Congratulations! You’re here because you’ve either already established your own eCommerce business, or because you’ve decided to. And with all the profits to be made online without the added overhead costs that come with a traditional brick-and-mortar shop, who can blame you? But there is one crucial factor that can make or break your budding eCommerce enterprise, and that’s eCommerce inventory management.
What is eCommerce inventory management, what are the problems faced in inventory management, and more importantly, what are the solutions?
Strap in, because you’ve come to the right place to learn all things related to eCommerce inventory management and how to choose from the best eCommerce inventory management software!
Understanding Inventory Management
You may be asking yourself at this point, what are the functions of an inventory management system? To put it simply, proper inventory management can be the difference between your enterprise being extremely profitable vs extremely costly. To start, your inventory is your products or goods that you are ready to sell to potential buyers. These products are sitting around in your inventory until they are sold.
Sometimes items expire or have a limited shelf life, so having too much of an item in stock may lead to unexpected costs. And while you can’t necessarily predict the future to know how much of which item you’ll be able to sell ahead of time, you can make a few rough guesses (especially if you have data from the last few months of sales to help you make those predictions).
With the right eCommerce inventory management tools, you’ll be able to really analyze those patterns, as well as see where your business stands in real-time. You’ll be able to calculate everything from your current growth rate, your previous year’s sales, to so much more.
Similarly important to having an efficient order management system, having the right kind of eCommerce inventory management software is a valuable tool to have in your eCommerce arsenal. It will ensure that you won’t produce or order too many products or too little. In one case you run the risk of having too many unsold items collecting dust in a warehouse at your expense. In the other case, a lack of supply means you miss out on orders that could have made you a sweet profit. A proper eCommerce inventory management system will help you forecast with pristine accuracy over time.
eCommerce Inventory Management Challenges And Solutions
So let’s delve deeper into some of the more common eCommerce inventory management challenges, as well as their solutions.
Here are a few examples of challenges that eCommerce business owners face.
Having Multiple Channels And Warehouses
Among one of the most common challenges facing inventory management in eCommerce is a lack of coordination when dealing with multiple channels and warehouses. We’re sure you can imagine (if you haven’t experienced it already yourself) the stress that comes from selling your products across multiple channels such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and more. It can be a nightmare to keep track of the sales and orders that come from each channel and to keep your inventory up to date.
The same can be said about the multiple warehouses that you may find yourself partnering with as your business expands in line with the growth of the demand for your products. Soon you may find yourself overwhelmed keeping track of orders, inventory, and relationships across all the manufacturers, partners, and warehouses spanning different locations that you work with!
Overselling And Overstocking
One of the biggest problems faced in inventory management is not being able to properly forecast how many products to have on hand in your inventory.
Fall short, and you won’t be able to supply your demand. Overestimate how much product you need and you might risk accumulating deadstock (a.k.a. too much inventory and not enough demand).
By overselling and letting customers buy products that aren’t in stock, you risk building a bad reputation among your clients, which is no easy thing to repair. Overstock and your goods may take up valuable space in your warehouse, or worse still, expire before they ever get sold, making them cost you a pretty penny instead of making you one.
In either scenario, you’ll be facing some major inventory management issues.
Manual Sales Management (and Its Pitfalls)
Another popular inventory management problem is when you try to manage things manually. This might be fine in the beginning stages of your eCommerce business when things are relatively easy to keep track of, but if business starts booming (which of course is every business owner’s dream come true) scaling will become a big issue as you struggle to meet the growing demands of your customers!
Manual sales management tools such as offline spreadsheets, or tools that are not synchronized to each other or even worse, good old pencil and paper, are simply not going to cut it when you start selling products on multiple channels and working with multiple vendors or manufacturers or storing your goods at multiple warehouses around the country/globe.
With a solid online eCommerce inventory management software, you’ll be able to track and manage inventory across multiple channels in real-time, but we’ll get into more of that later!
Understanding The Inventory Data Insights
So let’s say you’re gathering interesting data… Well, one of the other challenges of inventory management systems is actually being able to understand the data that you collect over time.
A key factor in eCommerce inventory management is gathering and analyzing data insights so that you can make key decisions regarding your demand in order to boost your profits and minimize your costs. Forecasting is an inventory management challenge that many eCommerce business owners struggle with, especially when they aren’t able to access those insights ASAP.
Without the right data insights, you’ll have a hard time accurately knowing when to reorder products, when to scale back and where there are inconsistencies. These are the kinds of crucial decisions that will affect the future of your business!
Have no fear, there are inventory management problems and then there are inventory management solutions!
Product Information Management
The more control you have over information the more painless your eCommerce inventory management process will be. And if you find a tool for keeping product information management synced and seamless across the business, your decision-making process will become much less difficult. Online inventory management helps businesses to scale, make more informed decisions and as a result, keep customer satisfaction high!
The benefits of having inventory management software are clear, but we’ll get into some of the best eCommerce inventory management software a bit later.
Adjust With Seasons (Keeping Inventory Smaller During Slow Seasons)
Sometimes, it’s not too difficult to understand when the high and low seasons are for your products. You can start using the online tools available to your benefit like Google Trends, for example. This simple and easy tool will help you to understand how search demands and interests have changed over time.
Let’s say you were in the business of selling hot chocolate. If you were to search “hot chocolate,” you would find that there is a peak in searches over the winter months, particularly in December. Now, if hot cocoa is one of many products that you offer, then you’ll be able to predict a high season in the winter months and a dip in demand in the summer. This will help you to prepare for big orders in the winter months while being ready for fewer sales in the summer (making sure you don’t make the mistake of ordering or producing hot cocoa products for no reason).
