By: Mike Kriesman | Chief Technology Officer
Small business owners know that keeping track of inventory and sales is a fundamental part of running a business. While you don’t want to overstock an item only to have leftover inventory, you also don’t want to oversell something popular and run out of the product. It is a delicate balancing act – one that requires constant tracking and awareness.
Luckily, technology is making amazing leaps forward in inventory management software solutions. The tools available for inventory tracking are easier and faster. There are many companies offering an amazing range of features that take advantage of mobile technology, barcoding, and even help manage with multi-platform online sales. With a little help from this new technology, your business can move beyond managing inventory with spreadsheets or even QuickBooks. Making sense of your inventory data will help you save money and plan for sales cycles to boost your ROI.
As you investigate inventory management solutions, there are several important considerations to keep in mind.
· Can the software do more than just inventory management? Many of the new services provide a suite of software that includes accounting, shipping solutions, customer management, and more. If you don’t love your current system, it would be beneficial to have a single integrated system. This will reduce the time you spend maintaining software and will reduce integration issues between systems.
· How well does the inventory management software integrate with the software you still need to use? For example, how will the new software integrate with your web-based and store-front POS platform or your accounting systems?
· Is the software web-based/cloud-based? If you have a great internet connection, you may decide to go with software that runs on the web via your browser. This is easier to implement, maintain, and also allows access from anywhere. However, if your internet connection is not reliable, a desktop solution might be a safer bet.
· Will the software company provide excellent support? Do they have superior materials for training and learning their software, including videos, FAQs, message boards, community forums? Will they provide technical support in a timely fashion when necessary?
Here are five software solutions for inventory management that can bring the latest technology to your small business.
Lead Commerce offers a comprehensive package of cloud-based business management software. Inventory management with Lead Commerce updates in real-time, allows expiration dates for perishable inventory, and tracks bundled inventory like gift baskets. Multiple channels of sales are supported with Lead Commerce, and the service even boasts API integration with third-party services to keep orders and inventory aligned across platforms.
Order management with Lead Commerce handles quotes, invoicing, and supports a range of payment methods including cash, credit card, check, purchase orders, and store credit. Lead Commerce also supports real time integration with UPS, USPS, and FedEx, allowing users to print accurate domestic and international shipping labels.
Lead Commerce CRM (Customer Relationship Management) includes helpful lead management tools. Users can customize web forms to collect data about customers which can then be used to tailor sales, shipping, and payment methods. Users can even set up ‘Customer Types’ based upon this data to create a sales experience based upon customer preference.
If you are looking into Lead Commerce, be sure to take a look at their ecommerce solutions. Lead Commerce can provide your business with a responsive, mobile-friendly storefront that is integrated with their other tools.
Lead Commerce does not integrate with QuickBooks in real-time, but you can import reports customized to your QuickBooks through a program called Transaction Pro Importer. Once this software is in place, customized CSV files are updated with whatever frequency users select. According to Lead Commerce’s website, most customers “opt for either a daily or weekly data set to be emailed to them.” In other words, some accounting follow up is required.
Pricing: Custom pricing starts at $295 per month. A free trial is offered.
If your small business is selling through your own website and other online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon, you may face some interesting inventory challenges. It can be hard to track inventory when products are moving through multiples sales platforms. If you are using ShipStation to manage multiple sales platforms online, Finale Inventory will track inventory moving through these channels.
Finale Inventory has a clean layout and clear design They offer a full range of inventory services from order management, shipping and receiving (including ShipStation integration), and inventory management which can be bundled with barcode reading hardware.
Finale Inventory also integrates with QuickBooks. They also offer downloadable reporting that works with Xero and other accounting software. Finale Inventory is also cloud-based and accessible by web browser and mobile device.
Pricing: While pricing starts at $99.00 per month, access to the full set of features starts at $199.00 per month. For more than 12 users, custom pricing is required. A free trial is offered for new users.
According to their website, Fishbowl Inventory is the #1 requested add-on for QuickBooks. This software package offers a robust range of tools for businesses who are manufacturing and warehousing goods.
Fishbowl boasts “better automation through integration.” This approach does offer some powerful benefits beyond integrating with QuickBooks and Xero online. Fishbowl Inventory works with UPS Ready Integration, allows users to choose from many online shopping carts, and tracks shipments to confirm deliveries. If you are warehousing in multiple locations, Fishbowl Inventory can help streamline inventory data across locations. Furthermore, while there are many tools available as part of Fishbowl Inventory software, additional services can be added to through the Fishbowl Partner Marketplace.
Pricing: Software starts at $4,395 for a non-expiring license. Pricing is based upon the number of users and the support plan. Fishbowl Inventory offers a web demo and a free 14-day trial.
If your business is focused on ecommerce, SKULabs is a service you should explore. SKULabs has a range of inventory and warehouse management tools, alongside an order fulfillment system that is focused on user-friendliness. SKULabs partners with a number of online shopping carts. They really shine in their multi-carrier shipping partnerships. SKULabs works with the USPS to get the best rates based on volume and promise to pass those savings on to users. They also partner with FedEx, UPS, and a wide range of other carriers both domestic and international.
SKULabs also focuses on barcode technology and suggests several hardware solutions for scanning, picking, and shipping, including their own custom bundle of hardware.
Pricing: SKULabs is $99.00 per user, up to 20 users at which point you will need to negotiate custom pricing. Hardware is sold separately. SKULabs offers a free 14-day trial period.
BizSlate is designed for small businesses looking for real-time inventory tracking, simplified customer management, and the flexibility to handle larger, more sophisticated orders. According to CEO Marc Kalman, while other inventory software approaches fulfillment from an accounting perspective, BizSlate is “designed from the supply chain process inward.”1 This approach is tailored to small businesses which have outgrown the tools offered by QuickBooks, yet still allows QuickBooks integration for accounting and keeps financial information constantly up-to-date. BizSlate is a cloud-based service that is accessible anywhere and from any device.
BizSlate strives to improve flow tracking on both the inventory and order side of sales so users can be assured of completing customer orders successfully.
Pricing: BizSlate offers pricing on demand. They also offer a free demo on their website.
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