One of the most popular tools out there to help reduce some of the legwork involved with your Amazon business, as well as increase your efficiency and profitability, is Stratify by InventoryLab (sometimes referred to as “Inventory Lab” or IL).
While Amazon FBA has made it significantly easier for online merchants to start listing and selling on Amazon, there are still a lot of aspects to the business that you need to take care of yourself, especially if you plan on pursuing selling that gig full time.
In this blog post, we’ll take a comprehensive look inside Inventory Lab’s Stratify (as well as a quick tour of their mobile app, Scoutify). We’ll explore each section of their web interface and lay out the features. Finally, we’ll summarize the review and quickly evaluate competing solutions.
By the end of this blog post, you should have a pretty solid idea on how Startify looks and works from the inside. You should also have an idea about major competitors in the space and I’ll help you make an informed decision of whether you should go for Inventory Labs, a competitor or nothing entirely.
Let’s get going!
Inventory Lab Background Information
While InventoryLab does not currently state the year they were established on their about page, Web Archive’s snapshots seem to indicate that they launched their website in 2012, which was a simple squeeze page back then asking people to stay tuned and to enter their email address for updates.
In April 2013’s snapshot, it appears the website became fully operational. Plans started at $40/month. Ironically, they advertised “same day support” on their homepage, which is no longer the case, obviously.
These dates make Inventory Lab one of the oldest (if not the oldest) player in this space, being almost 7 years as of this post’s publishing date. The application was founded by Ryan Stephens and Forrest Wang, and the team seems to have had 3 people in total at launch date. Their team eventually grew into today’s 22 people.
On their “old about page”, they state that their mission is to “fully leverage the power of the MWS API as well as (in the future) other marketplace APIs to provide users with the most efficient solutions possible”.
They say the reason InventoryLab came to life was after they were having a hard time tracking their expenses and accounting through complex spreadsheets. A year later they created InventoryLab to help with inventory management while having built-in expense tracking.
Inventory Lab’s (I’ll be referring to it as IL moving forward) interface is straightforward. You have notifications/messages at the top right corner, and the main menu is laid out horizontally at the top left portion of the screen. Each of the main menu items has sub-menus right underneath them, which become visible when hovering. This is a list of all the main menu and submenu items:
- Open Batches
- Closed Batches
- Amazon Listing Errors
- FBA Sales
- Merchant Sales
- Other Income
- Inbound Shipping
- Other Expenses
- Supplier Profitability
- Category Profitability
- SKU Profitability
- ASIN Profitability
- Inventory Valuation
- Sales Tax Report
- Profit and Loss
- User Guide
- Support Portal
We won’t be covering every single subsection but we’ll cover the most prominent ones. It’s also worth noting that as you can see from how the menus are laid out, it’s obvious that the software focuses heavily on the accounting and reporting sections. Recall that the founders said the primary reason they created the software was to help Amazon sellers with their numbers, so this makes a lot of sense.
Other than the accounting and reporting section, perhaps the most prominent other section is the “List” section. This helps you scan items, edit their listing info and prepare them to be shipped to Amazon FBA warehouses (if you’re using FBA). They also help you comply with Amazon’s box content information requirement, which is an added plus.
If we were to summarize the biggest benefits of the software, they’d be:
- Helps you research products, competition, and profitability potential so that you can source the right products and list them at the right price.
- Gives you a smooth process that allows you to keep Amazon happy with minimal pain and headache, from the moment you source your products up til the point you wrap them into boxes and ship them over to Amazon warehouses.
- Accounting and reporting tools help you consolidate everything into a single place and save you from having to buy and use a separate accounting subscription like QuickBooks.
The dashboard (as per the image above) provides some vital stats in a visually appealing way without cramming too much data together. It defaults to the monthly profit and sales report but you can easily change the date ranges in the top right corner:
There’s also an easy data export functionality that is directly accessible through the “Export” button right next to the date selection drop downs. On the left side, you have a sales vs profit chart basically comparing revenue to profit after subtracting expenses.
On the hand-right side, there’s an interesting pie chart that lays out all your monthly expenses. We can see that FBA fees, in general, are taking the biggest portion in terms of expenses, nothing else really compares. We notice that FBA Transaction Fees are the highest expense followed by selling fees and FBA inventory and inbound service fees.
What’s beautiful about all of this is that IL pulls all their data directly from your Amazon Seller Central account. If you were to do this manually, you’d be gathering data from a bunch of different sources and pulling your hair out manually entering the data into spreadsheets and creating formulas. This benefit becomes really apparent in the accounting and reporting sections.
