Key Features of a Warehouse Management System [Video]

Pauline Shiu

|

July 2, 2020

downloadable version of blogdownloadable version of blog

The Glossary of Amazon Listing Errors

Want to save this for later? Download a PDF of this blog for easy reference later on.

Thank you!
Your copy is on the way.

Please check your spam or junk folder if you don't see it in your inbox within five minutes.

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Thank you!
Your copy is on the way.

Please check your spam or junk folder if you don't see it in your inbox within five minutes.

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Download Now
go to top

A WMS like SkuVault is, in many ways, a godsend for today's ecommerce sellers. Yes, that's a bold statement. But it's no less true, especially as a record number of consumers flock online, looking for alternatives to their local brick-and-mortar stores that now sit idle in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Between having the right inventory and ensuring quality control as warehouse employees work at breakneck speed, a WMS lets you stay ahead of the game. In the words of Kim Wren, director of business development at SkuVault—a WMS keeps you working on your business, not in it.

Learn more about the top benefits of using a WMS in this episode of "Ask the Ecom Experts." Hear Kim's recommendations for features to look out for, and a preview of SkuVault's upcoming tools.

Watch "Ask the Ecommerce Experts" Episode #5


The Full Transcript

Skip to a Section:

<div id="intro"></div>

Intro to SkuVault (0:01)

Pauline, Director of Marketing, Zentail
Hello, everybody. You have Pauline here back at Zentail. And today I'm really excited to speak with our friend Kim Wren of SkuVault, currently the director of biz dev. She has been with SkuVault for six years now. So awesome. Kim, great to speak with you today.

Kim, Director of Business Development, SkuVault
Great to speak with you. Thanks Pauline for having me. I appreciate it.

Pauline
Yeah, definitely. So, I think it's sometimes interesting when folks look at us and they ask, how are we partners? There's clearly a little bit of overlap. And so while Zentail handles kind of like the ABCs, if you will, of inventory management with general syncs between platforms and channels, we can also share responsibilities for kitting and bundling, things like that. I'd love to dig in more into the advanced features of SkuVault and really unpack some of the larger trends that are going on and what you guys are working on for the future.

Kim
Sure, that sounds great.

Pauline
Awesome. Nice. So let's see. In thinking of your larger sellers, what are some specialty features that they are turning to you guys for?

Kim
So a lot of times when we get into the larger sellers, things that they may be looking for would be a way to track lots— something that comes in and has specific lot numbers for recall possibilities, for ability to know what was manufactured when. They also—with electronic sellers, especially—they will heavily be using serialization and making sure that each individual item matches the item that was actually sold.So you're matching a specific piece of inventory to a specific order in that case. 

And then a big thing that we see is the replenishment report. So SkuVault has a pretty intense replenishment report that can help automate purchasing and help you make good, smart purchasing decisions. And this is something that we see a lot of our larger clients using, because on the back end, they can also have a vendor management set up. So as they're setting up their vendors, they can make really smart decisions making their purchasing easier, smarter, more intuitive. They're purchasing what they need and not over stocking their warehouse with products that they already have, or that aren't selling.

<div id="vendor"></div>

Vendor Management Tools in SkuVault (2:31)

Pauline
Nice, interesting. Tell me more about that vendor management piece. Candidly, I'm sorry to say, a surprise to me. I didn't realize you guys do that.

Kim 
Sure. So the vendor management piece came about because many sellers have a product that they purchased from a lot of different vendors and the sellers needed a way to track that. So the way that that works is that each SKU type can be tracked to multiple vendors, the vendor information is held in SkuVault. So we're keeping all of the contact information in there for each vendor, and you can manage within that. So if I pull up SKU ABC, and I have three different vendors that I can purchase from. As I'm creating a purchase order, my default will come up because I do set a default vendor for each item.

