Inventory management vs. product management: What’s the difference?

All manufacturing businesses are about, put simply, making stuff and selling it. In order to sell goods effectively, a business needs more than just a great product, innovative packaging design, and stellar customer service. Business owners need to be able to manage their inventory, as well as their products.

But wait – isn’t my inventory made up of my products? Aren’t they the same thing?

Not even close. Let’s learn the difference between inventory management and product management.

Inventory Management describes the “where” of your business’s offerings. It’s a logistics term that refers to how goods are stored, how they’re located in your facilities, and the business decisions that help business owners properly allocate and store stock in order to sell efficiently.

Product Management describes the “what” and “why” of what’s being sold; and while it can refer to some logistics-adjacent functions, like SKU generation and forecasting, it is mainly a marketing term that refers to the product catalog: a database of goods being offered. Product catalogs are continuously updated with product identifiers like SKU, UPC, color, color way, weight, product name and description, features, and more. Think of it as a master internal document that not only helps business personnel identify products, but also helps standardize language for potential buyers across all channels.

Why Should I Care About Product Management?

Manufacturers who sell wholesale have the opportunity to give accurate information to their retailers by way of wholesale product catalogs – but often times, e-commerce stores like WooCommerce and Square are limited in the fields that wholesalers can utilize to identify products. For example, the ability to add ASIN, or Amazon Standard Identification Number, or pattern, like digital camo, may be missing. For Shopify users, the existing product catalog options are superior to most other options – but far from infinite. That’s why Logistics for Hire is proud to sell CommerceBlitz B2B Wholesale: the top wholesale expansion for Shopify. Among its special perks are volume and tiered discounts for buyers, taking preorders and generating quotes for wholesale partners, and more – but one of the most exciting features is the ability to add custom fields to your product catalog. Build your product catalog in CommerceBlitz and create up to 10 custom data fields when your desired fields aren’t available by default. And, best of all, this crucial data field expansion is available as part of the base app!

Custom data field view in the Product tab of CommerceBlitz B2B Wholesale. Custom fields can be added to the product catalog if the e-commerce store of choice does not provide them.

To optimize profits on the consumer-facing side, your product catalog has to incorporate considerations for every channel. For example, when writing a product description, what are the description character limits on Google versus on Amazon? Does Wayfair prefer features to be listed with bullet points or without? Is there room for both short and long descriptions? (Pro tip: learn how to build a better product by reading this quick help guide.) 

Why Should I Care About Inventory Management? 

Not only is inventory management crucial for ensuring adequate stock, promptly fulfilling orders, and ensuring accountability, but failing to get it right can result in inventory shrinkage, stockout, overstock, theft, and more. A good inventory management system can accurately synchronize available stock across all digital channels – so for example, if you sell a bike on Amazon, that bike will automatically be deducted from available inventory in Walmart.

Fortunately, the other half of our flagship CommerceBlitz software lineup is CommerceBlitz OMNI Warehouse, a fully stacked warehouse and inventory management app. It’s an affordable alternative to bulky ERP suites and can potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars each year. Read more about it here.

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