The research section works a lot like Amazon’s seller app. In this example, we’ll be searching for “garlic press”. Here are the results:
If we click “select” on any of the results, we’ll be presented with this:
Right under the listing title, you can see its sales rank, category and size tier. The size tier is helpful because it may affect how the shipment is prepped before sending it to FBA. The most interesting options in this section lie in the right-hand column, though.
You can see the number of offers on Amazon for this item, and in this case, it says “50”. Do note that this isn’t always accurate because the app is dependent on Amazon’s API, and the API doesn’t always seem to share every offer that’s out there for the item. You can always check that manually, though. We’ll get into that in a jiffy.
So under “Offers” you have “New”, “Used” and “FBA”. If you’re using FBA, your primary concern will mainly be the FBA column, because FBA sellers almost always perform better than merchants who fulfill on their own, if all else is equal. A lot of buyers would actually pay more for Amazon FBA items to take advantage of Amazon Prime’s one and two-day free shipping.
For this item under “FBA”, we can see that there’s a single seller and the characters “O” and “A” show on the left side of the column in a small green font. “O” indicates that this particular offer owns the buy box and “A” indicates that Amazon is the merchant.
It’s very useful to be able to tell this at a glance because you’d be able to estimate what it would take to snatch the buy box. It’s also useful to know when you’re going to be competing against Amazon because that’s often not a good idea unless you can provide a significantly better deal.
Right under the offers box, you can see the “price per unit” field. Now all you have to do here is to enter the cost price per unit. That’s the price you’re paying your supplier for this item, et voila! Your net profit and ROI is automagically calculated.
The beauty here is that IL factors in your shipping costs (as per your account settings) as well as FBA’s commission and all other applicable fees, presenting you with a neat final net profit figure. Needless to say, this saves a lot of time and effort.
So many Amazon sellers fail because they don’t know their numbers. Amazon doesn’t help too, with all its fees and commissions scattered everywhere. This helps you instantly tell whether an item will have the potential to be profitable or not, after subtracting all the fees and expenses.
Right underneath the competing offers box, you have some conveniently placed “shortcut buttons” to third-party websites and services that help you do some further research on the product. For instance, you have BookScouter, CamelCamelCamel, Keepa, Amazon Prime comparison, and eBay buttons.
Clicking on them leads you directly to the relevant product page on the respective website, saving you from having to copy/paste or manually type in anything. It makes checking out the product at several places at once just a click of a button away.
It’s worth noting that IL recently released their “Scoutify” app, which basically serves you the same data you can see under the research section here, and adds instant barcode scanning so that you can scan items at local stores and pull up all their information at ease.
The “History” subsection allows you to see a list of your previous searches/scans, and this is particularly useful when you’re out and about scanning random items at local shops, then return home to actually research the items thoroughly on your laptop.
As mentioned earlier, the listing section is one of the most prominent features of IL. Inside this section, you can prepare an FBA shipment from A-Z and the software helps you comply painlessly with all the FBA requirements.
This section warrants a whole article written about it just to explain everything, but I’ll try to keep it brief and give you a quick walkthrough on how to prepare a shipment through this section.
So let’s say we’re trying to resell some books. Here’s what our workflow might look like in IL:
- Before entering the first book, right under the search box, there’s an “Edit” button. You can click this button to customize the “MSKU”. A lot of sellers use this as a prefix for their supplier. So for instance, if you have 10 books you’ve sourced from “John” and you select “John” as the prefix, IL will automatically append “John-100”, “John-200”..etc as the MSKU for the products you’ll be scanning/adding. So, in this case, our MSKU is “Linda”.
- On the top right corner of the listing section, we’d put the cursor into the search box and select “Amazon Catalog” from the drop-down on the left of it so that the item will be looked up on Amazon when we scan it. Now we scan the barcode on our book.
- As you can see a lot of the fields get auto-filled. We won’t mess with most of those fields but one interesting field to take note of is the “Supplier” field. This field is used by IL and is not for Amazon’s use.Using the “Supplier Profitability” report (which we’ll be exploring later), you can tell which of your suppliers bring you the most profits/sales. This could be especially useful in the long run when you’re trying to optimize your business for better scale and profits.You can also choose the book’s condition from the drop-down menu and you can have the condition note pre-populated through your account settings. This helps you get your listing ready in seconds, literally.
- Note that we’re doing everything step by step here. Alternatively, you can bulk scan and list books using an app such as ScanLister, and then later use a repricer to adjust prices and put them at competitive levels. You can also try out AccelerList which offers both options. We’ll get into that later. In our case here, we’ll just take a look at the competing offers and enter a price based on our analysis. As in the research tab, the app tells us exactly how much we stand to make according to our input.
- Once you press submit, your thermal printer will spit out a label for your book. Simply stick it over your book, a good area to stick it on would be its original barcode. Now repeat this process for every book you want to include in this batch. Do note that Amazon does offer to label your books for you, at $0.2 per item. The labeling process is a relatively straightforward and fast process, so a lot of sellers prefer to do it themselves. Up to you, though.
