Unleashed is one of the most popular inventory management software tools – and one we often recommend. Like other similar cloud-based inventory tools it was original built to solve the fundamental issue of inventory visibility. It has since evolved into a broadly useful and rather powerful tool for product-based businesses – while retaining its modern feel and usability.
But when is the right time to adopt a tool like Unleashed?
In part one of this article, we explain some of the milestones and pain points we see business going through that lead to us recommending Unleashed – plus some of the specific benefits it brings over other platforms.
When does a business need inventory management software?
There’s no exact point at which a business needs an inventory software upgrade – we see firms shifting to cloud inventory tools (often off spreadsheets or other less suitable systems) at the sub-£1 million turnover point, all the up to £25 million in turnover and beyond (though arguably this is leaving it far too late). Instead, the choice usually comes down to our clients encountering one or more of the following bottlenecks or pain points, for which a system like Unleashed is the right solution.
Common reasons for moving to cloud inventory software
The following 11 reasons are all common triggers for a move to cloud inventory software. If they sound familiar, it’s probably time to get in touch.
1. Outgrowing your old system
We often see clients tracking their inventory with the native inventory features built into their e-commerce software or accounting system. This tends to work until it doesn’t, with the limited features triggering a move to a dedicated inventory tool, which then typically integrates with the original software system.
A large number of businesses will be more rudimentary still, tracking inventory and its value in Excel or Google Sheets, which eventually get clogged with so many formulas and links that the whole system freezes every time you edit a cell, prevents staff working simultaneously, and crashes too often. It’s also much harder to maintain an accurate inventory valuation on a spreadsheet.
Ultimately, this tends to choke off productivity and growth, and warrant an upgrade.
2. Adding a second warehouse
We see businesses muddling through with an old system, up to the point they come to us with plans for another warehouse – whether their own or a 3PL. This is a classic inflection point in a business that demands much more accurate inventory tracking – both because it can result in the total value of inventory held rising, with obvious implications for cash flow – and because it requires the ability to transfer inventory across locations, fulfil orders from multiple places, and so on.
3. Endless inventory counts
If you’re doing inventory counts daily, weekly, or monthly simply to find out what you have, then you’re doing it wrong and likely need a system like Unleashed.
Physically walking into a warehouse to find out what’s there simply to confirm you can make a sale is a serious level of inefficiency that will prevent sales growth – and speaks to other systemic problems in your business.
By contrast, a system like Unleashed will update what you have on hand in real-time, with tools like barcode scanners making sure what you ship or receive is recorded correctly.
4. Selling items twice
This is common problem for e-commerce sellers who shift goods from multiple platforms – say, a couple of different Shopify stores, and a brick-and-mortar shop.
If you don’t have a centralised platform for managing inventory it’s very easy to have goods on the shelves that are actually reserved for another sale. These are then ‘sold twice’ – a mistake that results in upset customers, when you realise you can’t fulfil their order.
The solution is to use a central system for processing sales orders from all sources – one that knows the difference between inventory on hand and inventory that’s available, and will prompt you to reorder when the latter runs out.
5. Lack of visibility over costs
If you’ve ever run a discount-based promotion with a niggling fear that you might be selling at a loss, then you have a serious problem with visibility.
Lots of different costs contribute to an overall product cost and unit economics – being able to track these easily is the only way to be certain about your break-even price point on a product, as well as your margins.
From an accountant’s point of view, this is about knowing your cost of goods sold (CoGS). Unleashed is very well set up to track and assign different costs on products, which in turn gives you instant oversight of your margins: not just margins per product, but by location, by sales channel – even by salesperson (useful for managing commissions).
An important point here: switching to an inventory management system doesn't just solve this problem – it gives you a competitive advantage.
Knowing your most profitable products and locations helps you prioritise your sales and marketing activities, and lets you outcompete the market with discounts or promotions.
6. Inefficiency hampering growth
This is a hard one to notice when you’re doing things the way you always have, and it often takes an external advisor to help you see just how much time and effort is spent on non-value-adding admin.
