Going multichannel allows you to expose your products to different kinds of customers, generate more revenue, and expand your brand presence. As running an eCommerce retail can be tricky already, it gets even tougher when you plan to expand your business to multiple sales channels.
As you shift to multichannel sales, you are likely to encounter commonly faced challenges associated with managing channel-wise inventory. To help you kick things off, let’s understand the most common inventory challenges and their possible solutions.
If your inventory is not optimized for each channel separately and isn’t updated in real-time, you may end up selling the same product (SKU) to two different customers. So, not having sufficient inventory can cost you unnecessary cancellations, order delays, and terrible reviews across the sales channels.
If you’ve overestimated the demand and assigned too much stock to a sales channel, it could lead to a loss of revenue, or drain your financial resources restricting your future investments.
Orders can come from anywhere, and customers expect a seamless shopping experience irrespective of the channel they choose. Therefore, it is essential that you consistently keep track of your inventory across all your sales channels.
Tracking your inventory manually restricts you from complete visibility and complicates your operations. The volume of manual errors, mishandled or unassigned stocks, etc. keeps on rising because the inventory tracking is not optimized properly.
Different marketplaces run sales campaigns with different guidelines. For instance, marketplaces have strict rules for reporting accurate stock levels during special sale promotions. If you fail to do so, they can penalize you severely. So, you need to be even more vigilant of your stocks on all sales channels during these periods.
If you outsource your logistics processes, the same needs to be followed by your 3PL service providers as well. Therefore, you need to align your sales operations with your logistics providers and update your stock levels each time you receive orders from respective channels.
Advanced processes like reverse order logistics can impact customer experience and give accurate inventory visibility. Most customers put a seamless shopping experience as a high priority. Hence, you need to pay attention to the canceled/return/exchange orders and implement standard processes for them.
Your sales data can offer significant insights for your multichannel business. Reviewing it can help you modify strategies that will help your inventory management decisions. For example: The sale of festive apparels shoots up during Hari Raya, or pharma retailers restock flu medicines at large volumes during monsoons.Inventory management is a critical component to overcome all these operational hurdles. With an appropriate inventory management solution, you can eliminate all these challenges and boost your multichannel eCommerce sales exponentially.
Many businesses rely on third-party inventory management systems with a combination of features. But, a comprehensive eCommerce management platform is a better way than trying out different systems for different functions. A multichannel eCommerce management solution is equipped with smart inventory management which allows you to focus on growing sales rather than wasting your resources to manage inventory.
Today’s cloud-based systems enable you to manage a centralized auto-sync inventory leading to 100% error-free & updated inventory levels. You can continually monitor performance and get alerts for low stock, out-of-stock, buffer threshold, manage reverse logistics across different channels, and more.
Inventory plans always change as you move from one sales season to another. Filtering your sales and order analytics with different variables is a good way to monitor if your changing plans are working or not.
For instance, you can measure marketplace-wise promotions, or channel-wise sales of a product. But, it is equally important to correlate your inventory performance along with these reports. Inbound Stock Planning is one such intelligently developed capability that helps you maintain strong inventory levels and plan ahead; thus giving you the best results during varied sales times.
With smart inventory systems, keeping a close watch on your year-on-year sales data can prove advantageous by helping you calculate supplier lead time and amount of stock to be purchased so as to accurately forecast seasonal demands well in advance. You can then scale up during seasons and reduce the costs of purchasing additional inventory until it's needed.
To ensure you are fundamentally controlling your inventory across channels, you can add customized workflows to your existing systems. For instance, dropshipping is a unique way to streamline your inventory habits by sourcing only the necessary quantities of inventory. In this process, products are directly shipped to customers thus eliminating the costs of holding inventory, deadstock management etc.
Another smart feature is temporary stock inflation that can help you potentially boost channel-specific stocks during out-of-stock scenarios, provided you are absolutely sure that a temporary quantity of stock absolutely reaches in time.
Multichannel sales have brought better opportunities for brands, retailers, and distributors, and many of them have started committing to it. However, when inventory issues rise up, most of them are deprived of the benefits they can reap. Therefore, mastering multichannel inventory management and becoming operationally efficient is the only way to overcome the most critical challenge of this industry.
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