Inventory management may not be the most glamorous side of running a business, but it is one of the most important.

An inventory management app can be a useful tool for helping a merchant or restaurateur do just that. The challenge is picking the right one.

What is an Inventory Management App

An inventory management app helps you manage your inventory straight from a mobile device like a smartphone or a tablet. Getting one can be as simple as a quick download to your smartphone. Like any app, they typically come in free and premium versions. But before you go out and get one, evaluating your options is essential. For many businesses, it can almost be a waste to choose a simple app when modern POS systems already come with built-in inventory management functionality.

POS System vs. Inventory App

A modern point of sale (POS) system can do everything an inventory app can. In some cases, it might even save you money by consolidating several tools you’re paying for separately. Premium versions of inventory management apps usually go for about $50-$100 monthly. You can expect to pay about the same price per month for a full POS system that can manage your inventory and much more. Because of this, choosing a POS system over an inventory management app is the smarter choice for most businesses.

The Cost of a Point of Sale System

In terms of cost, your most significant investment will be a one-time purchase of an iPad or Android tablet to run your POS software. You can expect to pay from $400 to $1,200 depending on the brand and model you choose.

In addition to a tablet, a retail store (for example), will also need hardware like the below list to complete the POS system:

  • A Barcode Scanner: $50-$150
  • A Receipt Printer: $150-400
  • A Cash Drawer: $50-$200
  • A Credit Card Reader: $50-$150

 

Buying a full POS system instead of just an inventory app will cost more, but you get more out of it in the long run. A POS system helps you manage all aspects of your business more effectively; it doesn’t start and stop with inventory control.

Must-Have POS System Features

When looking for a system, make sure you invest in something that will allow you to:

  • Process transactions for a variety of payment methods
  • Manage staff
  • Run basic marketing programs (including loyalty programs and email marketing)
  • Manage customer relationships
  • Provide analytics and reports using real-time data and historical analysis

 
If you download an inventory tracker app, you’re going to need to buy several other apps to get the same business management capabilities that are natively built into a POS system. By consolidating tools, not only do you get the features you need, but you’ll also save time and money.

SEE ALSO: How to Manage Inventory In a Retail Store

Reports For Your Inventory
One of the most significant benefits of a POS system is that it can give you reporting and analytics tools that help you stay on top of inventory management, as well as a variety of other business functions. For example, your POS system’s reporting should cover sales performance, sales trends, employee hours, high-level marketing insights, and profitability metrics at a minimum. All of these can be used together to get a high-level view of your business. For example, loss prevention is an issue within most businesses, regardless of industry. If you’re managing inventory effectively by keeping an eye on your reports, it’s much easier for you to spot when quantities don’t add up. If you look at your employee management reports, you might notice that individual staff members are usually on the clock when things go missing, you can use this data to make the hard, but necessary decision to investigate and potentially discipline these employees.

Inventory reports can also help you get a better understanding of your supply chain and the different costs associated with it. You can track the various aspects of your supply chain like distributors, overhead costs, and inventory costs, profit margins per item, and more to help you understand where your money is going and where you can optimize costs. Some systems allow you to track this data across business locations and multiple warehouses, so you have access to all of your business information at one place.

inventory management app managing customers

Customer Management
Customer behavior may not seem like a necessary part of inventory management, but understanding what customers buy determines what inventory a business has. This is why it’s essential for a business to know its market and market itself effectively. A POS system gives you the power to do all of this in one place. Customer management software allows a business owner to keep track of their customers. You can know who your top customers are, how they like to pay, and what they’re buying so you can better market yourself to those who already shop with you. Customer management and marketing tools work together. As you monitor your customer shopping habits you have the ability to keep track of what alerts they receive.

Marketing
POS systems also have marketing software. Marketing gives you a better understanding of what customers want and lets customers know what your store offers. Outreach options like email campaigns are a smart way of reaching a mass audience and encourage people to walk through your doors. Once they’re there, you can begin to personalize your relationship with them to ensure they come back.

POS systems give small business owners the option to integrate email marketing tools. This allows you to manage your subscribers and monitor the discounts customers have already used. if you have a loyalty program at your store, offer it to each customer. You can sign them up quickly and keep track of that as well directly through your POS.

Emailing your customer their receipt is also an effective method. Place the name of your store, its address, even a logo and social media links as a reminder back to your store.

Gift cards are a branding and marketing strategy that gives potential customers a greater incentive to shop with you. People are more likely to shop somewhere new after being given a gift card. Plus, they’re more likely to spend full price on an item and may even spend more than the gift card’s value. They’re easy to display; just present them at the register for customers to see when they check out. You might even get some free money out of it. About $1 billion of the $130 billion spent on gift cards each year goes unused.

Marketing software is an add-on to your standard POS system. However, it is another simple installation process that doesn’t take away from the functionality of your system while it’s been installed. It’s an invaluable part of your business that gives you the not only the tools but the structure to properly execute a marketing strategy.

Inventory apps don’t even begin to touch on the benefits of a marketing program. Without one, your business is losing out on potential customers regularly. Inventory apps are useful for taking inventory, but POS systems do that, too. Easily get serial numbers and UPC codes for each item to help keep you organized. It doesn’t matter if your retail business is a brick and mortar store or online; a POS system handles inventory through various sales channels.

SEE ALSO: Email Marketing Matters: 5 Tips For Success

Taking Inventory with Ease
POS systems already have inventory management software, so there’s no need to have a separate app. This software gives you an inventory tracker, access to invoices, and purchase orders even if a business has multiple warehouses or locations. Inventory control can also be managed through different departments and categories for even greater organization.

Systems automatically update when customers make a purchase, and all the data about each area of your business is available to you in one place. You can quickly check what you have in stock, what just isn’t selling anymore and what needs to be restocked.

Completing Sales
You can’t have a business without sales, and that’s one thing an inventory app can’t do. A modern POS system manages your cash flow and is set up to take various forms of payment. The information from sales is also used to show you which items are selling so you can take control of your inventory and make the best decisions for your business.

Choosing a POS System

Picking the right POS system is more than just inventory. You’re going to need something that can be your eyes and ears when you’re away from your business. And you need a system that allows you to view aspects of your store from anywhere. Here are a few options for you to consider.

ShopKeep POS
ShopKeep POS is a cloud-based POS solution that gives business owners full control of their inventory. The system lets you manage thousands of items. You can handle large groups of inventory and inventory in multiple locations at one time. You can make sure all your best selling items are never out of stock by setting up automatic order “triggers” and keep everything organized directly from the POS. If you’re running a restaurant, you can even track raw ingredients. These reports are individualized so every aspect of your business has analytics to refer back to and you can cross-reference those reports to make the most informed choices possible.

Square POS
Square is known for its ability to make payments but has recently expanded to include a full POS system. Even though it is a cloud-based system, Square only allows you to manage your inventory on an iPad, and you can’t manage inventory from a smartphone.

Vend POS
Vend is another POS system that focuses on retail businesses and restaurants. Their inventory management system allows you to do many of the same things as many other systems. However, phone support costs extra so if you ever need quick help, this is something to think about.

A POS system does what an inventory management app can do and then some. To get a fully immersive experience for your small business, it’s best to have one system to do it all. Investing in the right system can make a small business more productive and profitable than ever before.

Kori Williams ShopKeep Content Writer

Kori Williams

Content writer, Kori Williams, brings a love of grammar and a journalism background to ShopKeep, the #1-rated iPad point of sale system, to create relatable business and POS content.