The following is a guest post from Jacqueline Wibowo of TradeGecko.
So you’ve given in to all the buzz about how your business would thrive best with an inventory management software, how it could save you time and money, how it’s a long term investment, and so on.
But, where do you go from there? You may or may not be super tech savvy, and you’re overwhelmed by all the choices that pop up with a simple Google search. Choosing the right inventory management software for your business is a pretty big step, so here are some tips to help you out.
To find the best fit, you need to think about what phase your company is in now, where you see it going, and how an inventory management software fits into the puzzle.
The top 5 things that should be on your agenda
Inventory management, like other software, will alter how your company handles orders and businesses, so it’s key that you get all the relevant people to give their input on what they need and expect from the system. We’ve narrowed it down to five categories that you should evaluate before making your decision.
- What type of product are you selling, and what specific properties of that product do you need your software to manage for you? For example, if you’re in apparel, you will likely want a software where you can easily input different variants of sizes and color for an item. Or, if you like to sell in bundles, choose a system that offers kitting.
- Distribution Channels
- Are you managing just one channel or multiple? Just an online store or also a few brick and mortar stores in multiple locations? It would be a nightmare to have to manage a different system for each channel, so the practical choice is to find an inventory management software that can handle all your channels in one place.
- Besides just automating tasks that take you hours manually, good inventory management softwares have measures in place to help your business strategically. What types of reports do you want to be able to generate? Do you need all the data synced in real time?
- Directly related to features are integrations. If you already have certain softwares in place, for example, Shopify for your online store or Xero for accounting, you don’t want to have to scrap what you have – pick an inventory management software that integrates well with these platforms. It will save you time and money.
- One thing that people often forget about is the training process. Depending on what type of business you’re operating, you may need to devote a significant amount of time to training your staff to use a new software. What type of support do you need, and how much bandwidth do you have as a company to spend time training?
In the real world
How do you know if you’ve made the right decision? Well, to be honest, it’s hard to know right on the spot, as it takes some time to see the results of the changes in your workflow. But, let’s look at a few companies who have clearly succeeded. We’ll take a look at their decisions through our framework.
Of course, we’ll start with one of the big dogs in tech. In 2014, Apple became the first US company to be valued at over $700 billion. What you may not know is how much Apple values its supply chain management.
- Features: Apple works in an industry where planned obsolescence reigns supreme. So, when Tim Cook took over, he made it his goal to absolutely not have excess inventory. In terms of features, he needed a system that could give him real-time updates on stock levels and generate reports on the go, so that Apple would not risk being overstocked.
The French Cellar
The French Cellar is a startup that imports French wines from vineyards, personally selected by sommelier Nicolas Rebut. They were looking for an inventory management software that would be instrumental in expanding their subscription model to Asia.
- Distribution Channels and Integrations: Like many businesses, The French Cellar was looking to expand to multiple sales channels, and found that continuing to manually manage their inventory through Excel spreadsheets was a nightmare. But, since they were already running their online site on WooCommerce, they wanted a software that not only met their inventory management needs, but could also integrate with their existing technology.
I-Drone is an Australian-based company that sells mostly to hobby enthusiasts, but also builds customized ones for universities and production companies. The civilian drones market moves rapidly due to new technologies that are constantly developed, so they needed an inventory management system that could keep up.
- Product and Training: While some of the boxes that I-Drone ships contain just one item, many have multiple parts. I-Drone needed a software that could keep track of both types of products in real time. Additionally, they knew that they would have multiple people from different departments using the software – from the CEO to the retail manager – all at varying levels of tech-savvy. So, they searched for a software that had an intuitive and simple user interface, and also one that could be accessed on all devices (iPad, computer, iPhone).
Looking to the future
While you may only need a certain set of features currently if you’re planning to expand, think about the features that you might need down the road as well. You don’t want to have to get new software after spending so much time adjusting to another one already.
Even with these guidelines, committing to something for the first time can still be pretty scary – especially if it’s in a field that you’re not too familiar with. Luckily, most software will offer you a trial period where you can test out their products. This is a low-risk way to see how different software compare.
Best of luck in finding your perfect fit!
About the Author
Jacqueline Wibowo works with the product and content marketing teams at Tradegecko. At Tradegecko, we specialize in simplifying inventory and operations – so businesses can focus on what they care about most – growth.