One of the trickiest parts of peak season prep is sales forecasting your new products. To do it well, you need solid data and a good process. Pouring over data about product-level attributes or economic drivers are examples of the steps merchants take to prepare.
But even with the best of plans, there is still a “big unknown” lurking out there: Returns.
Whenever there is a flurry of buying, especially during peak season, you tend to see an uptick in returns. It’s just an accepted fact of retail.
And nothing can be more frustrating. It costs both time and money and can make you feel like you’ve taken a step backwards. Regardless, returns are a big part of the multi-channel eCommerce landscape.
Online Merchants Can Actually Lessen The Impact Of Returns
But having a brick and mortar store can have it’s benefits too. Shoppers making returns in-store might find something else to buy.
And if you do have a brick and mortar store, but most of your sales aren’t local, you might also benefit from fewer returns.
Since we know that returns are just a fact of life, there are a few steps that sellers can take to minimize their impact.
The best way to do this? Create a sales and inventory management strategy that doesn’t get impacted by returns. Or, better yet, build one that limits returns to begin with.
Sales Forecasting For Peak Season
Sales forecasting is one of the best ways to stay ahead of returns. If you have clear insights into your best selling items, and which are more often returned, you can begin to make better decisions about what to stock and when.
Remember how most online buyers aren’t likely to return items? And how items are more frequently returned in-store? Figuring out how best to sell online is one way you can minimize returns.
It’s important to keep cash flow in mind as well. Always having positive cash flow can offset the burden of future returns. If returns are having a big impact on your cash flow, it might be time to really pay attention to your sales reports
A Real Life Example
SkuVault client Lisa Maltese knows a thing or two about returns and the importance of knowing what’s in stock. As owner of the Pink Julep, a women’s fashion boutique selling multi-channel as well as brick and mortar, she often finds herself working directly with her clientele to help them find that perfect item.
“If a customer calls, I can answer questions regarding stock we have available,” says Lisa. It’s this kind of responsive customer service that shoppers appreciate and have come to expect from merchants.
By cleaning up her inventory and warehouse processes, sellers like Lisa are able to have time to cultivate the experience shoppers have with their brand. This is invaluable.
“Not only can I manage my inventory while I’m on the road, but I can even help the warehouse staff locate inventory all the way from Florida!” This is the power of what good sales forecasting and automated inventory process can do for your business.
Just think about what that could mean for you – time to take a vacation, time to work on building your business instead of playing hide and seek with inventory.
Simplify and Automate Workflows
The easier it goes out, the easier it can be returned. Sellers want simple workflows with simple calculations that offer them the clearest view of what actually matters: sales.
Having clean and simple workflows as part of your warehouse management is key. Your workflows need to be as simple as possible to pick, pack and ship on the front end. And then on the back end, it has to be quick and easy to process returns and re-stock if necessary.
Adequate quality control processes can reduce mis-ships, thereby decreasing the amount of returns.
And by using product syncs, you can always be sure that you have the most accurate and up-to-date snapshot of where all of your inventory is. This way, the impact of returns is minimized.
Fewer steps means less time on fulfillment or returns, and more time growing sales and building your brand.
Customization also comes into play here. No warehouse is the same, but they all have a few things in common. By leveraging what others have found to be successful, and tweaking it to fit your specific processes, you can make sure you get exactly what you need.
At SkuVault, our processes, workflows and calculations are meant to be simple, but powerful. After working with thousands of multi-channel sellers, we’ve learned a thing or two about what merchants need to succeed.
An easy-to-use inventory software with customized and automated workflows and pick lists will help create a smoother returns process.