Choosing the right cloud app for your requirements can be tricky. You need to ensure that it fits your unique business requirements, and helps you achieve your goals — that it delivers ROI.

Happily, we’re here to help. Follow these three steps to make picking the best stock management software simple:

  1. Evaluate your business
  2. Research the features you need
  3. Pick an app

Here’s a guide to all three.

Evaluating your needs

First up, audit your business to understand what to look for in your new inventory management software. Different solutions will suit businesses of different types and sizes, with varying goals, personnel and expertise.

Types of product business

Your type of business plays a significant part in deciding the features and functionality you’ll need from your software.

Manufacturers, for example, might want software that features serial number tracking to get complete clarity over their production process. Wholesalers and distributors, on the other hand, might care more about access to a B2B store — so they can save time by enabling their customers to self serve.

Find out more about inventory management for each industry including:

Manufacturers style=WholesalersDistributorsFood producersBrewers

Your main use case and business goals

Your main use case is the most significant achievement you’re hoping to make with your software. For example, it could be managing purchasing, stock or sales orders.

That’s an important consideration when evaluating software, but it’s a good idea to take your overarching business goals into account too.

Let’s assume you’re brewing beer, for instance. By moving to the cloud, you’re hoping to manage purchases better — that’s your main use case. But your overall business goal might be to get listed by a supermarket.

If you focus solely on finding a solution with a strong purchase management module, then you could end up with one that doesn’t support your broader business goal of getting listed.

Who’s going to use the software?

Next up, it’s time to assess who’ll be using the software. This is useful when looking at pricing: it’ll help you decide how many users you require as well as who’ll need training.

You might also want to consider user permissions or useful tools for specific teams. Your sales team, for example, don’t need to see BI dashboards or make stock adjustments — but they might benefit from a dedicated sales app.

Going digital? Get the Manufacturing App Playbook and pick the right apps for planning, production, sales, CRM and more

Integrations — what apps are you already using?

The last (but very much not least) consideration is the apps you’re using. Inventory management software can act as the core of your suite of apps: for instance, by collating orders from your sales channels and sending the relevant data to your CRM, accounting and reporting systems.

So take a look at all the apps you currently pay for and decide where you could save time by integrating them with your inventory solution.

It’s also worth thinking about what apps you might use in the future. If you think you might want to sell on Amazon down the line, for example, then pick an inventory system that syncs with Amazon for sales orders.

Find out more about Unleashed’s integrations with Xero, QuickBooks Online, Salesforce, Vend and Shopify.

Cloud apps vs ERP

Cloud apps and ERPs offer two different methods of managing your business operations.

Cloud inventory solutions are ‘best of breed’ applications that are designed specifically for the task of helping you make, manage or move products. Typically, a product business might pick a few of these apps for specific tasks: such as accounting, inventory, CRM or commerce.

ERP systems, on the other hand, are more comprehensive systems that cover lots of different aspects of your business. Instead of picking multiple focused solutions, you’ll buy a single package to manage everything.

This might seem like a powerful proposition, but ERP systems come with lots of downsides:

  • Many aren’t cloud-based, which means they’re difficult to install and keep updated. The cloud-based systems that do exist are new and relatively untested
  • They tend to be inflexible. You’ll have to redesign your business processes to fit the new software, instead of picking a tool that fits your specific requirements
  • You have to invest a lot of time into set up and training. Getting started with an ERP often takes months
  • You have to pay sizable upfront costs — often for functionality you won’t use
  • You also have to pay steep maintenance costs. Any updates or enhancements require an upgrade, or you might have to pay a consultant to make changes

Picking inventory management features

The list of features you can get with cloud inventory management is almost limitless, but can broadly split across supply, production, inventory, sales and reporting.

Purchase order management software

The purchase order functionality in an inventory system is designed to make creating and sending purchase orders straightforward. Once you receipt goods into the warehouse, cloud inventory software will automatically update your stock levels.

Some software also provides a platform to make your supply chain more competitive: enabling you to compare your suppliers’ performance, source components in multiple currencies and see the exact cost of each purchase.

Key features to look out for: Returning stock, buying in multiple currencies, average landed cost tracking, receipting partial orders, supplier management tools and reorder reports.

Production management software

Inventory management software will benefit any product business, but it’s crucial for manufacturers.

