Multichannel Inventory Sync: How to Do It (+3 Tools)

March 12, 2024
5 mins
Multichannel Inventory Sync: How to Do It (+3 Tools)

Are you an ecommerce business leader that sells (or is hoping to sell) through multiple channels?

You've likely already encountered a big pain point: multichannel inventory sync.

It presents a paradox of sorts.

To grow your business and drive more revenue and customer growth, you need to expand to new channels, retailers, and markets.

But to sell in new channels and through new retailers, you incur a "complexity cost."

Each new channel involves extra data management when it comes to order syncing, shipping and fulfillment. The simple (yet difficult) challenge is syncing your inventory across each active sales channel.

What Is Multichannel Inventory Sync?

Multichannel inventory sync is a process by which real-time product quantities are shared across multiple ecommerce channels.

Imagine, for a second, that I make koozies for iced coffee.

Certainly, I can sell these direct-to-consumer on my website. But nowadays, for most brands, that hamstrings your overall market opportunity when it comes to reaching new customers.

So I explore my options for selling on other platforms and retailers.

I identify Amazon, Faire, and a retail partnership with Whole Foods for my new sales channels.

Now, let's say I have 100 units of one of my items. If I'm only selling on my website, inventory management is easy.

But when I start to expand to new channels, it's challenging to divide the inventory accurately. Could I, for example, simply decide upfront to sell a fixed quantity on each platform:

  • 20 units on Amazon
  • 40 units on Faire
  • 20 units for Whole Foods
  • 20 units DTC on my website

Technically, I could do this but I may then be missing out on potential sales. If, for instance, demand is much higher than 20 units on Amazon (let's say 40 people wanted to buy instead of 20), I effectively lose these sales.

So you could just say, "I'll list 100 units on all platforms."

But then you could end up overselling due to lack of inventory syncing. This results in poor customer experience, shipping delays and ultimately customer dissatisfaction. Plus, a headache for you.

Multichannel inventory syncing solutions ensure that customers (and you) always have access to up-to-date information about products they’re interested in purchasing.

It also helps ecommerce brands save time because it eliminates the need for them to manually update each platform with regular inventory changes.

3 Common Problems When Syncing Inventory Across Multiple Sales Channels

Before walking through the challenges of syncing inventory across multiple channels, let's look at the huge problems that occur if you *don't* do this.

The big three problems include:

  1. Overselling
  2. Overstocking
  3. Bad customer experience (shipping delays, flawed communications, etc.)

1. Overselling

Here's a fun fact: stockouts cost sellers an estimated $1 trillion each year.

Additionally, roughly 8% of small businesses don’t track their inventory, and another 14% do it manually.


Imagine the disappointment of spending hundreds of dollars to get a potential customer to your website, and convincing them to buy, only to drop the ball at the last minute due to the product being out of stock.

Even worse...imagine they DO purchase on a 3rd party retailer's website and you don't actually have the item in stock. 

You can't fulfill the order. You have to scramble to procure more product. You need to add that time to the normal shipping time. And you end up with a delay of several weeks - and a potentially burned relationship with a new customer.

2. Overstocking

Overstocking inventory might seem like the better option for inventory control, but it comes with its own set of problems. You end up with Idle inventory just sitting in your warehouse or worse, inventory that you have to heavily discount to clear out. You incur additional costs in storage fees and increased insurance rates. And if you have a high SKU count, there’s no way you can afford to overstock. All these issues restrict your ability to invest in future products and growth initiatives.


3. Bad customer experience

When inventory isn’t synced up across e-commerce channels, customers may be given incorrect or outdated information. This can result in orders arriving late or never arriving at all.

With a manually managed inventory system your inventory is almost always out-of-date. It’s likely you’ll make mistakes and could end up accepting payments for something that’s actually out of stock.

For instance, a customer might place an order on your website and expects delivery within a certain timeframe. The problem is the inventory isn’t in the right place to fulfill the order. It becomes a backorder…but after the sale so the customer’s experience is extremely frustrating. 

It's not just shipping delays that can cause customer experience problems. You've also got to worry about customer communications and marketing.

When you don't have integration software to sync your various systems - ERP, 3PL, shipping and logistics, website, and marketing tools - sending accurate messages, promotions, and updates becomes unwieldy, if not impossible.

When many brands get started with multichannel sales, they patch it together with spreadsheets but ultimately, these challenges make it harder to grow your business.

3 Key Challenges in Implementing Multichannel Inventory Sync

Now let's cover the 3 key challenges most brands run into when first trying to set up multichannel inventory syncing.

When attempting to sync inventory across multiple channels, there are several common obstacles that people face. 

These include manual data entry, different coding for different retailers, and bidirectional syncing.

1. Manual Data Entry

Manual data entry is one of the major obstacles to proper inventory synchronization. It’s also the most common. 

This involves manually entering product information into each sales channel and order source. This can be time consuming and prone to errors. Perhaps when you begin selling in one sales channel like a single retailer, it’s easy enough to keep track of your inventory.  But when you add on new channels? You need to update inventory counts in each ecommerce channel so it matches your warehouse platform and accounting or erp system. What you really need is a system to automatically update inventory across all channels, online and offline, on a regular interval. 

Trying to manually track inventory quantities doesn’t just take tons of time; it almost certainly won’t be accurate. 

2. Different data coding

Different coding for different retailers is another challenge. 

For instance, the date format different ecommerce retailers use could be different. Or the pricing data structure. Or the name of the product. Or SKUs or UPCs could differ in different systems. 

All of this stuff gets complex at scale.

Different ecommerce platforms use different codes or formats for product information, so it’s important that the product listings are updated with the correct format in order for them to display properly.

