DEAR Inventory is an inventory management solution for small to medium-sized businesses. Packed full of features, this Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application will organize your company’s back-end tasks and save you from hours of busywork and the frustration of reconciling numbers across different software platforms.
Based in Sydney, Australia, this solution has been on the market since 2012. It has a loyal following around the world.
I’ve seen the product identified by several different names, including “DEAR Inventory,” and “DEAR Systems,” so if you see these monikers being thrown around on the web, just know that they’re all referencing the same thing. I’ll often refer to it as simply “DEAR”.
Over the course of this review I’ll be covering the main functions, and giving my thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of this application. Of all the Inventory Management packages I’ve reviewed this one is definitely a favorite, so let’s get into it.
The pricing structure is the simplest of any product I’ve reviewed for this site. There’s only one plan, with an option for annual payment:
- Monthly Billing
- $25/month for each additional user
- Annual Billing
- $22.91/month for each additional user
Table of Contents
Web-Hosted or Locally Installed:
This is a web application. There is no software to download or install.
Hardware and Software Requirements:
The only requirements are a computer and an internet browser.
Ease of Use:
DEAR’s user interface (UI) is solid. It isn’t overly complicated, but at the same time it’s feature-rich, with tools that cover a wide range of tasks. The UI sports a navigation bar at the top of the page with seven main functions:
- Dashboard: Provides an overview of your account with sales figures and charts
- Purchase: A section for managing Purchase Orders and Suppliers
- Sale: Allows you to organize sales and customer information
- Production: Tools for the manufacturing arm of your company
- Inventory: Manage your stock and product information through this portal
- Reports: Generate reports here
- Integration: This tool helps you set up your integrations with 3rd party applications
The workflow is familiar to anyone who’s used an Inventory Management SaaS before. Upon signup, you have 14 days to evaluate the software. During this time period you can schedule a call with a customer service agent, who will then assist you in getting your account configured and perform setup for any applicable integrations.
Once you have DEAR linked to your eCommerce channels, it’s just a matter of waiting for sales to roll in. When you get one, it’ll automatically be pushed into DEAR where the Pick, Pack, and Ship steps of Fulfillment can then take place. One cool feature gives you the ability to completely automate these tasks, which is particularly useful if your business relies on Drop Shipping.
Once an order has been fulfilled, stock levels are adjusted by the software, and financial information is synced with your integrated accounting software (if you choose to go that route). It’s pretty seamless.
The UI isn’t the most intuitive of the products I’ve reviewed, but it’s still very useable. There were a couple instances where I had to contact support to figure out a task (e.g. how to add a Warehouse location). Thankfully, most pages have a link to a tutorial video that walks you through the process for the corresponding tool. I thought this was a great choice, as it saves you time digging through the Knowledge Base
Another feature I like is that the different steps of a task (e.g. Fulfillment, or creating a Purchase Order) are represented by icons in the UI, with a color code to indicate if that step has been completed. It gives the user a quick way to see if there are any pending tasks that need attention.
I did encounter one small bug when I was using the system. I clicked a drop down menu on one of the pages, and the different options appeared in the very top-left corner of the page, as opposed to under the menu I had selected. This only happened once though. I’ve been told by a DEAR marketing rep that a new interface will be rolled out soon, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for it.
DEAR has a lot of great features for your growing business. Here are some of the best:
- Centralized Order Tracking: Manage all your orders in one place
- Dropshipping: Handle fulfillment for items that you don’t actually stock yourself
- POS Integrations: Ensure that sales at your retail location sync with your inventory
- Bill of Materials: Accurately calculate production costs with this feature
- Finished Goods: This module allows you to estimate the cost of manufacturing, and the availability of raw materials
- Job Costing: Track inventory and service-based expenses
- Issue to Production: Write off damaged, lost, or used inventory
- History and Costs: An analytics tool that reviews historical information about your purchases and associated costs
- Reorder and Backorder: Allows you to set reorder points that automatically trigger a purchase order to suppliers
- INVENTORY MANAGEMENT
- Product Families: Create variations of the same product with unique SKUs
- Load Products From Online Sales Channels: With the click of a button, DEAR will import all products from an existing eCommerce platform
- Multi-Warehouse Management: Manage multiple locations for buying, selling, and manufacturing your products
- Xero and QuickBooks Integrations: DEAR can sync your data with either of these accounting solutions
- Costing Methods: Get true cost calculations via FIFO and FEFO costing methods
- Real-Time Management: Financial information is available in real-time, as opposed to at the end of the month
- Financial Reports: Generate reports for use with an accounting system or just by themselves
- Complete Automation: Allows you to automatically complete the Pick, Pack, and Ships steps of the fulfillment process for each sales channel.