- Once we’re done, we’re going to click on “Scan to Pack” then “New Box” and then “Start”. It’ll say “Listening” as you can see and at this point, all you need to do is prepare your box, scan each book and put it in the box. Scan, put in box, repeat. Note: Goes without saying you’re scanning the new barcode that you had just stuck on the book.
- As you scan each book, you’ll notice a green tick will appear next to its MSKU in the left-hand side under “Available Items”. In case you run out of room in the box, you simply click finish, and click “new box” then start scanning the remaining books into that new box. Once done you click “Finish” then “Close”.
- On the bottom-left corner, you’d now be able to see your shipment under “Working Shipments”. Now click on it, and then click “Box Content Information”. Now we’ll click “Send Updated Boxes” to update Amazon.
- We can now go back to our batch order under “Open Batches” in the top-left corner, and then click “Review Batch” now press the orange “Send” button to send box feeds. Now the batch should be closed.
- Now let’s hop onto Seller Central, go to our shipments section and hit “Work on Shipment” next to the latest shipment Seller Central has just received from Inventory Lab. At this point, IL should have pre-filled most of the information on this page for you. Just double check that it’s correct and enter the shipment weight of your box.
- Finally, click “Accept Charges” to accept the charges of the shipment. Shipping labels will now be available. Simply print them and stick them on the box! All done!
It may seem like a hectic process written down in 11 steps like that, but it’s really very systematic. Because it’s a simple 1-2-3 process, you can easily outsource this to an employee or part-time college student or so. It requires no special skill, just a bit of time and practice.
That was one example showing how you can use IL to scan, list, price, pack, and ship used books to Amazon FBA.
So under inventory, you’ll have two sub-sections. FBA and Merchant. Merchant if you’re handling fulfillment yourself and FBA if you’re using Amazon FBA for fulfillment, obviously.
As the screenshot illustrates, this section shows you things like the total in-stock items, total SKUs, total buy cost of items currently in stock and total in-stock sales value. The view also shows you a neat table containing info about all your SKUs.
The usefulness of this section comes in determining how much money you currently have tied up in stock as well as the potential revenue generated if all current stock sells at your designated price. This can really help with cash flow planning and control.
The accounting section is the second most prominent feature of IL. Let’s take a look at its most interesting reports.
The FBA Sales section breaks down all sales within a specific date range and lists each sale’s sale price, buy cost and net profit clearly. The section allows quick or advanced searching as well as importing and exporting data.
This easy movement of data allows your local accountant/ CPA to easily access and work with everything without you having to deal with any of the headaches involved with being the “middleman” between your business and the accountant.
Self-explanatory. List of all your refunds. You might want to monitor this section then login to Seller Central to see if any of those returns need to be checked for quality issues.
Inbound Shipping Cost
This keeps track of all of the costs associated with your FBA shipments.
A lot of sellers miss this. If you’re one of them, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. If you’re driving around for business purposes, you need to track those miles and enter them here. These are expenses and should be tracked!
Other Income & Other Expenses
As IL attempts to be a one-stop shop for all your accounting needs, this wouldn’t be complete without offering you a way to add custom income and expenses. If you have any additional income or expense that’s not automatically tracked through IL’s connection to Seller Central, you can easily add it in these sections.
They will then automatically reflect in all your other reports. It would be a shame if you had to buy a QuickBooks subscription just because you have an untracked expense that needs to be added manually and you couldn’t do it inside IL, causing the rest of its reports that are dependent on income/expenses to be inaccurate and hence threatening their usefulness entirely.
The main highlight of the reports section is the different profitability reports available. Not only can they give you a really good idea about how you’re doing overall and the health of your business, but they can also tell you more about what’s making you and costing you the most money at a glance.
This is invaluable data because it’s not just about “oh yeah, great, I’m profitable this month..yay”. It’s actually about giving you insight into why you were or weren’t profitable and arming you with the information you need to take action and fix what needs to be fixed or improve what needs to be improved.
As the name suggests, the supplier profitability report lets you see how profitable you were on the “supplier” level. By clicking on any of the up and down arrows on any of the columns, you can sort all data by this column ascendingly or descendingly.
This allows you to see things like the top supplier that drove you the most number of sales, revenue, net profit or ROI. Similarly, you can sort by the lowest performing suppliers on any of these metrics.
While this report may not be crazy helpful to small sellers or sellers who mainly source from just one or two suppliers, it can be greatly helpful for higher volume sellers who work with a bunch of different suppliers or sourcing partners.
On a larger scale, this report really helps you see patterns of consistently performing and underperforming suppliers. Patterns you would’ve otherwise completely missed.
