It doesn’t take long in retail to appreciate that organisation and automation are vital. As soon as you smell the first whiff of success, the sooner you’ll need good systems in place. Without them, you’re left chasing your tail. That’s why all successful retailers take stock-control systems and inventory-management software seriously.
Choosing the right inventory software is an important decision. Even if you’re a small business, you need a capable system that can handle complexities (that you maybe haven’t thought of), simplify your retail business life and allow you to grow. But unless you’re a massive empire, paying an excessive price for enterprise-level software will likely be a waste of money. It’s about finding that sweet spot. We’ll discuss this further below.
Stock-control systems: understanding the basics
Stock control and inventory-management software are vital because they allow you to have the right amount of product at the right place and the right time. With the best balance in place, you can save valuable time, maximise profits, and minimise waste.
But that’s not all.
Every part of your business is affected by inventory-management processes.
Inventory-management software ties everything together in one central database and control system. In conjunction with your POS system, it coordinates the ordering, flow and audit of stock levels across all business areas. This makes it easier and far more pleasant for your staff, vendors and customers, giving them a far better customer experience.
With good retail stock-control systems and software, you win at every turn.
Stock-control terminology can get confusing, though. So let’s break down these terms with a language you’ll understand. Then, let’s highlight what to look for when choosing the right inventory management software.
With good stock-control systems and software, you win at every turn.
What is an inventory/stock-control system?-
A stock-control system, aka an inventory-control system, includes all the procedures and functions involved in managing your stock within the warehouse. These inventory control activities include receiving and storing goods, stock-taking, fulfilling orders and returns and tracking goods. A retailer’s stock-control system will use various hardware and software as well as human labour and management.
What is an inventory-management system?-
An inventory-management system goes further than inventory control. It includes the entire process of forecasting retail demand, ordering and managing the stock on hand. ‘Management’ is the critical word here. So while stock control is based on controlling and counting, inventory management is about managing the whole operation at a higher level.
What is inventory-management software?-
Inventory management software is the software used in inventory control and management. It records the above activities, such as incoming and outgoing stock, the amount of stock at each channel, fulfilment and returns. Additionally, it helps the retail business enormously by using automation and algorithms to forecast retail requirements, replenish inventory and much more. It’s a vital part of your business.
Do I need inventory-management software?
You may be tempted to DIY your way through with Excel spreadsheets when you start in retail, as they did in the old days. But retail businesses didn’t grow quickly back then — and they didn’t require omnichannel software. Also, DIY takes valuable time (and money), and you’ll still face problems: problems that can be eradicated with software that you can likely afford — and that will make life much easier as you grow your retail business.
- Is my data centralised so I know where my stock is allocated at all times?
- Can I quickly see stock-turnover rates?
- Am I missing out on profits by not ordering enough (and disappointing customers)?
- Am I often left with too much product that won’t sell?
And think about all that time and money:
- Do I have to shut my store to perform stocktake (wasting staffing resources and missing much-needed sales)?
- Am I wasting time, staying late at night, and trying to keep up with inventory problems?
- Am I struggling to keep up with the costs of juggling outdated systems and making too many mistakes?
Finally, if you plan to expand:
How will you manage your inventory without good software? How will your various systems and channels talk to each other? As your business grows, you’ll need to manage multiple channels and stay on top of stock levels and availability. Spreadsheets and intuition won’t be enough.
Today, inventory and POS software are vital for retail business success.
Let’s look at the retail inventory software you’ll need.
What to look for in stock-control software
In a marketplace where one-click ordering and fast delivery are the standards, your retail stock-control software and systems must at least tick the following boxes:
- Live, centralised cloud-based visibility
- Ability to process or bulk-edit large volumes of data
- Have deep omnichannel capabilities — it can manage both your physical and online inventory (in one set of visible data operating in real-time)
- Provide fast, accurate reports and information to all retail outlets
- Have automated stock-control features (such as reorder points and stock level alerts)
- Can easily create purchase orders from the POS
- Be easy to learn for everyone, including your point of sale staff
Remember, you need to be able to grow your business. Avoid the temptation to grab any cheap software just because it appears to tick a handful of boxes. Therefore, you must look for winning software that can take you further with the following valuable features and benefits:
Digital stocktakes – for improved accuracy and efficiency
Look for a digital retail stocktake system with more than one way to scan your stock digitally. You’ll need to perform an inventory count while your store is open, which can factor in sales while your stocktake is underway. If you’re performing a cyclical or partial count, ensure your system stores the record of your last count and the product area where you work.
Manage large inventories and complex product portfolios
Your inventory control software will need to address your retail requirements, such as complex product portfolios with different brands, colours, styles and sizes. For example, it should be able to edit product information quickly, update data in bulk and schedule permanent price markdowns for outdated products.
Automated store replenishment – eliminate overstocks/understocks
Automated store replenishment can automatically calculate the optimal inventory mix for each store based on real-time data and actual demand. It can automatically allocate stock based on store performance, so your best stores get the required stock first. You can factor in variables like run rates, supplier lead times and stock statuses for better inventory planning. And, you can create stock transfers automatically, saving admin time.
Endless aisles – never miss a sale
By centralising all your data, good inventory management software will offer all stock online, so you’ll show the broadest range of products and maximise your sales potential. Your staff can source stock from other stores or warehouses, and you can offer highly desirable services such as Click & Collect.
Benefits of an inventory-management software system
Once an efficient inventory management system is in place, you’ll have much to look forward to. You can:
- Know where stock is at all times
- Understand what’s selling, what’s not and what’s running low
- Ensure stock remains in good condition and won’t expire or become out of fashion
- Minimise wastage
- Make better data-led decision-making through better reporting
- Purchase the right quantities
Your staff and customers will love you, too, as you can:
- Offer better omnichannel fulfilment, as you know where stock is, so you can manage your inventory more efficiently and get the goods to consumers faster.
- Suggest customer alternatives for stock or add-on purchases while at the POS
- Sell more — due to improved stock availability and visibility
- Have happier customers who have their needs and expectations met — and hence, provide a better customer experience
Next steps: discover Retail Express inventory-management software
Retail Express is the #1 cloud-based point of sale software in Australia and New Zealand. Made by retailers, for retailers, we know what you need in your inventory management software. Our software has enabled thousands of retailers to enjoy an improved return on inventory, drive more sales and offer an outstanding customer experience for your shoppers.
Look forward to the following features:
- Live, centralised cloud visibility
- Algorithmic inventory purchasing
- Automated store replenishment
- Omnichannel fulfilment
- Scheduled price markdowns
- Bulk-edit big data
- Import and vendor management
- Multi-warehouse and 3PL integration