- Bulk Product Listing: Manage product information across all sales channels in one place
- Real-Time Management: Transactions across all sales channels are synced to DEAR as they happen
- Holistic Integration: The software gives you the ability to customize how each sales channel interacts with DEAR
- Barcode Scanning: Minimizes human error
- API: Allows your developers to make custom Integrations
The Barcode Scanning feature is a big part of the DEAR workflow. You’ll find this functionality available in the places you need it most, like on the Purchase Order page (when you’re receiving new stock), or on the Pick page, during the fulfillment process.
As I’ve written in other reviews, I’m a big fan of companies that offer an API to their customers. The power and flexibility it affords to companies with a solid coding team make it an essential feature in the current market.
Customer Service and Support:
The following services are available:
- Email Support
- Knowledge Base
It’s disappointing to see that neither phone nor chat support are offered, but I guess it’s understandable. Staffing the support team is always a challenge for small companies, and concessions sometimes need to be made. It appears (to me, anyway) that DEAR farms out its frontline support to a 3rd party. When I scheduled my setup call, I spoke with someone who didn’t know a lot of specifics about the history of the company, but who knew the software well. She said she was based in the Philippines.
The lack of a phone line is a little jarring at times. I got a call from a DEAR representative in the middle of my work day, asking if I needed help getting started. Since I was busy, I asked if they had an extension I could reach them at. They said “Uh..no. We don’t have a phone number.” In the moment, it seemed insane. The agent offered to set up another time when they could call me, which shed some light on the process that DEAR wants for support: scheduled phone calls during setup, followed by email tickets once you’re an active customer.
On the plus side, email support is 24/7 and I never waiting longer than an hour for a ticket response, despite the fact that I’m on Pacific Standard Time, and the product is developed in Sydney. The quick turn-around time on tickets is ultimately what redeems the support experience in my opinion.
As of the publish date of this review, the following Integrations are available:
- Point-of-Sale (POS)
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
I found a few negative reviews online about this product. Some of them have been addressed in the comments by a DEAR representative, in what I thought was a pretty reasonable and satisfactory manner. Here’s one from the Xero Community:
I was really looking forward to using DEAR for my business. The trial period was great with great tech support but after the trial period was over things changed. There seems to be only one person in tech support. I had several questions when setting up my business in DEAR and I always get the same guy that is very rude and condescending. I really like the features DEAR offers but I will be looking for an alternative.
– Karen Graham
Here’s another poor review from that same site, posted last September:
This system stability is not good, it always have the issue that can’t login, especially this month it have been happened twice already. No phone number that i can call to stress the problem and it completely stop my daily operation. Now i have totally no idea how to issue invoice to customer that standing in front of me. It is just chaos.
– Julio Chau
I should note that this reviewer later updated his post, saying that DEAR had corrected the problem to his satisfaction, but that he still wished there was phone support.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
There are many, many positive reviews online for this product as well. Here’s a couple recent ones from the Shopify App Store:
DEAR came along for CULTIVER at a time of rapid growth and change and thank goodness it (and the wonderful support staff) did.
Having a solid inventory management link between Shopify and Xero for us was something we were lacking before. Complete visibility and integration from purchase order, payment and receipt of goods through to sales transactions, DEAR has been a consistently reliable source of data for our accountant.
One of the major benefits of DEAR is that it’s encouraged our business to develop more detailed procedures and methods of operating. We are much clearer on best practice with inventory management and accounting of each and every sale. It’s essential for a fast growing business to have those procedures in place. DEAR makes it all very easy to establish.
We would be absolutely lost without Dear. I don’t even know how other businesses run without Dear. I opened a B&M + ecommerce store with zero business background or retail experience, and from Day one Dear has been completely intuitive. It has been the go between step from Shopify to Quickbooks Online that allows my bookkeeper to keep up with everything without me ever needing to actually log into Quickbooks (because I don’t understand the first thing about accounting). At the same time, Dear allows me total control over our inventory, down to details like creating BOM, buying in cases and splitting those cases, etc. It allows you to use FIFO, FEFO, track expiry dates, track supplier prices, track cost of different variants over time, track margins, everything! And it allows me to import sales orders and clean them up in Dear, which I love. I basically don’t directly update anything in Shopify. I do it all in Dear and sync it into Shopify. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Dear. And best of all – it’s actually affordable. And they update it all the time! I can’t say enough about Dear. It blows all the crappy competition out of the water!
The web application uses HTTPS encryption, so your data is protected.
DEAR Inventory is not without its flaws, but I think it’s the best inventory management solution on the market right now. I don’t say that lightly. It’s main competitors, Stitch Labs and TradeGecko, are both capable products, but DEAR offers the most value for its price.
This software is stable and offers a ton of great features. I think the way DEAR integrates the barcode scanning feature is really slick, and the tools on the manufacturing side are powerful. On top of that, the $150/month price tag makes it a very viable option for most small businesses.
The main thing keeping me from awarding a 5-star review is the lack of phone or chat support. The interface could also use some small improvements, but apparently a new version is getting pushed out soon. We’ll see how that goes.
That’s all I’ve got for this review. If you’re interested, check out the free trial here.