Since breaking into the eCommerce scene in 2011, we at SkuVault have worked hard to help our clients grow their retail businesses. In doing so, we’ve seen many retailers fall by the wayside. The most unfortunate part of seeing retailers fail, is seeing those retailers fail because they are all making some of the same common, and preventable mistakes.
The following is a list containing 5 of the most common mistakes we see eCommerce retailers making.
1 I Smart Purchasing
One of the biggest mistakes retailers make is buying products they like, rather than buying products that their customers like.
As a retailer, you have to separate your ego from your purchasing decisions. Yes, you may have good taste in clothing, pop culture, or music, but just because you think you know what is best, doesn’t necessarily mean your customers are going to agree.
For example, you may have both passion and infinite knowledge of Star Wars – characters, movie trivia, fun facts, and what merchandise is rare and collectible. However, creating an online web store where you sell a limited amount of rare and collectible Star Wars figurines probably isn’t the most sustainable business model.
When purchasing products to sell, consider the needs of your clients first, and your personal preference second. Fortunately for retailers, there is powerful inventory software that provides data and statistics on the purchasing habits of your customers. This data can be utilized to pinpoint your bestselling items, identify your worst selling items, and identify key marketplace trends that you can use to your advantage. Putting the needs of your customers first, and investing in technology that helps you make the most informed purchasing decisions is vital for all eCommerce retailers.
2 I Excess Stock
Okay. So you made a spur of the moment purchase on a new line of Star Wars figurines. You thought that they would fly off the shelves in no time, but they’re not quite selling as well as you’d hoped.
For inventory items that are not selling well, essentially, you have two options: continue to let them sit on the shelves and hope that they eventually sell, or offer them as closeout items to your customers at a discounted price. Unsold inventory that continues to sit on a shelf is nothing more than capital you’re missing out on; capital that can be used to invest in better-selling inventory, marketing campaigns, or website improvements.
Initially, begin selling these items just above wholesale price – this way you still continue to profit from sales. After discounting, reassess, and if these products are still showing lackluster sales, offer them to your customers at wholesale price or a little below.
Capital that sits on a shelf in your warehouse is useless. Am I sounding redundant yet? If so, it’s because this point cannot be emphasized enough. Get it off the shelf and into the hands of your customers, even if you see less than desirable profit margins from these items.
In order to get rid of their excess stock, many retailers are beginning to utilize the Product Kitting feature built into their Inventory Management System. Product Kitting can help in getting rid of your slower selling items by easily allowing you to group your best selling items with your worst selling items together into “kits”. An example is probably best when describing Product Kitting features.
Consider our Star Wars figurine. Say that the Darth Vader figurine is selling very well, but the Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia figurines are selling very slowly.
Product kitting allows you to offer these three figurines as a bundle, selling the Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia figurines at a discounted rate. For example you can list all three figurines separately for a price of $34.95 each. Because you already know that Darth Vader sells well, offer your customers the option of purchasing all three items for a discounted rate of $89.95 instead of $104.95 for all three.
While this may seem more like a sales tactic rather than an Inventory Management feature, Product Kitting within your Inventory Management system will allow you to group and track these three products as one cohesive unit – saving time and money.
Whether you sell your excess inventory individually at or below wholesale price, or decide to utilize Product Kitting to group these items together, the bottom line is to get rid of them. Get rid of them to utilize the capital to expand your business.
3 I Receiving and Processing
With so much emphasis put on improving the picking and shipping process, the receiving and processing procedure can easily get overlooked. Delaying this procedure is a surefire way to eat up capital that could be put to better use.
Consider the invoice that you must pay every time you receive a shipment of new products. That invoice should be your sole motivator for getting those items processed and listed to sell.
That invoice is like a ticking clock of capital. Everyday that your new products go unlisted on your web store is one less day you have to repay that invoice from the revenue you could have made from those new products.
For example, if you have 30 days to pay an invoice for a new shipment order, and you wait two weeks to receive, process, and list those items on your web store, you now only have 2 weeks to repay that invoice with profits you made from the new shipment.
If you do not sell enough of the new items within those two weeks, you must now pay the invoice out-of-pocket rather than having your new inventory items pay for themselves.
Time management is key to improving warehouse efficiencies, and adequate time should be allotted to receiving, processing, picking, and shipping procedures.
4 I Central Database of Inventory
There are so many benefits to having a central database for your inventory management that an entire blog post could be dedicated to just this topic. Surprisingly enough, however, it is a common mistake amongst eCommerce retailers.
An inventory management database provides you with valuable, real-time data on your inventory. Since your inventory is the bread and butter of your business, it’s a pretty important thing to keep track of.
One of the biggest benefits of inventory management is the prevention of out of stocks and oversells. There is nothing more frustrating to both retailers and customers than when products are out of stock. It leads to poor customer reviews and lost revenue. Amazon and eBay will even kick off those sellers who repeatedly sell items that are out of stock. Proper auditing, picking, and receiving processes as well as a centralized product catalogue drastically lessens out of stocks.
An inventory management database also provides valuable sales tracking data. This sales data can let you know which products are your best sellers, allowing you to reorder more to keep up with demand. Some inventory management systems can even go into more detail, telling you which items sold best at certain times of the year. This allows you to keep up with the seasonal demands of your customers and stay one step ahead of the game.
Quality control is another perk of having an inventory management system. Knowing the location of your entire inventory is a valuable tool. This kind of data allows you to know what’s on hand to sell at any given time.
5 I Shipping Processes
The shipping process is the final, and arguably the most stressful, part of the transaction process. During shipping, the customer’s satisfaction hangs in limbo as you (the retailer) have no control over how your shipping provider handles the package, and yet the customer has already been charged for their purchase.
Seeing as how shipping is the final process, this part, more often than not, is going to be how customers remember you. It doesn’t matter if your web store is flawless and user-friendly or if your prices are lower than your competitors – if the wrong item is shipped, if it is shipped to the wrong location, or if it takes entirely too long to ship, this is how the customer will remember you.
It’s important to keep your customers in the loop when it comes to the shipping of their purchased products. Offering an estimated arrival date is a common procedure amongst eCommerce retailers. An estimated time of delivery gives your customers an idea on when they can expect their package and it eases their mind. If you can get the package to them before the estimated delivery date then it only makes your company look better in the eyes of your customer.
You can take the estimated delivery date procedure one step further by offering your customers continuous updates on the status of their package. You can do this via email or sms update. A shipping update or package-tracking feature puts your customers at ease; allowing them to track the whereabouts of their purchased product.
We hope that this article sheds some light on the most common mistakes made by eCommerce retailers. We believe that those retailers who implement and adhere to the aforementioned procedures are the ones who see the most success.