eCommerce inventory management is the foundation for a successful online business. Of course, generating online sales is the key to initially securing customers and gaining part of the available market, but if you’re unable to fulfil those orders, these sales will quickly get lost to more efficient competitors. As eCommerce companies continue to drop prices, provide similar products and offer favourable shipping options, it will be your company’s ability to accurately manage inventory and fulfil orders in a timely manner that has the greatest impact on the success and longevity of your eCommerce operation. For companies that sell online, this is typically not the only sales channel available – more and more retail, wholesale and distribution businesses are also making products available on homegrown eCommerce sites built on platforms like Shopify, and through marketplaces such as Amazon. Therefore, it is imperative that your business can manage orders and inventory across all sales channels – including knowing what product is available in real-time. The need for proper eCommerce inventory management software is nothing new, and according to a global eCommerce survey by TradeGecko, 39% of companies under $1M in annual revenue express inventory frustrations, with this number growing to 61% for companies over US$1M.
Managing Inventory Online
Managing eCommerce inventory requires integration between your existing eCommerce platform or marketplace and a back-end inventory and accounting solution such as Blue Link ERP. Integration allows you to share information back and forth between your ERP solution and various webstores, such as inventory descriptions and images, pricing and product availability. Your ERP software acts as the backbone to your business and inventory operations. All inventory information in terms of purchase orders, backorders, inventory descriptions and pricing as well as all sales orders from all available channels is maintained in your ERP solution, deeming the software the single point of truth. This is in addition to other features inherent in ERP software such as order entry and processing, contact management, accounting, financials and reporting. This ensures information from the system is available online to customers without fear that it’s inaccurate. Information should only be modified, added or updated in the ERP solution and then pushed automatically to online channels.
Managing Inventory in Your Warehouse
A lack of proper software can result in many inefficiencies throughout your business operations, and the same eCommerce survey mentioned above found that companies under $1M spend over 90 HOURS on inventory management, product sourcing, and managing purchase and sales orders EVERY MONTH. When there is no software to manage operations, companies rely on manual processes including manually counting inventory items to know what is available, manually writing pick slips and packing slips when fulfilling orders and then manually updating inventory information in introductory software on an ad hoc basis. As with any manual process, the room for human error is quite high – this can lead to a higher number of product returns, loss of money on obsolete inventory, employee theft and longer lead times from order to shipment. Once again, a proper ERP solution to manage inventory streamlines your operations from sales order to invoice and helps to automate warehouse processes. Barcode scanners that allow you to receive, pick, pack and ship products eliminate the number of picking and shipping errors, and ensures inventory is accurately reflected in your system. Instead of performing manual inventory counts or physically searching the warehouse for available product, inventory information is maintained in your ERP solution and online, making it easy for employees and customers to quickly find the information they need. Specific warehouse shipping functionality allows information to flow between your ERP and common shipping carriers, eliminating the need for double entry and helping to get product out the door more quickly. Warehouse shipping functionality also provides features for combining shipments that are going to the same location, tracking orders and product by container and the ability to compare shipping rates across carriers in order to save money on shipping costs.
Find the Right System
Managing your eCommerce inventory is not difficult with the right software. Gone are the days of managing inventory using manual processes and tracking information on pen and paper – in today’s marketplace, software exists that allows you to create automated workflows so that you can focus on more important tasks such as generating sales. Gaining control of your inventory and warehouse operations will reflect online and to your customers, ensuring they have a positive interaction with your company, leaving them to continue to purchase your product well into the future. Given the stiff competition and expectations of customers, it’s no wonder that warehouse automation stood out as being the most impactful technology, especially by companies over $1 million in sales and further still, by those over $5 million in sales.