Who is the most important part of the online sales process? The customer, of course. What does effective inventory management have to do with the customer? Everything! Online purchases are all about "I want it now." Customer satisfaction and inventory management are inextricably linked. Getting from customer satisfaction to company profitability takes only a short step.
There are 5 reasons (at least!) why small businesses need an effective inventory management solution:
Online customers must know what's available. Effective inventory management can tell customers instantly what's left, and how much of it.
Online customers don't want false promises and disappointment. Accurate inventory management solutions will give your store the transparency it needs, protecting your reputation.
Businesses don't want to overstock. Buying more stock than current demand means wasting money that could be used to generate profit elsewhere.
Businesses don't want to understock. Even if you give customers accurate information about out-of-stock items, your online competitors are just a click away.
Financial management is a critical part of keeping companies afloat. Effective inventory management can provide you with real-time information about your incomings, outgoings, and cash flow.
Online sales are driven by software. To keep pace with selling online, inventory management should be software-driven too. Behind the marketing and advertising visible to online customers, inventory management apps are busy behind the scenes. They let you sort, store, track, and manage stock. They can also help you manage assembly, transport, and shipping to final destinations. As software apps, they also lend themselves to automation, notably for repeat orders to suppliers when stocks drop below a predefined level.
The right inventory management software will match point for point with the five reasons above:
Integration with your eCommerce site means precise information on product availability for customers, including triggering incitement to buy, such as "Only two left in stock!".
When products are purchased online, inventory management apps can immediately update inventory information to avoid selling the same product twice. Tracking and tracing functionality lets you monitor delivery times and further set customer expectations correctly.
Overstocking is not just a matter of having more stock than you can sell in the short term. Storage costs can be an expensive part of the equation, especially if overstocking means running out of space and needing to find more. Capacity management can help keep storage costs under control, too.
Inventory management apps have the functionality to let you define levels and alerts for warnings about low stocks, and can set automatic orders so that you can take advantage of batch volume discounts from suppliers. Understocking through oversight or forgetfulness can be avoided.
Trend and sales reporting data can help you to optimize for profitability and plan for customer demand. Return on investment statistics can further help you hone your cash flow.
Five good reasons for making sure your inventory management is up to scratch for online sales might be enough for you - but here are three more on us!
Want to generate end of period stock-taking reports in a flash? Automated systems can make this as simple as clicking to generate a report - a big difference from the old days of manual methods that could often immobilize companies for days at a time.
Continual monitoring of your stock can limit business shrinkage. Losses due to breakages or internal thefts may never reach zero, but frequent updates can prevent these situations far better than half-yearly checks.
Depending on the inventory management app being used, you can directly identify the most favorable rates from some of the well-known shipping and courier services, optimizing the cost of shipping charges.
Vend, Stitch Labs, and Ordoro all provide solutions to help online vendors do better business. They offer small and growing businesses similar core functionality for improved online inventory management and also individual ways of enhancement. Synchronization of online and offline sales channels is easy with all three apps, as they enable effective coordination of sales inventory between both channels.
Vend offers PayPal and easy customization for using other payment gateways, and also integrates with Xero for accounting.
Vend offers both web and mobile access, allowing businesses to keep tabs on inventory from the office and when out on the road.
It also integrates with PayPal, Square, and ShipStation to automatically adjust inventory levels after confirmation of payment has been received. It also integrates with QuickBooks and Xero for accounting.
The app provides the tools you need to identify opportunities to sell bundles of products that can further increase your sales volumes. You can also analyze sales down to product option level and see order status on dashboards. Data can be exported in CSV format for use in spreadsheet applications such as Excel, as PDF documents, or to Google Drive.
Ordoro offers shipping rate advantages with rate comparison of different shippers. Ordoro also automates drop shipping and batch shipping.
Its kitting feature allows you to bundle multiple SKUs, and you can issue purchase orders to your suppliers directly.
Ready to start your search for the perfect inventory management solution? Start by checking out apps with free trials to narrow down what's best for your business.
These useful articles can help you discover some of the best inventory management apps on the market:
Additionally, check out GetApp's Category Leader ranking for inventory management, where we independently rank the top inventory management apps based on various ranking factors.
This article was updated on January 25, 2017.