Xero Cloud Accounting Now Tracks Small Business Inventory

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted April 03, 2015

Xero, the cloud-based accounting software company that originated in New Zealand, is branching out to help small businesses get a better handle on their finances. Now with a new integrated inventory-tracking feature, customers have one less hoop to jump through when they're balancing the books.

"By popular demand," Xero released a new inventory feature as part of a recent update to its cloud accounting platform, Jamie Sutherland, general manager of U.S. products and solutions for the company, told Small Business Computing. And unlike competing offerings with costs that can balloon as the add-on modules stack up, the upgrade won't cost customers another penny, he said.

Taking Stock of Retail Sales

While not a replacement for full-featured inventory systems that handle major retail operations, Xero helps small businesses expand their money-making opportunities by seamlessly incorporating the sale of goods into their operations.

"Take, for instance, a yoga studio that sells mats and other [service-based] items," said Sutherland. Yoga classes may be the draw, but the ability to provide last-minute gear replacements or to sell refreshments can boost the bottom line and improve customer satisfaction.

Now yoga studios and other small businesses that supplement their main revenue generators with retail sales can track inventory in real-time. Xero Inventory generates reports that provide "a clear picture of inventory levels," said Sutherland, allowing businesses to monitor and manage their stock in response to demand, thereby improving cash flow, and all the while keeping an eye on their financial well-being. Xero customers can also quickly add managed items to invoices and Online Quotes, another new feature.

Granted, Xero's built-in inventory management may fall short for small businesses that live and die by the cash register, admitted Sutherland. "A lot of customers that have heavy inventory needs will use a separate inventory [add-on]," which they will find available in the Xero add-on marketplace.

On-the-Go Estimates

Also new in the latest release are Online Quotes, a feature that lets small business owners create estimates on the spot and with any mobile device. Instead of the typical back-and-forth, which can involve countless phone calls and emails, Xero Online Quotes saves time by giving contractors, sales professionals and other service providers the tools to "come to an agreement quicker," said Sutherland.

With a smartphone in hand, business owners can adjust an estimate right then and there in the presence of a customer. Alternately, customers can view a quote online, add their own notes and approve or deny a job or sale, resulting in a more "collaborative experience of sending a quote," said Sutherland.

Early feedback has been encouraging, he reported. Online Quotes "increases the business velocity in which these small businesses can operate," he said. It improves small businesses agility, helping them "come to an agreement quicker and land more agreements," he added.

Receipt Requested

Xero has also made an interface tweak that, while seemingly minor, can nonetheless have a big impact on a small business bookkeeper's day.

A new Side-by-Side Files view helps eliminate jumping from tab to tab, making data entry easier. For example, Xero customers can "pull up a [scanned] receipt in Xero, on the same screen, and enter that information with an actual, physical view of the receipt." The result is a faster, more accurate accounting of non-Xero transactions, one-off expenses and other bookkeeping chores.

Finally, Xero now integrates with more financial institutions, allowing more small businesses to reconcile their bank transactions with their accounting. The new update supports an additional 1,692 bank feeds, bringing the total to 7,000 feeds covering more than 5,000 banks worldwide.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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