Clearly Inventory Review
Clearly Inventory is an online inventory management software designed “with very small companies in mind.” The interface is intended to be simple and easy to use for those who don’t want to spend too much time learning new software.
Steve Lochmoeller and Ethan Johnson founded the company because they saw a need for a simple online inventory system for small businesses, organizations, and individuals. Lochmoeller spent many years in manufacturing (often working with software and website development) and in retail management. Johnson owned a cycling shop and has developed and coded software and websites. They both experienced plenty of their own headaches with bad software and inventory systems, leading them to create Clearly Inventory. It all started with designing a custom online inventory management system for a small manufacturer in St. Louis. That led to developing a commercial version of the system, which became Clearly Inventory. The company is itself a small business, with about 10 employees.
A more accurate name for the software might be “Simply Inventory,” because that’s all it handles. This is a system that manages inventory, plain and simple. In other words, it’s not an all-in-one system like competitors Unleashed or InFlow; at present, Clearly Inventory doesn’t integrate with third-party sales channels such as Shopify, Amazon, etc., or any other add-ons.
Read on to find out if this software is something that might work for your business.
Table of Contents
One advantage of Clearly Inventory is that it’s reasonably priced:
- $39.99 per month (includes one user)
- $4.99 per month for each additional user
- $9.99 for 5000 additional item slots available in the program
- Month-to-month billing – cancel anytime
There’s a 30-day free trial, no credit card needed.
You can add new users at any time, and you can add as many as you want. If you’ve added new users since the last billing cycle, you’ll be notified in advance of the new monthly price for your account. Of course, if you have a bunch of people you want to add as users, you’ll end up paying a good bit more. But even with, say, 10 additional users, you’re still talking about only $75 a month—pretty comparable to other online inventory management systems.
Web-Based Or Locally-Installed
Clearly Inventory is based entirely in the cloud, so there is nothing to install on your computer and all your data is securely stored online.
Hardware & Software Requirements
All you need is an internet connection and a web browser.
Ease Of Use
- Interface: The interface seems simple enough to use at first, but you soon find out it’s not exactly as intuitive as you’d expect. Several times I had to click on the informational balloon next to a field to figure out what exactly I was supposed to do with it. I also found some of the terms used for the inventory a bit too technical. Perhaps it’s that the system is too explicitly focused on the intricacies of inventory management, rather than making it simpler for the user by keeping the complexity behind the scenes. While it’s certainly something you can learn without too much trouble, the software seems to be intended more for the inventory specialist than the average business user.
- Dashboard: The dashboard is a series of four tabs across the top of the screen: MyInventory, Views, Library, and Admin. It doesn’t work quite as you’d expect, though. “MyInventory” is the default tab when you log in. When you click on a different tab it gets highlighted with a dark blue against the lighter blue color of the menu (these colors can be changed), and its sub-tabs appear beneath it. All well and good, but at this point, “MyInventory” stays highlighted in a way that makes it seems like it’s still the focus. This threw me slightly, as I assumed the tab most recently clicked would be highlighted right away. It turns out that this doesn’t happen until you click on one of the sub-tabs. Everything still functions normally, of course, so it’s not a major problem. But it would be nice if the behavior of the tabs made a little more sense.
- Customization: Clearly Inventory emphasizes the extreme flexibility of its software, letting it be “customized by you.” And it’s true that there are basically endless ways to make the software your own: custom views, custom appearance, custom data fields, custom transaction fields, and so on. Customization is great, but sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. Whether you find this aspect of the software attractive or not depends on how comfortable you are with creating your own criteria and how much time you want to spend doing it. Personally, I like having the ability to add my own types of fields but also found myself wishing at times that some things were already set up for me.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Clearly Inventory’s support hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, US Central Time. You can contact Support via the following methods:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Telephone: Local: 314-488-2728, International: +1(1)314-488-2728
- Fax 888-853-3363 (also toll-free!)
In addition, you can visit the Customer Support Center, where you will find tons of articles relating to the use of Clearly Inventory. It is a pretty comprehensive library, though I didn’t see any helpful video tutorials in the mix to break up the text-heavy guides.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
There isn’t much available on Clearly Inventory in terms of negative user feedback, which of course is good news in one way. But you’d think a company of this age would have built up enough brand awareness to garner at least a few complaints. Even the best of companies have to deal with unhappy users. The fact that there’s essentially nothing out there, negative or positive, makes me think that maybe the software just hasn’t reached critical mass yet.
That said, there are a few things that stand out as drawbacks to Clearly Inventory:
- No Product Variants: This is a significant downside to the software for any business that sells multiple versions of the same product type (different sizes, different colors, etc). With other software you have the ability to easily create as many variants of a product as you need, saving you a good deal of time. Not so here. You have to enter each version manually, one by one, and once you do, they’re not connected to each other. Needless to say, not the most convenient or enjoyable way to build up your inventory online.
