If you run an e-commerce store or a traditional trading and distribution business, regardless of its size, you most likely employ some sort of inventory management process already. From keeping track of stock with a pen or paper, using a spreadsheet or dedicated software – monitoring incoming products and supplies is a vital part of a business that cannot be ignored.
The benefits of an efficient inventory management system cannot be overemphasised. Monitoring and controlling your inventory levels can create a balance that ensures that you always have sufficient stock to meet the demands of your customers whilst avoiding losses that can result from overstocking a product. Controlling your inventory well can also speed up the fulfilment process, prevent fraud and lead to improved customer service. In the end, efficient inventory management is critical to the success of a business.
Today, using dedicated inventory management software is the way to go – an automated Inventory Management Solution (IMS) is a sure way to prevent any errors from human involvement, save time and generate insights that can help you make better business decisions.
Yet, if you are still not operating your inventory management software from the cloud, you are missing out on even greater benefits that can significantly impact your business.
Fortunately, there is a host of cloud IMS options today that is suited to the needs of different businesses, including small businesses that may be on a tight budget.
Hence, if you are looking to improve business efficiency or take your inventory management processes a notch higher, here is why you should invest in an online ready to use inventory management system rather than build your own IMS from scratch.
Building a custom inventory management software requires significant investments in purchasing and maintaining hardware infrastructures. Despite the significant upfront cost, there is also the need for added technical support for software maintenance and upgrade, which also amounts to additional cost. It’s no surprise then that many small and medium-sized businesses in the past could not afford sophisticated inventory management solutions.
However, things have now changed. With an online Inventory Management solution, the hosting company takes on the responsibility of setting up and maintaining infrastructures whilst providing round the clock technical assistance for subscribed businesses. This ensures a smooth and stress-free setup with minimal disruptions and downtime. The fact that this typically comes at an affordable monthly or annual rate makes it the perfect solution for small businesses
Ease of accessibility
A custom IMS will usually require installation on specific devices that can only be accessed at the point where they are located However with an online IMS, data is stored in the cloud, and a single instance of the software can support a wide range of users. Additionally, the online software can also be accessed from anywhere at any time on different devices.
This flexibility can greatly improve workflow and result in improved business efficiency as well. It also means that businesses can operate across multiple locations with ease and remote teams can thrive.
Real-time monitoring and increased visibility
Having inventory updates from different people or locations in real time is one of the exciting benefits of employing an online IMS solution. With cloud inventory management systems, a single update can be replicated across different functions and departments almost instantaneously. The result of this is a more reliable information base that employees are more confident to work with.
Consequently, there is also the benefit of transparency for everyone that can access the software making it easy to identify any bottlenecks and other issues that may arise at any point in time. With reliable information at the fingertips of all and sundry, sharing and utilising information across different departments becomes a seamless and more efficient process.
Clearly, it has never been easier to stay updated – monitoring and tracking customer orders in real-time can be done in a breeze. And this quick and free flow of information can significantly improve coordination, organisational efficiency, as well as customer service and satisfaction.
Data Security is assured
Unlike custom made inventory management solutions that are only available on devices on which they are installed and deployed, with online inventory management systems, information is stored in cloud servers instead. With these physical devices, data that is mistakenly deleted or lost in the event of a crash or malware attack may be impossible to recover without a backup. Even with a backup, retrieving lost data can sometimes be draining and time-consuming.
However, another exciting part of storing your inventory records in the cloud is that you no longer have to worry about backing up critical business information and cloud hosting services typically take adequate steps to ensure that your data is secure. Data stored in the cloud is backed up automatically on servers and can almost always be accessed in the case of data loss.
Ease of scalability
Another reason why online inventory solution is perfect for small business is the ease of scaling as the business grows and as needs change. A custom inventory management solution will most likely contain features that many news businesses may find irrelevant when they are just starting out. Apart from the extra cost, this may warrant, it can also make it difficult to get started with the software with ease.
However, unlike software applications that are installed locally, many cloud service providers for inventory management solutions allow a wide range of options with variable features to meet the needs of different businesses. Hence small businesses can stick with a plan that employs only the required features they need at that point in time and seamlessly upgrade or add on new features in the future.
Seamless Ecommerce integrations
It is very common for many merchants today to utilise multiple channels such as Amazon, eBay or Alibaba for sales. Ordinarily, maintaining inventory levels for multiple stores is a huge deal, imagine having to manually keep track of and update the amount of stock on one platform whenever you make sales on the other. You don’t want your product listed as ‘out of sale’ on eBay while you still have the same product available on Amazon.
Thankfully, the arduous task of having to constantly update inventory information across these different sales platforms can be avoided by using an online Inventory management solution that allows seamless integration with multiple sales channel. Now, these channels can automatically make necessary updates after a transaction, ensuring that stock levels are accurate and adequately monitored.
A system like this also makes it possible for business owners to easily allocate stock to the different sales channel based on demand. Hence it is largely beneficial to maintain a central database for your business in the cloud while selling across multiple platforms for smoother operations. With a reliable online IMS system, this can happen in a breeze.
Online IMS as a reliable forecasting tool
The world today is driven by data, and for any serious business to stay competitive, then it is pertinent that they collect process and harness data efficiently. It is therefore not enough to only record inventory levels; your inventory information should give useful insights about predictable trends and patterns that can help you make critical business decisions. This is what you get with a cloud inventory management system.
Online IMs provides up-to-date reports that can drive your business and help you stay competitive. So now you can go beyond knowing your top selling products to understanding the periods or season when they sell fastest and whether sales are affected by other factors. You can now go on to make informed decisions and re-strategise when necessary.
Take advantage of barcode and other tracking systems
Some reliable cloud inventory management software can help you utilise modern technologies such as barcodes and QR code tracking systems that can make inventory management even more efficient. In the past, while the real inventory transactions occurred in warehouses and on the field, employees that enter these transactions manually are typically in the offices away from all the action. The result is a slower recording process that is prone to errors.
However, today with a suitable cloud IMS solution and a Smartphone, business owners can now track inventory on the field by simply scanning barcodes or QR codes. Hence transactions can now be recorded in real-time and updated to your central database in the cloud immediately thereby ensuring that everyone on the team gets accurate inventory updates in real-time as well.
Take control of your inventory now
Inventory control remains an integral part of any warehousing and distribution business and running your inventory from the cloud clearly has undeniable benefits. Whether you are moving stock into your business or moving it out to your customers, keeping accurate track of your stock levels at all times and making informed decisions based on it is critical to the success of your business.
Getting started with a cloud Inventory management solution is easy and stress-free. If you don’t have one already, endeavour to get one as soon as possible.