Have you ever gone to a store, checking for a great shirt you want? You went to the checkout and they just said that it is out of stock?
That is terrible inventory management on the retail store’s behalf.
Now imagine how your customers would feel in that situation. They place an order in your store, only to receive an email from you saying “My apology, we’re all out for the next few weeks”.
With these 8 great ecommerce inventory tips, you can be sure that you always have your stock ready.
Ecommerce Inventory Tips – Turn around
Know how long it will take you to fill an empty shelf. If you cannot fill an empty shelf before the stock runs out, be prepared to remove that online listing.
A customer can’t buy a product because you don’t have is the first sign of a negative customer experience.
How long for the turnaround time of all the materials you use? Then add the time it takes you to make the product that material is used in. Now apply it for all your products.
This is your lead time. Knowing each product’s lead time is the first step to good inventory management.
Ecommerce Inventory Tips – Use Magento
To make sure you’re alerted when stock levels are low, you need to be using Magento – a reliable eCommerce platform.
With Magento, stock level alerts are automated. Select the availability of your product and you’re automatically notified when you’re down to 20, 10 or 5 pieces.
Automating inventory checks is simple. It speeds up a mundane j0b, leaving you with more time to focus on what you love.
Ecommerce Inventory Tips – Use an SKU system
Let’s say your most popular item is an ‘ABC shirt’. That’s the name of the product listed in your store.
When someone orders a big size in blue, you now have to refer to it as ‘ABC shirt big blue’. It can easily get confusing for yourself and anyone else dealing with your stock.
Use a simple SKU system. Everyone involved can refer to your ‘‘ABC shirt big blue’ as a ‘ABCxLB’. Now everyone knows what you’re talking about.
A reliable SKU system is also very important in your product feed and automating other sales channels.
Ecommerce Inventory Tips – Return your returns
You hate returns, yes but stock numbers can and will be forgotten because you don’t add the returned items to your stock.
It is of the utmost importance that your stock levels are accurate. Your stock levels should always reflect a number of products on hand.
You will make mistakes for sure. When you have to deal with returns, decide what happens to it. Can it be put back into stock, or does it need to be repaired before it can be sold again?
A simple ‘quarantine’ section can play a big part in marking sure your levels are always accurate and reflect the correct amount of stock you have.
Ecommerce Inventory Tips – Use FIFO
FIFO stands for ‘First in, first out’. Remember your first job of stacking milk in the fridge at the corner store? You would always make sure that the oldest milk would be the next to be sold. The same principle applies to your own stock now.
This method ensures that you are reducing your oldest stock. In turn, you are minimizing your chances of having to deal with dead stock.
Ecommerce Inventory Tips – Avoid dead stock
Dead stock is the stock that hasn’t been sold in a certain time frame defined by you. It’s sat there for ages and ages under your current store, and just not moving.
Dead stock can be a result of fashions and trends changing. Perhaps you committed to making a certain product or you’re still figuring out how to efficiently manage your inventory.
It’s time to cut your losses and try and move it.
Consider to discount it or bundle it with another complementary product. If it is outdated, do any promotion to not keep it. A dead stock is hard to manage and wasted to keep.
Ecommerce Inventory Tips – Nurture your network
You obviously build, maintain and celebrate the relationships you have with your customers. But do you do it with the people for whom you are a customer?
These are your suppliers, the ones that provide you with your raw materials. It’s good practice to also grow and maintain positive relationships with these people. Whether you buy in bulk every few weeks or small amounts every few months, be sure they know what you’re doing with the product you buy from them.
There will be times where you need to ask a favor of your suppliers and get something urgently. A rapport with your suppliers can sustain such requests. They’re part of what makes your brand, too!
Ecommerce Inventory Tips – Contingency plans
As just mentioned, there will come times when you sell something that you don’t have. How will you tell your customer?
There will come times when a package is destroyed in transit. Will you wait for a return or send a replacement immediately?
Having well-established contingency plans will ensure that you don’t compound the damage by making panicked decisions. Such policies should be reflected in your terms and conditions if possible. If you’re willing to replace lost or damaged goods, make sure your inventory reflects this. Have an extra unit in stock. A well-planned and lenient returns policy can help you turn a disaster sale into a return buyer.