While eCommerce offers many opportunities for business owners there can be some inventory management challenges with an eCommerce business.
In a traditional brick-and-mortar business, managing inventory was a simple matter of tracking sales and stock flow at one or two locations. Multichannel selling, especially eCommerce, presents new challenges for inventory management. In this article, we outline some of these and provide tips on how businesses can overcome them.
More channels more problems?
eCommerce entails the sale of products through online forums, such as websites and social media pages. While eCommerce allows businesses to reach a greater audience than traditional brick-and-mortar stores, it presents some challenges to business owners in terms of managing inventory.
For example, some businesses have multiple eCommerce channels like websites and social media pages, which means managing more exposure. The use of these online platforms can mean people all over the world can access the businesses catalogue and place orders.
One of the major challenges this exposure presents is that business owners need to have constant oversight over all sales channels to ensure that the stock showing up online reflects accurately the stock that is genuinely in inventory.
If the eCommerce business is fulfilling orders from international and domestic customers, this can become increasingly difficult. Selling products in a wide range of locations like this means there will also usually be multiple warehouses holding inventory so that when a customer makes an online purchase, their order will be fulfilled quickly by delivering the product from the warehouse closest to them.
This is great for speeding up delivery times, but it means business and inventory managers will have multiple warehouses to manage. The tricky part is making sure that what is sold online accurately reflects the stock in the relevant warehouse.
Imagine for example, if a customer purchases a skirt online, where the website says that particular product is fully stocked. In reality, it could be that it is fully stocked in one warehouse, but not the most relevant one. The customer can then expect unnecessary delays, which can lead to dissatisfaction.
Worse still, the product could be out of stock altogether, and the company may need to issue a refund. For obvious reasons, this is not only bad for business, but will result in negative customer experience, and repeated situations like this can harm the company’s reputation.
To avoid these situations, we suggest using inventory management software to make keeping track of your inventory easier — across all warehouses and online channels. With inventory software, you’ll be able to sync the data about each warehouse for full oversight into your eCommerce inventory.
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.