Manage Your E-Commerce Inventory Like a Pro

APICS Magazine August 2018
Victoria Greene

Having a thriving e-commerce business isn’t all cocktail parties and thick balance sheets. To get to a point where you can enjoy the spoils of your success, you need to get the day-to-day things right. Things like inventory. Without a well-groomed inventory system, your e-commerce business will never reach its potential.

Following are some common e-commerce errors. By establishing what the worst practices are, you can ensure that your business only does the best.

Mistake 1: Forgetting that e-commerce is multichannel

Commerce is forever moving relentlessly forward to keep in sync with customers’ needs, desires, preferences and access to technology. For this reason, it’s essential to appreciate that e-commerce is now a multichannel world.

In order to give your customers the service levels they demand, you must keep track of your inventory across social commerce; your online store; marketplace commerce areas, such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy; mobile sales; and affiliate sales. Operating a different inventory system for each channel is impossible. To manage your e-commerce inventory at a basic (let alone pro) level, you must employ a centralized system that covers all sales outlets.

Mistake 2: Thinking multichannel commerce means multisystem inventory management
Choosing the right system to centralize your inventory is crucial to your business. Orderhive Inventory Management is a wonderful app that comes with an array of features, including real-time analytics, automatic stock level updates, integration and management across multiple stores, and synchronization of order returns.

Orderhive can be used for mobile commerce, social commerce and e-commerce and is available through many different channels. If you’ve used an online store builder to create your e-commerce site, then you can integrate it seamlessly into your business — helping inventory management efficiency and data. Orderhive doesn’t come cheap, but it does come with a near-perfect customer rating.

SynCommerce is another brilliant app that can help guarantee no more overselling of your stock. In addition to that, it also offers multiple-channel integration, the ability to print packing lists and excellent store-monitoring facilities.

Mistake 3: Using near-, not real-, time inventory updates

Real-time data is where you need to be in terms of your inventory management goals — and predictive analytics should be your next hurdle. Of course, the term “real time” means live — as in, things are happening right now. Near real time comes with a lag. Whether it’s 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour or a day, this presents a real danger to your business because you cannot show customers accurate inventory levels.

You may show items as out of stock when they are in stock (thus underselling your goods and costing your company sales revenue), or you may show items as in stock when they are out of stock (thus overselling your goods and tarnishing your company’s reputation). Either option is problematic.

Mistake 4: Inaccurately forecasting your customer demand

All businesses operate on a simple premise: supply and demand. If your customers want to buy your products, then you must have the supply to satisfy their demands. If you don’t, you won’t be in the e-commerce game long enough to become an inventory management pro.

Telling a customer that you are unable to fulfill an order is bad for business in the short-term and can be disastrous in the long-term, as many marketplace sellers, such as Amazon, will take your e-commerce business right off their platform. Use predictive analytics and big data to correctly forecast consumer demand. Your inventory system should play a big part in that. After all, inventory is one of the most tangible metrics of sales success that you have.