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Tue July 9 2013 17:58:28

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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We posted the results of our Multi-Channel Selling Poll yesterday (Who Sells Where), and probably the number-one most mentioned thing in the comments that came in was about managing inventory; readers who sell on multiple sites find it a challenge to keep inventory straight. If an item sells on one venue, you need to make sure it is pulled down from the other venues...that is, if you do not have more than one of that product, or you do not have inventory managing software.

I was a little surprised more readers did not say they were using such software. And one said they were aware that software that did it was out there, but it didn't meet their needs. (Any developers listening? Sounds like an opportunity to me).

Here is a sampling of readers' who, when asked what their biggest multi-channel challenges were, said it was managing inventory. Then I'd love to hear from you how you manage this, whether manually or with some software or other system.

--

"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."

"Keeping the inventory straight. When you sell an item on one site having to pull it from a dozen others can get tough."

"Managing inventory. Updating multiple sites when items sell."

"Managing inventory is the biggest challenge when the same product is listed on 2 venues. Occasionally an item will get oversold, even though we try diligently to keep our inventory numbers up-to-date. The Reward is more exposure."

"Challenges: Keeping inventory counts correct and accurate. Spending nearly DOUBLE the amount of time trying to create and maintain listings." [This seller said they maintained only one inventory-control database.]"

"For any software developers out there looking for a project I suggest something for eBay, Etsy, and maybe an online storefront all in one package where it will take care of the inventory sync between sites. If it could also include OOAK listings for Amazon - all the better! There are many of us small sellers out here that could really make use of a software program like that!" [Are you listening, developers?]

---

EcommerceBytes also maintains a page with a list of Inventory Management and Listing Tools, as well as ratings, so if you are looking for such a tool, you can check there. Or, if you are using a tool already, please rate it there, and let us know about it here!

Meanwhile, I'd love to hear from more sellers about how they manage inventory, especially across multiple sites. Post a comment about it here!




Comments (18) | Permalink

Readers Comments

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

by: Digmen1 This user has validated their user name.
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Tue Jul 9 19:57:37 2013

I thought there were already a few programs out there that do this.

But may be they are too expensive for small sellers.

And don't forget it not very professional to list an item that you have only one of on several sites, what if it sells on all of them!

I for one would not mind listing items individually on multiple channel if they sold more often.

Its the lack of sales on the alts that is the problem.

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

by: NullApps This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Jul 10 01:43:37 2013

There are plenty of multi-channel inventory management programs out there.

The one thing to keep in mind is that it is impossible to keep your stock levels in sync at all times across all channels.  The only way you can ever guarantee that you will never oversell is to never list more than you have in stock.  Always split your inventory even if it means shifting from one marketplace to another over time.  Some software will advertise that you can have all your stock listed on all channels at the same time to maximize your sales.  They'll use buzzwords to call their software real-time, continuous, or instant.  No such thing exists or can exist.  Ask them for response times and whether they use a push or pull API.  eBay and Bonanza are the only marketplaces I'm aware of that handle both.  Amazon and Etsy both only support pulling the data which means they will have slower response times.

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

by: Digmen1 This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Jul 10 02:24:01 2013

And ebid.net does not have an API at all.

What about ecrater and rubylane ? Do they have API's ?

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

by: NullApps This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Jul 10 06:47:52 2013

eBid has tried to develop an API in the past.  I know 1 - 2 years ago I found a posting they made on oDesk looking for an engineer to develop one for them.  I never bothered with eCrater or Rubylane to know if they have one but I would doubt it.

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

by: nothingnew This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Jul 10 09:41:44 2013

I only sell at junkables.com

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 10 09:47:14 2013

I have never had that problem of being caught with out of stock. No software, but then I only have around 100 different items.

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

by: Trankin This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Jul 10 10:27:30 2013

We solve this problem at Dropship commerce through our middleware for a number of retailers and suppliers.  

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Jul 10 11:23:24 2013

As far as I know, ecrater has no system for using an inventory management systems. Some from ebay try to do a delete inventory and a re-upload to ecrater only to find that they aren't allowed to do such.

