Building an online presence for the purposes of selling products is a common and very viable method for brands and businesses today. While brick and mortar stores still serve a needed purpose, an increasing number of shoppers look to the internet for solutions in a variety of ways.
One of the most difficult challenges for any online store is inventory management. Whether the brand is supplying their own products, reselling a plethora of other consumer goods, or providing a combination of the two, ensuring that the business isn’t overextended or under-supplied is crucial.
From ensuring a steady and reliable supply of goods to storing these goods effectively, inventory management remains a top priority for online stores. To help online businesses make the most of their inventory management, let’s look at some solutions and considerations for managing inventory effectively when selling to the masses online.
Utilise Convenient Physical Storage
Arguably one of the biggest logistical challenges for online stores is to ensure convenient access and availability of their physical goods. Many online stores, particularly online retail stores, do not have dedicated physical warehouses for storage of products and inventory. However, there are a variety of solutions available to effectively manage small business inventory and ensure that business stock is continually accessible. One such option is to find self-storage units across the UK, dependent on the location of your business. By having guaranteed access to inventory items as needed and by avoiding expensive rents, online stores can juggle the challenges of physical storage quite easily.
Use Inventory Management Software
Keeping track of inventory – especially when handling dozens or even hundreds of products – can prove to be both time-consuming and challenging. Without a dedicated system to monitor inventory, your products could suddenly become out of stock. While there are workarounds for online stores that are currently without one or more products, most customers will simply look elsewhere for a solution. The end result is usually a loss in business, which no store wants.
The smallest of businesses – capable of counting individual orders without being overwhelmed – can use something as simple as Excel to track product inventory status, mirroring that with their online store system. However, plenty of inventory management software solutions also exist for growing businesses that would rather streamline the process and simplify affairs.
Consult Analytics to Inform Inventory Decisions
There are a variety of reasons why online stores can experience bottlenecks or surpluses of inventory – especially in the early stages of growth. However, established stores understand that there are many different trends and seasonal shifts in shopping behaviour that can influence inventory levels. Ultimately, online stores must use a variety of data points to effectively determine when to order inventory and when to wait.
Through the use of inventory analytics programs, online stores can discover otherwise obscure patterns in how people shop, when they shop and how much they tend to buy. Armed with this information, brands can then more effectively plan out stocking decisions – whether products are made by the brand directly or ordered and resold.
Automate, Automate, Automate
Order fulfilment – and more specifically, errors and delays within it – can affect inventory management substantially. Between the time lost through inefficient methods and a paper-based method of tracking products (which can lead to unintended shortages), producing the most efficient fulfilment method possible is crucial.
As such, online stores must embrace automation throughout the inventory and handling process wherever possible. Some businesses use barcode scanning solutions as a way to track inventory and handling status in real time, while others outsource fulfilment entirely to a third party. Improving the flow of products and inventory while reducing effort on your store’s part can produce objectively superior outcomes.
Managing inventory for online stores isn’t necessarily easy, but it can be improved with just a few simple tweaks and considerations. Through automation, analytics, inventory software and/or dedicated physical storage, online brands can more effectively fulfil customers’ desires and ensure their products are always available in the quantities necessary.