Application integration and the significance it has for inventory management software

In today’s automated world, retail and manufacturing companies control their business processes with several different software applications, each of which performs a specific function. For instance, there are applications for accounting, supply chain management (SCM), and inventory management (IMS). While they’re separate and perform their own clearly defined tasks, it’s vitally important for them to communicate with each other and for the data they use to be passed between them. Simply put: If your SCM can’t pass its data on to your IMS, information about your stock would have to be input manually.

When these different applications are able to communicate, you have application integration.


Different ways application integration can be performed

Application integration sounds simple enough, but there are four basic ways it can take place.

Data level integration

Called data level integration, this method puts the data stored in each application into a single, separate database. This separate database is called an enterprise database or an enterprise database repository. To create this centralized system, the data stored in each individual application are extracted, cleansed, and reformatted to be consistent with whatever standard the enterprise database uses. From that point, individual applications can tap into the central system to get the data it needs.

This method is the lowest-cost application integration due to the minimal amount of programming needed to set it up and the speed with which that can be done. Data level integration only takes the data an application stores, not the coding of the application itself.

Application interface level

Known as application interface level, this method doesn’t have a centralized database that stores everything. Instead, data extracted from one application are converted into a standardized format and then loaded directly onto the target application. Hence, application to application.

Application interface level is currently the most popular method for data sharing because most application codes now provide interfaces. Cin7’s IMS, for instance, offers over 700 integrations, and new integrations are being added regularly.

Method level

Here, it’s not data that are shared, but business functions. This may sound precarious, but the actual business functions are not included in the code that’s passed along. An evolving way of exchanging data, method level is promising because it’s compatible with technologies like Java RMI, DCOM, and Cobra. A big drawback, however, is that the application code has to be changed before it can be used.

User interface

User interface (UI) is about having the different applications designed in such a way that users (human) can log on to their company’s network and bring up the data they need from any computer in the network. Application codes don’t have to be changed for this method to work  – a factor that makes the cost minimal – but that also gives it less flexibility.

Benefits of application integration for inventory management software

When it comes to inventory management, application integration is essential. Having the ability to input data from other applications into IMS software or passing the data it stores into another system, and being able to do so accurately and quickly, is vital to business operations. The benefits are:

Inventory optimization

Inventory optimization, or having the right amount of inventory, means carrying enough to fill orders and prevent stockouts, while not having too much of it.

If your inventory management software is integrated with accounting and ecommerce applications, you’ll have a clear idea of the quantity of items you should be warehousing as well as information about which actual items you should stock. You’ll also be alerted when you need to reorder.  This means less worry about overstocking or understocking.

Making good financial decisions

Information about how well certain goods have sold in the past and predictions about how well they’re expected to do going forward informs decisions that are made in the present. In order to get this information, reports and forecasts have to be accessed from several applications in real time.

When this information is available to IMS systems, better decisions can be made about which stock to carry. Additionally, application integration with a variety of systems makes audits more accurate. You’ll be able to verify that the stock listed in your books is a real reflection of the goods you have in storage, and you’ll have complete information about items that are in transit.


Types of integrations available on Cin7

There are more than 700 integrations in Cin7’s software, but they can be categorized into the following business operations:

Accounting apps

Accounting software records and manages your financial transactions, everything from purchases and sales to operating costs and payroll. Cin7’s system can integrate popular accounting software like QuickBooks Online, Xero, and QuickBooks.

Ecommerce platforms

Cin7 can integrate with ecommerce platforms that include Magento, WooCommerce, Shopify, and others. If you’re selling through any one of them, IMS integration will give you oversight and let you know how your sales are going. If you’re selling items through more than one of these ecommerce platforms, Cin7 will allow you to integrate their data and accounts into a single platform on your system.

