How to Manage Inventory Across Multiple Sites

It almost goes without saying that one of the main goals of running an e-commerce site is to increase sales and be successful. In this day and age, though, it can be a little difficult to manage such a feat. With the need to maintain visibility, be alluring, and increase profits, among other things, it may seem like you're working with the cards stacked against you. Chances are, you know the deal and you want to give yourself as many chances as possible. Let's say you want to try your hand at selling across multiple sites, such as Etsy, eBay, or Amazon. The trickiest part would be to keep track of inventory. Needless to say, there are several ways one could manage inventory across multiple sites.

The Hard Way

What I refer to as the hard way consists of you, the store owner, keeping track of inventory on your own. Whether it be by hand or in some spreadsheet, you're doing the dirty work. You know how much inventory you have sold from each site, but each individual site that you're selling on does not. This could lead to a potentially sticky situation. If the sites are not aware of your inventory levels, how will they know when you've run out of stock so they can stop selling the item? They won't know unless you alert them. If you don't alert them, they will continue to list the item for sale.

Allow me to put it in perspective for you. This is what a store owner actually said about managing inventory this way:

"The biggest challenge is inventory. If you only have 1 or 2 of an item, but list them in 3 or 4 places, there is sometimes a sold-out item resold, which is not good for customer relations."

This is a store owner doing it the hard way and has run into an issue of items being sold out. I am sure that they tried to make sure this didn't happen, but it was inevitable.

One might say that you could allocate a specific amount to each site. Yes, you could, but it would also hamper your ability to sell the product altogether. Say you have 10 of an item and you only allocate 5 to two sites that you're using. It sells out on one store, but not the other. Sure you could just transfer the remainder of the stock to the other site and remove the listing from the site that isn't selling but that defeats the purpose of you listing on multiple sites. Even if this one product isn't doing so well, it doesn't mean all of your products will be like that.

Allocation could work if all sites sell equally, but, again, you're doing the dirty work. You have to allocate the correct amount. Do it wrong and you're still hindering yourself and your company.

The Easy Way

The easy way is quite simple. Software exists for you to use so that you can sell across multiple sites. It does all of the dirty work for you. Managing inventory is the missing piece to this giant jigsaw puzzle that is multi-channel listing.The trick is that you need to sync all of your inventory across all of these channels. There are several sites out there that will do all of this for you. Here are just a few of them:

  1. Multiorders
  2. Expandly
  3. Sellbrite
  4. Inkfrog
  5. Zentail

Many of these sites understand that pricing may be a concern for many store owners. The five that I have listed above have a free trial/demo period so you can try them out first. After the trial period, they have different packages depending on the size of your business and orders. For example, Multiorders has a package that starts at $36 per month! Granted, this would be more geared towards smaller businesses, but the price point is pretty good even for that. In all reality, since more exposure will likely lead to more profits, the cost is worth it. There would be more funds available for software like this.

This is what I call the easy way because these sites do all of the work for you. One of them will even ship the items for you. Because you can upload all of the information, such as images or product descriptions, into one place at one time for it to be used multiple times, you save yourself a lot of time. What is it the entrepreneurs always say? "Time is money." If you're saving time with this option, you're saving money.

The Takeaway

It's not impossible to accomplish this feat without utilizing additional software or third party help, but it is significantly difficult without it . The benefit of these sites (and others like them) is that they help ensure exposure while increasing profitability. If your brand becomes synonymous with "out of stock," that will only diminish your business and your sales. By incorporating this software, your time could be better suited for other tasks that need more attention.

It can seem like a lot to add, but the more successful and complex your business becomes, the more tools you will need to keep it functioning efficiently. Imagine if we used older, less efficient tools in our everyday lives. It would make things more difficult right? Think about when you decide to upgrade your phone or your car. The thought process that goes into why you feel you need new specs. Your business, your baby, is no different.

Tags: inventory management, ecommerce, ecommerce tips