When many people think about inventory management, they think of Excel spreadsheets or manual stocktakes. While these can be useful for managing inventory in certain circumstances, but in today’s world, the main objective is to maximize the return on investment by adopting these practices in an organization. This rapid change can be tied to the progression of technology and cloud-based software solutions that give retailers an added advantage of doing repetitive jobs in a more effective and uncomplicated way. It is important that Retailers carefully invest in either a customized software or a third-party software so that they can maximize their returns. But what characteristics should you look for?
Here are six essential things to look for in top inventory management software:
- How Much Does It Cost?
Thanks to the introduction of cloud-based software solutions, it’s more affordable than ever for small businesses to implement inventory management software. While it might be tempting to go out and buy one of the solutions jam-packed with all the bells and whistles, think again my friend. You’ll be serving yourself a vast disservice by paying for a cluster of characteristics you may not require.Then, before you can consider cost, you need to see what you require. Get a look at your current business plan and model and ask yourself the following: What problems will the software work? What are the pain points of your current operation? How will the software help your business run more efficiently? The answers to these questions will help provide guidance on the features you’ll need.Understanding your business needs is important because the features and functionality strongly correlate with cost. For example, if you require a simple program that will track product inventory levels and cost of goods sold, it may only cost you a few dollars a day. If you require more advanced features like supply chain management or warehouse management, your solution could cost a few hundred dollars a month.
When choosing your Inventory software, it’s important to make sure it includes the Integrations your company needs. When I say “Integrations,” I’m talking about the ability to interface with 3rd party platforms. While the list of different add-ons is endless, you’ll want to see that there’s support for all of the following categories that apply:a) Ecommerce: Do you plan on managing business through Amazon Marketplace, Etsy, eBay, or some other online marketplace? Make sure your Inventory solution integrates with these sales channels before taking out the trigger.b) Shopping Cart: Some merchants handle sales through a shopping cart (e.g. Shopify, Volusion, Lemonstand) that’s incorporated directly into their website. Integration will allow you to sync orders, inventory, and sales data between your cart and your Inventory software seamlessly.c) Accounting: A plug-in for your accounting software will save you having to manually import your sales information every time you want to get a look at the records.
d) Shipping:If you use a software-based shipping solution (like ShipStation or ShippingEasy), the proper Integration will allow you to easily send shipping information from your Inventory software with the click of a button.
e) Payment Processing: Support for payment portals like Square, PayPal and Stripe can make things more convenient for both you and your clients.
Keep in mind that most software companies are going to advertise Integrations as a key feature. It’s up to you to make sure the ones they offer match the 3rd party software you utilize.
- Is It Mobile Ready?
The best inventory control software is accessible anytime from a mobile app. A mobile device is the best way to get a birds-eye view of your inventory, shipping orders, and digital forms. Cloud-based software lets you eliminate the risk of lost paper while ensuring total visibility and accountability at all times.
Mobile accessibility frees you from desktop devices so you can stay nimble in your business operations.
- Barcode or RFID scanning
Having the ability to scan inventory as it moves from one stage to the next is a key function of running a warehouse and fulfilling your own orders. Many inventory systems will let you do this natively, and some will connect with other systems that concentrate on this specifically.Either direction, larger operations require this functionality to cover large amounts of stock across multiple locations and with dozens of employees working.
- Reports & Analytics
Companies today rely on Reports and Analytics more and more to gauge where they’re at and where they’re steered. A good Inventory solution includes robust Reports/Analytics tools that can be accessed easily and that don’t require much effort.The ability to create custom reports is particularly useful. If you’re crunching thousands of rows of data, you’ll want to be able to trim the fat and keep the focus on variables that matter. Any Inventory solution will include this capability at no additional billing.
- Multiple Locations
Depending on the sort of business you run, you may demand a solution that supports multiple locations. Let’s say you have both a storefront and a warehouse (or a storage unit, or a garage, etc.). In that case, you’ll want to differentiate between the locals. Otherwise, things are bound to get confusing, and you may get bogged down, creating an ad hoc workaround within the software.
In short, ensuring that you are within budget guidelines, are aware of inventory challenges, know what data integration is necessary, determine a tracking method and understand which users will be using the system will all help to choose an inventory management system that best suits your company.