One of the newest, and most comprehensive, inventory products for QuickBooks Online is a product from ‘the land Down Under’ called Dear Inventory, which I will hereinafter refer to only as ‘Dear’, (much the way that one would say “Yes, Dear or No Dear”). You may have first read about Dear in an article from our Contributing International Author, Sholto Macpherson, titled ‘Awesome Aussie Add-ons.’ In that article from last April, Sholto mentioned that Dear was a …"recent addition to the Xero and Intuit ecosystems…. but that it had won a strong following among smaller businesses,” in part because of its E-commerce integration capabilities.
In this article, we are going to summarize some of the major reasons Dear is one of the best Inventory offerings for QuickBooks Online (or Xero, for that matter). While QBO is making strides in inventory functionality, the product is still weak in many ways and we cannot be certain just ‘how far’ Intuit will carry inventory functionality into the QBO product line. After all, Intuit is making concerted efforts to promote ‘open platform’ connectivity and encourage developers to develop and provide ‘Apps’ that expand the QBO functionality and meet specific requirements for market sectors. Xero took the approach early on that their product would rely heavily upon ‘Apps’ for user specific functionality and they welcomed integrations into their ecosystem at a tremendous rate of growth and development. So it is likely that ‘Apps’ will offer superior functionality, design, ease of use and capabilities that either of the core products simply don’t (or won't) provide.
Ergo, the need for sophisticated ‘inventory’ functionality for either the QBO or Xero platforms. Dear is clearly designed to offer that level of sophistication. For countless numbers of businesses ranging from retailers to wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers, inventory is their main asset. Even in today’s E-commerce world that relies upon third-party logistics (3PL) to house their inventory and perform order fulfillment, you still need to provide inventory tracking as well as purchasing functions to keep inventory in stock. In fact, in many ways, the E-commerce seller probably has an even greater demand to ensure that inventory is ordered on a timely and pro-active basis than traditional brick-n-mortar stores because E-commerce is all about ‘speed and convenience’. E-commerce customers don’t expect to wait upon ‘back-orders’. They can just as easily ‘go to a different website’. Obviously, this E-commerce emphasis also places a requirement that the ‘inventory system’ must interface with a wide variety of sales channels such as E-commerce stores, online marketplaces (Amazon, eBay), as well as physical stores, and internal/external sales force personnel. We will look more at Dear's E-commerce integration capabilities later on.
Dear Inventory Module
So the answer to your question about now is, “Yes Dear.” As in, yes Dear (inventory) can do all of these things and post all the related accounting to either QBO or Xero. From a pure inventory control stand point Dear keeps you constantly abreast of your stock levels offering multi-location and sub-location capabilities. Got a stock room in the back of your store and a warehouse down the street? No problem with Dear. How about a warehouse in six states, and a couple of 3PLs across the big pond (maybe one in Shanghai, and one in Sydney)? Once again, Dear has your back. You can not only track your stock quantities, but also batch, serial numbers and expiration dates when applicable.
Dear Inventory Item
Is your E-commerce model based upon sales of products you always drop ship from suppliers or distributors? If so, DEAR supports that type of drop shipment based business where you never actually stock the inventory you sell to your end customer. You are able to create a Sales Order for a customer and then automatically generate a Purchase Order to your supplier with the customer’s shipment details, saving you substantial time and paperwork.
Inventory-centric businesses often need to categorize and sub-categorize their products. Further, they may offer significant variants of products based upon any number of criteria or attributes. Dear’s Product Categories and Product Families give you a broad range of stock differentiation. While Categories represent broad classifications of products, families represent a group of variations for one common product. You might have Product Categories like Cosmetics, Housewares, Hardware and Sporting Goods. But you would configure a Product Family if you had different sizes and colors for the same T-shirt.
Dear Product Family
And what about inventory cost methods? Well with Dear you can select valuations based on First In, First Out (FIFO), FIFO - Serial Number, FIFO - Batch, First Expired, First Out (FEFO) - Serial Number, FEFO - Batch, Special-Batch or Special-Serial Number. I haven’t really found that many options in any other product.
