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Inventory management questions to ask

Inventory management is a critical aspect of any business that sells goods via e-commerce or otherwise. It’s also a major pain point for small businesses. However, that doesn’t have to be the case for your company.

Gone are the days of solely managing inventory through Excel spreadsheets and manual stock takes. Today there are many types of inventory management systems that track inventory levels, forecast demand, and more. These advanced systems can transform your inventory management processes and help your business work smarter.

While inventory management software is a powerful tool you should implement as soon as possible, not every solution is going to work for every business. To help narrow down which type of inventory management system your business needs, we’ve created this list of inventory control questions and answers. Once you have a better idea of what you need, we’ll cover the key features you should be looking for in your inventory management solution. Read the full article or use the links below to navigate the article.

Eight inventory management questions that will help you find the right solution

Investing in inventory management software is another cost you’ll need to add to your list of business expenses, so it’s worth taking the time to weigh your options and decide which software is right for your business.

Before you decide to invest in a software solution, ask yourself these inventory management questions:

1. What stage is your business in?

First, it’s important to clarify what size and stage of growth your business is in before you even look at your software options. If your company is just starting out, spending a lot on an inventory management tool may not be the right way to invest your limited resources. If you’re running a small operation with limited goods for sale, you may be able to get by using a spreadsheet for a short while. Mid- to large-size businesses, on the other hand, almost always need inventory management software to keep things on the right track.

It’s important to note that inventory management systems aren’t just a priority for large-scale businesses. Many small companies find that their growing inventory levels and orders quickly become too much to handle with just a spreadsheet. And when that happens, you run the risk of having poor inventory control. This can lead to issues such as running out of stock for popular items, having inaccurate inventory records, and overstocking.

2. What type of business do you operate?

In addition to business size, you should also consider what industry your business operates in and what you sell. Most importantly, whether your business sells goods or services. Generally speaking, if you’re a service-based company, an inventory management system likely isn’t a top priority. It might not even be necessary in many cases.

However, if you’re a product-based business, inventory management software will be essential. This is because you’ll need to manage large amounts of inventory for various products, which can easily become disorganized and inaccurate when handled manually. When you run a product-based business, anything but up-to-date, accurate, and well-organized inventory records is a liability that can cost your business dearly.

When considering whether your type of business needs inventory management software, keep in mind how much inventory you typically handle. If it’s more than a few items at a time, you can probably benefit from investing in one of these solutions.

3. What is your budget?

Inventory management systems can range significantly in price depending on their features and functionality. Whether it’s a monthly subscription or an annual fee, you don’t want the cost to be too much of a strain on your resources.

Take the time to define your budget. If you know what you’re willing to invest, it will be much easier to refine your search to a few offerings that will best suit your needs. With variations in price come variations in quality, so make sure you’re investing wisely by doing your homework.

4. What are the biggest inventory management challenges you’re facing?

One of the most important inventory management questions you should ask yourself is “What challenges do I need to solve?” If you’re buying an inventory management solution, you need to make sure it’s going to resolve your business’s specific inventory control issues. For example, think about these inventory control questions and how you would answer them:

  • Are you struggling to keep inventory records up to date?
  • Do you have difficulty tracking inventory levels across sales channels?
  • Does physical inventory seem to be slipping through your hands?
  • Are you running out of stock of popular products regularly?
  • Is a lot of your money tied up in excess inventory that’s just sitting in your warehouse?
  • Do you have trouble defining  inventory types and classifications ?

You may also want to ask order-management-related questions, such as “Have customer orders been falling through the cracks?” Whatever the case may be, taking a crucial look at your inventory processes is essential when comparing inventory management solutions. Once you identify the specific challenges that are holding your business back, you’ll know which features to prioritize when comparing software.

5. What integrations do you need?

Any good inventory management system will be able to connect with the other tools your business uses daily. For example, multi-channel sales through Amazon, eBay, Shopify, and other online marketplaces need to be supported so you can monitor inventory across third-party sales channels. Seamless integration with your e-commerce platform will also be necessary so that every product and order is managed in one place.

Also, if you use accounting software, you’ll want to connect it with your customer relationship management software. Do you want to start using barcodes to instantly scan in inventory? If so, you’ll need to consider the compatibility of your systems. If all your systems are compatible, everything will run as smoothly as possible.

Two men standing in a warehouse using tablets to view order details.

6. What are your reporting needs?

As your business expands, and you add more suppliers and product lines, it becomes increasingly difficult to track and analyze stock and forecast demand. A good inventory system will be equipped with smart reporting to  perform inventory analysis , assist with forecasting, and help you make informed decisions. With historical and current information about your business’s sales and which products are in demand, you can better plan inventory replenishment and reduce carrying costs.

7. Who will be using the system?

It’s important to know who will need access to the system so you can choose the system that best fits your business and team. Is it just you and your inventory manager? Or, do you need warehouse managers and other employees to be able to use the system too? With a cloud-based inventory management system, employees can instantly access up-to-date information and double-check orders in real time.

8. How much support will you require?

Be sure you’re not making more work for yourself when choosing your inventory management system. It will be important to choose an intuitive software with great customer support, in case anything goes wrong. Read customer testimonials or even talk to a representative to get a feel for their customer service.

Additionally, some inventory management systems may be overly complicated and require expensive consultants to set up. Keep in mind that you may also need to train staff to use the new system, so you want it to be as user-friendly as possible. Remember, this system is supposed to make things easier, not hinder your progress.

These are all important questions to ask, but it isn’t necessarily an all-encompassing list. Consider your business’s unique needs and what inventory management questions you should be asking to find a system that will best serve you. Finding the right software solution for your business can transform how your business runs. In addition to better inventory control, you can also improve overall supply chain management, so don’t rush the process.

Not all inventory management systems are created equal, so it’s important to know all the facts before you dive in and choose one. In addition to mulling over these inventory management questions on your own, you can also use them as interview questions to ask potential providers.

Man sitting at desk inside of stock room using his computer.

Features you should be looking for in your inventory management system

In addition to considering the above inventory management questions, you should also look for certain features when comparing software solutions. The ideal inventory management system should:

  • Track stock levels across your various sales channels.
  • Automatically update the amount of inventory you have available.
  • Identify the ideal reorder point for each of your inventory items.
  • Assist in establishing safety stock levels that will help account for lead time when reordering, so you can avoid stockouts.
  • Make it easy to set accurate order quantities and generate purchase orders.
  • Provide seamless integration with various best-in-class apps and QuickBooks Online accounting software, so your entire business is managed in one convenient platform.
  • Provide reports that help you analyze sales, customer demand, and your products’ inventory lifecycle.
  • Generate insights that help you better understand your inventory needs.
  • Assist in establishing a solid inventory management strategy for your business.

Refining these processes is key to optimizing your profitability and overall business success. QuickBooks Commerce is a robust inventory management system that does all of the above while allowing you to control all your sales channels in one dashboard. This system is equipped with a range of features designed to help multi-channel businesses run more efficiently.

You can rely on QuickBooks for wholesale or traditional B2C e-commerce activities. With the help of QuickBooks Commerce, you can streamline workflows, lower inventory costs, and put your business in the best position to grow. Get started today and empower your business with an inventory management system that helps you take your business to the next level.

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