This is a guest post by Darren DeMatas, Co-Founder of Selfstartr. Inventory management systems help ecommerce sites keep track of what’s selling – preventing overselling and prompting site owners to reorder items before an item goes out of stock. A comprehensive inventory management system, combined with the ecommerce funding necessary to keep products in-stock, is a critical ingredient for the success of your online store.
One of the most frustrating customer experiences is when they choose to trust your brand and complete their transaction, but receive a call or email alerting them that the item they’ve paid for isn’t actually available for immediate fulfilment.
Your brand will take a hit with that customer, and it may result in a customer that never gives you a second chance to earn their trust.
Keep reading to learn about the different inventory management systems available for the most popular ecommerce platforms – and I’ll help guide you through the options based on my personal experiences in launching my own ecommerce sites.
What to look for when buying an inventory management system…
- Cloud-based platform for easy access from any internet-connected device.
- Software as a Service (SaaS) – For startups and teams on a budget, SaaS products are much more affordable, although customization may be limited. All of the inventory systems listed below are positioned as SaaS products. This means that you can get up and running quickly, without expense and delays associated with coding and development.
- Compatibility with your physical inventory tracking hardware (barcode scanners, etc.)
- Plug-ins that allow you to display real-time inventory levels on your site for customers to view. A great example of this is the Do-It Center – creatively displaying inventory levels in a way that’s informative, while creating a sense of urgency that boost both site sales and in-store foot traffic.
- The best selling ecommerce sites empower customers to see inventory available for their location – more than a general inventory level, this helps international customers find the most convenient products available for fast delivery in their region.
- Your inventory system should take into account multiple ecommerce channels for fulfilling orders – extremely important for affiliate marketing sites.
- A reliable inventory system that is cost-effective – allowing you to offer competitive pricing across your different product categories.
- Integration with accounting software, like Xero or Quickbooks. This helps to ensure maximum profitability with real-time reporting.
- Integration with fraud-detection tools, like Eye4Fraud. This helps ensure only valid orders are fulfilled, without negatively impacting customer experience.
- Consider annual pricing for additional discounts. Monthly is great for startups or companies considering a new solution. But, once you’re happy with one of these options, switch to annual billing to minimize costs.
RetailOps is popular because it offers a lot more data than just inventory levels. The cloud-based platform helps ecommerce stores and traditional retailers dig into what products are selling – helping to inform future buying decisions when acquiring new product lines, or expanding existing ones.
And it empowers merchants to effectively sell both in-stock products, as well as fulfill drop-shipped and JIT orders. Support for complex fulfillment scenarios means that every order is handled using the information necessary to ensure accuracy and timeliness.
ORDORO gives ecommerce sites 15 days to try out their software for free – a fantastic way to get a sense for how well it will perform in your environment. And, it’s super compatible – supporting almost every major ecommerce store platform. It provides a single system for seeing real-time inventory across both online and offline sales channels. You can also use its bundling system to tie multiple products to a single SKU – helping ensure each component of a bundled product is in-stock and ready for order fulfillment.
The Starter Plan helps new ecommerce sites get going for free – allowing up to 50 orders to be fulfilled each calendar month. Once revenue starts rolling in, you can upgrade to a “Basic” or “Pro” plan.
PEOPLEVOX is a UK-based ecommerce systems provider. Their warehouse inventory system is compatible, out-of-the-box, with 16 of the most popular ecommerce platforms. The company’s commitment to providing free add-on software and plugins to enhance the experience helps users get more out of their product. For example, you can use their free tools to connect your delivery partners with your warehouse – allowing for more automated order fulfillment and order tracking.
Try out a free demo, but be prepared to shell out $1,000+ per month after your demo to keep the service running.
UNLEASHED comes to use from New Zealand. It helps uncover opportunities to increase profit-margins by giving ecommerce operators real-time inventory control and profitability reports. As products leave your warehouse, you’ll be able to see a clearer picture of how current orders are helping, or hurting your ability to maintain healthy margins. Their free mobile apps plug-into their cloud-based system to help support your sales and purchasing team with the information they need – always up-to-date and impactful.
