February 22, 2013
Many readers know that outside of technology, I own a business that manufactures apparel and other products and sells them both online and through retail outlets. Having been involved in that business for 17 or so years, I’ve had first-hand experience of just how difficult it is to run a tightly integrated operation with e-commerce, retail point of sale and back office systems all synchronized – the sad reality is that the inventory and manufacturing requirements of small businesses are just as complex as for large operations but whereas large companies can afford hundred thousand dollar software projects with customer integrations, small businesses have to rely on what is available off the shelf.
I’m always interested then in seeing companies that are trying to bring a high level of functionality and integration to small and mid size manufacturing and selling organizations – latest to come past my inbox was Stitch – a company that aims to make complex inventory management simple. Stitch’s take is to integrate multiple sales channels, all in real time and to allow for consistent pricing, invoicing and accurate inventory management. Stitch was created by Brandon Levey, himself a veteran of running a product business – in his case Levey previously ran both a sustainable clothing business and a mobile accessory one. The complexity and difficulties he experienced during that time directly led him to build a business management application.
Stitch joins a number of other companies n this space – companies like Unleashed and TradeGecko at the smaller end of town, while BrightPearl and Intacct take a slightly different approach, aiming a tad higher up the food chain and delivering functionality across the different needs of a business. Of course there are always the top shelf vendors – NetSuite being perhaps the best known SaaS vendor – but the price tag for NetSuite puts it out of the realm of most SMBs.
In terms of its differentiation from the competition, Stitch distinguishes itself by offering:
- Real-time syncing. Many vendors integrate using a semi-regular poling mechanism, thereby introducing opportunity for inventory errors in the case of near-simultaneous sales via different channels
- Blending on and offline sales worlds to keep track of online sales as well as wholesale sales all in one place
- Intuitive design – at-a-glance dashboards tracking the stage of each order through completion
- Reports and insights to make data-driven decisions
- Moving towards a complete small business solutions with ad-on integrations such as ShipStation, PayPal, and upcoming Xero and Vend
In terms of this last point, current integrations, Stitch currently works across a number of hosted shopping carts, Marketplaces and POS systems including Amazon, Shopify, Etsy, BigCommerce, Storenvy and SAIL (an open-source POS similar to Square, and recently acquired by Verifone). Add-on integrations include PayPal, ShipStation, Quickbooks and GoogleDrive/GoogleDocs. Stitch is promising integration with Xero, Ecwid, Magento, Vend and Goodsie in the near future.
When I talked to Levey, he was quick to articulate the analytics side of what Stitch does. Specific examples he gave include the ability to generate customizable reports to break down sales by channel, product, or variant so customers know exactly what is and isn’t selling well. Another analytical angle is the integrated data from all sales channels in order to know which products and channels deserve more attention and which should be scaled back because they are less profitable While In understand the value this sort of analytical approach can bring, it seems to me that the initial pain point that SMBs face is the functional one – simply not being able to tie their systems together and offer real time, accurate inventory across online channels and off is a massive problem. As a potential customer, I’d rather Stitch spent most of its effort in building the various integrations that customers need, rather than developing sexy analytical charts – don’t get me wrong, analysis is useful and all, just kind of irrelevant if the core solution doesn’t work across the different systems an organization uses.
Either way, Stitch is doing a good job of build an ecosystem of connected applications – they’ve picked up $1M seed funding round 12 months ago and have used that to build out the team and the product – it will be interesting to see them balance the varying pressures to build breadth with depth int heir product over the months ahead.