What should retailers look for in the best inventory software?
The retail landscape is changing rapidly and inventory software is growing more complex. Merchants are being tasked with engaging customers across a broad array of channels, including brick-and-mortar stores, online sites, third-party marketplaces and mobile devices. At the same time, budgetary limits are challenging merchants to be more efficient – if they do not have the resources to spare, everything they do must help the company remain in the black.
Managing inventory across multiple channels can be tremendously costly if not executed properly. For example, if merchants miscalculate demand at one store, they may wind up with excess inventory they need to sell at a loss to make room for new products. At the same time, the same item may go out of stock at another location, causing the retailer to miss out on sales. Operating multiple channels can open numerous windows of opportunity, but if retailers can’t coordinate their inventory across all locations, they may struggle to capitalize on these initiatives.
Fortunately, inventory management software can help retailers with the complex task of selling items across multiple channels. Multi channel merchants should look for the following features in the inventory management software they choose:
1. Real-time inventory reports
In order to make the smartest decisions with their inventory, merchants need to have a real-time view of their product levels across multiple channels. This allows them to respond to needs dynamically and as they crop up. For example, if one channel runs low on inventory, merchants can divert stock from another location or submit a purchase order for additional product to avoid running out.
2. Integration with warehouse management systems (WMS)
Many merchants already use various implementations to accomplish other mission critical tasks, ranging from order fulfillment to customer service. Warehouse management is often closely related to inventory management, with the inventory management software constantly assessing stock levels across various warehouses and making decisions based on those numbers.
When looking for the best inventory software, merchants must make sure it plays well with the warehouse management systems and other eCommerce solutions being deployed by the retailer in question.
3. Automated functionality
Automated features can make managing inventory across multiple channels much easier. For instance, if the solution notices inventory levels getting low, merchants should be able to program the system to make an automatic purchase order, pull inventory from other channels, notify the retailer or take other specific action to ensure the issue doesn’t get out of hand.
Automatic updates regarding inventory levels, order statuses with drop shippers and other concerns can play a pivotal role in helping retailers make the best use of their inventory.
Inventory management software can have all the functions and features in the world, but if it’s difficult to use, it may hinder overall productivity and value it actually provides to merchants. Although this probably shouldn’t be at the forefront of concerns, retailers should consider usability.