Inventory Management Macgyver: Getting Creative With Your Tools


For those of you too young to remember, MacGyver was an incredibly cheesy 80’s action TV show about a man who used everyday items to create tools to get him out of the sticky situations in which he’d constantly manage to find himself. He would always find a way to take the tools he was given and make it work. It was far-fetched to say the least, but I guarantee you’ll never be able to look at a paper clip the same way again.

See, just because something was designed with one use in mind, doesn’t mean it can’t serve another purpose. Computer code is a lot like that. A cell phone really is just a screen, a microphone, a speaker, and a computer that holds and processes data. But thanks to creative developers, it’s a personal assistant, an alarm clock, a news reporter, and a discussion forum (among a million other things).

Every day, we at Shopventory get questions on how best to enter and label inventory. Over the years, thousands of merchants have relied on Shopventory’s tools to manage and maximize their inventory, so we’ve learned a thing or two about managing more exotic inventory needs. Usually, that means taking your tools and getting creative.

Here are 3 Steps to Rethinking your Inventory Management:

1. Double Down

Every field on the internet has a character limit. Don’t hesitate to test it. Add more than just the requested information to one or all of those fields to keep things properly labeled and organized. When it comes to inventory, more info is usually better than less. Getting it right, however, is far more of an art than a science.

We at Shopventory offer three “layers” of differentiation: Category, Item Name, and Variation Name; but the fields do allow you to add plenty of info, so for instance:

Category: Shoes – Men

Item Name: Reedok X5 – Black

Variation Name: Size 10 – Wide

Variation Name: Size 10 – Regular

Variation Name: Size 8 – Regular … etc.

But there are any number of configurations for that exact same item. You could also do for instance:

Category: Athletic Shoes

Item Name: Reedok X5 – Mens Regular Fit

Variation Name: Size 10 – Black

Variation Name: Size 10 – Blue

Variation Name: Size 8 – Black … etc.

It depends on what makes the most sense for your business, but the tools are all there.

2. Get Serial

Serial numbers are a challenge, and a necessary one. Let’s say you can have a thousand of the exact same item, but each one needs to be tracked individually. In other words, using the SKU field is out… or is it?

Let’s say you’re selling Computers:

Category: Laptops

Item Name: Mapple MapBook – 15″

Variation Name: xxxSERIALx1xxx

SKU Number: xxSKUxxx – 1

Then, the exact same product with the exact same SKU number, but a different Serial number:

Category: Laptops

Item Name: Mapple MapBook – 15″

Variation Name: xxxSERIALx2xxx

SKU Number: xxSKUxxx – 2

All you did was put “- 1” and “- 2” after the SKU number. So you are still able to search for “xxxSKUxxx” and have that product come up. The SKU’s are the same, except for one character. The labeling is clear, and the serial number is easily tracked and added to your sales reports. Boom— Serialized.

3. Bundle Up (even for non-bundled items)

Have different price points for the same item? Maybe you need to track commissions? The point is, you need to be able to sell the same item differently. Using the power of Kits/Bundles, it’s a snap.

I know what you’re saying: “I don’t need to combine items, you fool! I’m still selling them one by one!”

First of all, ouch. Words hurt, you know. Secondly, you have to combine more than one item to make a Bundle… but no one says that second item has to be an actual item. Enter: The Bundle Builder.

The Bundle Builder is just a zero-cost, zero-priced item that allows you to create a Bundle. Think of it like getting a mannequin to sit in your passenger seat so you can drive in the carpool lane; except not— you know— illegal. (Per our legal department: Please don’t drive with a mannequin in your passenger seat).

But once you have a Bundle Builder, you can create a regular version of an item, then create a bundled version. So for instance…

The Item:

Category: Dress Shoes – Women

Item Name: Jimmy Choo Pumps – Wholesale/No Commission

Variation Name: Lacey Pointy Toe – Black

KU Number: JC-1234

Price: $775


The Bundle:

Category: Dress Shoes – Women

Item Name: Jimmy Choo Pumps – Retail/Commission

Variation Name: Lacey Pointy Toe – Black – Employee A

SKU Number: JC-1234 – Employee A

(+ the Bundle Builder)

Price: $900

Whether you sell the Item or the Bundle, they each get drawn from the same exact pool of inventory.

What have we learned today?

It’s what entrepreneurs learn every day: How to take what you’ve got— and make it work. We “computer people” are working our tails off, but with every solution comes a fresh set of challenges, and try as we might, we will never be able to code our way to a perfect world. So why not lead the way instead of waiting for us to give you the o

It’s not exactly neutralizing a villainous plot using nothing but a cotton swab and a stick of gum, but the spirit of MacGyver lives on!

For those of you who want to see tools like this help your business gain a competitive edge, check out Thrive for a full-feature 30-day free trial of our advanced (and not so advanced) tools.

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