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2024 Inventory Management for eCommerce Fully Explained

Effective inventory management prevents stockouts and overstocks, safeguarding a business's reputation.

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By Jameela Ghann
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Edited by Nelsy Mtsweni
Joel Taylor
Fact-check by Joel Taylor

Published April 27, 2024.

An eCommerce merchant holding a tablet and placing orders for her eCommerce store

Automated inventory management improves how businesses, from small startups to large enterprises, handle their inventories. Gone are the days of manual stocktaking, a method once prevalent at global giants like Ikea. This transition to automation significantly boosts operational efficiency, dramatically improves stock level accuracy, and reallocates human resources to more impactful areas such as enhancing customer service and strategic merchandising. This evolution not only optimizes inventory handling but also plays a crucial role in scaling businesses for future growth.

Meet the Expert

Jameela Ghann is a seasoned online store owner with over a decade of eCommerce experience. Apart from running Alora Boutique, she's also the marketing manager for Fera Product Reviews.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Automated Inventory Management


  • Increased efficiency
  • Accurate stock levels
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction
  • Better forecasting


  • Overreliance on technology
  • Chance of technological failure
Automated inventory management is a game-changer, offering significant advantages for businesses of all sizes. Drawing from personal experiences, such as the manual inventory days at Ikea, the efficiency gains of automation are evident.


  1. Increased efficiency: Automation eliminates the labor-intensive task of manual inventory counting, allowing for smoother operations.
  2. Accuracy in stock levels: Automated systems provide precise stock information, reducing the margin of error compared to manual methods.
  3. Enhanced customer satisfaction: Real-time stock information across various channels aids customer decision-making, particularly for those preferring in-store pickups.
  4. Better forecasting: Automated inventory management facilitates improved forecasting, enabling better decision-making for dedicated buyers in larger stores.


While automation offers numerous benefits, it is essential to consider the potential challenges:

  1. Overreliance on technology: Some may become overly dependent on technology, lacking manual organizational skills for inventory tasks.
  2. Technological failures: Dependency on technology risks decision-making paralysis in case of system failures, which can significantly impact your sales and revenue.

When to Use Automated or Manual Inventory Management

Smaller stores with well-established systems might benefit from traditional inventory management over automated inventory management, especially when you meet the following criteria:

  • You have one location and limited SKUs.
  • You can't afford or justify the expense of automated inventory.
  • You have a single-product business model with predictable demand patterns.

When Is Automated Inventory Management Better?

Almost all stores can benefit from automated inventory management, but you should definitely consider it if you meet any of the following criteria:

The decision to automate inventory management depends on your business size, growth plans, and the associated upfront costs. Smaller businesses with simpler operations may find traditional methods sufficient, while larger, multi-channel operations benefit significantly from automation.

An Example of Effective Inventory Management

In London, Hilditch and Key faced significant challenges with their inventory management, prompting a need for cost-cutting and efficiency improvements. Their primary issue stemmed from multiple sales channels, leading to discrepancies where the in-store stock did not accurately reflect their online inventory. This resulted in selling items no longer in stock, a critical problem affecting customer satisfaction.

To address these issues, Hilditch and Key sought better inventory control to prevent overselling and reduce overstock. They transitioned to an advanced solution, likely a Square-based system. This solution aimed to enhance their multichannel inventory management, ensuring a more accurate online and in-store representation of stock levels.

By implementing these changes, Hilditch and Key experienced several positive outcomes:

  1. Reduced overstock: The most crucial improvement is minimizing excess inventory, which drains cash and requires additional time and effort to clear.
  2. Improved forecasting: Better management of stock levels allowed for more accurate forecasting, preventing sellouts and optimizing customer satisfaction.
  3. Effective multichannel strategy: The adopted solution helped synchronize their eCommerce site and in-store retail operations, preventing discrepancies and ensuring a seamless customer experience.

The Future of Inventory Management

The future of inventory management is set for a transformation with the integration of AI, machine learning, and RFID technology and the IoT, enhancing predictive capabilities and real-time tracking. This technological evolution aims to preemptively address demand surges, improve security, and streamline operations.

The adoption of automation and robotics, even for small businesses, is anticipated to grow, making inventory management more efficient. Businesses are encouraged to adopt these technologies gradually, focusing on automating labor-intensive tasks to boost productivity.