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A Comprehensive Guide to Small Business Inventory Management Systems

It’s a success story many small business owners dream of having. Farm Fresh Clothing Co., an online retailer of clothing made from organic cotton, quickly grew to $3 million in sales after signing on with Stitch Labs, a Cloud-based inventory management system. Managing your business inventory is essential for success. After all, if you don’t have the items in stock, you run a high risk of losing the sale to your closest competitor.

Migration to the Cloud has given small businesses like Farm Fresh Clothing Co. the ability to compete with much larger retailers. Using Stitch Labs’ Cloud-based system, this e-tailer receives real-time information on inventory status when an order is placed, including how many shirts are in stock, how many are being shipped, to let them know at first glance if enough items are in stock to fulfill the order. These solutions can be accessed using mobile devices, whether a business owner is on the showroom floor or at his vacation home on the beach. But for most small businesses, the process of finding and implementing a Cloud-based inventory systems can seem daunting at first. For that reason, we’ve compiled a comprehensive how-to guide for small businesses interested in adding an inventory management system to their current suite of Cloud-based solutions. Hopefully through this guide, businesses will understand why they need inventory management and how it can impact their business’s bottom line.

What Does Inventory Management Provide?

Unless your business only sells one item at a time, chances are you’re keeping track of your inventory. You may be doing this through chicken scratches on scraps of paper or by using an Excel spreadsheet, but either way, you’re likely constantly aware of how many items you have in stock at any given time.

As your business grows, these manual methods of keeping track of your inventory will likely become cumbersome and error-prone. It’s easy to forget to write an item down when things get busy and assume you have more items in stock than you currently  have. Too many mistakes and you’ll begin seeing negative online reviews for your business–reviews that will linger out there for many years to come. Over time, you may find these errors put you out of business completely.

An inventory management system reduces risk of errors by automating the process. When an item is purchased on your site, that item is automatically removed from your inventory, updating your site so that when an item is temporarily out of stock, customers can no longer order that item. Businesses can also receive notifications when inventory is running low on a particular item, prompting them to order more. With inventory tracking, you’ll also be able to conduct regular inventory tracking to spot any inventory losses early on.

Cloud Solutions Save Money

Many businesses today are opting for Cloud-based solutions, rather than purchasing and installing software on each device. This helps them save money, while removing the headache of troubleshooting problems and ensuring data remains secure. For an affordable monthly fee, small businesses can set up a Cloud-based inventory system that is fully managed by a highly-skilled team employed by the software firm.

Because a Cloud-based inventory system is accessible from anywhere, business owners are always aware of their own inventory levels. Staff are no longer required to spend hours logging information about products and business owners will have inventory level information at their fingertips, saving time that can be put toward bringing in more business.

What is the Best Solution?

Each business will have its own specific needs when it comes to inventory solutions. It’s important to choose an inventory system that addresses your own specific business needs, as well as one that integrates well with your existing environment. If you already have accounting software in place, the inventory system you choose should specifically mention integration with that system in order to further improve your business’s efficiency.

Here are a few options for businesses of varying needs:

  • StitchLabs features integration with accounting systems, payment systems, and e-Commerce platforms, including PayPal, Amazon, Shopify, QuickBooks, and more. This integration provides a seamless experience for many small businesses, providing an all-in-one solution that saves time and makes things easier for workers. For businesses just starting out, the app features a starter edition for only $25 per month, which includes three user accounts and integration with one sales channel. More robust plans start at $45 per month.
  • Intuit’s SOS Inventory is a great solution for those using QuickBooks Online for their accounting functions. The tight integration with the Cloud-based version of QuickBooks means items entered in the inventory system will automatically be updated in QuickBooks to avoid the need to double-enter information. The app comes with a 30-day free trial, with plans starting at $29.95 per month.
  • For businesses that prefer to run on iPads, Inventory Tracker is a highly-rated app that runs directly on a business’s iPad. Because it’s an app, it lacks many of the integration features that a full Cloud solution has, but at only $4.99, it might be a great solution for start-ups.

Because many of these software options provide free trial editions, you can try out each inventory management system to see which works best for your needs. For many small businesses, though, failure to implement an inventory management system can slow processes down and introduce the possibility of errors, which can cost businesses far more in the long run than any inventory management solution will.

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About Stephanie Faris

Stephanie is a freelance writer and young adult/middle grade novelist, who worked in information systems for more than a decade. Her first book, 30 Days of No Gossip, will be released by Simon and Schuster in spring 2014. She lives in Nashville with her husband.

  • Sijin Samuel

    I have been searching for a warehouse inventory management solution that can integrate with quickbooks online and I finally found my solution! Thank you for your post!

    Sij

    • http://Smallbiztechnology.com/ Ramon Ray

      I’m glad we could help!!!!