Unlock Ecommerce Growth with Inventory and Warehouse Management Systems
As your ecommerce business grows and evolves, your inventory tracking methods need to grow and evolve, as well. Logistical tasks that were initially the responsibility of a single person or a very small team can suddenly require more help. Failing to recognize this need can cause your growth to stall and your competitors to pass you by.
One of the most important elements of a successful ecommerce business is customer satisfaction. Late shipments, fulfillment errors, and missing orders can lead to negative reviews that damage your company’s reputation and even result in account suspensions on third-party marketplaces. Logistical quality control matters.
Integrating an inventory management system (IMS) can help streamline the flow of your stock from supplier all the way through delivery – a true end-to-end tracking for every piece of merchandise that can keep everyone in your business on the same page and keep your customers satisfied.
Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) take things a step further. As your ecommerce business scales, so do your logistical and personnel workflows. Managing your inventory becomes as much about optimizing the physical organization and movement of goods and employees as it is about tracking products. That’s where integrating a WMS on top of your IMS comes into play. Just as an IMS provides a unified platform for locating and tracking items, a WMS connects and tracks all the complex processes that go into a high-functioning warehouse.
Given the stakes, there are several key considerations you can’t afford to overlook when weighing your IMS and WMS options.
Choosing the Right Inventory Management System for Now and the Future
At the most basic level, an IMS allows you to track how much stock you have and where each piece is located. Centralizing this information in a single, intuitive platform eliminates cumbersome alternatives like juggling spreadsheet revisions and shared network drive access.
That said, an effective IMS can provide useful benefits beyond record keeping. More sophisticated ecommerce IMS platforms include beneficial omnichannel features like:
- third-party marketplace integrations
- catalog management
- low stock alerts
- predictive purchasing
- multi-warehouse tracking
- returns processing
- profit & loss (P&L) recording
- customizable shipping rules
Having these elements available in a single, real-time IMS platform can make it simple to keep everyone in your company on the same page. Taken further, opting for a cloud-based IMS means everyone – no matter how large or small your team may be – can reliably access the same data and same interfaces to keep your ecommerce business running smoothly.
While you may not need every feature an IMS has to offer right out of the gate, the more complete the package, the less likely you will need to continually tack on additional software integrations and/or migrate to entirely different platforms as your business scales.
Using a Warehouse Management System to Simplify the Complexities of Logistical Workflows
The larger your inventory and workforce becomes, the more challenging it gets to keep everything running as quickly and smoothly as possible. WMS systems provide additional layers of functionality beyond the tracking and data-driven protocols of an IMS platform. A reliable WMS can direct, measure, and help optimize all the operational elements of product movement and employee direction.
For example, a WMS can transform the way your warehouse workers pick, pack, and ship items. Pick-to-light pack-to-light technology creates a foolproof workflow that makes it easy to ensure that every order’s items are located quickly and packed correctly to ship to your customers.
WMS platforms can also optimize receiving protocols for both new stock and returns – eliminating congestion and confusion at the loading dock.
As your ecommerce business branches out into multiple warehouses and fulfillment centers, WMS platforms become even more critical. The combination of company-wide, real-time inventory reporting and universal warehousing protocols can allow you to maintain granular control across all of the locations where your inventory exists.
While these logistical improvements come at a cost, a properly implemented WMS should both save your ecommerce business money and help spur growth.
The Keys to Selecting the Perfect IMS and WMS Platforms for Your Ecommerce Business
When it comes down to it, there are three key considerations when identifying your optimal IMS and/or WMS:
- Scalability – The decision to integrate an IMS or WMS is typically born out of growth. It stands to reason that the goal is to use these platforms to help perpetuate this growth even further.
As such, you want to be sure that any IMS you adopt now will scale to the needs of your ecommerce business in both the short and long terms. Again, while you may not need every feature an IMS has to offer today, keep an eye to the future. This also includes evaluating how effectively the IMS you choose may integrate with a WMS now or down the road.
Similarly, WMS platforms need to be able to scale, as well. The best options will allow you to seamlessly adjust products, SKUs, employees, shipping partners, and warehouses without the need for interruptions in service.
- Functionality – Not all IMS and WMS platforms are created equal. To start with, there are plenty of IMS and WMS offerings that bill themselves as either bare-bones or one-size-fits-all solutions. As an omnichannel ecommerce business, neither of these are ideal. As you surely recognize, ecommerce is its own animal – complete with its own needs, metrics, and complications. Even if you operate as a hybrid of online and brick-and-mortar retail, you want to be sure to select a platform that offers specific and useful features for streamlining your ecommerce workflows.
- Accessibility – The investment in IMS and WMS platforms, particularly at the outset, can seem daunting. The reality is, the biggest challenge is training. For systems like this to have value, all the stakeholders need to be onboarded. Ideally, the platform should be intuitive enough to keep required training time to a minimum, while also providing an immediate, demonstrable value. Having the most complete and data-driven picture of your business’s logistics and omnichannel presence doesn’t mean much if your team isn’t equipped to engage with it.
In today’s ecommerce environment, you need every advantage you can get. Investing in reliable, functional, and scalable Inventory Management and Warehouse Management Systems will allow you to keep pace with your competitors in the ever-expanding online retail industry.
Sellercloud provides robust tools that can meet all of your operational needs – inventory and warehouse management, publishing listings to marketplaces, order processing, shipping, and even reporting. We help e-commerce merchants optimize their operational workflow and focus on efficiency and growth.
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