8 Key Features Your Consignment Software Should Have
Consignment software has become ubiquitous in the resale industry, an indispensable part of running core operations for thousands of consignment shops. Make sure your software is up to snuff.
Do I need consignment software?
Consignment software can streamline your business operations by automating critical tasks.
Not every consignment business needs software, though, at least at the beginning. If you're processing fewer than 200 items every month, the benefits of automating your inventory workflows aren't going to make much of a difference. Instead, you can use Cash App, checks, or cash to accept payments, then create your own inventory tracking system.
To do that, you'll need either a spreadsheet program or pen and paper, as well as some item tags like these. Each consignor gets their own sheet (click here to see an example) or page to act as 1) a record of inventory they bring in and 2) a ledger. Assign a number to each consignor (e.g., 000001, 000002, 000003, and so on). When a consignor brings you an item, grab an item tag and write down the consignor number on it, as well as the date the item was accepted and basic information like size, brand, and price.
When someone buys the item, remove its tag. Save the tags from each item sold on each day in a box. After the business day ends, take the tags out and, on the relevant consignor sheet, record:
Each item sold
The information on each tag
The date each item sold
At the end of the week or month, send notifications to consignors about payouts, expired items, and other updates.
This system is perfect for businesses just getting started or for people running hobby shops online. But as you accept more and more items every month, manual processing will become less and less effective: your intake process will be too slow, you'll be more likely to forget to update an item's information, and you risk neglecting consignor updates. So as soon as you exceed 200 items per month, it's time to invest in consignment software.
How to choose consignment software
With over a dozen consignment-specific platforms available, choosing the best software for the best price might seem like a daunting task---unless you know what to look for. To give you a concrete idea of the capabilities your software should offer, we've outlined some of the most important and mission-critical features below.
Policy control settings
Policy control refers to the rules you set for surcharges, discounts, taxes, and sale splits. Because the items you accept are often one-of-a-kind, the rules you set for these policies will vary from item to item. For example, the split you apply to a couch at checkout will be different from the split you apply to a shirt or a pair of shoes.
Just like you don't want to manually enter sales information into two platforms, you also don't want to manually enter policy information for every item at checkout. Your consignment software needs to give you a high degree of control over automating these policy rules. You should be able to pre-set rules for each item category, then simply select the relevant category when you enter an item to auto-fill the policy information.
Prices for consignment software vary widely, but it's not uncommon for a subscription to cost over $100 per month. This can sound like a lot, but if you value your time (and sanity) it can pay for itself very quickly by taking many hours off of what would otherwise be time-consuming administrative tasks, while simultaneously improving the quality of your communication with your consignors.
Consignment software is an investment, but an effective platform is always worth the money.
We recommend doing some research into available platforms' costs and comparing their key features to determine which service offers the best value. If it looks like you'll spend too much time processing payouts, accepting items, or communicating with consignors due to the shortcomings of a specific platform, then it's probably not worth purchasing.
Capacity for growth
No business is static. Over time, you may decide to scale up or down, which means your consignment software needs to be able to match your growth. Look at each platform's policy around usage charges, multiple users, and multiple locations.
Some platforms charge a flat fee, but many charge based on the number of users or locations that have access. This is typically done based on either the number of employees you have or the number of administrative users.
When you're selling anywhere between 20 to 100 items in a day, you don't want to have to manually notify consignors that their items have been sold or that their payouts are ready. Look for a platform that either lets you send automatic notification emails to consignors or provides a place where consignors can log in to check their items themselves.
Digital payouts and check printing
As digital payments and payment apps become the norm (rather than the exception), many consignment software platforms allow you to make digital payouts to consignors. Some also offer check printing for making payouts to less tech-savvy consignors.
This is less about looking for specific hardware integrations and more about simply being aware of your platform's hardware requirements. The hardware you'll need generally includes:
Before buying software, make sure you can easily acquire all the hardware you need. If you're transferring to a new software provider, double-check that your current hardware is compatible with the new platform.
Different consignment software platforms run on different operating systems.
The software your consignment application runs on has a significant impact on the type of hardware you can use with it. For example, if it's built to run on iOS, you'll be limited largely to iOS hardware. If it runs on Windows 11, you'll be limited to hardware that supports Windows 11 platforms.
These applications can, of course, be adapted to run on other operating systems. But some consignment software platforms are built out as web applications, which means they aren't limited to a particular operating system and can run in any browser---even on your phone or tablet.
Integrations with other platforms
The consignment software you choose should be able to integrate with other platforms you use. For example, many consignment stores are run as e-commerce businesses or, at the very least, are a combination of bricks-and-mortar and e-commerce. Traditional e-commerce platforms and web stores don't have consignment-specific inventory management or communication features, so it's common to use an e-commerce platform for sales and posting listings and a consignment platform for consignment functions.
The problem with this is that unless the platforms are integrated, you have to manually update at least one inventory database for every change to an item's lifecycle (not a scalable approach when you're accepting 300, 400, or 500+ items a month). So a lot of consignment platforms integrate with popular e-commerce services, as well as card processors and bookkeeping systems.
Hopefully, this article has given you a helpful checklist of what to look for when shopping for consignment software. If you're in the market for software now, make sure to check out how ConsignCloud measures up to this list by visiting our features page (hint: everything mentioned in this article is offered by ConsignCloud, and that's just the beginning!).