Synchronizing departments for strategic stock management

For customers, perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of shopping is learning that the products they want are out of stock. For merchants, this is also one of their greatest fears – every time merchants fail to have the inventory to satisfy customers’ needs, they are potentially leaving money on the table if shoppers decide to buy from a competitor.

Yet, eCommerce inventory management remains one of the key pain points that many retailers deal with on a regular basis. The kicker is that inventory management will only grow more complex as online and mobile shopping become more commonplace. While the number of American shoppers who actually make purchases from their phones is still a minority (28 percent, according to recent research from Econsultancy), that shopper base is growing rapidly and has doubled in the past two years. When consumers can literally shop from anywhere, even temporary inventory outages may have a negative impact on sales.

Ensuring stock availability by making it a company-wide task
Inventory management is a multifaceted task. In many ways, it’s both an operational and a strategic challenge. Merchants also need to realize that inventory management is a multi-departmental challenge, and that different teams (from marketing to supply logistics) need to work together to get the most from stock.

It’s crucial that merchants understand the number of people who impact inventory and develop a comprehensive strategy for managing their stock. While there are a number of solutions for streamlining inventory management, perhaps the best way to start is by synchronizing stock with promotional efforts to ensure products are available during times of high demand, whether it’s a one-time sale or a holiday event.

“Successful strategic inventory management relies on tying creative and marketing plans to merchandising plans,” explains Multichannel Merchant. “Marketers and merchants need to develop company-wide planning calendars and projections for all promotions in all channels – catalog, online, email, stores, space ads. Merchants and the inventory control group then plan product purchasing, availability and receipts to support these events.”

Lack of collaboration and broad management can lead to stock shortages. For example, it can take days, weeks and, in some cases, even months of preparation to order and deliver product. However, the planning and execution of marketing plans is frequently on a shorter schedule. If these marketing and supply logistics aren’t working in unison, there are a number of ways things can go wrong.

Fortunately, while technology has made online shopping more complex, it has also helped merchants better plan and coordinate their inventories. An online inventory management system, such as SalesWarp, alleviates some of these complications by giving retail owners a centralized, real-time view of their inventory across stores and point of sale (POS) systems. By using these solutions, businesses can prevent overselling products, or conversely, suffering from canceled and late shipments.