Not every inventory solution will come with an in-built production module. But those that do enable you to create ingredient lists for your goods and components in the form of bills of materials, control inventory across every stage of production, track your precise margins and plan future production levels.

Key features to look out for: Multi-level bills of materials (BOMs), assemblies and dissassemblies, batch tracking, serial number tracking, production planning, and auto-assemblies.

Stock management software

The stock management section of your system will show you precise levels of stock for every finished product you sell — and include features to help you keep an eye on where everything is located across multiple warehouses.

One particular area where lots of businesses find inventory management software useful is stocktaking. Perpetual inventory systems reduce your reliance on stocktakes for accurate figures, making the process less exhausting. And advanced features such as barcode scanning go a long way towards automating the process.

Key features to look out for: Multiple warehouses, barcode scanning, stock enquiries, minimum and maximum levels, stock counts and average landed costs.

Sales management software

There are two levels to the sales management features you’ll find in an inventory system. Standard features help you fulfil orders while maintaining accurate inventory data, providing an intuitive process to follow for creating quotes and orders — while automatically updating stock levels and margins.

Next-level features help you grow sales orders and revenue. A B2B eCommerce Store, for example, grows wholesale orders by enabling customers to self serve online. A Sales App, meanwhile, gives salespeople all the data they need to close, anywhere and anytime.

Key features to look out for: Split shipments, customer management, sales apps, B2B eCommerce, eCommerce integrations, POS integrations, customer pricing, quantity discounts, flexible customer returns, pick and pack, label printing.

Reporting tools

Don’t overlook reporting tools as you assess inventory management software — they can help unlock your business’s true potential.

As well as researching the reporting tools that come with each inventory package, take a look at how its integrations work. Combining data from several different apps can help you achieve even more with your reporting.

Key features to look out for: Forecasting, sales reports, production reports, purchase order reports, KPI tracking.

Choosing an inventory app

Now you know which features you’re looking for, it’s time to find an app that suits your requirements.

Researching solutions

First of all, find out which apps exist that might work for your business. There are a few different places to look:

  • If you’ve already got cloud accounting software in place, then take a look at which apps they work with and go from there. The Xero Marketplace or QuickBooks App Store, for example, have lists of options alongside customer reviews
  • Your accountant may also be able to advise on which apps are out there — or point you in the direction of someone that can
  • Independent review sites such as Capterra or GetApp can be a great way of seeing what exists
  • Asking the companies you work with which technology they use to manage their products and processes

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Comparing apps

Once you have a list of different options, it’s time to see how they stack up against each other. As we’ve already seen, there’s a huge range of different features and factors to compare here.

The value of an app doesn’t begin and end with its features, though. Before you start hunting for a specific solution, it’s worth taking a few other factors into account:

  1. Support. Different app providers have different levels of support as you set up and learn your new software — and once you’re fully live. A local support team, onboarding service and support forum can make a huge difference
  2. Price. Make sure to calculate the actual cost of each app. Most providers offer flexible pricing plans, so take the number of users, specific features you need and whether you want monthly or annual billing into account
  3. Reliability. Software that’s often inaccessible due to faults or scheduled maintenance, or that doesn’t fix bugs fast enough, is going to cause problems. Customer reviews can be an excellent way of spotting an app that isn’t running as well as it should be
  4. Updates. It’s also worth researching how often each provider releases updates — which with cloud inventory management won’t require any installing. Unleashed, for example, releases improvements every two weeks

To make comparing functionality across all the solutions you’re considering simple, download our free inventory feature checklist. It’ll help you refine your selection into a few final picks.

Picking an app

To understand whether an app might work for your business, you’ll need to experience it firsthand. So sign up for a free trial with your preferred software and start using it to manage inventory in your business.

By allocating a couple of weeks to trialling each solution with your actual inventory data — and getting the right staff using the system during each trial — you can be sure that you’re making the right choice.

Start your free 14-day trial now. All features included. No credit card needed. Sign up now

You can also set up a discovery call with an app provider. They’re a great way of quickly finding out whether a solution will work for you. Instead of trawling the provider’s website for information, you can get all the answers you need in less than 20 minutes.

Before a call, it’s a good idea to set out exactly what you want to find out. By now, you should be aware of what you’re looking for, so write down a few key questions so you get maximum benefit from the 20 minutes.

Book a discovery call with an Unleashed expert here.