- No Integrations: I mentioned it earlier, but it’s a point worth reiterating: The lack of integration with third-party online sales or accounting software and other types of vendors means you can only do so much in the system. The good news is that this will be changing very soon (see the “Integrations” section below).
- No Customer Or Order Data: While you can adjust the number of items in stock to reflect current orders, you can’t enter the actual orders or attach any customer names or other information to products. Clearly Inventory would do well to make this type of feature a priority if they hope to stay relevant and competitive.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
There is very little press on Clearly Inventory, good or bad. The company’s YouTube channel is not very active; it features only two videos, neither of which have many views. There are a handful of user testimonials on the company’s Facebook page, but they’re all from 2010, so it’s hard to know what people are saying about Clearly Inventory these days.
Here are a few pluses to Clearly Inventory:
- Tutorial Section: The company has a detailed and helpful guide on its website called Inventory Basics, with explanations and suggestions on setting up your inventory from the ground up, including how to describe items, how to name inventory locations, and how to create good item numbers (SKUs) for products. It’s like a free mini-seminar. For those who are new to running a product-based business, this is a plus.
- Highly Customizable: For those who have unusual or specialized inventory needs, this software may be just what you’re looking for. As mentioned before, you can design your account to include (or exclude) just about any type of data you want.
- Fast, Streamlined Interface: Cleary Inventory keeps the interface simple and stripped down, without a lot of fancy graphics or unnecessary features that might eat up valuable bandwidth and slow down your ability to perform the actions you need to get done quickly. The company says its software is based in a true cloud environment, so servers can be scaled up quickly to meet demand. As it says on the website, “It’s not inventory software, it’s inventory cloudware.”
- Low Price: One of the clear advantages of this software is the pricing, which is extremely reasonable. If you have a very small business and want a simple, effective online product at a rock-bottom monthly cost, it would be hard to do better than Clearly Inventory.
Here are some of the key features that set the software apart:
- Custom Views: The interface is completely customizable in terms of what fields you want to use, what information to include or exclude, type of field (drop-down, alphanumeric, etc.), and more. You can make certain fields required or optional.
- User Access Control: Customize permissions for different users. You can even set up external users and only allow them access to certain info in your database. All changes are traceable to each user.
- Cost Tracking: You can track your inventory cost using the weighted average cost.
- “Unique Tags”: Apply a unique tag to any item to represent any sort of data you want, and it will stay with the item permanently throughout its time in your inventory so you can always track it. This could be a serial number, a batch number, or whatever else you like.
- Culture Settings: You can choose from more than 200 different settings to match your country’s particular formats: date, currency, numbers, etc. English is the only language available at this point, but others are coming soon.
- Multiple Locations: Set up as many locations as you want, such as different warehouses and special use locations (on order, held for sale, in transit, etc.). You can specify different units of measure, too.
There are no sales-related features or automations in the software right now. What Clearly Inventory does, it does pretty well, but you are fairly limited in what you can do in terms of coordinating your business as a whole.
There is not a standard “Reports” feature per se, but you can set up various custom views that function as reports and will give you an overview of inventory levels and other data. You can select which data elements you want to appear in the report. These views may be saved in the interface for future use, as well as exported as a CSV/Excel document. You can also set permissions for which users can see which inventory locations and/or items in the report.
Integrations & Add-Ons
Right now there are no integrations available, which severely limits the software’s usefulness in light of competing online inventory management vendors. That looks to change in the near future, however. Keep your eyes peeled for coming integrations.
All data is encrypted and protected by SSL (Secure Socket Layer), so it’s private and secure. It’s also not indexed by search engines.
Given how Clearly Inventory started out – designing inventory software for a manufacturer – it seems that the company has stuck pretty closely to its original ethos. The software as it exists right now appears best suited to businesses on the manufacturing and supply side of things rather than ones that sell ready-made products via the Web. It’s hard to imagine why a clothing retailer or funky independent boutique would choose Clearly over software that has more eCommerce-related features (not to mention the ability to enter customer orders and contact information). That looks set to change in the next few months as Clearly Inventory makes efforts to update its software.
Overall, the software seems to work well for its intended customer base: very small manufacturing businesses. If that’s you, chances are you’re watching every penny and don’t have a lot to spend on inventory software, and Clearly Inventory could fit the bill for you. The free trial is worth a look – you don’t have anything to lose, after all – but I’d suggest waiting until the integration features get implemented before you start paying. When it does come out, compare that new version to some other online inventory software programs, such Stitch Labs or TradeGecko, to see whether Clearly Inventory works best for you. Weigh the cost and the features, and also consider scalability: can this software expand and grow along with your business?
If you’ve already got some traction and are selling to customers through several channels, it’s hard to recommend this software as a comprehensive inventory management solution at this time. Keep an eye on it, though. The inventory software field is becoming more competitive, and hopefully Clearly Inventory will catch up while also staying true to its aims of simplicity and affordability.