Everything Online Retailers Need to Know About Inventory Syncing


inventory Syncing in a Nutshell:


“Inventory syncing” also known as inventory feeds, data feeds, product data feed, local product inventory feed, inventory sync, stock feeds, stock sync, merchant inventory, dropship inventory feed, and price and quantity feed, is any supplier or warehouse-provided data that contains inventory information. 


Inventory syncing and its alternate names are loosely interchanged in the ecommerce and dropshipping space, but few operations managers really understand what inventory feeds are and their importance. 


Let’s start with the basics: did you know that most ecommerce companies continue to handle most aspects of inventory synching manually? Many companies, even large reputable ones, receive vendor-provided inventory updates via API, but do not know what to do with them. Streams of inventory is a vendor-provided inventory update via API. 


Because most retailers don’t know what to do with this information, they tend to list everything in stock on their own site. This strategy inevitably backfires, however, leading to a negative customer experience and ultimately lowers the reputability and visibility of their own site. 


Ultimately, there are a lot of moving parts. As a retailer, you can choose to automate things or let them build up and get overwhelmed. In this article, we will dive into what inventory syncing really is, its importance, and how you can master all things inventory at your business. 


What is Inventory Syncing?


Before we dive into exactly what an inventory feed is, let’s explain what it is not. At the most basic level, inventory syncing is not the same as product catalog syncing. Instead, an inventory feed is any supplier or warehouse-provided data that contains inventory information.  


These can take a variety of data formats including: CSV, Excel, JSON, XML, and EDI. Equally, they can be delivered via daily emails or from your vendor’s FTP or web server. 


Simply, inventory syncing is frequently changing data from vendors on which they want to keep you up to date. This typically includes inventory availability (what they have in stock), when out of stock items are estimated to be available, and wholesale costs. Importantly, you’re not simply reading from your vendor, but your selling channels are up-to-date based on vendor feeds.  


Why is Inventory Syncing Important?

  The importance of inventory syncing appears most in these two areas:
  • Availability
    Inventory synchronization ties into availability in a few significant areas. Firstly, vendor relationships are integral to the dropshipping business model. If your inventory is out-of-date and customers are unknowingly ordering out of stock items, vendors will be upset and less likely to work with you in the future.

    Similarly, inventory mis-information does not do your own online reputation any favors. If you sell and advertise out of stock items as being available, large companies like Amazon will penalize you by pushing you further down their algorithm.

    Most importantly, having detailed, accurate item availability sets realistic customer expectations. If a customer is continually ordering out of stock items or waiting significantly longer than advertised wait times, your reputation dwindles along with your customer retention rate. You paid a lot for that customer; why not keep them?


  • Wholesale Cost
    If your costs change, so should your pricing. Additionally, you should be using a system that routes your purchase orders (POs) to your lowest cost supplier. 
dropship feed example
Image credit: Inventory Source

How do I master inventory syncing?


  • Receive

    You will need a way to automatically get inventory information from your vendor in various formats. Whether your vendor prefers to communicate order information with you via email or FTP, your system needs to be able to accept your vendor’s preferred format. 


  • Translate

    Equally important is having a way to read the data that your vendor provides. This becomes essential when mapping your products to your vendor’s products. We suggest storing the vendor’s reference (SKU, UPC, MPN) for each product in your catalog. 


    For maximum time savings, we suggest levering more advanced ways of translating. Because inventory data is not always clean, you need a way to automatically clean and adjust imported data.  


  • Sync

    Lastly, you will need a way to automatically update your e-commerce catalog. Importantly, you should be using a system with incremental sync capabilities, as huge uploads trigger a ban in Shopify. For example, of 100 items, your system will upload the latest 10. 

Why is automation important in inventory syncing?


Beyond being an invaluable tool for availability and wholesale cost visibility, inventory syncing also has a variety of advanced uses. For instance, you can automate the re-pricing of products when your costs change, add multiple vendors per product, and sync additional information like backorder dates. 


If you’re interested in seeing how inventory syncing and inventory feeds work in Duoplane, check out this short video.