Grow Your Business - The Importance of Integrated Inventory Management
How implementing an inventory management system can help scale your business and reduce human error.
To be successful in growing your eCommerce business, handling the increasing complexities and mastering your domain are the greatest challenges in scaling. As a business grows, the infrastructure surrounding it must grow with it at the right pace and with the right tools. eCommerce businesses looking to scale need an integrated inventory management system - in fact it’s essential.
Many businesses start off small and can survive quite happily with their original manual processes and ad hoc problem-solving. But there comes a time when these processes may actually be what’s slowing you down and preventing growth.
In the beginning, the manual processes can appeal due to their simplicity and cost-saving but this quickly evaporates once the business begins to grow and dealing with larger inventory levels and end-to-end processes increase in complexity. When this starts to be a problem, the time has come to invest in an integrated inventory management system.
In this article, we look at how your business can run more efficiently and the features on offer when you consider integration.
Integrated Inventory Management
A sophisticated platform providing retail businesses with up-to-the minute data, an integrated inventory management system tracks inventory at all locations and at any stage.
Processes such as tacking inventory and forecasting become automated and the days of manually updating spreadsheets are long gone. Forecasting demand based on real-time data from sales reports takes all the pain and unreliability out of predicting trends.
Not only that, integrated inventory management systems work seamlessly across multiple locations including warehouses to keep your stock levels accurate at all times.
What are the advantages?
Common issues for retail businesses tend to be stockouts and overselling. This is where your integrated inventory management system will come into its own. By setting reorder points at peak times in the year, you can reliably meet customer demand without the headache.
Remove the mystery of stock levels (including with third-party distribution) and stay in control of your inventory. In addition to this, you can provide real-time stock levels with inventory counts or availability based on various parameters such as expiration dates. Where humans are involved in retail businesses, there is always the possibility of errors occurring. As with repetitive tasks in any industry, the increase in errors is inevitable over time. Automation reduces the need for data to be managed manually and has the potential to completely eliminate errors in inventory.
Having full oversight of inventory benefits retailers by enabling them to take control of their marketing budgets. Where money is being spent with pay-per-click (PPC) ads, out-of-stock items are draining money from marketing budgets and are frustrating potential customers at the same time. With automation, retailers will instantly identify items that are out-of-stock and direct their marketing towards items with plenty of stock available.
Features such as barcode scanning can be convenient in automating your inventory. This can centralise your data and ensure that your workforce can operate consistently across multiple locations. In addition to this, processes become faster and more efficient. Using Saledock’s stock control app, you can scan barcodes using rugged hardware such as the Sunmi L2s handheld scanner.
How does automation benefit the customer?
Improving efficiency and the customer experience are just some of the ways that automation benefits the customer. Research from Salesforce suggests that 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as their products and services. 69% of customers expect a connected experience meaning the pressure is on for retailers to provide a seamless journey from start to finish.
Automation plays a crucial role in ensuring customers have the products available when they want them as stockouts can seriously impact eCommerce businesses. In fact, 59% of customers will default to Amazon if they can’t get the product that they want. Negative experiences with your brand can have a lasting impact and customers will quickly abandon you to find somewhere else to supply them.
There’s nothing more frustrating for customers and employees alike when stock levels are not accurate. With real-time data for your inventory, you can keep track of stock levels at all times and eliminate the manual processes which are so often inaccurate. By automating your inventory management process, you gain overall insight of your data no matter the size of your retail business.
A huge headache for retail businesses can be forecasting supply and demand. This can be especially challenging when predicting the demand for seasonal inventory. Where demand fluctuates, stock levels can be adjusted as an immediate response to increase or decrease numbers and then return to their usual levels.
Spreadsheets are still used frequently in retail businesses to manually manage stock. This creates delays between warehouses, physical stores, distribution points and anywhere relying on the data to manage inventory. By using integrated inventory management software, sales can be analysed to forecast automatically and optimise stock levels without the need to manually trawl through data. Historical data is available to track seasonal demand to maximise sales and reduce surplus stock in high demand times.
Inefficiencies and errors are two of the greatest challenges in manual workflows. By automating workflows, employee time can be optimised giving more attention to other tasks. When a customer places an order, an automated process is kick-started without any effort from your team. For example, where a product is out-of-stock at the nearest location, the automated system can identify another location with the products available and fulfil the order from there.
Manage Listings Automatically
Where the customer experience is now the key to retention and loyalty, retailers may choose to remove listings where the product is out-of-stock. While this may sometimes avoid customer frustration, it can also mean opportunities for future sales are missed and confusion around the availability of a product. With integrated inventory, out-of-stock items remain online but are automatically identified as out-of-stock. Customers can benefit from real-time data and lead times on items.
If updating stock manually, this can be a nightmare across multiple sales channels. With an automated system, a single listing can be updated across all channels/apps in real-time when a product sells. Listings are updated automatically, saving you time, keeping your products consistent and eliminating errors.
Depending on the dynamics of your target audience, you may wish to vary your listings to appeal to different types of customers. By using automation, different versions of copy can be used for the same product on different channels.
For example, you may choose different messaging to target a younger audience on one channel compared with an older audience elsewhere. Core information such as product dimensions or technical specifications would remain the same while dynamic text to engage with specific audiences can change based on the audience accessing it. Pricing and promotions can also be adapted to suit different channels and audiences.
Automation optimises inventory by categorising similar products. When customers search for a product, complimentary items will be visible to your audience on your channels. Categories of products can be managed more effectively with notifications to suggest that there is increased demand. Your team can stock according to the level of demand in real-time.
Where stock becomes unavailable, by creating product categories, you can ensure that you are well stocked with similar products to meet customer demand.
- Automation allows you to maintain optimal stock levels while simultaneously removing manual processes.
- Retailers can increase their efficiency, reduce human errors and improve the overall customer experience.
- Businesses can scale using integrated inventory management systems while still operating fully and fulfilling orders.
- Retailers can apply their focus where it’s needed to grow their business and not on repetitive, manual processes.
- Expect the unexpected and remain prepared when the market fluctuates, optimising inventory management.
Having accurate and reliable data for your business is essential for profitability and performance. If you’re still relying on manual processes and spreadsheets, contact us to find out how you can benefit from automation and take control over your inventory and workflows. All Saledock plans include integrated inventory management so you can rid yourself of your inventory headaches, scale your business and ensure you’re maximising every selling opportunity.
With Saledock, you’re choosing a UK-based team that’s dedicated to your success. Why not start your FREE 14 day trial today and see for yourself why Saledock has been named Point of Sale Technology of the Year by the Retail Systems Awards.
Book a demo
Let's chat! Book a demo today and we’ll discuss how Saledock can help you.Book a demo
Start your free trial
Start your free trial today and explore all the tools Saledock can offer you!Start free trial