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Written by Derrick Weiss

Real-Time Inventory Updates: Critical for Ecommerce Sellers

Real-time inventory is a critical component of omnichannel selling. Without it, you're left unaware of the rapidly changing levels of your stock, and can't predict future sales, satisfy customers, or reorder proactively. Find out why you need your inventory to update in real-time right here.

Ask any ecommerce retailer what the most challenging part of selling online is and they are likely to say managing their inventory is the hardest part of their operations.

It can be tedious and time-consuming, especially if you sell across multiple channels or utilize various warehouses. While staying on top of your inventory can be difficult, it is also one of the most important aspects of running an online store.

If you don’t always have an accurate assessment of your stock, you will undoubtedly run into problems – overstocking products or running out of them – that are detrimental to customer satisfaction and your bottom line.

That’s why it is so important to have an inventory management system that provides you with real-time updates. Real-time inventory updates, that include all sales channels and warehouses, are essential to effective inventory control and efficient inventory management.

See how one SkuNexus client gets real-time updates across their organization using Magento.

What are Real-Time Inventory Updates?

In ecommerce, ensuring that you have adequate inventory is the name of the game.

If you have too much, you are tying up money that could be better spent elsewhere.

If you have too little, you run the risk of losing customers because they are unable to buy what they want, when they want it.

You can see how having access to accurate stock levels at all times is crucial. Real-time inventory updates will provide you with that information.

Having real-time inventory updates means that your inventory levels are automatically updated when there are any changes and that you can see those levels at-a-glance, in a single place (on one dashboard), across all sales channels.

Your stock levels will be immediately affected when there is an action to change them. Whether it's

  • products being sold
  • new inventory being purchased
  • adjustments being made to inventory
  • products being returned
  • or any other changes

you will see inventory quantities being updated.

Here is where the penny drops – real-time updates are accessible in one system that is accessible to any employee who deals with inventory. That means that every employee who needs to know what is going on with your inventory has immediate access to the information.

This not only keeps everyone on the same page, it improves efficiency and ensures that you continue to have satisfied customers – both of which significantly affect your bottom line.

Why You Need Real-Time Inventory Updates

Besides saving you time and money, having real-time inventory updates can save potential customers.

According to Internet Retailer magazine, more than 52 percent of online shoppers abandon their whole shopping cart when they find out that one or more of their items are not in stock.

That means that you could potentially lose sales on items you do have because you have run out of others.

If your inventory is updated in real-time, you'll know exactly when you need to reorder inventory to avoid stock outs, and can avoid becoming a part of that statistic.  

With some inventory management systems, batch updating is used - updating stock levels in batches at certain time intervals (every 15 min., 30 min., etc.).

This is simply too slow.

By the time your inventory is updated, it may be too late – you may have oversold products. This is especially possible when you are having a big sale or promotional event - like Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Here are some additional reasons you need an inventory management system that provides accurate, real-time updates:

  • It will provide visibility to all affected employees and partners (marketplaces, store website, warehouses, vendors, suppliers, dropshippers, etc.) across your organization.
  • It provides an accurate inventory count across all sales channels.
  • It provides accurate product variant levels (color, size, etc.).
  • It will eliminate stock outs.
  • It will eliminate overstocking.

How to Find the Right Inventory Management System

When you are looking for an inventory management solution for your online business, choose from the ones that offer real-time updates.

Additionally, it’s important that you find one that integrates easily with all of your other current systems including your ecommerce platform, marketplaces, point-of-sale provider, and any other systems you utilize.

Once you have decided on an inventory management system that offers the above, it’s essential that you test it – before you by it. Many providers offer a free trial period with their software. If you can, use that.

It will give you an opportunity to see how it works, how it integrates with your other systems, and whether it’s right for you.

If the provider doesn’t offer a free trial period, but rather a demo, take a look at that and see how long it takes for inventory to update when an order is placed.

It doesn’t hurt to ask the provider if there is a way that you can try out the system yourself, as some demos are staged or optimized.

Consequences of Working without Real-Time Inventory Updates

Now that you know what real-time inventory updates are, how they work, the benefits they provide, and how to find a system that works for you, it’s time to look at what may happen when you don’t have them.

Loss of Potential Customers

Online shoppers are likely to abandon their entire shopping cart if you are out of just one product.

They may not make a purchase at all because you didn’t have an accurate view of your stock levels and you over sold just one product.

Unfortunately, this may cause customers to not return to your store in the future.


We’ve all had that feeling in the pit of our stomachs when we let someone down.

Imagine that on a much greater scale. By not having the inventory you think you do, it’s possible to let down hundreds of customers who have paid for products that you simply don’t have in stock.

Bad Customer Experience

You won’t create loyal, repeat customers when they see a bright red “out of stock” notification on your product pages. What is even worse is when a customer finds the product they want, makes a purchase, only to be notified that you don’t have that product in stock.

Marketplaces May Penalize You

Some marketplaces, like Amazon, may penalize you if you run out of stock. And it gets even worse if there is a customer complaint that a product that appeared to be in stock on your page actually wasn’t.

Make Sure You Have Real-Time Inventory Updates

To sum it all up, real-time inventory updates will save money, increase product visibility, create strong and accurate inventory control, and most importantly, provide your shoppers with the best possible customer experience.

Finding the right inventory solution for your business is key to your success.

See how one SkuNexus customer gets real-time inventory insights using SkuNexus, or schedule a demo with us to see the platform in action.

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