POS Integration Pt 2: Inventory Updates
This is the second most common reason online merchants want to connect their accounting systems to the web store. I wouldn’t be writing about it if it didn’t have its own issues.
What happens at zero?
The question seems simple enough but it leads to deeper questions specific to eCommerce that many merchants haven’t thought about.
Many retail merchants can get quick restocking from suppliers. Many of these merchants want to keep items for sale regardless of current inventory. Manufacturers can frequently adjust production and fill orders with a few days. In both of these cases inventory integration is pointless because actual inventory levels do not affect the shopper.
One client who ran a chain of sporting goods stores integrated their inventory but had a rule set up that stopped displaying items when there were less than 5 units in their chain. As the chain and web sales grew, we gradually increased the number. They eventually implemented some complex programming to adjust inventory counts and availability based on a number of rules including location and recent sales velocity.
Still other merchants want to do a bit of everything; some items come off the site entirely at zero; some keep selling regardless of actual inventory; and others alert the shoppers to a “back-order” status so the shopper can decide to order and wait, or choose another product. Your site requires careful setup to ensure that all of these options can be accommodated.
Are your numbers accurate?
Then we have the issue of inaccurate data. Can anyone find those last two units in the warehouse or have they vanished? It is pretty much guaranteed that if you have items on your web site that have long been unavailable from most suppliers you will get order for those items. If your POS still says you have one or two and keeps them for sale on your site, you are going to frustrate shoppers. Clean up your data and you shouldn’t have any problems.
What schedule makes sense?
Finally, once we have those issues sorted out, we need to look at how often the integration should take place. Daily? Hourly? Weekly? The right answer depends on your transaction volume on and offline as well as your inventory levels.
Once again, planning ahead and limiting the exceptions will help your developer get the job done quickly with the least amount of turmoil.