Of course, if your products aren’t particularly seasonal, then this solution might not make the most sense for you, but it’s certainly a great starting point! After some thorough tracking over time (whether manual or automated with the help of inventory software), you’ll be able to pick up on the trends of the sales of your own products in a similar fashion.
First-In-First-Out: Sell Older Items In The Inventory First
FIFO or the First-In, First-Out rule is a key pillar in eCommerce inventory management that can help prevent the issue of spoiled products or of them losing relevance. The rule is simple enough to follow, but let’s use an example to picture it better.
Coming back to the hot cocoa example. Let’s assume that hot cocoa only has a shelf life of 6 months, and we’ve already established that sales start to go down in late Spring. Assuming you are still ordering items to fill your inventory, the last thing you want is your existing items (or older inventory) to get pushed to the back of the warehouse to either expire or miss their peak.
With that logic in mind, the FIFO rule states that inventory that has been ordered first should be sold before the new inventory is. And while some warehouses already follow this rule, it would be wise to double-check with your suppliers to make sure that this is the case.
Automate Warehouse Operations
Many eCommerce inventory management systems have a warehouse automation feature, which is basically a process of automating inventory both in and out of warehouses with minimum human involvement. Thanks to intelligent automated systems, you can cut out any repetitive manual data entry and analysis and let the automation deal with the details.
eCommerce Inventory Management Softwares
So much hassle and guesswork can be eliminated with the help of well-executed eCommerce inventory management. Let’s dig a little deeper into the benefits of having inventory management software, and how to choose a warehouse management system for your business!
Why Implement Inventory Management Software
If you’re still confused about what the functions of inventory management systems are, look no further. Some systems include features like inventory tracking and optimization capabilities, customer relationship management, warehouse management, orders and invoicing, barcoding, batch tracking, demand forecasting integrations with other business software and so much more.
With features like these and more at your disposal, you’ll be able to track your inventory and orders more accurately, improve customer experience, improve operational efficiency and have greater transparency across teams. All of this is great for when you’re scaling for growth.
That’s why the implementation of inventory management software can really up your eCommerce inventory management game.
How to Choose the Right Inventory Management Software
At this point, it’s safe to say that we’ve covered some of the advantages of inventory management systems, but how do you know which eCommerce inventory management system is the right fit for you?
Here are some questions to ask yourself: What are your must-have features? Are you a small, medium, or enterprise-level business? How much are you willing to pay? What channels do you sell on? Do you need specific integrations? How much support will you need?
From costs to features, capacity for growth to ease of use, there are many factors that you can take into consideration when deciding on the eCommerce inventory management software for you.
eCommerce Inventory Management Software Platforms
There are many eCommerce inventory management software platforms out on the market, so it can be a bit daunting having to choose. Here are our top picks!
Dear Systems is a great tool for when you want to sell and manage your products over multiple sales channels. It is a system that has small businesses in mind and handles all things from manufacturing, purchasing, sales, accounting, and inventory management in one tidily integrated bundle.
This tool is also great for multi-warehouse eCommerce inventory management, and is capable of automating the entire inventory management process! As an added plus, it has a diverse set of integrations including Shopify, eBay, and more. The platform is easy to use with its convenient layout, but be aware that Dear Systems isn’t the most affordable option out there.
If dropshipping is more your route, then Ordoro might be the perfect match for you. When it comes to eCommerce inventory management, Ordoro offers tools like the option to batch-print shipping labels, assigning barcodes to SKUs, and issuing unique purchase orders when your product levels start to deplete. It will automatically sync and track your inventory updates and even find you the best bargain shipping rates with the help of USPS discounts!
Ordoro supports the routing of dropshipping requests for vendors, and lets drop shippers fulfill their orders using a unique vendor portal, making it an extra useful tool for businesses who deal with dropshipping.
This software is ideal for beginners, as it is a very affordable option. There have been some complaints of a few glitches in the system, and don’t boast of the best customer support, but as far as many clients are concerned, Ordoro gets the job done.
If you want to dip your toes in before actually committing, then you may want to take advantage of Veeqo’s free trial to start off! This eCommerce inventory management software delivers some pretty impressive inventory control, shipping for online brands, and support for up to 21 different shipping order integrations.
Veeqo has support for multiple warehouses, returns, and wholesale orders and can offer you in-depth reports. It also has special features for picking and packing, including barcode scanner picking.
If you are looking for an affordable multi-channel inventory management platform with a friendly user-friendly back end and stellar customer support team, the Veeqo might be the choice for you.
If you’re looking for another eCommerce inventory management software that will give you the best bang for your buck, QuickBooks might be the one for you, with its offers of multiple price tiers and premium options for those who have more advanced needs.
QuickBooks is great for those who want to automate their order workflows, manage multiple sales channels, speed up payments, create private B2B eCommerce experiences for their wholesale customers and automate the connection between systems across multiple channels (like Amazon, Shopify, and Wayfair) without a cinch.
With operations in mind, QuickBooks helps professionals automate their business so effectively that they are able to relinquish low-level and repetitive tasks that are often prone to human error anyway.
Time To Scale, Thrive and Shine
If you’re looking to grow your eCommerce business then tackling your eCommerce inventory management is a great place to start! Armed with the right kinds of tools, you’ll be set to expand your eCommerce business, with improved operation efficiency, accurate inventory management, precise order tracking, and so much more.
Of course, when your business is operating smoothly in the background, and there is less time between a customer ordering a product and their order being fulfilled, it’s no wonder that you’ll see an improvement in customer experience too.
Plus, armed with data insights, reporting, and forecasting tools, you’ll be able to make smarter, data-driven decisions. With automated workflows, you can focus more on what makes your business great, and on building stronger relationships with your customer base, leaving the inventory management to software systems instead.