So it will show me that I need to purchase this item from Abel. As I'm making that purchase from Abel I'm looking at it and I'm thinking, "Oh, Abel's okay. But I don't get my product as fast from them. They have better pricing, but it takes 10 to 12 weeks. If I purchase from a different company, I might get my product in two weeks, but pay a few dollars more." 

I can make decisions based on what I need when I need it and how much I'm willing to pay based on my timing. And it's all held within SkuVault so that you can keep pricing updated per vendor, you can keep timing updated per vendor so that you know what the lead times are, and make those decisions for your purchasing.

Pauline
Really, really smart. That's awesome. And then so it sounds like for purchasing it's just really by way of purchase order, right? There is no like connection to each of your vendors or suppliers within SkuVault.

Kim
There is not yet. This is something that we will be working on in the future so that vendors would be able to make their inventory available for their resellers to be able to see what they have, and possibly make purchases that way. 

This is something that we could possibly see in about a year through our Business Hub that we will be introducing. 

And in that case, if you had a vendor who was in SkuVault and they wanted to make all of their inventory available, they would have the option to make that available for purchase. And our clients that...are connected to them would be able to see that, create that purchase order, get it over to them and be able to sell things in real time. So it could make that just-in-time seller have a little bit of an easier life because they would be able to see that inventory. And if they know that their vendor is only a one-day UPS drive away, it's very simple for them to look in one system and see everything.

Pauline
Wow, Kim, that is a pretty significant product, I don't wanna say pivot, but like an addition to your service offering. 

Kim
We're pretty excited about it...we're looking forward to getting it out. We've got a few other projects in the works that are coming before that, but our team is already working on getting everything set up and I know that they are working on the preliminaries of this.

<div id="qc"></div>

Quality Control Reports: Why They’re Important and How They Work (5:54)

Pauline
Very, very cool. I won't tell anyone, except for everyone who listens to this. Cool. Nice. So replenishment reporting, obviously yeah, really key for all the vendor management, POs, etcetera. What are some other really important reports that your sellers are asking for and are looking at?

Kim
I would say that some of the reports that our sellers are looking at are...obviously, they're looking at their inventory reports—what their inventory levels look like, how long they've had inventory, what's selling, what's not selling—so that they can move their inventory in and out much easier. 

But one of the other things that they look at are productivity reports so that they can see who's doing what, when. And these are reports that they're more like quality control reports. You can look at a report and you can see what each picker is doing and how they're doing. 

So if you have 10 pickers in your warehouse, and you see that each one's been given a pick list with 30 items, and one person completes their pick list in 30 minutes, and another person takes two hours and 20 minutes to pick their list—it's a really nice tool to be able to look at it and figure out where the problems are, because you can start looking at those pick lists. Now, you do have to dig into those pick lists a little bit to see what's going on because maybe the guy that took two hours and 30 minutes had nothing but bicycles to pick, and the other guy had nothing but pens to pick. So it could be a big difference. But if all things are equal, you have the ability to see who's doing what, where, when, so that you can track what's going on in your warehouse a lot better.

Pauline
Wow, that's really great. That like person by person, picker by picker level data is awesome. Sounds like it obviously leads to some pretty good optimizations for efficiency in a warehouse.

Kim
Yes.

<div id="serial"></div>

The Importance of Serialization (7:46)

Pauline
Nice. Okay. Let's see. You mentioned serialization before with electronics. I feel like that's a big one to unpack.

Kim
So we have the ability for sellers, and especially electronic sellers, to use a serialization product so that if you're selling an Apple iPhone, you want to make sure that the iPhone that goes out, if it's returned, is the exact iPhone that comes back to you. And serialization helps with that. 

So for every phone, tablet, laptop—any sort of device that you put in there that has a serial number associated with it— you can associate a serial number with that product. And this allows you to know that when you have a sale, this particular piece of inventory is what sold and what you shipped to that person. So that you know which serial number went to the guy in California that purchased your iPhone, and which one went to the guy in New York that purchased your iPhone

free downloadable ebook on how sellers can protect their brands

And then, if you have a return from the person in New York, that person is sending back, you have the ability to make sure that you know which one came back. It's giving you proof because it's all recorded within SkuVault and you have tracking and records of everything.

