Product: Nexternal

The included Inventory Control feature allows you to maintain an inventory count for products and SKUs in the Nexternal Order Management System ("OMS"). To activate Inventory Control, navigate to Settings / Edit Site Options / Inventory Control, and check the "activate inventory control" box. The various setup options are discussed below.

In this article we'll cover:

How it works

Once Inventory Control is activated, when a product is ordered, inventory decrements as appropriate. Note that line item inventory is decremented not when a product is placed in the cart, but rather when the order is placed. When inventory is depleted, the product status automatically changes to the Depletion Status that you set (see Image A below). Most merchants select Backordered, Sold Out, or Discontinued. Discontinued removes the product from the online store altogether. Backordered and Sold Out remain visible in the store. Customers can purchase items on Backorder, but cannot purchase items that are Sold Out.

Note that the depletion status you set in the Settings section can be overridden on the product level (see Settings section below), because you may want some items to change to Sold Out status, others to change to Backordered, and others to be Discontinued.

As the depletion status is changed, a notification e-mail is sent automatically to the Primary Contact (Settings / General Information) and any Secondary Contacts as defined at the User level.

Subject to the discussion below regarding the Allow Negative setting, if an order is canceled, the line items are returned back into inventory. However, inventory is not automatically increased when an order or line item is marked as Return-Customer or Return-Ship Agent. For returns, if you want the returned item to go back into inventory, mark the line item as cancelled on the order detail screen. This will increment the inventory level. If the item is not fit to return to inventory, mark the line item as "Return-Customer" or "Return-Ship Agent", which will not add the item back to the inventory count.

When a customer in the Online Store attempts to purchase a product (or SKU) for which inventory is defined, two checks are performed:

  1. The first check occurs when a customer adds a product to the Shopping Cart or edits the quantity of a product in the cart. If the quantity in the Shopping Cart exceeds the available inventory and the Depletion Status is Sold Out or Discontinued, the customer is blocked from ordering the excess quantity, and the cart is amended as appropriate. For any other Depletion Status, the customer is notified of the situation but is permitted to proceed with the order.

  2. The second check occurs when the customer submits the order, and applies only to products with a Depletion Status of Sold Out or Discontinued (for example if an item was available when placed in the cart but sold out before the order was placed). If excess quantity is ordered at this point, the order is not confirmed, and the customer is notified of the situation and is asked to amend his/her cart, then return to complete the order.

Note that these two inventory checks apply when an order is placed in the Online Store and from within the OMS, but do not apply when an order is edited.

Finally, integrity is enforced between inventory and status. For inventory defined at the Product level (and products with an Inventory Kit at the Product level), if inventory is positive, status must be Normal; if inventory is 0 (or negative), status cannot be Normal. If inventory is defined at the SKU level (or Inventory Kits are defined on the SKU level), product status must be Normal unless all available SKUs have inventory levels of 0 (or negative).

Example: Suppose that a T-Shirt is sold in small, medium, and large sizes. The inventory of larges has been depleted, while smalls and mediums are still available. The product status must therefore be Normal, because at least one of the SKU's still has inventory. Suppose further that a customer attempts to add a large T-Shirt to the Shopping Cart. If the Depletion Status is Sold Out, the large SKU takes on the properties of the Sold Out status, and the customer is blocked from adding the SKU to his/her Shopping Cart, being told the item is unavailable. Similarly, if the Depletion Status is Backordered, the customer is notified of this but is permitted to proceed with the order of the large T-Shirt.

Inventory Kits

You may choose to define any product as a Product Level Inventory Kit, or for products with attributes, you may define multiple Inventory Kits, each of which is defined on the SKU level. An Inventory Kit consists of one or more other products and/or SKUs bundled together for inventory purposes. For example, a "wine special 6-pack" consisting of 2 bottles of (the same) Cabernet, 2 bottles of (the same) Pinot Noir, and 2 bottles of (the same) Chardonnay would best be created via an Inventory Kit. This Inventory Kit would be comprised of 2 bottles each of 3 constituent products/SKUs.

A product using an Inventory Kit does not define its own status and inventory; rather status and inventory counts are derived from those of the constituent products/SKUs. When the special 6-pack is ordered, 2 bottles each of the constituent products would be decremented from their respective inventory counts. When one or more of the constituent products are sold out, the special 6-pack automatically becomes sold out as well.

Notes Regarding Kits:

  1. Kits may not be composed of other kits, but only of non-kit products.

  2. SKU Level Inventory Kits are limited to 10 constituent products/SKUs per kit.

System Settings & Product-Level Overrides

When Inventory Control is first activated, all existing products with status Normal will have inventory set to the Default Inventory. Default inventory will also apply when you create a new product if you define inventory on the product but forget to fill in the correct inventory amount. Therefore, we suggest that you set the default exceptionally high so that visually you can easily tell when a number is wrong. All products with statuses other than Normal will have inventory set to 0.

