Deal with inventory control eCommerce, POS and having multiple locations
Small business inventory control eCommerce is a process challenge. Add your vendors, point-of-sale POS, multiple stock locations, and eCommerce to increase the chance of roadblocks.
This blog post is a brain dump of intense work in small business Inventory (multi-location and vendor), POS, and eCommerce. Pick and choose what you need.
Table of Contents
How does your inventory control eCommerce operate?
You may have your accounting or ERP system connected to a COTs (custom, off-the-shelf) inventory system (software you buy and configure.) Or you have a standalone COTs or you use a SaaS platform. Or a MS Access database or spreadsheet.
Does your inventory tie into POS and eCommerce?
There aren’t many all in one systems that give you Inventory, CRM, POS, and ‘card, not present’ transactions and eCommerce. And I mean true flexible POS with a card machine, quotes, service work orders, and mobile capabilities (as in, your sales reps can scan or swipe a card in the field, not just “take the numbers”). Along with all this, is your inventory system a multi-vendor, cross-location, nearly complete SKU system.
Few have this all in one—maybe two or three- which fall within small business budget range.
I’ve become aware of inventory considerations by providing eCommerce setup, maintenance, and optimization services for various operations.
Here are some business operations configurations. I’m not placing anyone in a mold. We all piece together what we can to operate and serve customers.
Are you in this mix somewhere?
- You have Inventory and software that you like and do POS. Thinking about eCommerce.
- You want better inventory software, or you have to connect it to eCommerce. Otherwise, it’s a manual system, or you pay a developer to automate something.
- You’ve got one vendor (supplier) and one product line, and you do POS and eCommerce, or you’re considering. Or you’re multi-vendor location.
- You have a drop shop operation that still requires inventory maintenance. Inventory or overall process management for drop ship should be intricate. That’s how I’d get it done.
Effective SKU, Item, and Product Inventory Management
- Strive for unique items. Or group them as a matrix or set, however you define objects of the same type with different characteristics like size, color, and composition (wood, plastic, metal, leather, cotton.)
- Template your products and remain consistent, as in the product structure, how you write titles and descriptions, and what you use for images.
- Do the same for categories. Keep category name types parallel in structure. You don’t group sneakers with dresses, right? But even more, does your market call them Footwear? Gear? Or do they shop by activity? Urban adventure, long work hours.
- Consider categories in advance and how they are related to your products and how people buy.
- What is the inventory control process? Purchase and refund is an inventory event. How, when, and where is it recorded and tracked? Restocking, item damage, and many other scenarios. How are they recorded?
- In eCommerce, does a visitor see inventory? Sometimes it’s an incentive. Do you show anything? Back orders. What is the process after an eCom order?
Vendor Inventory Management
- How do your vendor or supplier relations work? Do you meet in person or over the phone via Zoom?
- Did they seek you out?
- Do new vendors call and pitch you on their products, and will you discuss and negotiate?
- What are your criteria for speaking with a vendor and reviewing a product line? Is all this stuff documented?
- Do you have a vendor portal, or do they send you files? Secure or by email?
- Once you get the digital inventory item files, these can be imported into nearly any system.
- Importing should be an interface, mappable, with informable errors, in a wizard-type process. Your imports should be templated and systematized.
- Do you reconcile a purchase order against your inventory system when physical Inventory arrives?
- Have you done a day zero inventory count?
Shipping and Inventory Management
What is your item shipping operation? Which carrier? Multiple?
At point of sale an item decrement is made, that’s fine.
Are you doing eCommerce and shipping items from your location? At purchase, at least one item was in Inventory, but it hasn’t shipped yet. It’s an online order.
So this depends on your shipping process. At what point is your inventory count for the item purchase decremented? Details, my friend, details.
Current Business Process & Change related to Inventory
In my decades of building software and consulting with SMB I’ve found the challenge is usually business process change, then communication, then execution. If all those get done right, there’s usually not enough staff. But anything can be automated or processed with software.
Combining existing processes with software systems change and expecting a procedural modification is a lot.
That’s why I laid out these questions. What I’ve presented is just 15 minutes off the top of my head. There are a couple of hours of process consideration with Inventory to POS to eCommerce.
You can take whatever you want from this and structure the questions into a strategic plan. Then step through the program over time.
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