*This article is written by the experts at Ecwid.
If you’re an omnichannel business, staying on top of your inventory management is a perennial challenge. So we have the experts at Ecwid here with some tips and tricks to make sure you’re always stocked up across all your channels. To make omnichannel inventory management a breeze, be sure to hook up your Square account to Ecwid in our eCommerce solutions.**
From online stores to apps to in-store purchases and due to recent lockdown events, customers are increasingly diversifying the way they shop. That’s why online sales hit a 10-year high in April, up 23.8 percent year-over-year in 2020. But the big question is: How do you go about setting up your inventory management system in an omnichannel world? If sales are coming in from multiple channels, how can you ensure that your customers don’t see that dreaded “out of stock” sign? Here are some tips to help you manage your inventory across all your platforms, so you can take “out of stock” out of your vocabulary forever.
What is an inventory management system?
Let’s tackle some of the basics first. Inventory management software is a system designed to track inventory levels, orders, sales, and deliveries. Ideally, you’ll need a software system to do omnichannel inventory management as well as keep track of what merchandise you also have available at your brick-and-mortar locations. Square’s inventory management software is designed to do just that. You won’t need a separate system to track inventory from online and brick-and-mortar sales, and you can use the same system to track inventory across different locations. Plus, you’ll be able to sign in from almost anywhere and download reports and update inventory quantities in bulk—which is helpful when adding new merchandise.
Dig through your data.
Now that you have the right software, your next step is thoughtful inventory management. Start by looking at your sales from the same period in previous years to establish a baseline and observe any trends. What products sell exceptionally well around the holidays? Do you typically see a last-minute rush for certain items before school starts in September?
What advertising or promotions did you run to drive peak sales periods?
Next, consider how conditions may have changed for your business last year. Did you move to a more prominent location? Have you started selling online? Are you more engaged with your customers on social media? With a clear picture of historical trends and careful consideration of changes that may affect customer demand, you should be better equipped to manage retail inventory for upcoming seasons.
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Embrace synchronisation and integration.
Inventory management which includes keeping track of orders and merchandise levels is a key challenge for business owners who sell across multiple channels. Instead of juggling multiple spreadsheets or manually reconciling different systems to track inventory, you’ll get far better results by synchronising with an omnichannel inventory management system. You can connect software like Ecwid through the Square App Marketplace to ensure your inventory levels automatically update whether someone buys a product in the store, on your website, at a farmers market, or through social media.
In addition to eliminating late-night inventory reconciliation, synchronisation also helps prevent other headaches like overselling and order reconciliation.
Figure out inventory restocking.
Even if you’ve set up systems to manage retail inventory, it’s always possible that you’ll run out of stock of popular items, particularly during holidays. If you anticipate this happening, get in touch with your suppliers well in advance to determine their lead time for reordering inventory (remember, suppliers have seasonal rushes, too). Accurate inventory tracking helps you spot low inventory levels early and enables you to proactively order more inventory to mitigate any sales impact.
Create a customer satisfaction contingency plan.
In the event that you do run out of a popular product, your first priority should be to keep your customers happy and informed. Focus on clear communication to maintain a good relationship. Will you be getting more in stock soon? Be sure to let them know. A coupon for their next order or free shipping when the item is back in stock can go a long way towards ensuring the customer still has a good experience.
No matter how diligent you are at inventory management, running out of items during periods of high demand (such as the holidays) can happen. However, with good planning and integrated omnichannel inventory management systems in place, you will drastically reduce instances of customers seeing that dreaded “out of stock” message.
Ecwid enables retailers using the Square point-of-sale system to instantly create an online store from their Square product inventory, synchronise offline and online sales and inventory management changes in real-time, and add a storefront to any online web presence, including Facebook.