More often than not, you will be able to find popular, industry-standard tools to meet the unique needs of your business. Services like Shopify, for example, can provide you with a pretty comprehensive toolset for point of sales and online ordering. But sometimes, the out-of-the-box features won’t meet your needs or you will outgrow what the service presently offers. 

We recently worked with a client who is a retail wholesaler of deli items. That is, they sell imported items to wholesalers and to individual customers in store and online. On Shopify, you can only sell things as units. This is great if you’re selling a box of crackers, but you’ll run into trouble if you need to buy and sell certain products, like deli meat, by weight. This means that they need to order and sell in wholesale weights while also managing and selling per-unit retail items. In order to do this we needed to create a custom Shopify extension.

Creating a Custom Shopify & Zoho Inventory Solution

Even though there is a built-in connector between Zoho and Shopify, it is pretty limited. Without proper management, you’ll run into issues like duplication. Our client needed something that would allow Shopify’s unit-based retail to “talk” with Zoho Inventory so that they could track both wholesale and per-unit stock.  

Because the client uses Zoho Inventory to manage their wholesale side of the business, we had to find a way to harmonize existing wholesale items, measured in kilograms, with Shopify’s rigid, unit-based products. We wanted to sync integrations without creating a second inventory that would manage retail and wholesale separately. We also wanted to limit manual stock adjustments and bundling wherever possible so that the sales and inventory teams could focus instead on their day-to-day operations. This required us to build new functionality and add new features since the integration couldn’t be customized through the existing script. Luckily, Zoho has a robust API that allows us to perform a number of automations that aren’t possible with the more rigid standard integration.

In order to sell unit-based items in Shopify without creating duplicate items, we used the existing weight-based wholesale items as “parent” items and created composite “child” items using divisions of the existing base inventory. With this in place, wholesale orders from within Zoho Inventory can still be created and billed by weight, but portioned items, such as a half or quarter wheel of cheese, can be sold as individual items in Shopify. This does not create copies of existing items, but instead derives pre-portioned units that can be managed in relation to the base stock. Now, with the inventory managed by the parent item, you can track how that child item is broken down when sold via Shopify. For example, you can now track 5 kilograms of cheese in Zoho Inventory but 50 units of 100 grams of cheese or 5 units of 1 kilogram of cheese in Shopify.

The biggest challenge was to automate the management of these newly portioned unit items so that we could bundle incoming orders, update the available stock of all child items in units from a shared parent stock in kilograms, and then sync all this with Shopify. The new scripts we wrote now automate allocation of stock for each child and then update them as sales and new inventory comes in from both from supplier purchase orders and order returns. And we made sure that all of this is trackable within Zoho Inventory’s existing bundling, adjustment, and reporting systems.

Implementing Custom Solutions with RFDM

As your business grows, your needs will evolve, and those needs may not always be met by the standard features in a platform like Shopify. However, this doesn’t mean you have to migrate to a new and often more expensive system: we may be able to  tailor your current application with a custom solution. Contact us for a free 30-minute consultation on Zoho or Shopify. 

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