I handle more than one venue by frequent monitoring of email with sale information. So far no problems.

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

by: jagath This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Jul 10 11:35:20 2013

One of the most popular features in ordoro (http://www.ordoro.com/) is the automatic inventory sync across multiple channels. When you sell a unit on one channel (Amazon, eBay. Shopify etc), Ordoro will automatically reduce the stock levels in all the other channels where that SKU is listed.  

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

This user has validated their user name. by: thehosst
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Wed Jul 10 12:17:19 2013

There very few inventory systems that are affordable to small sellers, chances are that a custom made app will end up costing the same and will be even more effective because merchants need custom made services if you take into consideration suppliers, shipping costs, ecommerce platforms used and a wide variety of specific features. But for the big marketplaces, there are quite a few options, Monsoonworks ins one of them, I also read that ShipWorks was working on a similar app. We will see.  

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Wed Jul 10 12:54:08 2013

When I started looking at being multi-channel, there didn't seem to be much out there for managing inventory across multiple channels, and certainly nothing affordable. I haven't looked recently, so that may have changed, but I decided to build my own software to do it. It doesn't talk to any APIs yet, but I hope to incorporate that functionality soon. Maybe after I finish it I'll look at doing something to offer others, but right now, it's customized for my own needs and still has a way to go before it's complete. I have to split my time between building that and actually selling/listing, so it's taking some time to finish. Plus, it does more than manage inventory, since I also use it for building listings and tracking/reporting sales and tax data.

Part of the problem is that there are so many venues and other software packages that people use, that to make something generic enough for everyone would require losing a lot of the specifics that make it actually useful. I've tailored my software to my own workflow, but everyone works differently, so it might not suit what others need. I'd be interested to see what kind of features people would want in such a system. It might be a fun project to take on when I finish my own system.

I don't know how you'd work with any sites that don't have APIs, other than perhaps partnering with them to be allowed a hook into their system software. They might do that if someone were to offer to build software that would be useful for their customers. Something to consider, anyway.

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

by: NullApps This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Jul 10 23:16:34 2013

jagath's Ordoro is exactly what I was ranting about above.  It shows that you can have 9 on hand and list 9 on each marketplace.  It is advertised as preventing stock-outs which can negatively affect your rating.  It sounds nice and I'm sure it works most of the time but the site is completely silent on the inherent risk associated with using such a system and the fact that it is impossible to do that without eventually overselling.

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

by: Jake This user has validated their user name.
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Thu Jul 11 01:41:57 2013

There are great comments here. Some more correct that most may even know. I'm a co-founder of Stitch Labs. We allow for the syncing of inventory across multiple channels (Shopify, eBay, Amazon, Etsy, BigCommerce, etc.).

One of the first questions that should be asked is: What is real-time? Talking to thousands of sellers and technologists, you will get many different answers. We've heard everything from ''instant'' to ''within a day.''

There are also technological issues to be aware of that may make sync times for one application different than others. For example, Shopify's API is extremely well built and information moves very quickly as API calls are made. Meanwhile, the Amazon API is built in such a way that information has to be sent, updated, then returned, slowing sync times. It doesn't mean that Amazon's API isn't as good as Shopify's, it's just different. Amazon's scale is so large that they've had to build their infrastructure a bit differently than other platforms with smaller scale.

There's no one right answer, but being aware of the differences in technology can help any seller make a more informed decision about the tools they use.

With Stitch, our automatic sync times are approximately every 5-15 minutes. Sure, there's still a possibility of overselling, but unless you're sitting in front of your computer refreshing the page constantly, or decide to never sleep, that's about as real-time as it gets. One thing we always recommend is using the data available in our reports to make better decisions about inventory levels, so you don't ever cut it too close.  

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

This user has validated their user name. by: SparklingSisters
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Thu Jul 11 09:37:51 2013

I use Stitch Labs and I really like it.  It's not perfect but it helps so much!  I have more than 1,000 items listed at all times so I really needed help!  It was getting impossible to do it manually.

