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3 BI Secrets Your Inventory Data Is Dying to Share with You

Published on by Adam Bluemner

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Your inventory data wants to talk. And, here’s the good news: With today’s inventory technology, it’s actually not hard to help it get its way.

Contemporary inventory management systems are built to communicate. Consider the options:

  • Sales, purchasing, warehouse, and operations staff can now access inventory data in real-time from handhelds, kiosks, point-of-sale stations, mobile devices, and workstations.
  • Decision-makers can review analytical data through dashboards, reports, queries, charts, graphs, and automated alerts.
  • Data can be isolated or integrated, drilled down or drilled up, pulled apart and reassembled.

What's in the box? Who cares! Strong inventory BI features can provide much deeper business insights to sharp managers.

If you give it the words and understand the language, inventory data will tell you things. Your inventory data knows quite a bit, too. It knows every time a product or part moves—and where. It understands all the details and attributes of each item. And, it remembers all the relevant price points along the way.

Business intelligence isn’t just about the numbers. It’s about letting the numbers actually speak.

So what does your inventory data want to say? Consider 3 BI secrets your inventory data is dying to share:

1. What your customers want

Your customers have been telling you what they want with their purchases all along. But with everyone talking at once, it can be tough to clearly make out the main messages.

Your inventory data, on the other hand, remembers your product movement history exactly. There’s no guesswork or approximation involved.

  • Which brands are the most popular?
  • What colors or sizes tend to move?
  • What products do people buy in tandem (and consequently should be recommended for upselling)?

Your inventory data has the answers to each question—and many others. It’s simply a matter of setting up the right reports and implementing the right processes to consistently monitor the answers. With these answers, you’ll be in a stronger position to match stock to demand, increase customer satisfaction, and drive sales.

2. What really needs attention

Understanding what products your customers want to buy is important. But making sure you get an order provisioned and don’t miss a final shipment date for your top customer is both important and urgent.

In the product driven sales organization, one of the critical roles your inventory system plays is helping you understanding which tasks require action now.

Establishing relevant dashboard views in your inventory system can mean the difference in keeping your product-handling processes on track. The top inventory-centric reports for revealing which tasks require immediate attention include:

  • Pending RMA’s,
  • Items to be picked,
  • Items to be received,
  • Items to be shipped,
  • Transfers,
  • Work in process, and
  • Back orders for out of stock items.

3. How much you can expect to sell

Polling sales teams about expectations for funnel performance probably won’t ever go away as part of the sales forecasting process. But sales forecasting is a practice businesses have been trying to make more management science than management art for years.

For organizations that are serious about grounding forecasts with quantitative data, inventory product movement histories provide an invaluable data set. The reality is that data reveals patterns. And, patterns are what’s needed to predict performance.

To say it another way, one of the most effective methods to figure what you will sell is to consider what you have sold in the past. If that strikes you as an over-simplification, you’re not wrong. But what’s important to understand is that your existing inventory data can actually tell you quite a bit about the nuances, too.

There are many complicating factors that make the question of what you can expect to sell tough to answer. But taming complexity in forecasting is largely a matter of recognizing trends and applying them to your model moving forward.

Looking at inventory turns with an eye on their timing, as well as certain characteristics of the items themselves can help you quantify sales trends related to:

  • Seasonality,
  • Markdown and price optimization,
  • In-store positioning,
  • Geographic location,
  • And, more.
Adam Bluemner

is a Managing Editor at Find Accounting Software. He's been helping software buyers make informed investments in business software for over a decade.

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