At flinder one of the common recommendations we make for e-commerce clients at a certain size or complexity is using a cloud-based inventory management software tool. This can be a game-changer for growing brands stuck at a certain stage of growth thanks to the visibility and efficiency they bring – and one of our preferred platforms is Unleashed, which we’ve found delivers the latter and excels at the former.
But inventory software won't suit everyone. In part one of this two-part article, we looked at when a business needs a tool like Unleashed, and unpacked some of the pain-points that make the move a good idea.
Here, in part two, we’ll look at who benefits the most from inventory software – the business models as well as particular sectors – and call out some of the specific features that help them.
Fast-growth e-commerce brands
Operating in one of the most demanding business environments, fast-growth e-commerce brands face added complexity and pressure thanks to:
- High customer expectations.
- High levels of competition.
- Often slim unit economics.
- More complex technical set ups – systems need to work both internally, and externally with logistics partners, outlets and suppliers.
For growing e-commerce businesses, one of the most important daily touchpoints with inventory software is sales order management. Running multiple e-commerce stores is now commonplace, as is operating a hybrid retail and/or wholesale mix, all of which demand a high level of synchronicity around inventory and fulfilling sales.
Using Unleashed as the master sales order system lets e-commerce brands serve all sales channels from a single inventory record, ensuring accuracy and efficiency. Unleashed also integrates well with third-party systems like 3PLs and big retail partners thanks to a robust API.
The competitive advantage of visibility
Finally, clarity on margins is also critical for fast-growth e-commerce brands, especially when serving different territories, with different tax and fulfilment costs – and this is another key strength of Unleashed. Having easy-to-access margin information makes for faster, smarter decision-making and maximises your competitiveness if offering the best possible price is crucial to making sales.
Wholesalers and distributors
Good software is a no-brainer for B2B firms that manage inventory at scale. Critical features that wholesalers and distributors need include:
- The ability to automatically breakdown large purchases into saleable units – e.g. pallets to bottles.
- Bundling – being able to sell groups of items without physically moving them within the warehouse.
- Multiple warehouses on the same system without additional cost.
- Buying and selling across various currencies.
- Easy connections to logistics and e-commerce partners.
- Built-in B2B sales portals.
The lead time issue
Long lead times are common for wholesalers and distributors, with bulk shipments often arriving by sea. For firms like this two recent additions to Unleashed’s capabilities are particularly attractive:
- Demand planning – giving the ability manage inventory levels according to sales forecasts and variable lead times.
- Built-in CRM – giving the ability to plan and purchase in response to a sales pipeline, with a continuous workflow.
Finally, the classic use-case for inventory software is for manufacturers, especially light manufacturing like brewing, furniture making, food & beverage, and medical equipment.
Here the key feature is getting inventory visibility through what manufacturers call a ‘bill of materials’ – the document that records all the different parts, products and packaging that goes into making a single assembled product.
If you make ten different types of chair, each using the same screws and glue, but in different quantities it quickly becomes an inventory nightmare receiving an order for a hundred of this and fifty of that.
Bill of materials inventory software like Unleashed solves that by automating purchasing for manufactured products.
Do particular industries prefer Unleashed?
Different software products tend to attract certain industries, through a combination feature-fit and word-of-mouth. Unleashed is no different, developing a loyal following in these sectors.
Food & beverage
Food and beverage firms live or die based on good management of short lifespan goods, which happens to be a strength for Unleashed. The key feature here is batch tracking, which allows the age of goods to be tracked and managed to avoid losses through spoilage.
Compliance with food recall rules is also a condition of entry for most markets for these firms, and a good batch tracking system provides this.
This is a fast-growing sector that thrives on features like:
- Stock-aware sales quotes – for sales efficiency.
- Margin tracking – to make sure quoted projects are profitable.
- Serial number tracking – being able to trace individual parts e.g. for warranties.
- Inventory optimisation/demand planning – with relatively high-value components the risk of wasting money on stock that doesn’t sell is high and needs to be managed.
Again, Unleashed is fast becoming a favourite tool for firms in this space.
Supplements, nutraceuticals, lifestyle and cosmetics
The last decade has seen an explosion in the growth of businesses that develop a great brand identity for lifestyle products – from face creams to ‘cannabis care’ products – that they market primarily online.
Usually, the manufacturing for the products is outsourced, but that still leaves the business responsible for procurement – as well as product expiry and compliance.
Add to that the need for good e-commerce sale management – plus tight budgets that put big ERP systems out of reach – and you have a prime candidate for cloud inventory software like Unleashed.