No matter what type of goods or services your business provides, a strong online presence is nonnegotiable. You operate in a business culture where omnichannel rules, and 60 percent of shoppers have chosen to shop from their couch on their devices, rather than fight through crowds at a busy mall. Still, despite the upward trend of online shopping, only 32 percent of small businesses allow customers to purchase items from their website, according to the 2016 State of Small Business Report.
Walmart has figured out this delicate balance, becoming a forerunner in the omnichannel retail experience. The retail giant sets the bar high for all SMBs. Doug McMillon, Walmart CEO says the corporation doesn’t designate between digital and physical retail, and their goal is for customers to think the same way. As a small or medium sized business (SMB) owner, this progressive thought process should be top of mind for your online sales.
As you plan to grow your business, inventory management is the solution to the roadblocks your eCommerce business might face. Here’s how:
You Won’t Overstock
With more online business, your inclination could be to get over-zealous and order too much. Without accurate inventory records of your own sales history, you could misread the market and add too much inventory. And you know how that turns out; items then sit on warehouse shelves and money is lost. On the other hand, inventory control gives you accurate data that helps you predict demand and can maintain an optimal inventory turnover level. Not to mention, real-time reporting helps to identify patterns, such as month-end spikes or seasonal dips, so you can adjust your inventory levels accordingly.
Customer Service Levels Will Increase
L Brand, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret and Bath and Body Works has done a marvelous job of molding their business to meet and exceed consumer expectation. What’s the company’s growth secret? Forbes contributor Trefis Team attributed L Brand’s success to a combination of brand appeal, brilliant marketing….and inventory management.
An inventory management system provides you with data to gage customer buying behavior so you always have in-demand items in stock or design new products to meet customer needs. And the access to accurate, real-time reporting will enable you to forecast more successfully for future success.
Operational mediocrity is the top reason small businesses fail, according to The New York Times’ small business blog. But IKEA, one of the world’s most recognizable home décor brands, is anything but run of the mill. The company made Forbes’ esteemed World’s Most Valuable Brands list, takes in billions in sales every year and does it with unique inventory management techniques. When you manage over 9500 in-stock items at a time, there’s no choice but maintain careful control of its warehouses. One way is through an in-store logistics plan. Logistics personnel handle inventory management at its stores, with an in-store logistics manager that takes charge of the ordering process and a store goods manager for material handling logistics. With an effective inventory management system in place, workers can more efficiently monitor and record deliveries. It’s crucial to ensure an effective flow of products within each store, in turn building increases sales and customer loyalty. Operational efficiency will increase.
The last thing you want to do is turn customers away because you don’t have an in-demand product in stock or you run out of materials to create your product. And if slow turnaround becomes the norm, frustrated consumers won’t come back. Not only will they not come back, they’ll visit your competitors’ website instead.
Accelerate Time To Fulfillment
It’s no secret that customer expectations are pretty high. Online giants like Amazon deliver orders free within two days for its Prime members. And business SMBs need to keep up as much as possible. You can get a good start through excellent inventory control. With an inventory system in place, you can analyze product sales, have popular items in stock and ready to instantly fulfill customer orders. Conversely, you’ll know what items sell on occasion as to not overstock and keep costs low. Each factor works toward fast fulfillment time and a positive reputation for order fulfillment.
Make Returns A Breeze
There’s a reason people shop online: it’s convenient. And when you have a firm grasp on your inventory, the returns process should reflect that.
For example, when customers return a damaged item, you can quickly reference the manufacturer to swap out the product and keep the customer happy. As a manufacturer, inventory management can track return rates over time, and maintain the extra inventory to keep up with potential returns.
Research projects B2B e-commerce will hit $12 trillion in sales worldwide by 2020, while global B2C e-commerce sales are expected to reach $1.92 trillion by 2018. If you haven’t developed online capabilities, you’ll miss your piece of the dynamic ecommerce pie. But once you take strides toward growth, you’ll need help to keep more inventory flowing and customers happy.
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