You’ve got a big business going - you’re on Amazon, have your own eCommerce platform, have ten retail locations, and sell to a department store. Sweet! Except how do you consolidate the inventory across all of these different selling places? It’s easy to track inventory (sales) online because it’s all electronic and automatic, it becomes complicated when you are on multiple online platforms, and even more difficult when you’ve got a physical store as well. When you have a physical selling location - whether it’s a retail store, a trade show, a booth at an outdoor market… you need to rely on a good POS system and also account for missing, stolen, or returned goods.
What is POS?
Before we go further, let me take a second to explain what POS means. POS stands for Point of Sale, which simply signifies the time and place that a transaction has happened, along with the amount owed/paid. When we discuss POS here, we are talking about the system that is used to capture the sales in a physical location rather than an online sale. Depending on what you use, tracking inventory can lean toward either simple or difficult.
For example, if you’re on something like Shopify, they should have some tools already to have everything updated in the system via your POS, which can be linked with your online platform. But then what if you’re on both Shopify and Amazon? How do you keep the inventory correct between these different online platforms and your physical store?
Why Is It Important to Track Sales?
I know this might seem like an obvious answer, because you need to know how much you’re selling in order to have an accurate view of your business for today and forward, but there’s something else I want to point out. Let’s say you are selling wholesale to a department store. You tell them you have 10,000 socks in inventory and they reply that they want all of them. Great. Except you just received orders from Amazon for 2,000 socks and now you’re short shipping the department store, therefore you could damage the relationship you have or haven’t yet built with them. Tracking sales isn’t just about your business profits, but also about making sure you’re giving the customers and retailers you provide products to what they want. Plus, being responsible is beneficial in all areas of business and life!
Speaking of being responsible, if you don’t take an inventory of your stock, in terms of whether one item is performing better or worse, then you can’t enhance your products or services. If you have a ton of one particular shirt sitting around in inventory, but you’re not accounting for it well enough and you keep making more despite it not being a top seller, that’s a waste of time and money.
Problems with Offline to Online Inventory
If you’re selling products in multiple places, such as Amazon, your own eCommerce platform, maybe another online retailer, plus physical stores, you have to keep track of all of them. The problem is, do you keep all of the inventories separate or sync them all together? Well, I’ll make it easy - you most likely need to bring them together. But how to sync them? Manually? Let’s start with an example with online platforms: say you have 1,000 red socks, and 500 go to Amazon, and 500 go to Shopify. Everyday you can go in and check it - move some from one platform to the other if necessary. This might be fine if you only sell red socks, in other words only have one to a few SKUs (products) and only sell on a couple of platforms. But, if you have a lot of SKUs and platforms, then manual bookkeeping can be a pretty painful process.
I’m not going to go into it because then we would be here for days, but something else to consider is returns. How do you put a returned product back - and where do you put it? Do you resell it? Do you throw it out if it’s broken? Even a bigger issue is where the return is going back to you. Does Amazon take it back or do you? As in, does it go back to the retailer or to you?
You should see now that it might be okay with one product and maybe two places you’re selling this one product to do everything manually… but in reality you’ve also got a warehouse, stores, and multiple places online you sell through. You have tangible inventory wherever your POS is and I’ve got the solution to your problems with keeping track of all of it.
Tracking Inventory Solution
All your digital marketplaces, it won’t be so complicated to keep inventory, all you have to do is integrate everything. There are some people who use Quickbooks because you can sync all your inventory there. This isn’t ideal but you can do it. The better way to go is to find an inventory software that works best for you.
Also, just because I mentioned it and scared you, for a return you’ll have to examine it and see if you can resell it, which no matter what you will have to input manually, likely you will have staff dedicated to this. You could use your POS system to return it too, which is a little less manual. Some retailers who sell online will already have the middle man, like CommerceHub, Dsco, or Radial, that help to keep track of your inventory for you. This is helpful but also might be required by a large retailer and be different from the software you use. Then you will need to reconcile the different softwares as well. This also comes with additional costs which can cut into the bottom line. There are many options when it comes to inventory software though: Skubana, Skuvault, Stitch Labs. There’s also Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software that could help, such as BrightPearl, Netsuite, and more.
Ultimately, if you’re selling at multiple locations - your own brick and mortar store, a trade show, street fair, wherever, then have online presences both yours and other marketplaces - you should find a software that works for you to connect it all and keep inventory updated that way. After all, it’s the responsible and logical thing to do to keep your business running smoothly, efficiently, and successfully.
Any questions? Feel free to reach out!