This is a bit dated, as the ProStore features I’m discussing were released in the spring, but I was late picking up on them. My previous disappointment in some ProStores features hadn’t led me to be a quick adopter on some of their changes. I was also delayed further by activating the two features below as they required a complete product description re-design for me. ProStores is a website host specializing in retail stores. It is owned by eBay.
With ProStore’s 9.0 update earlier this year allowing truly synced inventory between eBay and a ProStore’s retail website, the potential of the host is finally meeting reality. We’ve used ProStores to host our retail website CKC Computers (www.ckccomp.com) for a little over two years. For those who don’t know, we deal exclusively in laptop parts and accessories, mostly Dell, Toshiba and IBM/Lenovo (though we occasionally have parts for Acer and Compaq models too). I’ve questioned the logic many times of using a company owned by eBay to host my site, thinking that branching further out and escaping the eBay umbrella for more of our business would be a good idea. I originally chose ProStores because of the promise of sharing data between my website and eBay, but have never been impressed with the features available. Until now.
Previously, you could send inventory from ProStores to eBay or retrieve eBay listings for you store, but inventory management still required manually updating. And the system didn’t allow for inventory to be live on both sites. So, if you sent an item from ProStores to eBay, the inventory count for that item would be reduced by the amount you listed on eBay. If you wanted the same inventory live for both, you had to correct it after the fact. Then, if any items sold, you had to manage inventory for both channels, manually tracking and updating inventory counts for each item. If you made revisions to the description or title to add additional information or fix minor errors, you had to make changes to both. With Product Sync and Multi-Channel Inventory, all of that is taken care of now. When you list an item on eBay, an exact copy of the listing is created in your ProStores site. Further, multiple fields in ProStores are synced to the eBay listing and updated whenever a change is made to the original eBay listing:
- Product name/title
- Brief description (I’m assuming this syncs to sub-titles, but haven’t used it yet)
- Item description
- Sale price
- Shipping settings
If you have an eBay store and have defined your own unique Store Categories, the category that an item has been placed in will also be sent to ProStores when an item is listed. This field isn’t synced though, so any future changes won’t be sent over. The only complaint I have about this feature is it only seems to send over one of the store categories. In eBay, you can set two categories per item. It would be nice if both were copied to the ProStores site.
These updates have radically changed how valuable our ProStores site is to us. We deal in about 400-500 unique items, but usually only have 1-3 of each in stock. Previously, I had two separate product description designs, one for eBay and one for ProStores. The eBay design was created very early on and included all of our eBay policies, links to various eBay resources, links to other eBay product we had, our PowerSeller status, etc. So it was highly eBay centric. When I created the website, I clearly didn’t want a bunch of eBay stuff in my product descriptions, so I made a much simpler, more elegant template for product descriptions. Having the two separate templates, in hindsight, was a bad idea. It meant that for each new item I listed, I had to create two new entries. With time always being limited, the result was that all items went to eBay and only a handful went to the website, the ones that I believed had the best chance to sell.
Now, for the first time since we opened, our full inventory is available both through eBay and on the website. We’ve been live for about a month and sales have dramatically increased on the website. Besides sales, the updates have also saved us time. I no longer need to spend as much time per week managing the inventory for each system. I manage one, and all my work gets copied to the other. eBay still generates more sales for us, but this gives me hope that with further refinement, our retail site will one day meet and exceed our eBay sales.