Note: Pay careful attention to the invoices that are imported into your accounting software of choice – some notations may be cut-off or left off entirely.
Linnworks is an end-to-end solution that helps ecommerce sites list product inventory across multiple-platforms. Information is accessible from any device and their reporting allows for site owners to feel more in control of the process, while taking advantage of opportunities to automate updates to listing details, order fulfillment and product replenishment. The real power of Linnworks is in its integration with both ecommerce platforms and the programs you’re already using to print postage and take care of customers.
Free option for tiny ecommerce sites with less than 50 SKU’s. $160/mo for larger sites with more advanced needs.
Tradegecko helps you to view all of your most critical product metrics in one easy-to-read reporting platform that’s always up-to-date thanks to the cloud. Integration with both accounting and inventory software is a plus. And the ability to combine information from multiple channels helps ensure you have everything you need at your fingertips.
14-day free trial is available. Ultra-compatible with Xero accounting. Plans start at $79 per month.
HubLogix is one of the best tools for ecommerce sites that work with outside vendors to fulfill orders. If you have both warehouse product inventory, and third-party order fulfillment, their cloud-based platform helps keep all of the moving part in-sync: delivering a unified experience to your customers from order to delivery. Companies can save money by having orders automatically routed to the most cost-effective fulfillment option, based on the customer’s location and shipping preferences. This is huge for your bottom-line.
Pricing is most heavily based on how many ecommerce channels you need to track. Single ecommerce channels can be managed for $499/mo. Multiple ecommerce channels will require their $999/mo plan.
ChannelApe is a powerful inventory management platform that helps direct your team to fulfill customer needs quickly. No matter which channel your customer uses to place an order, ChannelApe can use pre-configured triggers to prompt your team with custom downstream jobs that need to take place in order to ensure a great customer experience. It can also understand outside product catalogs, making product listing much more efficient.
Ecomdash is a cost-effective inventory management system for startups and ecommerce sites that are looking to add new channels, without adding to their overhead. They allow an unlimited number of channels, and their award-winning customer support helps ensure a smooth integration. Unified reporting, customer-friendly pricing and helpful service makes ecomdash a great solution for both online and offline sales and inventory reporting.
Based on order volume, pricing starts at $50/mo for up to 100 orders per month. Then, a sliding scale of plans up to $650/mo for high-volume sites.
SellerCloud, as the name implies, is another cloud-based inventory management system for ecommerce sites. Comprehensive reporting gives you all of the information you need, on any device, to track products from listing, to purchase, deliver, and even return (hate it when that happens). Easy integration with the most popular ecommerce tools and software helps ensure information is relevant and current, without a ton of custom coding.
Pricing is billed per-order. If your site isn’t generating orders, there is no cost. But, for each order generated, you’ll see a fee ranging from $0.01 to $0.25 for each transaction that is processed and tracked.
The Definition of “Inventory Management System” is Expanding
As the market becomes more and more crowded, ecommerce site owners are benefiting from innovative features and more comprehensive solutions. Inventory Management originally referred to the tracking of inventory – it wasn’t even necessarily real-time.
Thanks to the power of the digital storefront and the cloud, it’s possible to use the tools I’ve outlined to track every aspect of the order cycle:
- Product Availability – from both a warehouse and third-party suppliers for drop-shipping
- Channel Performance
- Customer Orders
- Efficient Delivery Channels
- Postage Generation
- Bundled Items that Need to be Replenished
- Delivery Confirmation
- Customer Returns
- Real-World Profitability
- Data Necessary to Select New Product Lines, or Expand Existing Product Categories
- Remove Underperforming SKU’s and Prioritize Your Most Profitable Products
- Combine Information from Every Channel to Gain Actionable Insights