Every year it seems that Black Friday deals begin earlier and earlier, and some predict that sales will start as early as November 1st this time around. Earlier start dates put pressure on businesses to be prepared for a month’s worth of increased order volume, in addition to regular holiday season shopping. If you’re a wholesale business, it is possible that you also retail through multiple sales channels including online, brick and mortar and through sales reps, which can further complicate logistics. This makes it imperative that you have proper processes and systems in place that allow you to efficiently manage inventory and sales. Good communication with your partners and suppliers will also ensure a successful holiday season. Here are some tips for managing Black Friday and the holiday season:
Take advantage of proper wholesale software in order to manage inventory. One of the biggest issues businesses face around the holiday season is managing inventory. It can be difficult to predict how much inventory to maintain in order to meet demand and inaccurate calculations can leave you with dead stock after the holiday season or loss of sales and customers if you run out. Proper wholesale software will provide tools for predicting the amount of inventory required in order to meet demand, and will take into consideration past sales history, inventory lead times and costs. If you don’t carry specific inventory items, a good system will allow you to create a purchase order directly from a sales order without having to login to multiple systems or re-enter data. Inventory can then be received against a sales order ensuring product gets shipped out as soon as possible. Having a good relationship with your suppliers and understanding their limitations can also help you prepare for inventory shortages in advance. In addition, using barcode scanning in the warehouse can help to speed up the picking, packing and shipping process and eliminate the amount of shipping errors. This can also make it easier to hire additional employees for use in the warehouse without needing to provide extensive training.
Ensure your sales team has the tools necessary to manage increased demand. As the year end approaches many sales reps will work to take advantage of increased demand in order to exceed their quotas. Providing sales reps with specific tools for managing this process puts them in a position to be successful. Mobile order entry tools that are integrated with back-end inventory management systems allow sales reps to place orders from the road, and ensures inventory information gets updated accordingly.
Make the order process easy for customers. Maintaining a large increase to order volume will only work if you have the proper processes in place for accepting orders. If you do not already have systems in place to manage these aspects of the business, consider the following:
- Integrated channels. As we have mentioned above, having fully integrated systems across your sales channels streamlines the order entry process and ensures inventory information is always up-to-date.
- Offline POS. No matter how well your internet connection may be, issues can arise without warning and these tend to happen at the most inopportune times. To avoid any connection issues, make sure you work with a vendor who provides offline POS functionality for use in retail storefronts. This allows your team to continue to process orders if there is an outage, with the information automatically updating once a connection has been re-established.
- eCommerce integration. eCommerce integration is not just important for selling B2C, but also for your B2B customers. A B2B online order portal provides wholesale customers the opportunity to view inventory, see specific pricing information, and place orders directly online at their convenience. This gives them access to information and allows them to place orders 24/7, without the need for additional order entry staff.
- Credit card processing. Whether you’re accepting credit card payments in person or over the phone, having a system that can process the information and complete the sale will help speed up the process. Consider a system that also provides a secure credit card data vault in order to store card information for future use.
- CRM functionality. An updated and organized CRM and contact management system can help reduce errors and increase customer satisfaction. If you have a system set up that includes customer billing and ship to information, as well as special considerations, pricing discounts and previous sales history, it is quick and painless to create a new order and include the right information. This also makes it easy to look up information quickly when customers call with inquiries.
Although it is a little too late this year to implement a full on wholesale ERP system in time for Black Friday, it is important to prep your team for the weeks ahead and make note of any opportunities or issues that arise. It can be easy to forget specific issues once things have slowed down after the holiday season, but it is never to early to begin looking ahead to next year!