When we shift a business on to something like Unleashed, they’re often shocked at how much faster and easier their work is when they’re all in a single joined-up system – one with baked-in processes to cut admin time and errors.
7. Sudden growth
Similar to the issue above, but you don't need a business advisor to help you see this problem – because you’re in it!
When a company suddenly finds itself with two, five or ten times its normal order volume, the entire operation can simply fall apart, risking deals and reputation. Or it can survive on a temporary mix of late nights and goodwill – with both situations requiring an urgent upgrade.
8. Stock outs
This is another very common trigger for upgrading to cloud inventory software. Unplanned stock outs happen for multiple reasons, all of which a good inventory system will let you avoid.
The ugly and expensive cousin of stock outs, overstocking happens when you simply can’t afford to miss sales from not having stock on hand, and over invest from an excess of caution. A lot of brands were forced to overstock during the supply chain crisis, because lead times were so long and unpredictable. Some even took out additional credit just to stay afloat.
Again, full inventory visibility will help with this – and Unleashed has a new feature called Advanced Inventory Manager, which was built during the supply chain crisis specifically to help solve this problem. Early users report improved cashflow from its ability to automatically detect optimal maximum order levels for different products.
10. Adding a sales channel
A classic problem, especially for e-commerce traders. Adding a new sales channel can bring in new orders but will amplify all of the problems above without the right inventory software.
11. Starting a new company or spinning off a new company
Finally, one of the triggers for using something like Unleashed that isn’t an actual problem, is when a business spins off a subsidiary or launches into a new territory.
Usually, a company in this position already has customers and suppliers lined up, and knows it needs to hit the ground running from the get-go with an Unleashed account – which we’re always excited to help them do.
Beyond fixing problems – why we recommend Unleashed
Problem-solving is one thing, but there are also upsides to moving to inventory management software that are worth mentioning in more detail – and where Unleashed has a lot to offer.
The big one here for us is data. Or more to the point, data that you can easily access and work with – either natively within Unleashed’s business intelligence module or via their API to do mash other data sources, such as financial data, with it.
Here are some examples of what you can do with the data we particularly like.
We mentioned this above, but it’s worth saying again: knowing precise profit margins for every different product is incredibly useful. Higher margin on kegs compared to cans? Tell your salespeople. Have better contribution on dresses vs skirts? Now you know where to spend your marketing budget.
You can get as nuanced as you like when you’re armed with good margin data, from creating product bundles, to choosing which items to suggest at checkout, or on your store’s front page.
Slow or non-moving items are by nature easy to overlook – but they cost you in warehousing fees, and tie up cash. Unleashed, however, makes it really easy to spot these working capital drainers, with pinch-and-zoom tools for finding the slowest moving items in your portfolio.
You might have service levels agreements with your suppliers, but which of them keep to their terms? Because Unleashed records the moment you order stock and the moment it enters your premises, it’s able keep a live record of the lead time performance of every supplier – as well as individual products. This is useful when negotiating terms, and also plays an important part in knowing how much to reorder for each product, so that you allow for transport time. Unleashed cleverly automates this part of purchase planning, which in turn puts an end to unplanned stock outs.
Sales ranked by ‘X’
You might not think of inventory software as a sales enablement tool, but that’s an oversight. We love the fact that in Unleashed you can cross reference your sales data by customer, product type, location, profit margin, salesperson, sales channel, or against targets. It’s a powerful tool to help decision making – and all the more reliable for being pulled directly from you own system.
Diving deeper into blended data, unit economics reveals the true health and profitability of each product you sell. By understanding the cost and revenue associated with each unit sold, you can make informed decisions about pricing, marketing, and scaling.
When you use platforms like Unleashed and Xero, you can access the powerful data via their API and mash the two data sets together. Together, these platforms enable you to:
- Highlight profitable products or geographies.
- Refine pricing strategies.
- Identify operational efficiencies.
- Base decisions on solid data.
In essence, a deep understanding of unit economics, taking data from Unleashed and Xero, equips e-commerce founders with the insights needed to make better informed decisions.