Pauline
Wow. And so can I ask how exactly does it work? Is it just a lot of like barcode scanning that gets synced?

Kim
It is. Everything can be put on a barcode and scanned within SkuVault. It's pretty cool because you can barcode and scan just about anything. Most people may not know this, but a scanner is nothing more than a keyboard that's reading a series of lines, so your scanner is acting as your keyboard. So with that, it makes it very simple to be able to scan everything. And most serial numbers do have some sort of a barcode associated with them.

Pauline
Nice. And then so, again, what happens if a seller has a thousand Apple Watches, do they have to scan each one or is there some kind of batch upload?

Kim
They can do a batch upload if they have a list and they can very easily get that in through any sort of an upload in an FTP, through the system itself, or they can scan those in, or they can sit there and individually type them in if they choose to.

Pauline
I'm gonna pass on that one. 

Kim
Yeah, that sounds painful.

Pauline
And then the same thing on kind of the outgoing front, I assume, if someone orders 50 Apple Watches? it could be like a select from a list or a barcode scan again?

Kim
You would want to scan those out in that case, because you would want that prevention of human error to make sure that you're getting the exact item. The problem with using any sort of a list when you're taking it back out of your warehouse is there's no guarantee that what you took off the shelf is what's going in the box unless you're using a scan gun every time to verify.

<div id="niches"></div>

Top Inventory Tools for Electronics, Supplements and Beauty (10:43)

Pauline
Yep, that makes sense. Okay, great. So is there anything else in electronics that's kind of one off from other inventory management needs?

Kim
Right now that's probably the biggest one, but you have the ability to do some reporting off of that, see what's going on with it. And we are just looking at everything we can within electronics to make sure that we're covering what everybody needs.

We have connected with a couple of other companies that help our sellers to be able to sell more. We do have a connection with Newegg now, which is great. It's a new connection for us. We also have a connection with Back Market, which is a place where people can sell their refurbished electronic products. So those two items help because it takes you out of just the mainstream, and we're looking at all of those other places and where else can we go to help sellers who are in niche type markets.

Pauline 
Exactly. Yeah, we rolled out a new Newegg integration as well. So that is good to know that it'll sync up with all of that. Nice.

Kim
Yes, that's great.

Pauline
Okay, great. So let's see…how are others verticals you know requiring unique fits for their inventory warehouse needs?

Kim
So I would say one that we see quite a bit is supplements. We are in health and beauty pretty heavily with supplements and we see a lot of sellers coming in that sell supplements or parts and pieces for supplements. And this requires a pretty good ability to do lot tracking. 

We have a lot tracking system built into SkuVault, we are expanding on that and we are growing that. We will be growing the reporting for it throughout the year. Currently, you can enter your lot numbers into SkuVault. So the great part is that when something has a lot, you've got that with your expiration date, so that information is showing within your system. And for HBC that's a big deal.

Pauline
Yeah, definitely. That makes a lot of sense. So in addition to timing, similar to how you're saying merchants have several suppliers, is it the same thing here where with supplements? They could have a couple different manufacturers, too, and they have to understand which came from supplier ABC to know—God forbid if something happened—they can kind of track it all back?

Kim
That is a lot of what it is. And then the other part would be tracking the expiration date so that they...I mean, let's face it, people who are out in a warehouse probably are not gonna be reading your expiration dates as they're picking products. So you wanna be able to make sure that you can track that within your system so that your management or the person in charge of that can make sure that those products are pulled and that you're not shipping expired products to people.

Pauline
Absolutely really important. So wow, Kim, how has that industry of supplements been going in the past...since March, etcetera, with COVID?

