Most ecommerce retailers don’t sell their goods exclusively online. Some have dedicated brick and mortar store space that they sell goods in day after day. Others only sell face-to-face on occasions like trade shows and local pickups. In any case, you need a way to keep inventory up to date regardless of how the sale was recorded. That’s why so many retailers are looking for a way to synchronize inventory to POS software and to their online sales channels.
Why bother with connecting your POS orders to your inventory management software? Think about the pros and cons of the alternatives. Manually sorting through sales receipts and deducting inventory based on them is slow, cumbersome, and prone to errors. On the other hand, using a shopping cart’s built-in inventory system leaves you at the mercy of their limited feature set. Shopping cart plugins also isolate inventory from other stores or marketplaces you sell on.
When to synchronize inventory to POS
Before discussing how to synchronize inventory to POS software, we should first outline why you may want to do this. There are a number of benefits to keeping inventory changes accurate wherever you sell, but your offline sales software is naturally a bit different from a Shopify or eBay store. Why bother connecting your online and offline channels for inventory management? Let’s investigate this through some common POS scenarios:
Brick and mortar store
If you sell products every day in a retail store environment, your POS software may be just as critical as your ecommerce channels. It’s important that everything work smoothly and seamlessly so that nothing gets in the way of your customers’ shopping experience. Smart inventory management is a bigger factor in ensuring smooth operation than you may think.
Brick and mortar retailers that also sell online tend to share inventory between online and offline channels. Some may allocate inventory to their storefront while keeping the rest in a warehouse. But if a shelf runs dry in the store, they’re almost certain to restock using inventory from the warehouse. Adjusting inventory manually to account for this is a huge time sink. Automating the exchange of in-store and online inventory changes can save your team hours of time every week.
Trade show or event
Do you sell from a pop-up shop or in a trade show? If so, you know how hectic a retail environment those situations can be. Your team is juggling sales questions, customer service issues, and order transactions as quickly as you can. This fast-paced sales environment is no place for manually adjusting inventory and sales reports.
To keep things lean and portable, you probably pulled a very small amount of inventory from your main store to bring with you to this sales location. But how did you record this inventory allocation and transfer? Did you deduct the inventory immediately as you pulled it? That’s not an accurate reflection of what you sell and when. You need a way to deduct inventory sold through your pop-up POS, and keep inventory counts accurate back at your main store.
Comparing POS software options
How you need to synchronize inventory to your POS software depends on what kind of POS software you use. There are a number of different types of retail sales software on the market. Each of them handle inventory and catalog management in their own way. Some software share inventory with another source, while others maintain their own internal catalog.
Dedicated POS software
If you sell goods face-to-face every day, you may consider using a dedicated POS solution like Square. These full-time POS packages offer the best experience for local sales, but often at the highest price. They’re a great choice for merchants that take POS very seriously and have demanding feature and performance needs.
Square and other dedicated POS solutions maintain their own product catalog and inventory counts. This means that when a product is sold, the inventory is deducted in that POS software but nowhere else. This can quickly cause discrepancies between the stock levels on the POS software and your other sales channels.
Shopping cart POS plugins
If you need a strong set of POS features but don’t feel the need to spring for dedicated software packages, the POS plugins built into 3dcart or Shopify may suit your needs. These solutions generally cost less than dedicated POS software, but may have some feature or interface limitations in comparison.
Shopping cart POS plugins connect directly into your existing shopping cart, sharing the same catalog information and inventory counts. This connection reduces the complexity of maintaining an accurate inventory level for your online and offline sales. However, your offline sales are still detached from inventory you are reporting on other channels, like Amazon and eBay.
Standalone POS with SKULabs
For online retailers that only occasionally sell face to face, or simply don’t need the extra bells and whistles that paid POS services provide, a simple and effective alternative would be SKULabs’s built-in POS functionality. Every SKULabs account includes the ability to place orders and charge cards via PayPal, Stripe, or Authorize.net. There are no extra sites or apps to log in to, and no added costs per month.
The SKULabs POS tool is unique in that it uses the SKULabs catalog, sending stock updates directly to the master of inventory. From there, SKULabs can already update the stock counts on every connected channel, without the added complexity of an additional POS integration.
Synchronizing POS inventory changes with SKULabs
Regardless of which software type you use, the problem is the same: how do you synchronize inventory to POS records as well as online sales channels? Built-in POS tools like those from 3dcart, Shopify, and SKULabs share inventory counts with their host catalog, while dedicated software like Square maintain their own counts entirely. These inventory counts need to somehow be kept in sync with your various online sales channels, and offline sales need to deduct inventory wherever your products are sold.
To solve this, connect all of your sales channels to one multichannel inventory management solution like SKULabs. That way, you can link all of your sales channel listings to products in a single unified catalog that will act as the master of inventory. As products are sold, whether online or in-store, the inventory level will be adjusted and pushed out to all of those connected channels.