3. Bidirectional Syncing

Some companies successfully extract data automatically from the source sites. However, they lack the bi-directional syncing necessary to close the loop. 

This involves syncing data between two or more sources, and making sure that any changes made in one source are reflected in the other. 

This can be difficult if the two sources don’t share a common language or coding format.

Often, a native integration will send data back to your source-of-truth for inventory management, but it won’t send it back to the retailer or marketplace where you’re selling.

Ideally, you want to invest in inventory management software that syncs bidirectionally and connects ALL of your core business systems. 

The Benefits of Multichannel Inventory Sync

There are several key benefits associated with multichannel inventory syncing:

  1. Increased accuracy – If you automate the process of updating product information and synchronize inventory across multiple sales channels, you can ensure that customer orders are fulfilled quickly and accurately, as well as avoiding any unnecessary delays due to outdated product information.
  2. Improved customer experience – Customers expect accurate and timely purchases, so having up-to-date product information available at all times will help improve their overall experience. This will also reduce the number of returns due to inaccurate descriptions or incorrect pricing.
  3. Faster order fulfillment – Automating the process of synchronizing data between multiple channels will make it easier for you to fulfill orders quickly and efficiently. This will help keep customer satisfaction high while reducing delivery times, resulting in improved customer loyalty and increased sales. 
  4. Reduced costs – Automation reduces the need for manual labor, saving both time and money over traditional methods of updating product data across multiple channels. This can significantly reduce operational costs while increasing efficiency. 

How to Sync Inventory Across Multiple Channels (4 Methods)

There are several methods for syncing product data across multiple channels. Some of the more popular options include:

  1. API integration – This involves connecting your sales channels with whichever system you use as source-of-truth for inventory via APIs in order to automatically sync product information. Yet some sales channels don’t have APIs so harmonizing inventory across multichannel sales will be difficult or impossible. 
  2. CSV/XML files – By exporting your product data into a CSV or XML file, you can easily upload it to multiple channels. However, this is manual and time consuming, though if you do this often, you can synchronize accurate information.
  3. Third-party software – There are also many third-party IMS (inventory management software) solutions available that automate the process of syncing product data across multiple channels. This is often the most efficient solution for large businesses with a high volume of orders.
  4. Manually – You can also manually enter product data into each channel, although this is usually the least efficient and most time-consuming option which is prone to the most errors. Don’t do this.

Multichannel Inventory Management Software

The best way to sync inventory across multiple sales channels is dedicated middleware software because it combines two of the methods listed above (i.e. API integration and third-party software). While it may cost more than manual data entry, the time and money it will save you is immense.

In fact, the time consuming nature of manual data entry prevents many burgeoning businesses from expanding to new sales channels due to the sheer impossibility of managing the new data processing and entry requirements.

Additionally, this solves the problem of bidirectional data syncing, which is necessary for maintaining data integrity and correctly identifying your inventory.

There are so many benefits from using dedicated software to synchronize inventory:

  1. Automate ordering and fulfillment processes.
  2. Decreased mistakes, inaccuracies, redundancies, and manual time spent on this work.
  3. Increase your multi-channel sales by allowing yourself to scale to new sales channels and keep inventory data accurate.
  4. Alert you to low inventory levels and out of stock items, allowing you to predict demand and keep stock.

More than just the accuracy and time saved, it actually allows to capture more revenue and conversions. 

For example:

  • When you synchronize inventory, you can display your ENTIRE inventory on all sales platforms, giving you the opportunity to get the most conversions from whichever channel has the most demand.
  • When you’re out of stock, you might end up purchasing products at a higher price, thus increasing your retail prices to maintain margins. With a good integration application, you can eliminate this problem, offer great prices, and source products more carefully. 
  • Increase customer satisfaction by delivering efficiently and promptly. People care about this stuff. This leads to increased customer retention, loyalty, and referrals. 

3 Inventory Management Software Options

Here are three options for inventory syncing software:

  1. Syncware
  2. Cin7
  3. Native APIs and integration apps

1. Syncware

Syncware is how multi-channel commerce gets done. 

It’s not just a multichannel inventory syncing software as it also automates the process of syncing orders, shipments, products & customers, and invoices between all your sales channels. 

It can be used to sync data from your existing systems such as ERP, POS, ecommerce and warehouse management systems.

Thinking about adding that sales channel but nervous about the extra time and complexity? Don’t be. 

Syncware makes it easy to connect systems, whether that’s Shopify, Faire, QuickBooks, WooCommerce, Netsuite, your warehouses, or something else (there are 200+ integrations).

2. Cin7

Cin7 is an inventory management solution specifically designed for ecommerce owners or product businesses.  

It is a cloud-based inventory and order management system that can be used to manage inventory across multiple stores, channels, marketplaces, and regions. With its inventory sync capabilities, users can keep their inventory up-to-date and accurately track stock levels in real-time. 

This is a great solution, but it’s more catered towards B2C ecommerce companies.

3. Native APIs and integration apps                

If you don't need the power of a full-fledged enterprise automation software, native APIs and integration apps are an alternative. 

These apps allow you to sync inventory between two or more systems with ease. 

For example, the Shopify API allows you to integrate your store with other channels such as Amazon Marketplace and eBay. 

Automating multichannel inventory sync enables growth 

As an ecommerce business owner, you should be spending your time focused on growth by adding new sales channels not updating inventory counts in various systems. As you grow, the power of multichannel inventory sync increases exponentially helping streamline your operations and increase accuracy across all selling platforms. 

By automating the process of updating product data, you can ensure that customers always have access to the latest information about products they’re interested in purchasing—resulting in faster order fulfillment times and improved customer satisfaction levels.

If you want to take advantage of these benefits, then now is the time to start using multichannel inventory synchronization. Learn more about Syncware here.

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