Kim
Supplements is one of the pretty heavily growing areas. People, they can't get out to the stores. And, quite honestly, it's something that you can get into and buy very easily and ship very easily through the internet and through the mail. So, it is a definite growing market. We've seen quite a bit of growth in it all over the country. And I don't think it's gonna stop anytime soon because people are a little worried about their health right now, and they wanna make sure they're taking care of themselves. I think we're seeing a little bit more of a trend than we were before of people being a little more health conscious, and just making sure that they're taking better care of themselves.

Pauline
Definitely. Yeah, so do you think your sellers were caught off guard? Did they have the inventory in place? Like how fast were they able to recoup?

Kim
I think surprisingly, most of our sellers had a decent amount of inventory in place. We did not see a huge amount of sellers that were running out of inventory. And thankfully, the shipments were coming into them as they were getting low. Now don't get me wrong, we did see some that we're running very low on inventory and did have to slow their operations during that period where they couldn't get anything. But we are seeing that tick back up. So that's pretty good. Also, a lot of these supplements are manufactured in the United States. So it makes the supply chain a little bit easier to deal with, because it's just going across the country instead of crossing an ocean.

<div id="replenishment"></div>

SkuVault’s Replenishment Tool (15:14)

Pauline
Absolutely. Yeah. And so can I ask you, how did your replenishment tool kick in there? I'm not sure how it works based on just like historical trends, if there's anything else that gets factored into the equation there, but I'd be curious to know what your system would then recommend for the future since within, let's just say, two weeks’ time, it was a whole new ballgame?

Kim
Right. And so one of the things that has to be taken into consideration when they're looking at that, and they're using that replenishment tool is not running off of the last two weeks' sales because that could be a huge error and a huge over-purchase. So you want to make sure that you're taking factors into consideration, such as your time of year, your seasonality. Make your selection larger that you're looking at when you're looking at the replenishment tool. And you're playing within that report and you're figuring out what you need to order. You don't wanna look at the last two weeks of April alone and say, "Great, that's what I'm gonna sell in October," because we all know that's probably not going to be true.

What you want to do is maybe stretch that out. And we do recommend that people take a look at it and do keep in their mind their seasonal information. Know what their percentage of growth is. So if you have somebody who's selling, say Halloween products, they would not wanna look at their January sales and see what they should order for October. They would want to look at their sales from last year and perhaps August through mid-October, and then adjust based on what their growth method's going to be.

Pauline
Absolutely. And so does it sound like...can I just confirm...that the replenishment tool within SkuVaults does not account for seasonality or it does? I wasn't clear. Sorry.

Kim
It does not account for seasonality by itself. You have to pull that through on your own by picking the dates.

<div id="attributes"></div>

SkuVault’s Attribute System (17:11)

Pauline
Okay, got it. Okay, still so good to know and really helpful, so cheers. All right. Well, we bounced around a little bit. We're kind of going through some industry niches. We talked about electronics and the serialization and how that's important. [We talked about] supplements and also lot tracking between dates and the supplier. Any industry-specific components for inventory that we haven't touched that are kind of popping up for you guys?

Kim
We're seeing some increases in pet supplies surprisingly, or maybe it's not surprising. People don't want to go out. They wanna stay home and play with their pets.

Pauline
And it's another COVID-hit vertical.

Kim
It is, and the sports and outdoors of course, and toys have been huge throughout COVID. Those have been just sellout categories for people. And I know that the supply chain's been hit hard on both of those industries, so I hope that they recoup a little bit before the holidays hit. And we'll see how that goes. There's nothing specific on those. One of the things that SkuVault has that can help pretty much in any industry and in any vertical is we have a pretty good attribute system. We have the ability to create an item and then go in and create all the attributes to go with it so that you don't have to sit there and recreate the wheel every single time that you're putting a product in. But even more so you can pull information in from a lot of different places because SkuVault, let's face it, we're the backend.

