Features

Track sales and inventory more efficiently with this cloud-based management app

If you want to get serious with tracking sales and inventory, it’s time to put the pen and paper down

Photo by FreeStocks.org /Unsplash | Illustration by Edric dela Rosa

Imagine this: You’re running a retail business in 2018, and you and your employees are still tracking sales and inventory manually. By manually, meaning, with a pen and a notebook. Think of how, in the age of computers, the internet, and the cloud, such a system would still be prone to many little human errors. Or even big human errors. Since you’re running a business to make money, wouldn’t you think such a naturally inefficient setup will eventually lose you some hard-earned profits?

The issues and deficiencies that plague smaller, less-structured businesses are what local tech startup Product I/O (that stands for In/Out) wants to address with their software. Branded as an “advanced inventory management and retail system” on their website, Product I/O wants to make it simple for small and medium retail business owners—and their employees—to keep track of everything that flows in and out of their shelves and stores using either a smartphone or tablet, a computer, or both.

“What we’re trying to eliminate, or reduce to a great extent, is the possibility of human error,” says Ted Guayco, Product I/O’s operations manager. Guayco knows all too well how much damage even a simple mistake could make to a business, working part-time in a restaurant himself when he’s not helping sell the software. “We’re trying to make [running a business] a little more black and white with the system in place, where everything is already laid out for the users as well as the business owners and operations managers.”

Product I/O began its life as a tool to help sari-sari store owners manage their little shop. In fact, the software was initially called Sari Software Solutions. Even if you may find it hard to picture a sari-sari store being high-tech enough to use tablet and cloud-based apps to manage its sales and inventory, the company’s heart was in the right place. They wanted to help make these small businesses be financially literate beyond the mere idea of making money from selling wares and hoping for the best. While their intentions were good, they eventually realized that their software was better for SMEs in general, not just sari-sari stores.

Even though writing sales down on a notebook or ledger is technically real-time tracking, doing the math and looking at the big picture are usually done at the end of the work week. The software makes sure your data is always at your fingertips—all the staff has to do is remember to track.

“The best profile we could help out would be the brick-and-mortar retail pre-packaged goods since that’s where heavy, fast-moving items are better placed,” says Guayco. “However, we’re slowly tapping into the food-based industry, more of the backend, since food actually has a lot of other data needed—from expiry, perishability, etc.”

ON-THE-FLY INVENTORY

So what does Product I/O do better than pen-and-paper tracking? Their biggest selling point is how businesses can track sales and inventory in real-time on a database that can either be kept online or used offline. Even though writing sales down on a notebook or ledger is technically real-time tracking, doing the math and looking at the big picture are usually done at the end of the work week. The software makes sure your data is always at your fingertips—all the staff has to do is remember to track.

“A lot of businesses still rely on end-of-day reports, end-of-week reports, or end-of-week inventories,” explains Guayco. “As a business owner, I don’t actually know my inventory until it’s Friday or Sunday, where we’d actually close down the shop and count everything.” 

With access to all this data, business owners would be able to practice better habits (such as restocking before running out of products to avoid out-of-stock scenarios) and be agile enough to make important decisions (like stocking a particular product more because you can see, instead of simply perceiving, actual demand). It also goes without saying that real-time tracking prevents any loss due to stealing, and that transparency is pretty tempting for most people.

TECHNOPHOBIA

Given Product I/O’s impressive promises and benefits, however, SMEs in the Philippines are apparently still slow to turn to the software. Guayco mentions that despite the relative ease of using Product I/O, and even at an affordable subscription price of P600 a month, their user base at the moment is only around 120 clients. This is mostly because no matter the kind of business a client runs, their staff is generally apprehensive about learning a new system in the workplace, especially if it’s digital.

“Honestly, the main challenge is technophobia,” says Guayco. “It’s huge. Right now, I personally handle operations, but my main focus is on sales. You actually don’t need to sell it to business owners. You need to sell it to personnel, their employees. And if you can’t sell it to personnel, might as well not sell it at all.”

It’s especially harder when people are set in their ways. Even with the presence of the app, some may take longer to learn it because they’re just familiar with how they did things. Sometimes, the software bogs down the process even more instead of simplifying it. “For example, I’m at the store—this happens before, somehow happens until now—a customer comes in, buys something, [the cashier] writes it down first then puts it in the app. It’s so counterproductive.”

The Product I/O team’s belief is that beyond an actual system that helps businesses operate efficiently, the equipment itself could possibly translate into smarter management on the human end—even though it’s not on them to teach their clients how to do their jobs.

Despite this, the team is confident that more people would get it eventually. They trust the power of word-of-mouth, and they believe that as business owners and their personnel continue to spread praises about Product I/O, the more people will be interested to work with it.

Right now, as their user base grows steadily, the Product I/O team is working on bringing the app to iOS (it’s available for Android and desktop), as well as features like purchase orders, payment classifications and notes, and a dashboard makeover to put data reports front and center. They want to make sure that the app addresses most, if not all, problems business owners face, whether they’re in retail or F&B.

The Product I/O team’s belief is that beyond an actual system that helps businesses operate efficiently, the equipment itself could possibly translate into smarter management on the human end—even though it’s not on them to teach their clients how to do their jobs.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive all the tools and solutions entrepreneurs need to stay updated on the latest news in the industry

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.