How do you choose between DEAR Inventory, Unleashed Software, TradeGecko and Cin7? They all connect with Xero and QuickBooks Online. They all have roughly the same functionality. Look at their websites and the main difference is… the colour scheme.
We all expect our inventory apps to accept orders, post invoices, track goods received, apportion landed costs, manage multiple locations, run assemblies for light manufacturing, make suggestions on stock reordering and report on profitability.
So what makes one app better for us than the other?
It’s the little differences in software that make a huge difference to businesses. These are three critical areas in inventory apps that determine which app is the best fit for your business (or your client’s).
1. Nuances in functionality
While all these apps are comparable in functionality, they don’t necessarily do these things in the same way or with the same depth. They all have bills of materials and assembly, right?
Yes they do, but Cin7 has a concept of swappable parts so you can set up the belt with the gold buckle or the silver buckle and select the right option when you assemble.
DEAR Inventory can’t select swappable items but you can replace any component in the BOM with any other component whatsoever.
You can also enter a yield figure in DEAR and it will then spread the cost of the components across the finished goods. So you can take 105 litres of shampoo, assemble them with 100 bottles and 103 caps, and 101 labels and end up with 100 filled shampoo bottles.
Which one is better? Well of course, it depends what you’re using it for…
2. Nuances in integrations
Of course, you want to choose a solution that integrates with the rest of the apps in your business.
In most cases you will find that at least three of these apps integrate with your ecommerce platform, your accounting app and your fav shipping solution.
And if they don’t they probably will before you can blink. See the number of Amazon integrations in Australia and Amazon only launched here 12 months ago…
But what you need to look at is HOW they integrate. The nuances can make all the difference.
Take for example Xero’s tracking categories.
Unleashed doesn’t use them at all, Cin7 links a tracking category to a location, and DEAR can track any customer or sales attribute. In Xero, this means that at no extra effort you can run your P&L by location, type of customer, or sales person, for example. Pretty useful, right?
How come that information doesn’t show up anywhere on any of their websites? Beats me.
3. Nuances in reporting
The one task that forces businesses to resort to manual labour is reporting. Even after they implemented the best of breed solutions they just can’t find the specific report they are after, or they can’t schedule it. Or they need data from two reports combined.
Also, If your inventory system reports on sales with returns and your accounting system shows them as two separate figures, you are going to spend a lot of time trying to figure out the difference. Worse still is when your inventory app reports on the order date and your accounting app reports on the invoices. Or worse, they differ only in where they include credits, using the credit date or the date of the original sale. Imagine that…
I don’t get why they do not all align their reports. Honestly, you only integrate with a couple of accounting packages, so line up!
My point is that you should make sure the package offers the specific reports you are after, and that you are comfortable with what is actually included in the report.
When it comes to inventory apps, the differences between built-in reports and the ability to customise them are huge!
Most of the app comparisons published online fail to appreciate the nuances. They tick a box for a feature but they don’t talk about how that feature is covered.
So how do you find out? Well, you take each system for a serious test drive and you speak to people who have real mileage with that system. Online forums are great for finding these people.
One piece of advice: if you decide to engage an implementation expert at the evaluation stage, make sure they are familiar with more than one system, in depth. If they aren’t you are missing out on the nuances and could end up with the wrong app for your business.
Image credit: Samuel Zeller