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With the curve flattening and unemployment numbers surging, statewide lockdown restrictions are being gradually eased or even lifted. Will we ever go to the business as usual, to the old normal? Most likely not. The pandemic has been a crash course in survival that no one enrolled for but had to take. Small businesses with their money tied in inventory and partially or completely blocked sales channels had to learn it the hard way. As the crisis hit, so did the realization -  we could have been more prepared. What is the most important lesson small inventory-based businesses learned during this pandemic?

Technology is a friend

When the consumer behavior and the market started changing so rapidly, it turned out lots of SMBs had no flexibility, mobility or tools to adapt.

1.    Their warehouse and sales teams appeared too rigid, too tied to the office, and occasionally too slow. That group of businesses were completely one-upped by those with technologically efficient storage facilities, barcode scanners, digitized transactions, structured fulfillment (shipment verification through picking&packing), and sales force equipped with software tools to process orders from the safety of their homes.

2.    Another pitfall was not knowing what products and how many of them were on their shelves. With inventory management software they could have just initiated an automated inventory count, audited the assortment, and the decision on how to go about it could have come to you more easily. As much as they are tiresome (though they are much less cumbersome when automated), inventory audits are a necessity and a source of knowledge about your main asset that makes businesses more responsive to the market’s climate.

3.    Accurate and fast fulfillment was simply too much to ask of some businesses who saw a massive demand surge, but could neither scale to accept more order, nor ship properly. If they had been using some inventory control app with automated order fulfilment, they might have just had to purchase an additional barcode scanner and repurpose their team to start picking and packing orders growing in volume.

4.    With all the social distancing, SMBs had to send their staff home but keep them operational. That is, warehouse workers, a purchasing team, sales reps, accounting personnel, and the business owner needed to be in different places but fully aligned in what they knew was going on with orders, customers, purchases, sales, payments, etc. Again, a cloud-based inventory management system with 24/7 access to data and real-time updates might have been the only feasible way to pull that off.

5.    Too few or no automated areas in their operations led to business owners having to concentrate on here and now, constantly checking, verifying, catching discrepancies - in a word doing the busywork instead of focusing on the big picture. Automation strengthens your business from inside out, especially during the crisis.

When times get hard, you have to take tough calls but whether to use technology is not one of them. Research and evaluate software options that will become your ally in reopening and leading your company forward in the changed business environment.


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