Its hard to believe with all the retail system technology available, cumbersome and inefficient manual processes continue to hurt small and medium sized companies running brick and mortar, catalog, e-commerce and marketplace stores.
Managing inventory availability is the number one issue we hear multichannel customers want to solve. Hand keying inventory availability in as purchases occur, struggling to avoid out-of-stocks and cancellations, is expensive, resource intense, stressful. Manually entering orders from one system error prone.
In this post, I’ll dive into why you should be using an automated inventory synchronization system.
Inventory Synchronization for Multichannel Merchants
Maintaining accurate inventory counts is critical for any merchant. You never want to sell an item that you don’t have. But, it’s particularly challenging for a multichannel merchant to keep inventory straight.
If you sell in a brick & mortar store and on a webstore, those channels need to have their inventory counts in sync…immediately. Let’s say you have 10 items in stock (your stock is just at your store), and you sell them all on a great shopping day in your store. What happens when someone also buys one online? You didn’t tell them you sold out. You may not have even realized it.
Everyone has bought something online, only to get the “Sorry, that item actually wasn’t available,” email days later. It’s not a good customer experience. It’s not a good way to make money.
Multichannel merchants are particularly at risk. You have to keep inventory sync’d up across a bunch of different channels.
So, how do you go about doing that?
Manual Processes for Inventory Synchronization
Manually synchronizing inventory is a tough game, unless you’re very small. It’s error prone and expensive. Here are a couple manual processes that don’t work that well.
The Paper Method
I went to pick up an order at a store in Cleveland, Ohio over the weekend and watched the cashier pilfer through an entire shoe box of customer orders. They were printed on dog-eared pieces of scrap paper, sticky notes, back of envelopes.
How did they know what to order or how much of it to make? What would they do if they ran out of stock, because they had no visibility into what they should have had in stock? Luckily, my order was able to be filled, but I was anxious standing in line. This store could have had quick cash-in-hand and a happy customer with a better system.
And, I’m confident this process hurts them frequently.
Paper is slow and manual. It requires your employees to know what to do, then do it right. It require manual (read: error-prone) calculations. And, it’s not in real time.
The Spreadsheet Method
Spreadsheets are a step in the right direction…at least they are digital. They’ve got their limitations too.
Your inventory is instantly out of sync when you manage inventory in Excel. Sales occur in real time, inventory decreases in real time. Everyone thinks theyll update the spreadsheet at the end of the day (and for some of you its at the end of the week), but that could be too late.
That inventory not available for future orders. You may have to call customers who have placed orders for out-of-stock items, because you didn’t have time to update it. Guess what the customer will think of that call!
You can avoid these expensive problems with an automated inventory synchronization solution.
Automated Inventory Synchronization
When your struggling to compete, its important to have an edge over the competition. Using modern software to automate inventory synchronization allows you to assign more time, money, and assets to growing your business.
Automation creates efficiency. That efficiency will show in the ROI of implementing the right solution.
You should be able to update inventory in real time when an order is fulfilled. You should be able manage item catalog updates automatically. The more manual processes you can eliminate, the more you can reduce your operating costs. You can reallocate resources to more strategic sales functions.
Benefits of Automated Inventory Synchronization
Some the benefits of automated inventory synchronization are:
- Improves your ability to create happy customers
- Improves visibility of real sales
- Avoids that ”Oh My God” hour when your inventory is so far out of whack you give up reconciling
- Is far more accurate and is nearly always up to date
- Reduces time associated with updating–you have better better things with your resources
- Removes your dependency on a single employee. If there is only one person that knows how to manage your web store or eBay marketplace, what happens if they quit or are sick that day?
- Helps you better manage the cost of inventory by right sizing inventory levels
If these sound like the problems you experience with your business, it’s time to talk. Why deal with these problems anymore, when there’s a solution to them?
Check out our real-time inventory management solution to learn how you can avoid all the problems I discussed in this post. Excel won’t cut it anymore. It’s time to move to a solution that will.