EDI retailers

Electronic data interchange (EDI) is the system through which documents like invoices and purchase orders are transferred electronically. There are several electronic standards to choose from for these exchanges, but whichever one is used, both sender and receiver have to be using the same one. Cin7 can facilitate most of them. Some larger retailers like Scheels, Sears, Sephora and Walmart have their own EDI systems, and Cin7 can be synced with them also.

EDI suppliers

EDI suppliers are organizations that provide EDI-compatible solutions and technologies to other companies. Two of the leading suppliers are Synnex and Tech Data, and Cin7 can integrate seamlessly with both.


If the website you’re selling your goods through is charging you commission for each sale, you’re on a marketplace. Marketplaces are a good way to get your product out and make a name for yourself, especially if you have a new company or are small in size. To keep on top of your business in these marketplaces, you’re going to have to integrate them with your inventory management system. Cin7 can do this for all the major marketplaces, including Amazon, Etsy, Iconic, and eBay.

Payment gateways

When you sell online, you need a payment gateway to process payments. You also need to integrate this payment gateway with your IMS. More than just getting paid for your goods, integration with your IMS streamlines their flow and ensures you have enough in stock.  To make this easy, Cin7 can integrate with payment interfaces like PayPal, Dejavoo, EVO Payments, and others.

Sales and marketing

Sales and marketing software uses technology to get your advertising to the right audience. That means customizing and posting it on social media and other pertinent sites. To facilitate this, Cin7 inventory management software integrates with Customer Relations Systems (CRMs) such as Salesforce, Mailchimp, Senter, and HubSpot.


The very nature of ecommerce involves shipping. Goods that are purchased online have to be physically transported to their buyers. If you hire a third-party to take care of this shipping, you still have to keep track of the items and maintain your records. Cin7’s software can integrate with shipping partners Shippit, GoSweetSpot, Shiptheory and many others, ensuring you’ll always have the information you need at your fingertips.

Supply chain planning

The supply chain covers every step in the fulfillment/manufacturing process from purchasing and inventory management to sales and deliveries. To organize all this in the best possible way, Cin7 integrates with supply chain planning apps like StockTrim, Streamline, and Easy Insight.

Third-party connectors

Sometimes a company uses another organization, a third party, to provide the application integration software (API) that allows different applications to speak to each other. To enable this, Cin7 can communicate with Syncware, Hyperspace HQ, and Pipe17.

Third-party logistics

Logistics is the physical act of moving items and people from one area of a business to another. If you’re parceling out your warehousing and transportation to another company, you’re using third-party, or 3PL logistics. Some of the companies that provide 3PL include JAS, JD Smith, Quiet Logistics, and Ship Depot. Cin7 lets you integrate your systems with any one of them.


Winding up

In summary, application integration refers to the process of connecting two or more applications so that the data each holds can be exchanged. When it comes to IMS systems, this ability to share data makes the entire inventory side of the business operate efficiently, and ensures that there’s enough of it all times in the right quantities.

Cin7’s inventory management software lets you integrate with all the relevant apps, making sure you have all the information you need to keep your inventory at optimum levels.

If you want to learn more about Cin7, book a demo by clicking here.

A complete guide to ecommerce fulfillment services and their processes

If you are thinking about putting some or all of your sales business online, you probably have many questions about order fulfillment. What’s the best method for your company? How do you make your warehouse or stocking facility perform at maximum efficiency? How do you ensure that orders go out on time? In this article, we will help you answer them.


What is ecommerce fulfillment?

Ecommerce fulfillment services cover the entire process of getting an item that’s been ordered online to the customer. Ecommerce fulfillment encompasses everything from receiving the online order to retrieving the goods from their place in the warehouse to boxing and labeling them to shipping and delivering them. Whether your company is business to business (B2B), business to customer (B2C), or direct to customer (D2C), if you’re selling your products online, ecommerce fulfillment is the name of the game.


