What is your best selling product? How many of these items do you currently have in stock? Can you promote a seasonal sales campaign and still have enough inventory to be able to ship items? These questions can help determine the best inventory management methods.
Inventory management is often considered a cornerstone of running a successful eCommerce business and not knowing where you stand can signal serious trouble.
However, one of the easiest ways to keep your business agile is with a top-notch inventory management system. In fact, this type of system keeps track of current warehouse inventory statuses better than having to do so manually and provide improved communication with your shipping team.
Here are a few things you need to know about this topic plus six inventory management techniques to consider.
What is Inventory Management?
Simply put, inventory management is the process of knowing what’s in your warehouse at any point in time. This includes the various products you have, how long they have been there, and other pertinent details. It is a crucial part of making decisions for your eCommerce business and should be taken very seriously – no matter how large or small your enterprise is.
Let’s think about this for a moment. Say your store sells green widgets. You need to know how many you have before you can sell them online, right?
Knowledge of this figure means you can set inventory markers on your website to ensure customers aren’t still buying after you’ve run out. It also gives you a good idea of how much marketing you should do to help push those widgets out the door, onto the delivery truck, and straight to the mailbox of paying customers. And, when you know how well your green widgets are selling, you can make decisions like when to add red or blue ones to the mix.
If you aren’t doing a great job of tracking your inventory, you could easily find yourself in a tricky situation. Not having enough items to fulfill orders can lead to lower customer satisfaction due to long delivery times or even having to provide refunds if you completely sell out your entire stock.
In today’s eCommerce climate, this can quickly mean loss of sales and serious damage to your reputation as a brand. Keeping products too long on the shelf could mean they are outdated or no longer sellable.
Likewise, having an inventory management system that keeps track of everything and provides reports of what products are selling the most and which ones need reorder from the manufacturer ensures you always have items to ship the moment they are purchased by the customer. These types of systems give you control and flexibility over your inventory, which is especially important if you have a large catalog or do a high level of monthly sales.
Why is Having an Inventory Management System Crucial to Staying Agile?
Trying to keep up with what you have in the warehouse and what is on order from the manufacturer or distributor can be somewhat tedious if you’re trying to handle the process the old-fashioned way, like managing it by spreadsheet or by hand.
But, as a savvy eCommerce store owner, you know that utilizing technology to improve your business methods is important. That’s where having an inventory management system (IMS) comes into play.
Quality IMS programs like SkuVault are specifically designed to integrate with multiple sales channels. This means that you can keep track of what is being sold on your BigCommerce or Shopify site while also monitoring inventory on Amazon, eBay, and Walmart – all at the same time. Not only does this make the process much easier overall, it allows you to look at the bigger picture of your inventory and run reports to see where everything stands.
It also gives you the ability to add new channels and scale up as you generate more paying customers. For most eCommerce businesses, this is a big part of the process and a huge reason for opting to use an IMS program in the first place.
The ability to add on new sale methods or alter existing ones is the primary definition of staying agile.
6 Inventory Management Techniques to Pair with an IMS
Of course, inventory management doesn’t just stop with having a great IMS. There are certain things you need to do in addition to ensure your overall effort is a success. Consider these six inventory management techniques to pair with a quality IMS for increased productivity.
1. Choose the Right Inventory Management System
Just like every eCommerce brand is a little different, so are inventory management systems. Choosing the right IMS is important and it is a good idea to look at the benefits and features of each one before making a decision.
You really want a system that integrates with multiple sales channels, store platforms, and accounting software programs to ensure your whole operation runs as smoothly as possible.
Your IMS is essentially a hub for all things related to inventory and having everything in one central place makes the overall process that much easier. It also needs to offer the functionality specific to your business size and needs or feature elements that allow you to scale up as you grow.
Take your time through the selection process. Schedule a demo with one or two different platforms to make sure you’re getting exactly what you need. (Hint: We are pretty confident you’ll find SkuVault is an ideal solution for your eCommerce business. But we would still love for you to check out our demo page and see for yourself.)
2. Delegate Inventory Management Tasks
As an eCommerce business owner, your time is valuable. If you already have a team ready to help you with the task, be ready to delegate inventory management to someone else.
Why? Making high-level decisions needs to be your top priority and this is much easier if you have someone you can trust handling all of the day-to-day inventory monitoring.
The good news is that passing this job off to an employee becomes much easier if you have an IMS already in place. This allows you to run reports and make decisions on marketing, bringing in new products, and potential changes for your business, while still staying in touch with what you have in your warehouse.
3. Utilize an ABC Analysis
Another tip? Utilize an ABC analysis to help decide what products belong in what category from the moment they arrive at your warehouse. Here’s an example to consider:
- Category A products are those that are bestsellers, highly popular, or contribute most to your overall sales profit.
