February 15, 2021

You’ve finally done it. You’ve created your brand, built your WooCommerce store, and loaded your inventory. As the orders begin to come in month after month, you’ve realized that you can make a lot more money if you keep your manufacturing costs down and keep inventory levels consistent. You’re also probably starting to cash in on some other channels like Amazon.com, and you’re struggling to keep inventory numbers synced between Amazon and your website. Then it hits you, wouldn’t it be nice to manage everything in one place? That’s where advanced WooCommerce inventory management can change the game.

If you’re selling one or two products with WooCommerce, keeping track of inventory is simple. If you’re selling multiple items or multiple variations, keeping track of inventory is slightly more complex. If you’re selling across multiple channels or trying to keep track of manufacturing costs and supplier shipments, it’s time to start thinking about more sophisticated ways to manage your WooCommerce inventory.

What is WooCommerce inventory management?

In reality, inventory management with WooCommerce isn’t about a particular product, it’s about discipline. It’s the rigor, process, and procedure you put towards keeping track of costs, knowing when to replenish products, and keeping inventory numbers synced between multiple channels. It’s a more sophisticated way to think about planned and on-hand inventory when your store is enjoying success and you’re looking for the next optimization point.

Sound like something you need? Implementing an inventory management plan is easier than it’s ever been due to the emergence of a handful of great third-party providers and plugins.

Native vs third-party WooCommerce inventory management

The most important thing to decide before implementing an inventory management process is which system will be the point of truth when it comes to product facts (quantity on hand, price, shipping dimensions, etc). Your choice will likely be driven by which suppliers, marketplaces, and dropship providers work well with your platform. Third-party providers often have a lower entry price point and fewer integration points. Conversely, when using WooCommerce as the source of truth, the entry price point for an inventory management plugin can be higher and the number of integration points can be greater.

Third Party Source of Truth

When integrating with a third party, pay special attention to exactly how the integration will work. When the status of an order changes in the inventory management system, will it change on the WooCommerce store too? When products are disabled in the inventory management system will they be removed from the store? How are statuses related between the two platforms? Being well acquainted with these answers will make integration easier and will result in fewer gotchas down the road.

Two of my favorite third-party property management systems are TradeGecko (now called Quickbooks Commerce) and SellBrite. While pricing of these third-party options can look attractive, make sure to calculate the true cost of implementing these solutions based on your current and projected sales.

WooCommerce as a Source of Truth

Using WooCommerce as your inventory and order source of truth means deeper integration with WooCommerce and more potential for extending functionality and building new tools. It also may mean having fewer options when it comes to inventory management solutions. Because inventory management is a plan, not a product, make sure to let the source of truth decision drive your selection of tools. For WooCommerce native inventory management, ATUM Inventory Management and WOOBE WooCommerce Bulk Editor are solid options.

A quick note on multi-channel distribution

You’ll often see multi-channel distribution bundled as a feature with many third-party inventory management systems. Multi-channel distribution helps to broaden the reach of your store’s products by making it easy to list on larger marketplaces. For instance, you might choose to sell on your WooCommerce store while also selling on Amazon.com. Each selling platform is considered a channel. Since inventory management systems have the keys to your product details and inventory, it’s just a quick hop to enable them to send inventory to and list on other selling channels. While selling on these platforms can be technically easy, make sure to read about the terms and costs associated with each channel.

Whether you’re just starting to look for an inventory management solution or you’re looking for a change, remember to keep your list of business needs front and center. With the many options available in the market, it’s easy to get distracted with fancy features and snazzy integrations. Those extras are always within reach when it’s time. For now, solve the immediate management needs of your business, and reach out anytime if you need some advice.

Mendel Kurland
Mendel Kurland

Mendel is the Agency / Developer Advocate for WooCommerce at Nexcess and a WooCommerce & WordPress expert. He loves helping store builders solve complex problems for their clients.

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