Managing inventory stock for an eCommerce business can be a difficult task to master, but it’s increasingly important to do so. Inefficient use of warehousing space costs money, and having too much inventory stock can run the risk of products becoming obsolete or damaged. If you get your inventory stock levels right, you will save money and increase customer satisfaction, while also increasing the overall reputation of your company. Here we look at five effective ways of managing eCommerce inventory.
Having an integrated and centralised inventory management system
An inventory management system can help you manage your inventory stock more efficiently. A great inventory management system can simplify arduous processes like ensuring you are alerted when stock levels are low, or even processing returns from customers. It is designed to speed up mundane tasks accurately, leaving you confident and with more time to focus on more creative tasks. Cloud solutions save business owners the time and money-consuming processes of installation, maintenance and upkeep. You typically pay for a subscription or license, that includes updates. Accessible with an internet connection, you can monitor all of your business operations from one virtual and integrated interface, anywhere and anytime.
Carefully managing eCommerce inventory will help you understand your products turnaround. You will be able to identify what items are popular at specific times of the year, and pinpoint your most popular selling times. It is vital to plan ahead. Although this can be a difficult task, with the right inventory management system that tracks data, predictable supply and demand patterns start to emerge. Keep in mind other variables like seasonal implications and upcoming marketing promotions when considering ordering inventory stock.
Being left with more inventory stock than you can actually sell can be an expensive situation to be in, even for the most efficiently run eCommerce stores. To maintain a healthy selection of products, investing in data is crucial. Good inventory management systems allow you to regularly analyse how fast different products are moving so you can quickly push slow-moving items with discounts, special offers or bundling before they become outdated or obsolete.
Foster positive supplier relationships and have back ups
If you are a smaller business, you are often dependent on suppliers and they need to be reliable. A good supplier will provide you with, quality products, consistent and on-time delivery and knowledge of industry trends. It is important to foster positive supplier relationships to ensure they also value your business and share industry knowledge. Although loyalty is important, it is important to also have backup suppliers on hand in case something happens to any of your main suppliers. When managing eCommerce inventory, and as you begin to gain a positive brand for your company, it is possible that you may be hit with a large order that your usual supplier cannot fulfil.
No matter how careful you do business things happen that are just out of one’s control. There will come a time when you sell something and it is simply not available. Perhaps the package was destroyed in transit. Will you wait for a return or send a replacement immediately? How will you tell your customer? Having well-established contingency plans will ensure that you do not compound the damage by making panicked decisions. Such policies should be reflected in your terms and conditions. If you are replacing lost or damaged goods, ensure your eCommerce inventory stock reflects this. A well-planned policy and communication strategy can help you turn a disaster sale into a return buyer.
Running a successful eCommerce business in a globalised market can be difficult. Customers are constantly looking for the lowest price, and eCommerce giants like Amazon can not be beaten at this strategy. However, smaller eCommerce stores can make a difference by providing high quality, unique products and great customer service. Furthermore, by implementing the right tools and focusing on better supplier relationships, smaller eCommerce stores can make processes more efficient if they hone in on sound inventory management practices, so their time and money can be used in other parts of their business.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.