Image A: Settings / Edit Site Options / Inventory Control

Set your Depletion Status. Again, most merchants select Backordered, Sold Out, or Discontinued. Discontinued removes the product from the online store altogether. Backordered and Sold Out remain visible in the store. Customers cannot purchase items that are Sold Out, but they can purchase items on Backorder.

Remember that the depletion status you set in the Settings section can be overridden on the product level (page two of any product set up in the Overrides section - see Image B below), because you may want some items to change to Sold Out status, others to change to Backordered, and others to be Discontinued.

You may also define a Warning Level, an inventory level at which a warning e-mail is sent to the Primary and Secondary Contacts letting them know you are running low. We recommend setting up a level in the Settings section that might apply to most or many of your products. However, recognizing that you may need more or less warning time on any specific product, these warning levels may be overridden on page two of any product set up.

Image B reflects what the two inventory overrides (Depletion Status and Warning Level) look like on the product level. For Depletion Status, "use default" means use the setting you selected in the Settings section of the OMS:

Image B: Page 2 of Product creation, Product Overrides section:

The Allow Negative option (Image A) determines whether or not inventory values are permitted to drop below zero. If this option is on, a negative inventory count, indicating a backlog, is allowed. If this option is off, inventory count may not drop below zero, even if backordered items are ordered. Therefore, we recommend that you check this box, especially if you allow the Backordered status. Note that this setting does not affect whether Backordered items can be ordered. Items on Backorder are always orderable. This setting simply controls whether the system displays a negative inventory calculation on the product, or whether the inventory count on the product stays at zero (if inventory is zero or less) regardless of orders placed while on Backorder. If you allow the Backordered Status but do not activate Allow Negative, then it could be cumbersome to determine how many backordered items have been ordered.

Further, failing to turn on Allow Negative could have negative consequences if you use the Backordered status. If an order or line item is canceled, or if a line item's quantity is decreased on the Edit Order screen, inventory is automatically increased as appropriate. However, if inventory was at 0 before the change and the Allow Negative option is off, the Order Management System cannot determine whether that product should now be available, or if the backlog has simply been reduced. Consequently, inventory remains at 0.

The Enforce Allocation for Kits option determines whether or not an allocation defined at the product or SKU level is also enforced upon any Inventory Kits that contain the product or SKU. For example, if Product A has an allocation of 4 for the relevant Customer Type and is included in several Inventory Kits, the customer may only purchase Product A and the kits that include it, in quantities such that the aggregate quantity of Product A ordered does not exceed 4. A product defined as an Inventory Kit may also define its own allocation, regardless of the status of this option.

Defining Inventory on the Product Level

After activation, you are always asked to choose how to define inventory when creating or editing a product. On page one of each product setup, you may choose not to define inventory for a product; to define inventory on the Product or SKU level; or to create an Inventory Kit (consisting of other products and SKUs), or multiple Inventory Kits on the SKU level.

Here is what these inventory selections look like on page one of each product set up:

Image C: Page 1 of Product creation, Inventory section:

Recall as well that Image B above reflects where the system inventory settings may be overridden on the Product level.

Managing Inventory

Inventories defined at the Product level can be quickly updated in the Product Quick Edit View (Products / Quick Edit View), or by using the Product Import (Products / Import). Inventories on any level can be updated by using the Inventory Import (Products / Import).

To update inventory numbers on items that have inventory defined on the SKU level, click on the product name from the Product list page in your OMS, scroll down to the "SKUs" section and click edit. You may edit the inventory for each SKU on this page.

In the built-in Inventory Control feature there is no log to record changes to inventory made in these ways. If you require a log, consider our Enhanced Inventory add-on module.

Important Notes

  1. Some aspects of Inventory Control are modified if Enhanced Inventory is enabled. For example, if Enhanced Inventory is enabled, the Allow Negative option is automatically enabled.

  2. For Pending Orders, inventory does not change until activation.

  3. When the Depletion Status is set to Discontinued, the Inventory will go above 0 only as the result of a user action that specifically increases Inventory (i.e. not because of an order status change).

  4. You may change the visibility rule for Product Inventory in Layout / Main Layout / Visibility Rules. This change will determine whether available inventory is reflected in your online store.

Need More? Consider Enhanced Inventory

  • Need to keep a reference log of all inventory updates and depletions?

  • Need to clearly see the difference between inventory on hand vs inventory already sold vs reserved inventory vs inventory available for sale?

  • Need to manage inventory in multiple locations?

  • Need an allowance for countdown inventory reservations when orders are placed so that items in the cart don't sell out for a time before they are purchased?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, our Enhanced Inventory add-on module may be just what you need.

rev: 11/17/21

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