Steps in the ecommerce fulfillment process:


The first step in fulfilling a customer’s order is to collect the items from their storage locations in the warehouse. This is called picking, and it is carried out by a warehouse operator, or picker. There are two basic ways picking can be done: single order and batch. With the first, orders are taken care of individually, with all items from a given order being picked at once; with the second, a number of one particular item is pulled from its storage location at the same time and then those items are divided into multiple orders. Batch order picking means having to sort items into their individual orders after the initial picking stage. While it requires this second step, if there are a lot of orders to fulfill and many of them have the same item, it’s a cost-saving method. The picking method you choose will depend on the size of your warehouse and the number or orders you have to fulfill.

If you have a large warehouse—and they can be gargantuan nowadays—you also have to make sure that your operators are taking the shortest route as they’re picking. This means listing the items in the right picking order. Thus, if item A is stored close to item B, but item C is way across the facility, it would be logical to list their picking order as A, B, C.

All these considerations are taken care of with a pick list. Created by warehouse managers, a pick list is laid out by item location, name, and quantity needed. Pick lists tell the operator, or picker, first where to go, then what to look for, then how many to pull from storage.

After this, the items are sent to packing.


Once the items for an order have been collected, they’re placed in a container. It’s important to make sure that the items aren’t damaged during delivery, so packing has to be done with care – and padding.

After the items have been boxed up, a shipping label is created. This label contains:

  • Name and address of the fulfillment company,
  • Name and address of the buyer – where the package is going to,
  • The weight of the package, the entire thing including goods and packing,
  • Unidirectional code, which is a machine-readable code that can be swiped from any direction,
  • A postal barcode,
  • Method of shipping – standard, express, or priority,
  • A routing number, and
  • A tracking number – this is the number customers use to track their package online.

This label is then attached to the package, and the whole thing is weatherproofed with plastic wrap.


The package is now ready for shipping. This involves collecting the box and getting it to the buyer’s address. A freight carrier like FedEx or UPS will usually be hired for this, but if the seller is small enough and only has local deliveries, they might take care of it themselves. On the other hand, if a company opts to sell their goods through a major online retailer like Amazon, shipping services are part of the deal: Amazon has its own shipping setup.


The final step is to deliver the package to the customer’s door. There, the delivery service may find specific instructions, like being asked to leave the package with a neighbor. Overall, the most important aspect of this last stage is to get the goods delivered on their promised delivery date. Doing this promotes good will – and repeat business.


Ecommerce fulfillment models

There are three models you can choose from:

Fulfillment by the seller

When a company is small or doesn’t have many online orders, it can take care of its own fulfillment. If that’s the case, it probably has its own dedicated shipping department, which, depending on the number of online sales it has to organize, might be a small area and not have a dedicated staff. This fulfillment model also works well if the company specializes in unique and valuable items that need extra care.

This system stops working, however, when:

  • The number of orders suddenly shoots up; if this happens, the self-fulfillment system won’t be able to cope and it will collapse.
  • The company doesn’t have a system in place to ensure that all stages of fulfillment run smoothly.
  • The cost of fulfillment is much higher than it would be if using a third-party shipping partner.

2. Fulfillment by a third party

Third-party logistics, or 3PL, stands for an outside company that’s hired to take over all or part of fulfillment.

If a company handles picking and packing in-house and has a large number of packages to deliver to different locations, it’s a good idea to have 3PL take care of those final stages.

Additionally, 3PL companies can provide facilities for warehousing, and they have staff to do the picking and packing tasks as well. The services you choose to use will, of course, determine the fee you pay.

3. Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)

When it comes to 3PL, the biggest player is undoubtedly Amazon. A complete online marketplace, Amazon is the go-to site for looking to buy something with a click from the comfort of your home, and it is often the first destination for those searching for a particular product. With FBA, Amazon takes care of everything from warehousing to delivery, and it charges two fees: one for storage, and one for the actual fulfillment process.

There are pros and cons to FBA, and the company offers alternatives like Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM) and Seller-fulfilled Prime (SFP). With FBM, the seller lists their products on Amazon’s online marketplace, but takes care of fulfillment itself. SFP is the same, except that Amazon’s shipping policies are used and the Prime badge can be shown against the products on the website. Each of these Amazon services has its own fee structure.


