staff to be fluent experts in using our software.
Eventually, we hope to be able to open additional office in other timezones and other parts of the world, but while we are only available via telephone during UK office hours, we have become favourites with retailers from Sydney to Sacramento, Birmingham to Berlin as we do whatever we can to help customers outside of our timezone.
Our knowledgebase is constantly updated with articles posted by our team in response to customer queries, while our Questions Forum will grow to be a great source of community driven help.
And last but by no means least, you are of course welcome to email us for help. firstname.lastname@example.org or the Submit a new Request link at the top of each page within this help section is the easiest way to request help as and when you need it.
In this section, we've explored the basic principles of ChannelUnity - the key reasons it can save your business time and money compared to handling marketplace orders manually or using custom developed integrations. We've looked at how ChannelUnity works to keep everything in synchronisation with your existing online store, and how this makes your website the point of centralisation for managing your business.
We've also explored the inventions made by ChannelUnity which make setup and ongoing use of ChannelUnity a breeze and overviewed the App Store of the system - Unity Store. Finally, we've provided an overview of the excellent customer support which is available to you as a customer - or prospective customer - of ChannelUnity.
Over the next chapters, we will look in more detail at the setup process for your ChannelUnity account, as well as covering each screen of our user interface in detail. We hope you enjoy using ChannelUnity as much as we enjoy developing it.