by Tom Shackleton
Bad inventory management can so easily be the downfall of an eCommerce business. You’ll have a lot of your business’ capital tied up in stock at any one time, so making your inventory management as efficient as possible is vital.
At the same time, you’ll always want to ensure that you have stock available to meet orders at all times.
Walking the line between a lean inventory system and meeting your customers’ needs is the key to great inventory management.
Here are 6 tips for purchasing, managing and restocking your eCommerce inventory:
Use Data to Predict
The sales and inventory data that you have available to you can be an incredibly powerful tool for managing and restocking products.
You can use past sales data to help you predict periods of high and low demand, allowing you to adjust stocking to prepare.
You’ll be able to spot trends for high volume periods like Christmas, as well as highlight patterns such as seasonal fluctuations.
All of these can help you plan your future inventory management and always ensure you’ll have enough stock to meet demand.
Use an Inventory Management Tool
Especially as your business grows, you’ll have to think about investing in tools for inventory management.
Tools like Brightpearl allow you to track inventory across multiple sales channels, manage reordering and track stock across warehouses, dropshipping locations and more.
Having a central database like this will make managing your inventory much easier. You’ll know when to re-order products and exactly where your inventory is across various locations.
If your eCommerce business is still too small for a powerful tool like this, an inventory management tool like TradeGecko, or even the inbuilt management tools for platforms like Shopify still give you great insight into your inventory and allow you to manage it smartly.
Pick an Inventory Management Method
If you’re to purchase, manage and restock your inventory efficiently, you’ll need to decide on a method for managing stock.
How you approach inventory management will depend on your business and the nature of your products.
A popular option is to operate a ‘just in time’ model. This involves ordering stock just in time to meet demand. Operating in this way means you don’t hold up capital in your inventory. You’ll therefore have more working capital to allocate to other areas of your business.
Using this method also means you’ll need less warehouse space as you won’t be holding onto stock for long periods of time.
You will however run the risk of disappointing customers with even small delays to restocking.
Know Your ‘Minimum Viable Stock Levels’
Knowing your minimum viable stock levels is essential if you’re to ensure that your products remain in stock and available for purchase.
You should be aware of a minimum stock level for each product, below which you’ll need to reorder.
This can be calculated by looking at your order rates for each product, and taking into account the lead time for reordering.
Placing a stock order at this point should mean that your customers never have to see that dreaded ‘out of stock’ icon.
If the stock levels in your system and the actual number of items on the shelf don’t match, you’ve got big problems.
Auditing your stock regularly should ensure that your inventory numbers never become inaccurate. You should audit your stock every month to make sure that stock levels remain correct.
Regular audits will also ensure that no items become lost. When you have a lot of capital tied up in stock, you may as well be throwing it down the drain if you don’t stock check.
You don’t want to disappoint customers by telling them a product is in stock when you actually ran out weeks ago.
Have Restocking Arrangements in Place
The last thing you want is to start re-ordering a product, only to find that there’s a 3 month lead time.
Putting restocking arrangements in place with your suppliers should protect you from unexpected waits for new inventory. You’ll be aware of how long a product should take to restock, and will be able to hold your suppliers to account for missed deadlines.
You’ll be able to plan and order well ahead of time to bring products back into stock just when they’re needed.
This can be particularly valuable at busy periods like Christmas, when your suppliers’ infrastructure is likely to be strained.
If you are to purchase, manage and restock inventory effectively, you’ll need to put systems and procedures in place to ensure that customers are never disappointed, while still keeping your inventory lean.
You’ll need an inventory management system that lets you track stock efficiently, a good understanding of your data and strong agreements for restocking.
If you put these tools and policies in place, you’ll set up your eCommerce business for a strong future.
Interested in finding out more about how Statement can help your eCommerce store grow effectively? Just get in touch and we’d be happy to discuss your next project with you.