How Cin7 can simplify your ecommerce fulfillment

It doesn’t matter which fulfillment model you use, Cin7 inventory management software can be your perfect partner. Its integrated order fulfillment module gives you a clear, overall picture of your entire fulfillment process, including getting goods from your supplier and racking, or warehousing, them. Plus, you can operate your account from a mobile device.

But what if you use a 3PL model for fulfillment services? Well, Cin7 has a solution for you too. The software has 3PL feature that allows you to get real-time information about your inventory anytime, from anywhere, no matter what stage of the operation it’s in. Because it’s cloud based, you can access the system from any device.


Wrapping up…

Ecommerce fulfillment service starts when an online order is received by a company, and ends when that ordered item is delivered to the customer. We’ve laid out the steps that are involved in detail and explained the three basic fulfillment methods. While each of these methods is a little different, they all have the same goal: getting your products to your customers in the quickest way possible.

If you’ve been hesitating to set up an ecommerce store because you have concerns about the fulfillment process. keep in mind that Cin7 can provide top-notch services to help oversee and manage your fulfillment, and that it can make the whole process stress-free. Talk to our experts today and book a demo. You’ll be glad you did.


Big Music

When Richard Berkman started Big Music with his brother David back in 2009, they did it because they wanted to do something that they were passionate about, instead of a job that just paid the bills. 

“My brother was a passionate musician, and we had this idea to create a one-stop-shop where you could buy an instrument, learn to play it, perform, even record, all under the one roof,”  Richard says. 

He and his brother looked everywhere for businesses following a similar approach, but couldn’t find many overseas, and there were none at all in Australia. 

“We asked why, and the music stores said, ‘We know nothing about running a lessons business,’ and the music schools said ‘We know nothing about running a retail store.’ But we were stupid enough to try to do both at once,” Richard chuckles. “For our sins, we broke all the rules.” 

If they’d have known better, they might have never started. But 12 years and “a hell of a lot of mistakes,” later Big Music is still here, and the business keeps the brothers busy. They have over 800 students come in for music lessons in the Big Music studios, they have 30 music teachers working six or seven days a week, teaching children and adults, and they’ve got a music product business that sells both online and in their Sydney street-front retail premises. 

Prior to 2020, the business had matured and was running well — and everyone knows what happened next. 

Covid pause causes pandemonium 

The Covid-19 pandemic laid waste to many retail businesses. Lockdowns hit first, then when rules relaxed, the ongoing pandemic saw people understandably reluctant to return to packed stores. But, for many product companies, the slump in foot traffic was more than made up for by a surge in eCommerce. Companies that were in a place to take advantage of the conditions often did more thriving than mere surviving. 

“Prior to Covid, our eCommerce business was around 25 percent of total sales,” Richard says. “And now… it’s hard to tell because it’s still settling down, but I think it’ll end up being more like 35 to 40 percent.” 

The music business has some unique caveats that makes online selling potentially problematic. It’s not like, for example, a shoe shop, where products tend to be similarly priced. Music products have a huge price range — something as simple as a guitar pick can be picked up for less than $2, whereas a custom Fender Stratocaster guitar can sell for more than $10,000. Some purchases are impulse buys, where others are much more considered, like buying a car. 

“So our sales people are sometimes like a checkout person at a grocery store, and other times they’re like a car salesperson,” Richard says. 

“We needed to find systems that could handle both — allow us to have a certain volume of very small transactions, where there’s not a big customer relationship component, and then maybe half a dozen times a day there’s going to a much more considered transaction where we could be giving people quotes, they’re going away and thinking about it, and then when they purchase you’re adding on all this other stuff and bundling it.” 

