As your retail business grows, you are likely to find that using your website back end for inventory management is no longer sufficient for your growth in sales - no matter how good your website is! You will know you've reached the levels of business success and when managing inventory from your website is no longer effective when:
- You are manually allocating and fulfilling orders.
- You are manually updating stock levels (especially if selling across multiple sales channels).
- You have oversold items.
What I'm hoping you will notice straightaway from these points is the use of the word "manually". These are the manual processes that waste precious minutes and hours of your time, which quickly lead to days and weeks. You may also notice the last point, which goes against the golden rule of running an e-commerce business, which is to: "Never, ever oversell your items." This is a surefire way to disappoint your customers, leading to negative feedback and a potential dip in sales.
So, what should you do when your website is no longer effectively managing your inventory?
First things first. You can't do anything without a reliable inventory management system behind you and your business. Especially if you're selling across multiple channels, such as Amazon, eBay and your own website. Next, you should consider focusing your efforts on setting up automation within that system. From automating your fulfillment process, by sending orders automatically to your dispatch team based on a set of rules, to automatically updating your inventory levels across your multiple sales channels in real-time; having automation implemented within your inventory management system is going to reap big rewards for you and the growth of your business. And if you spend a couple of minutes thinking outside of the realms of just inventory management for a moment, you will realize that all of those other mundane admin tasks you're doing can also be automated. From updating order statuses to let your customers know items have been shipped to them, to posting sales invoices to your accounts and everything in between, there is so much you can do with an automated system at the centre of your business.
What benefits could be yours by automating inventory management?
There are a whole host of benefits that could be yours when automating inventory management, but we'll be the first to confess that they largely focus around giving you time back to focus on business growth. Let's discuss this for a momentâ€¦ By allowing your inventory management system to update your stock levels (in real-time) across your sales channels, it is clear that you no longer have to spend the time doing it yourself, but you also save you and your team time by dealing with less complaints from over-selling. And knowing that your automated inventory system is producing correct pick lists and packing notes for your warehouse team, means you and your team save even more time by dealing with less returns due to mispicks and human error. In reducing the time spent on mundane admin tasks, and managing only by exception, you can focus your time and energy on the activities that are really going to allow you to grow as a business, such as improving your sales and marketing strategies. And if that still isn't enough to convince you of the benefits involved with automated inventory management, then just take a look at what Leo Jarvis, Director of The Priory has to say: "Having inventory management software we can trust to provide the data we need to make good sales and buying decisions has increased our revenue by 30%."Convinced? Read on...
Things to consider when automating inventory management
Automating your e-commerce business is an easy thing to do (especially with advances in automation technology increasing frequently), but there are a couple of considerations to bear in mind when doing so. Before implementing automation, you should check that your workflows are in the best shape possible. One idea here is to map them out in a system such as Lucidchart, allowing you to fine-tune your processes before automation takes over and frees up your time. You should also keep a close eye on how everything is working together once automation is set up and running in your system. Was there a piece of your workflow you missed out during the original mapping? Is there a part of it no longer working the best it can? Whatever you decide you need to change, do so efficiently and keep testing the automation until it is 100% right for both you and your customers.
Author Bio Justine Cross is the Content Marketing Executive for Brightpearl - the #1 retail management system for omnichannel retailers and wholesalers. Brightpearl allows you to provide a truly omnichannel experience for your customers, whilst unifying all of your sales channels, inventory, accounting, CRM, suppliers, fulfillment, reporting and POS in one single system.