- Category B products are those that fall somewhere in between the top and the bottom selling. These do well but aren’t the best or the worst.
- Category C products are those that are small transactions that don’t do much for profit but are still important to have in your store. These are typically ideal upsell or down sell offers.
By splitting products into one of three categories, you can identify which items have a bigger impact on overall inventory cost. This is ideal for situations where you want to be able to make big decisions – such as which items to use as add-ons or to promote heavily through paid marketing – but don’t want to have to sift through all sorts of data to choose one.
4. Set a Reorder Point
Keeping track of what you have in stock is one thing but knowing when you need to purchase more is something else. By setting a reorder point, you can rest assured that you always have your top products in stock without the risk of there ever being a gap.
One of the best aspects of having an IMS is that most offer reporting to let you know when you’ve hit a certain threshold for low inventory on a specific item. This allows your team to know immediately when it is time to contact the manufacturer to place another order for that specific product.
Often, they find out that stock is low the moment they pull a product for shipment that causes inventory to fall below your chosen figure. The beauty of this process is it takes out a lot of the guesswork associated with keeping popular items in stock and ready for fulfillment.
5. Have a Plan for Perpetual Inventory Management
Another highly suggested method for taking control of inventory management is to have a plan for perpetual inventory management. PIM is one of the most basic forms of keeping track of inventory and involves counting items the moment they arrive. If you’re using an inventory management system like SkuVault, this means scanning in each item as soon as it hits your warehouse so that it may be cataloged and tracked along the way.
Do not overthink this. There is a reason why PIM is the most commonly used form of inventory management – it really is the simplest way to know how many of each product is in your warehouse. For eCommerce businesses that don’t currently have an inventory management protocol, this step is usually the first place to start.
6. Use Reports to Your Advantage
If you are using an inventory management system, make sure to run reports as often as possible. There are numerous ways to use these to your advantage to glean data about which products are really hot ticket items and which ones you need to mark down to get rid of as soon as you can. These systems are designed to give you intuitive and informative metrics for the location and stock trends of your entire catalog, so be sure to utilize it to your advantage by using the information accordingly.
Examples of Successful Inventory Management with SkuVault
Now that you know just how important successful inventory management is, it is time to look at a company that is using SkuVault to get it done right. Shady Rays is an eCommerce website that sells polarized sunglasses. As one would suspect, they can have dozens upon dozens of different styles available at any given moment. For most companies, keeping track of this level of inventory would be an absolute nightmare.
Thankfully, the process is incredibly easy thanks to an integration with SkuVault. As their team mentions in this case study video, the ability to pick orders for shipping is much easier and the ability to know exactly when a product is running low is crucial. They also enjoy the simple interface and how easy it is to train new staff members.
After recently opening a new distribution center, Shady Rays continues to grow and proudly utilizes SkuVault for all of their inventory management system needs.
Common Inventory Management Questions
Of course, the process of integrating an IMS and keeping track of what you currently have in your warehouse isn’t without a few different angles. Here are some common inventory management questions to consider.
Can Inventory Management Software Make Order Processing More Efficient?
Yes! Having software that keeps track of your existing inventory and offers multiple reporting tools is an easy way to improve your order processing efficiency. By utilizing an IMS, you can easily see the status of your current product count and know exactly where you are running low. It also allows your staff to see where a particular item is in your racking system and offers the guidance needed to select the right product for the right customer order each and every time.
How Does an IMS Help Improve the Order Return Process?
When it comes to selling products online, the order return process is, unfortunately, just a fact of life. Many people buy items online and decide they aren’t really what they wanted. This then triggers a return process and leaves your team keeping track of items when they’ve shown back up at the warehouse. With an IMS, you can easily scan in items and know confidently that they are counted in your inventory once again.
How Can an eCommerce Platform Integration Like SkuVault Help with Inventory Management?
Integrating your existing eCommerce platform with an app like SkuVault is an excellent way to take control of inventory management. By automating many of your daily processes, you can always know what is going on in your warehouse and were each item type stands. This is a great way to keep things simple and organized as you scale your business and grow your enterprise.
Why Does a Good Inventory Management System Improve Overall Brand Agility?
Growing an eCommerce brand takes tons of time, effort, and patience. Having a superb IMS paired with good inventory management methods is the easiest way to ensure your business is agile enough for growth. Keeping track of products in your warehouse isn’t always simple, but using this type of technology to your advantage ensures that it goes much more smoothly.
Furthermore, most applications – including SkuVault – include detailed reporting to help you stay on track with your current inventory while making decisions that fuel scalability.
Inventory management is a crucial aspect of running an omni-channel retail business. However, by utilizing specific software programs like SkuVault, you can easily and effectively scale up your efforts and keep track of current product inventory in an efficient and productive manner. In the end, this allows you to grow your business more quickly while increasing overall customer satisfaction and helping your team thrive.