Accurate tracking, measuring, and forecasting of inventory is crucial for seamless order fulfillment, financial decision-making, customer satisfaction, brand perception, and other aspects that drive the success of an ecommerce company. That is why even if your sales are through the roof, your success will be short-lived without capable inventory management. These guiding principles can help ensure that your inventory management stays successful and contributes to the growth of your business.
Inventory data is an important consideration when making logistical, purchasing, and fulfillment decisions. Inaccurate or unclear data negatively impacts these areas - so it's critical to have inventory data that is clear, accessible, and up-to-date (ideally, in real-time).
Inventory velocity is the time it takes to sell each individual item in stock. When you need to predict when inventory will need to be replenished, or decide if a product line should be liquidated, inventory velocity is a useful metric to have. It may not be tracked by your inventory management system, but it's something you should keep an eye on.
Compare your inventory management metrics with industry benchmarks on a regular basis. If your inventory performance falls behind industry averages, it’s time to reevaluate your approach to inventory management and create a plan for improvement. Outside perspective can prove invaluable in such a situation; by collaborating with the right 3PL provider, you can get the expertise required to fix issues, and even improve growth and stability.
The more retailers that you sell your products through, the more challenging it is to manage that inventory - and the costs of sub-optimal B2B inventory management can be steep. In 2015, CNBC reported that stockouts accounted for $634.1 billion in lost retail sales for the year. Those losses can easily pass on to you. If retailers are not confident in your product availability, they will find other suppliers.
Preventing stockouts with well-done B2B inventory tracking goes beyond keeping an accurate SKU count. Ideally, your inventory management software and staff should have the following capabilities.
Detailed tracking information
Your inventory feeds should provide your retailers with as much information as possible, such as:
- Available inventory by location – not only can this free your retailers from being bound to a single inventory source, it can also be useful for shipping calculations
- Restock dates – for low or out-of-stock units, provide both the amount and date by which the inventory will be replenished.
- Real-time data
Comprehensive inventory management
Go beyond the management of in-stock inventory with more proactive services, like:
- Stock alerts – actively communicate when products become out-of-stock, low stock, or back-in-stock
- Allocated stock – allocating inventory for individual retailers helps to manage their expectations is very useful for preventing stockout issues
- Internal backorder management – if it doesn’t take long for you to resupply stock, you may have the bandwidth to handle backorders on behalf of your retailers (or adjust their allocated stock accordingly)
- Shipment notifications – automated shipment notifications with delivery timeframe estimates saves retailers the trouble of calling you, and gives them the information they need to reassure their customers.
If these upgrades to your inventory tracking sound too complex, Fulfillment Works can help! Our Client Access Center technology is customizable and lets you manage all aspects of your inventory from any internet connection (including mobile devices).
In addition to struggling with issues related to logistics management expertise and software, many ecommerce businesses are stymied by the physical limitations of their facilities – so much so that the demand for major warehouse improvements is on the rise.
A recent survey from Zebra Technologies Corp, which polled 1,400 warehouse IT and operations management professionals, indicated that the worldwide demand for warehouse space and inventory management solutions is increasing. According to the study, 48% of participants said that they are currently working to increase their number of warehouses - while 76% plan to increase warehouses by the year 2020. Other interesting takeaways from the survey include:
Another study from CRBE also found an increasing demand for warehouse space, mostly due to a desire to improve reverse logistics efficiency.
In ecommerce, the sale often goes to whoever has faster, cheaper, and easier shipping options – and improving your distribution network through size and efficiency is a solid strategy for maintaining a competitive edge. If you haven’t done like the respondents to Zebra Tech’s survey and imagined what your warehouse needs will be in 5 years, you may get left behind. If you’re not sure where to start or what factors to consider, we’re always happy to help.
A continuous flow of inventory is a major goal for ecommerce businesses. But when seasonal, market, or other fluctuations negatively affect your sales, you may find yourself stuck with excess inventory. Consider the following tips to address the excess inventory you have, and keep more of it from building up.
Make a plan ASAP
The longer you wait to do something about your excess inventory, the more problems it causes by taking up space (which is even worse if you are leasing additional space just for excess), increasing taxes (if you wait until that time of year), and potentially devaluing (if the next iteration of a product is around the corner, demand for the previous iteration may drop even lower).
Liquidate in moderation
Perhaps you're willing to deeply discount excess inventory to get rid of it quickly. But, if you find yourself doing that on a consistent basis, it can spell trouble for your profitability. If you liquidate regularly, you’re losing out on profits without addressing the root cause of the excess inventory. Consider a change in marketing strategy to renew consumer interest, or move on to different product lines.
Partner with a charity
Donating your products can do more than just spread goodwill. If your business is eligible for them, the federal tax deductions you receive may even be better than what you’d get from liquidation. A gifts-in-kind organization can help you donate excess inventory to where it’s needed.
Optimize your Inventory Strategy
Because excess inventory can tie up your working capital and warehouse space, it’s best to try and avoid it in the first place. With Fulfillment Works, our state-of-the art inventory control management system is fully automated to help you manage your inventory by sending out real-time movement history reports, current usage analysis reports, and other metrics to maximize the efficiency of your inventory levels.
Fulfillment Works is a full-service, end-to-end fulfillment company serving start-ups and Fortune 500 giants alike, across North America and beyond. We've attracted these clients by showcasing our strengths as a company – including our 99.9% warehouse inventory accuracy. More...