Remember the “Supplier” field we were asked to enter when listing our product? This is the field that is used to generate this report.
The category profitability works the same way as the supplier profitability report but on the category level. For instance, in this screenshot we can see that the “Video Games” category drove the highest profit (in absolute terms).
Similarly to the supplier profitability report, you can use these insights to take action and experiment with sourcing more SKUs in the particular category that is showing great potential. Or, cutting the categories/verticals/niches that aren’t performing well.
We started with the “high level” profitability report, now you can drill down to the SKU level. Say category profitability indicates that “Video Games” are the most profitable category, but what if that wasn’t entirely accurate? Maybe a single game did exceptionally well and boosted the whole category’s performance.
If that was the case, you may want to hold off on going knees deep into the gaming category, because its performance may have been the exception rather than the rule. You can also use this report to see if you can source more of the exact same product, if you find its metrics interesting.
Sales Tax Report
If you’re collecting sales tax from your customers, this helps you keep track of everything. This obviously varies tremendously for every state and country, so for proper tax advice, you should consult your local CPA.
Profit & Loss
This report is just beautiful (and a little painful). In this tab, you can select your desired period and it literally sums up ALL incoming and outgoing money to and from your business and presents them in a clean, color-coded table. This report is extremely useful because it allows you to see everything from a bird’s eye view.
The painful aspect is that you get to see how much Amazon really eats into your profits. Hey, I’m not saying they don’t deserve it but just having all of those Amazon expenses itemized and seeing those total figures add up throughout the whole month makes your stomach uneasy.
Nevertheless, the report really helps you keep your finger on your business’ pulse. It ensures you won’t be celebrating $10,000 in monthly revenue when your business is barely breaking even or possibly losing money on that $10,000.
IL has a good self-serve help section. As for support, they used to have a Facebook community group but there are some reports that it’s no longer operational (I”m not in the group so I don’t know for sure). They also offer direct email support.
Some say their support has also gotten slower over the years, but I’m yet to verify that. Although, I’m not very happy that they once boasted “same day support” and have now blasted that claim off the face of the Earth. It doesn’t have to be same day but that sort of guarantee definitely made me feel more confident about their support’s responsiveness.
Inventory Lab vs AccelerList
A new kid on the block is getting a lot of attention recently, and that’s AccelerList. Jim Pickins has a really interesting review on his blog and a YouTube video detailing his experience with the software.
It appears AccerList will beat IL in almost every way. I say almost because IL has a built-in mobile scanner app “Scoutify” that’s included in your subscription. That’s not the case with AccelerList which means you’re going to have to shell out an additional $10 a month or so for an app like Profit Bandit.
I also feel IL has more accounting and reporting features, but AccerList’s reports and accounting sections look cosmetically better and don’t seem to lack any of the basics.
Here are some advantages of AccelerList over Inventory Lab:
- Speed workflow: Quickly set up default pricing for your items and scan them quickly one after the other. This workflow is a Godsend if you’re constantly sending in hundreds of items. You can then use a repricer such as Sellerly to automatically adjust all your prices to something reasonable. This SIGNIFICANTLY speeds up your workflow.
- Better “Box Content Information” Policy Handling: Creating new boxes in Inventory Lab is somewhat cumbersome. You have to assign every single item to a box and have to create a new box with your first batch, even though it’s common sense that the first batch will start with a first box. AccelerList automatically creates your first box and assigns items to it unless you tell it otherwise. Once you’ve run out of space in the box you can then create a new one easily.
- More Intuitive: Recall how many steps it took us to list an item inside IL? Honestly, the process is not as long as it looks but AccelerList still cuts on a lot of the pointing and clicking in Inventory Lab, especially when it comes to handling boxes.
- Price: AccelerList currently costs $34/mo. Even if you add in a $10 subscription for a scanning app like Profit Bandit, your total would add up to $44. That’s still 5 bucks less than Inventory Lab’s monthly subscription.
You can’t really go wrong with Inventory Lab, they’ve been doing what they do for 6 years and that’s a long time in the digital world. They have been (and still are) considered the de facto Amazon listing software.
Recently born competitors like AccelerList are catching up fast, though. IL offers a generous 30-day trial and AccelerList offers a 14-day trial. You can always use Inventory Lab’s trial to get access to Scoutify app and start scanning items at your local stores to find great deals.
Or, an alternative approach is to get a $10/month subscription for Profit Bandit and test AccelerList 14 day trial. In any case, if you’re just starting out, both software will equally serve you well. You might want to go for AccelerList just because of the slight pricing advantage.
If you’re pushing more volume, though, (talking hundreds of items or more), you might want to consider AccelerList for its stability when dealing with a lot of items and its fast batch/speed processing feature.