So you wanna be able to just get the information in there, get your counts in there and get going, have everything connected. Then let us do our thing on the backend and keep track of your inventory. We have connectors all over the place where we can just pull that information in directly from, say, Amazon. We can pull all of your information in from Amazon for you. As long as the SKUs match, that's all that matters. We bring that in, then we connect to Zentail [so that] the SKUs are all matching and everybody's talking to each other very easily.

<div id="b2b"></div>

Upcoming Features for B2B Sellers (19:15)

Pauline
Yeah, bingo. Beautiful. Okay, great. So let's change things a little bit. So let's drop some acronyms...we are seeing a big shift between B2B sellers, wholesalers wanting to go D2C. How are you viewing things at SkuVault with regard to those?

Kim
So, we like to tell people that you need SkuVault if you have something you need to track. We don't care if you're B2B or B2C. Either one works. But with that said, we are concentrating a little bit..more on B2B as we bring out the Business Hub and we look at what can be done with that. 

This will allow our sellers who want to get into wholesale, an easier way to get into that. It will allow our sellers who want to see their wholesalers, an easier way to connect with them. It will also allow us the ability to make it easier for our 3PL market to use our system. They can currently use it very easily, but the reporting will be easier for them. 

And it will be more automated as that goes through. So we are concentrating a little bit bigger on B2B. As we know, B2B is the largest growing segment of ecommerce right now. So it is the up-and-coming segment. Everybody's figuring out that it's important, and that they need to get on the train and get out there. So we're doing what we can to make the tools easier and better for our B2B sellers.

Pauline
Nice. That's a big deal. I agree. We're seeing a lot of shifts there too, like I mentioned. And so you talked around the benefits for the hub—are you able to speak to really what the hub, in and of itself, is at this point?

Kim
Not too specific at this point. We do have the first iteration of it out, and it is in SkuVault. (You can see it when you're in there.)...At this point, it's a little bit manual but there is the ability to get your name listed so that if you want to get listed within the hub for our resellers to see your information, our team can take your name, your company information, and put it in a list that we will be preparing as we get it in there. 

But what we're doing right now is gauging interest and getting that information together so that we can make sure that  as we grow the hub out, that we're getting all of the features that our business sellers are gonna need in there. The goal is to connect a business to a business. That is the goal of the Business Hub—to make sure that you have the connection all the way around that you need within SkuVault, and that you're not manually having to download something and then send it off to somebody. We want you to just be able to click a button and shoot it over to the next client right within SkuVault.

<div id="questions"></div>

10 Rapid-Fire Questions (22:06)

Pauline
Wow, that's huge. That sounds like another really fitting thing to look out for from you guys. Okay, great. I think that covers all the big questions I had for you. It's always great catching up. I wanted to see if you have just a couple of minutes. I like to do these like 10 rapid fire questions. Are you down?

Kim
Okay, let's go.

Pauline
Nice. Okay, number one, Kim, what is your morning routine?

Kim 
Get out of bed. Hop in the bathroom, get in the shower, the hair brushed, the teeth brushed, get dressed and immediately sit down and start answering emails.

Pauline
Haha, very good, right. If it's not the very first thing you do, it just gets buried in your day. Got it.

Kim 
It's very, very quick. I wanna get those emails looked at right away. So, I wanna get there quickly.

Pauline
Okay, cool. Number two, what about SkuVault gets you the most excited?

Kim
Oh, goodness. SkuVault to me, probably the most exciting thing to me is our culture and our ability for everybody to be heard. Everyone has a voice, and everybody's voice is heard. It's been that way since day one, and I love that about the company.

Pauline
That's huge. I love that a lot. Yeah, that's great. Okay, cool. Number three, so outside of everything going on with COVID-19 right now, can you think of another large industry shift that you're kind of like seeing in ecommerce play out?

Kim
I mean, obviously COVID has created some industry shifts, but the biggest thing is the BOPIS—buy online, pick up in store. Even though it started with COVID, I don't think we're gonna see it go away. I mean, we always have it but it wasn't very popular. And I think it's just gonna get bigger. And also, the restaurant industry is saying that curbside pickup is here to stay.

