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Tools, apps and e-commerce websites

How to effectively manage your inventory online

Inventory management is one of the most complex aspects that every eCommerce store will experience in due course. This is especially true today, within the climate of a competitive ecommerce market. Regardless of the size of your business, as an entrepreneur, you need to stay ahead of the latest trends and updates in your field in order to keep your competitive advantage.

You might be operating an online store, but you’re still working with physical items, and you’ll need to store these properly in a warehouse.  Now more than ever, your products will also need to be handled carefully, shipped swiftly, and delivered to your customers in perfect condition without a delay.

To achieve these goals and to find ways to manage your inventory effectively, you may need to make some key changes to your inventory management process or even adapt to a totally new system . We’ll show you some of the most effective and efficient inventory management tips that you should use for your online store!

  1. Forecasting for your store inventory

No matter whether your online store is brand new or you’ve been around for a while, you’ll need to produce some solid figures when ordering stock for your store’s inventory. Since we can’t read minds, there’s no sure-fire way to know how many products you might sell in the future, so you’ll have to come up with a rough estimate. 

You should base your future sales estimates on historical sales data from at least the past three months or longer. Forecasting is easier when you can factor in:

  • Your store’s current growth rate, month-on-month
  • Your sales from the previous year 
  • Seasonal items that you may have planned for
  • Market trends or conditions
  • Existing contracts or subscriptions that you have to pay
  • Your advertising plans, including budget and intended campaigns

The trick to getting inventory ordering right is to order the perfect amount – which is a sweet spot that is neither too much nor too little for your demand. If you order too much stock, you’ll face the risk of retaining unsold stock sitting in a warehouse, which could be costing you a lot in storage rental that could be spent on something else.

 If you don’t order enough stock, your store can face a  reputational blow if you have to cancel orders due to insufficient supply. Fear not –  with a solid inventory management system in place, your own forecasting accuracy should improve as time goes on!

  1. Use online inventory management for your store

By utilizing online, real-time inventory software, your stock levels can be updated with the click of a button. It’s a wise idea to choose software that can  allocate unique barcodes to each item in your inventory.

To simplify your life, make sure that the software you choose has features like: 

-Updating stock levels as soon an item leave the shelf because the barcode can be scanned by staff members quickly

-Identifying when a product is out of stock and updating your website in-real time as this happens

-Includes item tracking during shipping to give customers better expectations for product delivery times

Some examples of online inventory management software include SalesBinder ( a cloud-based solution), inFlow and Sortly (which are also free options). We recommended search around for an online inventory software system that you’re confident will meet your business needs from day one.

  1. Follow ‘FIFO’ as your guiding practice when applicable

FIFO is an acronym for ‘first in, first out’. It’s one of the most effective tactics that you can use to achieve efficiency. It can particularly help ecommerce stores that have perishable goods or cosmetics, as you’ll be able to move products that are fast approaching their expiration dates. 

The philosophy behind FIFO is to minimise product wastage rates. It’s also good for storage in your warehouse, since your new arrivals will always be placed in the back to wait their turn instead of leaving the floor first. It’s a very simple practice to follow, and could see you minimizing your expenses if utilized properly. 

  1. Use a Par inventory system for inventory management

This is a basic concept of inventory management. A par refers to a minimum amount of items that you have in stock for each product type that you sell. Par levels can change depending on how much stock you’ve ordered and how much is selling at any given time. As a basic example, if you’re a popular clothing store, you’ll want to keep your flagship t-shirt in stock with at least 10 units at any given time – of course, you can change this par level as you see fit.

Ideally, it’s a good idea to use online inventory management to track this information, like one of the inventory management services mentioned earlier.

Imagine how impossible it would be to manually keep track of the stock levels of hundreds of items every day! Losing control of stock levels can lead to your store running out of a bestseller, which would make customers angry and they may decide not to shop with you again. To avoid this dreaded situation, you should make a concerted effort to check your par levels every once in a while so you can act immediately to increase your stock reserves before a sudden sales spike hits.

  1. Consider popularity as a deciding factor for your stock management

If you have an item that just won’t sell, your only action is to stop stocking it!. This makes it even more essential to start using stock-keeping units or SKUs to keep track of your inventory.

 This will also help you decide how to clear your shelves of underperforming products, such as  hosting a large sale. Conversely, you should make sure that you have inventory available for your most popular items, especially if you anticipate a surge in demand. Be smart about your stock management, and don’t overstock items that you’re not sure will sell. 

  1. Update your website constantly

If your stock runs out for any product, it’s essential to update your website to reflect this immediately.

When customers make orders and pay for your products but don’t  receive them timeously, they could turn to other sellers. Ideally, you could use a cloud-based stock management software that will update your website automatically when this happens, but you may want to put safety measures in place to make sure this happens in all circumstances.

Consider adding text to your site displaying when you expect the product to be back in stock. This is a great way to manage your customers’ expectations.

  1. Keep an eye on Quality Control

You never want to disappoint a customer as soon as they open your package. If your products look damaged or in bad shape, you should take them out of your inventory. You should be on the lookout for any damaged goods, and you should note how many units are being taken out of stock when doing an inventory audit. 

You should also look out for the general condition of your warehouse and shipping equipment, since these are instrumental in keeping your fulfilment processes flowing smoothly. Having a pallet of damaged boxes or a broken vehicle can halt the delivery process entirely, so keep an eye on your equipment and stock to catch potential problems early. 

  1. Plan your stock levels for seasonal holidays/events 

It’s no surprise that ecommerce booms during the end of the year, as retailers sell a lot during Christmas and other holidays. However, you could look out for a lot of different holidays when planning when to stock up. If you sell stationery, you could consider back-to-school as an important seasonal event. If you’re a clothing retailer, you’ll have higher stocks as different weather patterns and seasons dictate clothing demands. 

Spend time with your stock management system in order to track product demand so that you can plan well and avoid losing out due to low stock.

  1. Keep your customers in the know

It’s no secret that customers value strong communication. They like to know what’s happening to their order as soon as they’ve placed it up until it is delivered to them. You should use or create a system that acknowledges receipt of payment, and confirms your customers’ shipping and delivery details. As an added extra, your customers would love the ability to track their order online using tracking details. This is an easy way to keep customers happy.

  1. Respond quickly when stock runs out 

Ideally, you’ll have no stock. This is because every time a product is not available, it becomes a lost order and can potentially become a lost customer for your ecommerce store. Make sure to react quickly if you do run out of stock of an item.

You could also prevent out-of-stock products from being placed on your website, and you could take backorders to fulfil orders once stock for popular items come back. 

Something easy could be a message that alerts the customer that the item is out of sock. The best strategy is to proactively replenish your stock as soon as it gets low. 

Conclusion

We hope these tips helped you learn more about how to best manage your online store! By planning ahead, you can prevent lost customers and sales from bringing you down.

Do you need help selling on more channels? Look no further than ShoppingFeeder. It’s one of the best feed management platforms out there, and it can integrate with a ton of channels. Try it for free today!

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