Dear makes it easy to set automatic stock reorder points to stay ahead of customer demand, and view your entire purchasing history to forecast that demand. These purchasing capabilities make it easy to stay competitive and profitable because you can see each product's cost history and each supplier's cost history which means you can negotiate for products with suppliers from the standpoint of knowledge. It also means that you can create product pricing strategies that not only attract customers, but work to your profitability as well.
Dear affords you centralized order tracking for all sales, keeping track of orders from telephone sales, retail locations and E-commerce channels. Dear provides a consolidated list of all orders coming from all sales channels allowing you to easily view the status of each order and ensure you never lose another sale.
Dear Sales Order
Need Point-of-sale capabilities? Dear’s POS systems integration with VEND POS ensures your retail sales are reflected in your inventory, relevant transactions and order processing documents, as well as your accounting records.
Dear provides integration with many of the leading E-commerce sales channels including major shopping carts and on-line marketplaces. You are not limited to just a single sales channel. You can turn Dear into the hub of your multi-sales-channel network.
Connect with Amazon.com, BigCommerce, Ebay, EtsyMarketplace, Magento, and WooCommerce. But as though that wasn't enough, how about adding Fulfillment by Amazon, and Handshake for 3PL/B2B commerce options. You can even tie in CrossfireEDI to work with your EDI supported partners. Plus you can also integrate with PayPal and Square for additional payment options beyond your E-commerce or Accounting-based payment processing capabilities.
Dear makes it easy to pick, pack and ship your orders from any location or source, but if you are running your own warehouse you may want to automate and streamline your back-end by utilizing Bar-code scanning for this functionality. Additionally, Bar-code technology makes performing stock counts a snap, reducing the time it takes and error prone nature of taking a manual stock count.
Dear allows you to incorporate ShipStation into the workflow process. ShipStation will pull your accepted order data at a regular frequency (set by you, or triggered manually, if you choose); once the data is in ShipStation you can easily expedite order shipment via your configured carriers and print carrier specific shipping labels. Shipping costs are then posted back to the invoice and ultimately into your accounting software.
Dear Order Processing
So you say, "well all that sounds pretty good as far as sales and inventory processing is concerned, even the E-commerce stuff, but does Dear do 'Manufacturing'?" Like many inventory programs Dear offers rudimentary 'manufacturing' capabilities in my way of thinking. You can produce assemblies for finished goods and subassemblies, and also 'kit' together products. You are not really limited in the number and clustering of sub-assemblies, and certainly you can track all the raw material costs from stock to finished products, and even incorporate some labor and 'other' costs. But Dear doesn't offer any real manufacturing control functions; you can't track the shop floor on a step-by-step, moment-by-moment basis, and you can't build in all the associated costs that a true manufacturing ERP would provide (such as progress tracked consumptive use of 'bulk materials'). I don't really consider the purchasing functionality of Dear to be up to the standards of a true Manufacturing MRP product either; while you can (as I mentioned earlier) trigger purchases from reorder points, you really can't forecast your long-term material requirements based on historical job demand projected into future periods. But Dear, at least, offers you the same 'level' of manufacturing functionality that QuickBooks Enterprise desktop offers, so as an Add-on to QuickBooks Online, that says a lot.
What about cost? Well, it can seem a little pricey to me, especially if what you need is 'just inventory' and you contrast it against products like SOS Inventory. On the other hand, when you compare it to a product like Exact On-line, and also consider all the E-commerce and integration capabilities Dear includes in the package, then it is probably right in line, or maybe even ahead of the curve, price wise.
Dear costs $150 per month if billed monthly, although they presently offer a 1-month discount with an annual paid subscription. You get all the features included in the subscription, and 3 users for that monthly price. You can sign-up for 'extra user accounts' at the cost of $25 per month, but again you get 1-month free if you purchase the additional user subscriptions on an annual basis.
All-in-all I like Dear Inventory a lot, and I will most likely be setting it up for some inventory related clients who insist on migrating to QBO. Will I move all my QBO 'inventory clients' to Dear? No, because I always attempt to determine the very best solution for each of my clients on a one-on-one basis; but when Dear fits the bill, they will be my recommendation. As for you, you need to make the choice on your own, so for more information go to the Dear Website, or see an upcoming Intro Webinar, or sign-up for a free trial. Who knows, by the end of your explorations you may very well find yourself saying, "Yes Dear", as in 'I want it!"