Big Music had long used an inventory management system called Lightspeed to handle Big Music’s unique requirements. Over the years, they’d customized it to fit the business, and their staff were all used to it. But with the increase in their eCommerce sales volume, and the modernization and cloud trend in the business software landscape, they found themselves outgrowing Lightspeed. 

When Lightspeed announced it was winding down, Big Music needed something bigger and better, and to implement it, they turned to the people who’d helped them get Lightspeed up and running over a decade ago — SMB Consultants. 

Time for a tune-up

Richard had known Jeff and Peter at SMB before Big Music even existed, so he knew they were the sort of people who’d be able to help them implement an inventory system that was just right for Big Music. He’d taken note of business software trends, where systems are built to do one thing well — like Xero for accounting — but also have open APIs and software endpoints that allow different apps to share data and talk with each other. 

“You now have this modular approach, where you take the best apps and put them together to give you a customized solution,” Richard says. “And Jeff and his team had worked that out a long time before a lot of other people did. They’ve now helped hundreds of businesses navigate down that particular pathway, and that’s a profound change from 10 or 12 years ago where you chose one system that would do everything.” 

A decade ago, Big Music had settled for just such an approach. They ran the business on Lightspeed and MYOB, both of which were run out of a server on-premises. “It was costing us a lot of money to maintain a server room, have network consultants come out and maintain the servers, do backups, and that sort of stuff. And it didn’t make sense given the whole world’s been moving to the cloud, and I figured we could save some money if we did too,” Richard says. 

However, the process of changing business-critical software can be fraught. Without the right solution and a well-planned implementation, there can be significant adverse business impacts. SMB Consultants knows this very well, which is why they have a careful, staged approach to recommending software, and implementing it. 

“With any Lightspeed client, the software is so heavily ingrained in the business. It’s like their operating system, and that means change management really comes into it, because the staff will be used to the Lightspeed way of doing things,” says Jeff Atizado, co-founder of SMB Consultants. “As a business owner myself, there’s got to be careful consideration going through the process, understanding the workflows, understanding the options, and making informed decisions as you go.” 

Richard agrees. “They’re big projects, and an awful lot can go wrong. That’s why working with a mob like SMB was so critical — as soon as they were engaged, my confidence level that we could do a good job improved dramatically.” 

With the right experts brought on board to help, Big Music was ready for a new approach — choosing a cloud-powered app stack to act as a fully-bespoke ERP, with a single app at its core, acting as a sole source of truth. For this, they chose Cin7. 

Singing from the same song sheet

When Big Music made the move to Cin7, they also opted to switch from desktop-based MYOB to online accounting with Xero. They wanted their move to the cloud to be complete, with all the benefits that being cloud-based entails. Inventory data was cleaned up and carefully moved from Lightspeed into Cin7, and the same process took place from MYOB to Xero. This meant that vital historical data was kept intact, and helped maintain business continuity across the transition. 

With the implementation is complete across all of Big Music’s different software packages, the difference is night and day. 

“The integration between Cin7 and Xero has been a significant enabler of a whole bunch of improvements,” Richard says. “The first is that our server room has been decommissioned, and I don’t have to spend as much money or worry about supporting that infrastructure. That’s been a blessing in itself. Not only that, but Lightspeed was holding us back, because it won’t run on certain operating systems.” 

Now that the business is running on modern cloud technology, Big Music is able to be completely up-to-date with operating systems and security patches. “Our whole environment is safer and more secure than before,” Richard says. “Uptime has been over 99 percent.” 

Big Music are using Cin7’s built-in Point Of Sale capability for all their in-store transactions, and it’s been working seamlessly. The near instant sync with inventory means they always know exactly how much product they have to hand, so customers aren’t kept waiting. 

“The POS system works fine!” Richard says. “When you’re putting through dozens and dozens of little transactions each day, the POS system handles that beautifully. And the guys in the shop reckon it’s actually easier to use.” 

