In retail, inventory management is the glue that holds a successful business together. It sounds like stating the obvious to say that retail outlets depend on having stock available to be able to make sales. Nevertheless, having the right stock available in the right quantities is a more complex process than it sounds.

It takes sound judgement to know what to order and how to keep stock levels at an optimum. An order that is too small or placed too late risks not having products available, causing missed sales and leaving customers dissatisfied. On the flipside, excess stock ties up capital and leads to reduced margins when it has to be sold later at a reduced price.

Achieving the right inventory balance requires in-depth business intelligence and strategic thinking. Purchasing decisions have to be based on solid sales data telling you which products are selling and how fast. This must be linked to sound supply chain and logistical management, to ensure orders arrive when needed and stock can be moved from warehouse to store as required.

POS systems can play a key role in simplifying and improving how such data is processed and used. Here are four smart ways to use POS hardware to boost your inventory management.

Instant automated stock control

Linking your inventory management system directly to POS means that stock data can be updated the moment a sale is made. Inputting a SKU (stock keeping unit) at point of sale not only processes the transaction, it can also automatically change inventory records and accounts. Using handheld scanners or laser scan modules to scan barcodes and QR codes on each product sold, further automates the process for added convenience.

Intelligent ordering

Combined POS and inventory management systems can be set up so alerts are automatically triggered when stock reaches a certain level to warn that an order needs to be made. Beyond that, sophisticated analysis of sales data generated by the POS system can be used to predict demand for products in the future, helping to ensure that stock is ordered in the correct quantities.

Multichannel management

These days, the majority of retail businesses operate an ecommerce site as well as brick-and-mortar stores. A POS solution with software that links sales across all channels to a centralized inventory management system makes sense to ensure all customers, both online and off, are always kept happy. You want to avoid, for example, a situation where an online sale cannot be fulfilled because an item runs out of stock due to an in-store purchase.   

Integrated systems will automatically remove products from inventory the moment the last item is sold in store or online, and instantly send notice to stores to ‘pick’ a product when an online sale is completed.

Flexible customer service

Not so long ago, a customer’s request for a certain product in a different size, color or style could only be answered by a dash to the stockroom to search for what they asked for. Now, with a touchscreen POS terminal, staff have full inventory details at their fingertips, and can answer customer queries in seconds rather than disappearing for ten minutes.

For store chains, integrated inventory management systems mean that staff can instantly check availability in other stores or even at the warehouse.

Mobile POS terminals allow staff to answer customer queries before the customer approaches the register, using tablets to access stock and product data to arrange orders and cross or up-sell anywhere in store.