A good inventory management system (IMS) is the backbone of any retail operation. Every IMS offers basic inventory tracking and order management functionality; some also offer more complex features, such as demand planning, e-commerce integration and data visualization.
However, it seems many software designers have ignored the words of Thomas J. Watson, the legendary CEO of IBM: “Good design is good business.” Despite how essential IMSs are for retailers, the market is still filled to the brim with poorly-designed, archaic software.
Thankfully, a number of IMS vendors heeded Watson’s advice and have stepped up their game in the user interface (UI) department, making the sometimes-tedious process of inventory management less painful—and much easier on the eyes. Below are some of the most modern, well-designed UIs we’ve seen.
One of the newest entrants into the IMS world, TradeGecko was born out of the frustrations of co-founder Carl Thompson, a former fashion designer who shut down his clothing company in 2011 after realizing he “was spending [the] entire day in spreadsheets doing mundane business administration.”
In 2012, Thompson launched TradeGecko with the goal of offering a clean and intuitive IMS interface for small-business owners. “We are user-experience-first, which I think is our biggest difference,” Thompson tells TechCrunch.
Thompson took issue with other IMS programs on the market that he felt had cluttered, confusing interfaces. From the “Inventory” dashboard, TradeGecko’s flat and sparse design allows users to easily visualize their inventory levels, sales statistics and order trends by doing away with on-screen clutter and only presenting essential information. And TradeGecko’s cloud-based platform means this information stays updated in real time.
In particular, the narrow menu on the left-hand side of the dashboard reduces the UI real estate being used for navigation, and poses no distraction from the data being presented when the user is on the “Intelligence” dashboard (which displays analytics).
TradeGecko's analytics dashboard
Flexible and versatile, Stitch has a deep breadth of capabilities, including real-time inventory syncing and multi-channel sales reporting—ideal for small businesses that sell through multiple outlets such as Amazon, Etsy and eBay. Stitch also recently partnered with Square, the mobile payment service popular with retailers and restaurateurs on the go, to offer seamless integration between the two platforms.
But all of that functionality doesn’t come at the expense of user experience—Stitch’s clean interface allows users to be able to integrate with other platforms in just a few clicks.
The intuitive layout of Stitch’s online dashboard allows users to easily monitor and visualize sales and trends, and its limited color palette and sans serif typography contribute to a clean and modern aesthetic. For example, the overview figures provided at the top of the “drill-down report” screen (below) provide a quick snapshot of the trends in sales for every product in a user’s inventory.
Stitch's analytics dashboard
Stitch’s “progress summary” feature also allows the user to easily track the status of all of the company’s orders by presenting all of them in a clean, spreadsheet-style interface that is sortable by the orders’ status.
Stitch's orders dashboard
Ordoro sports a flat, clean layout designed with one particular feature in mind: drop shipping, which retailers can use to automatically process orders to their wholesalers for customers. This allows retailers to significantly minimize the time they spend managing inventory, order processing and shipping.
Ordoro’s user interface makes drop shipping a breeze, by clearly presenting the entire process within a workflow chain that allows the retailer to readily access all new, in-process, shipped and cancelled orders right from the dashboard. This logical design is great for retailers who work with multiple shipping companies, wholesalers or manufacturers, as it makes navigating through complicated orders simple and intuitive.
Ordoro can also visualize order history, stock levels and financial figures, providing immediate takeaway information in a clear format.
Ordoro's analytics dashboard
Lettuce’s minimalist design makes it one of the most easy-to-understand inventory management systems we have seen. The stripped-down interface features a straightforward, easily-accessible navigation menu, with one big button up top that allows the user to fill out a new order in one click. From the menu, users can also easily visualize their sales analytics in graphic form (where Lettuce’s design and color palette really shine).
Lettuce's analytics dashboard
Lettuce also supports a customer-facing iPad app, ideal for retailers who need point-of-sale capabilities outside of their brick-and-mortar store. The iPad app has an interactive catalog feature, which allows customers to navigate through a mobile retailer’s inventory and place their order on the go. The grid organization of the catalog showcases the inventory at a glance, while the neutral backdrop allows the products to naturally grab the user’s attention.
Lettuce's catalog feature on the iPad
For the analytically minded retailer, Unleashed effectively visualizes all aspects of your inventory—and, more importantly, how much money that inventory is making you. The pie charts and graphs Unleashed uses make stock control and inventory visibility easy, allowing the retailer to quickly see new trends and sales patterns.
Unleashed's analytics dashboard
The interface presents a fair amount of visual information at once, but does so in an organized, logical fashion, with the most important options easily accessible from the top menu bar. And Unleashed is equally simple to navigate on the iPad, as its dashboard remains visually consistent between the two platforms.
Unleashed on the iPad
Let’s face it: Some of us enjoy working with spreadsheets (this author included). Megaventory succeeds at implementing an Excel-esque user interface that isn’t intimidating or overly cumbersome—while providing all essential inventory details in a clear, no-frills way. This system is ideal for retailers with large inventories across multiple warehouses, with a search function that allows users to readily find items stored at different warehouses and break down their stock levels side-by-side.
Megaventory’s use of alternating colors also helps break up the monotony of the spreadsheet interface, without being overly distracting. And analytics functions present data in the form of pop-out charts, allowing the user to easily switch between a visual or spreadsheet representation of their inventory and orders.
Megaventory's pop-out analytics
While there are a number of different inventory management systems to choose from, there are more than a handful that take user experience and design very seriously. If you think there’s an inventory management system with a terrific user interface that we missed, leave a comment below.