I used to have a lot of problems with items being relisted before Stitch realized it was sold out.  That was a hassle but it hasn't happened in a long time. They said they couldn't fix that since it was a timing issue with Etsy ... but they must have!  YAY!

I was lucky enough to be grandfathered in so it's free for me right now.  I'd like to upgrade and add other channels but IT IS SO EXPENSIVE for a little sole proprietor like me!  I just can't justify it right now, especially since it's not perfect for me.  But I do think it's less expensive than other options like Ordoro.

I can't wait until they add ArtFire so I can automate my inventory there!  Then I might be able to justify the monthly cost.

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

by: NullApps This user has validated their user name.
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Fri Jul 12 05:12:17 2013

@ Jake

I'm not familiar with Stitch Labs but I've definitely heard of it before.  Do you give your customers a safe option to using your software such that it is impossible to oversell or do you throw caution to the wind and hope for the best?  Is it really necessary to have all your stock on every marketplace at once?  Do you tell your customers the risk in doing so or do you assure them that their inventory is synced in real time and hope they aren't paying attention?

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

by: scview This user has validated their user name.
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Fri Jul 12 07:11:46 2013

I sell an inventory of 200,000+ items across several sites:
Bidstart.com , Playle.com , Delcampe.com , Webstore.com & my personal website Scartists.com.

To do that I hired a programmer to write a program to accept data from all the sites above that deletes any item sold from all the others. It cost $1,200 USD and was made to my specifications.

It works.

Creating such a program is not easy as all websites are different, some have API , some do not. Sold notices occur in different html formats or are only on the host site as a .csv file.

So you need a professional , cost effective programmer. Mine also designed my website and his email is at the bottom of my front page.

Sales are way up on all my sites. My programmer has also made a version that also includes Ebay for several of my friends.

They too are satisfied with the results.

Even with that software you still need another , a manual end-it program . Websites will have issues, If one is down for repairs or updates..you need the ability to ''rewind'' all your sold items for a set period through your software to ensure that items sold on other sites while one site is unavailable are run through that site to keep inventory correct.

I had that program made also.

Stefano Neis Owner SCVIEW antique Images & postcards

 

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

by: shopseen This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Aug 14 11:29:34 2013


Actually, this is something we're solving on Shopseen.com. It's an inventory management app that we're building which sends weekly business reports that show total sales across your stores (e.g. Etsy) and the top products sold per week. It's worth a shot and also integrates with your social media channels too. Try it out at www.shopseen.com/ (it's free for your first 100 products to manage). Let us know in our Etsy team about any questions and feedback you have!

How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?   How Do You Manage Inventory on Multiple Sites?

by: Skubana This user has validated their user name.
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Fri Feb 6 12:37:25 2015

Great article and this poses a lot of well-thought out and necessary questions.

Managing inventory across multiple channels seems to be the bane of existence for any eCommerce professional. Knowing what you have and when you have it is a must if you want your company to succeed.

Here's my solution to never under selling and over selling again. Skubana is a cloud-based all in one eCommerce software that covers everything you would need to run a successful eCommerce.

With Skubana there is no more underselling, or overselling. Your inventory across multiple channels is synced in real time all the time. You can now focus on growing your business rather then dealing with endless amounts of spreadsheets just to attempt to keep up to date with stock.

Skubana supports in-house fulfillment, printing your labels off the cloud, 3PL, Dropships and Multi-Channel fulfillment from Amazon Distr. Centers to your eBay customers.

Our 'Orderbots' will push your tracking to all the channels, even if you do multi-channel fulfillment from Amazon Distr. Center to your eBay customers.

Skubana has out of the box integrations with Amazon.com (US, UK, CA) along with eBay, Rakuten, Sears, Newegg. For shopping carts, we integrate with Magento, BigCommerce and Shopify. No custom dev required, no extra support hours to purchase, no massive contracts to lock you into.

We're currently accepting beta-testers and if anyone would like more information feel free to contact or PM me.

Jim
Info (at) Skubana.com
www.Skubana.com

Sync Everything....



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