Retail business owners, these days demand efficiency with ease. Their business, with substantial growth, automatically becomes dynamic and volatile. And your inventory is the soul of your business, needs an Eye of Sauron to tackle the ever-changing status of your stock, alerting you at every step, keeping a track of every in and out. This is where a cutting-edge inventory management system comes into play!
An inventory management system will assist you to better manage your inventory and the logistics that are coming along. Below are some of the qualities and features that ‘must’ be present in the software you are getting hands-on.
Easy to Use
An inventory management system is made for retailers, and not software engineers. The very first quality to look for should be ease of use.
Your entire inventory is planned to be at your fingertips, and it’s possible that all you know is about your business and how it can run; operating software was never your idea.
Remember, you need to stick to your primary focus i.e. your business! You need not to spend hours reading the user-manual of how to operate an inventory management system. Your inventory management software should be straight-forward, easy to understand, and loaded with the functionalities that your business needs.
(Fun fact: The image shown above is only a visual metaphor, your inventory data is vital, make sure it’s not in wrong hands, lol!)
Flexibility and Scalability
The software that you are getting your hands on should be able to sustain your growth; to be precise, it should be dynamic and flexible enough to cater to your expanding business and inventory. Your business can have multiple inventories at multiple locations in the nearest future, this shouldn’t make your inventory management system to demand more features or held unfit for your growing business demands. It should be scalable enough to adopt the increasing number of your warehouses and listings on different marketplaces or storefronts. One must make sure that the inventory management system demands no further moderations and is scalable enough to accept more.
When trying to fish out the best inventory management system for your retail business, you need to make sure that all the hardware components that are used in your warehouse should be compatible with the software. RFIDs and Barcode Scanners play a mighty role when it comes to hardware peripherals.
3P Application & E-commerce Integrations
Integration with online marketplaces and desired storefronts is also a must. This will help you to list your products on those channels and increase sales. Just marketplaces are not enough, your inventory management system must have integrations with the shipping agencies as well. If you are planning for a global scale, the shipping giants like DHL, FedEx, BlueDart, etc. can be your key. Once the integration is done, you will easily be able to track the shipments, to and fro.
Comfortable integrations with your desired accounting software is also a must. There are cases when your currency might differ from the marketplace. Xero and QuickBooks are some of the highly-used accounting software, globally. A payment gateway is also a must, wherein PayPal, again, is the ruler.
Most Real-time Updates
Your business is spread across online marketplaces and physical stores, so the number of purchases done at a single instance is not noticeable by a human. When we talk purchases, there are a lot of things that fall under – order fulfillment, losses and damage during transit, returning shipments (in case the order is canceled or returned); an inventory management system needs to update and synchronize all the data automatically to keep it smooth.
This helps the seller to know the reorder quantity as well as track the inward and outward movement of inventory in the warehouses or stores. Helps you to not become a victim of inventory shrinkage.
Reporting and Auditing
Regardless of the size of your business, it’s up to you to decide who will be operating the inventory management system – could be you, or your store or warehouse manager. Once that is done, you are sure to not leave it on itself. It’s understood that you will, at regular intervals, check the hip and happenings of your inventory. A good inventory management system should provide you a feature of reporting, wherein you can simply get a form or a standard checklist which can be rotated amongst your team to make sure the operations are heading smoothly. This can include the history of the company orders, purchases made by the customer, price changes, shipment data, etc.
Your inventory management system already has the details about the inward stock, so it makes sense that it will remind you about the ‘expiry’ and the ‘low-stock alert’ about the same.
‘Dependency’ is the biggest word here! But this software should also remind you about a manual audit of the stock that is inside the warehouse. There are chances that it got spoiled inside, got stolen, or may be damaged, etc. A few things that software cannot detect, but can certainly shoot an alarm to the seller to check it on regular intervals.
Should Follow a Kanban approach
A Kanban system has proven to be a boon to an inventory management system. Doesn’t possess any sort of additional features, believes in simply optimizing the existing process flow.
Kanban, which is touted to be the future of business operations & inventory management, is the right fit for a just-in-time approach. In this, processes are laid in a way that a new process (eg: order fulfillment or purchase) is undertaken when the existing one is close to completion mode or completed. This gives a clear and timely picture of your daily operations which can be sorted as per the priority.
Likewise for stock: whenever there occurs space for new stock, only then is the new purchase made. This lessens the chances of you becoming a victim of over- or under-stocking and keeps your priority lists at bay.
Although Kanban is a step towards betterment, the software should always be easy to use.
Support Product Bundling/Kitting
Many sellers or retailers add a combination of two or three products to their mix when they list it on a marketplace. When two or more products are bundled together to sell at a single go, along with each other, this is called bundling or kitting of products. When done, such bundles are allocated with a single SKU. For example, if a cell-phone is sold along with a wireless charger, so this becomes a bundle. It is very much necessary that your inventory management software supports this feature.
This is how, with the help of your software, you can create bundles of the products you desire, the way you desire. When this is done, your software should be efficient enough to keep an eye on the stock of all the products that are bundled; whenever sold, should update accordingly.
A good inventory management software should always have room for customization, to accommodate your business requirements. This can eventually get you the features that you want and eliminate the ones that you don’t. This will cost you some extra bucks, but again, it’s always better to get it all set before you fall down because of the same reason, later.
If your stock or inventory management software carries all the above-mentioned features along, your business will always be well-maintained and in control. Your logistics, accounts and stock should always behave in the most efficient way possible. This is how you can help it, yourself.