Because of the high disparity in musical product pricing, Richard’s staff have to be jacks-of-all-trades, working the retail floor one moment, then negotiating a high-value purchase. Big Music is an all-in-one location, with the retail storefront, and a warehouse up back, plus studios and other areas for learning and recording. Both retail and online orders are fulfilled from the same warehouse. The website is built on Shopify, and the team uses Starshipit for fulfillment. 

“Our guys jump between the POS system and the backend,” Richard says. “When you’re selling a $10,000 guitar you’ve got to get into discussions about discounts and margins and all of that information is in Cin7, but it hasn’t been an issue for my team to navigate between that and the POS.” 

Richard also cites the cloud capability of Cin7 as having extended his access to the business — even when staff are offsite. “Cin7 was particularly handy during COVID,” he says. “Without it, we’d have been stuffed. Our operations and warehouse manager wasn’t able to physically come into work, but he could log on from home every day and do his job in Cin7, from home.” 

With Cin7 in the cloud, the back-office can be anywhere 

The new system has also created a better work-life balance for back-office staff. “Cin7 enables a more flexible approach to our workforce,” Richard says. “Our bookkeeper Diane moved cities a few months ago, and she didn’t have to resign or anything, because she can access Cin7 and Xero from Brisbane, just as well as she can operate from here. That’s the future, isn’t it? That wouldn’t have been possible in the old Lightspeed and MYOB world.”  

As the business owner, Richard says the system has allowed more oversight while reducing the amount of time he needs to spend poring over reports.  “I love the fact I can login from home on a Saturday or Sunday evening, and see how the store’s been trading during the day,” he says. “Having the real-time information available from anywhere is great for me.” 

For Big Music’s bookkeeper (working from another city!) the level of data available has been a revelation. The depth of the integration has also removed a lot of manual effort, with operations staff all getting more data and working more efficiently than before. 

 “Cin7’s integration with Xero means that our bookkeeper can get a lot more information, down to the product level, when doing things like supplier reconciliations,” Richard says. “That information never existed in MYOB, so that makes her job a hell of a lot easier. I also love the pivot table functionality in Cin7 reporting, and I use that quite a lot when I’m doing analysis. It’s a lot nicer to be able to do it natively in Cin7, rather than exporting and doing it in Excel.” 

Stock-taking and inventory reconciliation is a song with Cin7

Stock-taking — the perennial bugbear of any retailer — has been made much, much easier thanks to Cin7. “It used to drive me insane because the Lightspeed stock-take module was buggy, and not transparent. By contrast, going through the stock-take process in Cin7 is much easier to manage, because you can break it down into components, and execute a section or a brand or a range of things at a time.” 

The difference between then and now, when it comes to stock-take, is night and day. In fact, it’s an entire weekend’s worth of days. The Big Music team used to have to do a store-wide stock take once a year, but now they can do a rolling inventory reconciliation that doesn’t require shutting down for a day or more, or coming in on a weekend. “We had to do a massive store-wide stock-take once a year, which everyone hated,” Richard says. “We don’t have to do that anymore.” 

Furthermore, Cin7 has made the process of taking sales orders and converting them to purchase orders much easier. A lot of Big Music’s online orders are for items they don’t actually stock in their own warehouse. Cin7 has enabled drop-shipping, even for very complex or expensive orders. “We can knock the purchase order conversion very quickly and seamlessly,” Richard says. 

Everything working together in harmony

For businesses considering adopting a cloud inventory management solution, Richard is happy to recommend Cin7 — but he’s adamant that the process is much easier all around when you’ve got expert help. 

“I’ll go so far to say, well, I cannot imagine having got through this project any other way and without the help of these two blokes and the rest of their team,” Richard says. “Don’t try and do it yourself.  I think that SMB have got a unique set of skills and a deep understanding, and we needed it.” 

Now that Cin7 serves as Big Music’s source of truth and center of operations, things have never been better. “It works. It’s a good, reliable platform. It connects well with other apps, and you’re future-proofing your business by taking this kind of modular ecosystem approach,” Richard says.