Pauline
Yeah, I agree. There's a lot with the restaurant industry that I hope stays that way.

Kim
Yeah, I agree.

Pauline
Okay, nice. So let's see, what is your advice for a small team looking to operate at a larger scale, to grow more quickly, whether it's software or some kind of internal shift? What advice would you give to them?

Kim 
If you're a small team and you wanna grow, do not be afraid of software. Do not be afraid to spend a couple dollars to automate. I think one of the biggest mistakes that small companies make when they're growing is fear of giving up control and fear of spending any money. So, they're afraid to spend anything at all to implement the software. And whether it's SkuVault or Zentail, or some other software...figure out what's gonna make your life the easiest and implement that and make your life easier, because CEOs and people who are running their businesses, that's what you should be doing. You should be running your business. Not working in your business, working on your business. And we see that all the time and we hear about it a lot.

Pauline
That was very well said. Cheers. Agree. Great. Okay, moving on to number five, what is the one thing you wish every seller knew?

Kim
That the customer is not always right, but they deserve your respect, and they deserve your attention. And they are the customer, they're paying your bill, so take care of them.

Pauline
Very good. I wish I could like mic drop on that, but that was only five. Okay, next. Number six. What has been one of the most important life lessons to you whether it's personally or professionally?

Kim
I think one of the biggest is just be kind. Be kind to people. You never know what somebody else is going through. You truly don't. I've been in ecommerce for over 20 years and I've done a lot of different things. I started out just selling on eBay. I worked for our small family business. I've watched businesses turn upside down, and I've watched businesses be successful. And you truly don't know what somebody's going through unless you walk a mile in their shoes, so just be kind to them because they really could be going through hell and you don't know it.

Pauline
Very nice. Very nice. Respect that a lot. Okay. Name your favorite food, number seven.

Kim
My what?

Pauline
Name your favorite food.

Kim
Potatoes.

Pauline 
Can never go wrong with potatoes. So now I have to ask, what's your favorite type of potatoes?

Kim
Oh, goodness. All of them. No. I would say baked, but not just a plain old baked potato. I like baked red skin potatoes or baked white potatoes. I'm kind of picky.

Pauline
I'm gonna come over for dinner, great. What is an item on your bucket list?

Kim
To take a cruise that would take me, at least all around the entire Caribbean. Probably about 21 days.

Pauline
Cheers. Yes, I want you to achieve that soon. Cool. Number nine, do you have any COVID goals? Some people are picking up a new hobby. They're trying to learn a new language. They're trying to exercise more...

Kim
Yeah, I didn't really in the beginning. I kind of was that pain-in-the-butt person who was like, "Oh, this is annoying. I can't stand it." But, I'm also not the person that's out every day of the week so it really didn't bother me a whole lot to have to stay home. I think that I just kind of felt sorry for the workers who couldn't work.

Yeah, well and I think what's come in place for me is doing more around my house. So my COVID goal and the things that I've worked on is my backyard. I put a gazebo up over my patio, because it's not enclosed and it didn't have a cover. I bought really comfortable furniture for out there. I've put a little pool back there with the hope of putting a real pool in. We're putting a fence out. So it's making my outdoor space more comfortable.

Pauline
Yeah, that's great. Perfect. And as you all know, Wayfair is killing it.

Kim
Oh, love it.

Pauline
Cool, all right. So let's pretend that COVID is now a thing of the past. What is the first thing you're gonna go run and do?

Kim
Take a vacation out of this country.

Pauline
Yes. Awesome. Kim that wraps it up for us. Again, I always love speaking with you. It's always nice connecting. You are definitely a kind person and we love working with you and our sellers. So cheers.

Kim
Cheers to you. I love working with you Pauline. We love Zentail. It's been a blast. Thanks for talking to me.

Pauline
Awesome. Bye.

Kim
Bye-bye.

More Blogs in

Ask The Experts