Stock control is a vital element in any retailing business - poor inventory management is noted as one of the top ten reasons startups fail. If you don’t have the products that your customers want to hand, not only will you disappoint, but your reputation could suffer too. The sad truth is that 25.4% of customers are likely to submit a negative online review to warn others about a bad experience, so everyone agrees how important it is to avoid a negative impact on your customers.
The question is: how?
It’s not always easy, but exceptional, smooth stock control is entirely possible with a forward thinking approach and the right technology. We’ve shared our top tips below to help you use stock control to your advantage and help you pave the way to success.
eCommerce is growing, not news to you I am sure! To accommodate that growth, 54% of global warehouses like us have planned expansion. By managing your inventory storage accurately, you too will be able to grow your eCommerce business, and by taking advantage of outsourced fulfilment, these expanding warehouses can benefit you.
Your inventory supports your business. Through expert management, you can ensure that your stock isn’t eating your money. Without proper control, your inventory can become unmanageable and lead to excessive space related costs, higher labour costs, and, of course, loss of business. 67% of warehouses use mobile technology to manage inventory, which increases accuracy and speed of order fulfilment. Scannable SKUs and barcoding systems make life even easier by keeping inventory management systems up to date and you in the know.
Additional inventory can lower the worth of your products, as it becomes more difficult to move them, and can be a large financial loss should you need to sell the products at a radically cut-price, just to free up space. This could also result in customer’s orders becoming delayed as you need to locate space for their newer products.
Forecasting is vital for excellent stock control - and it can be easier than predicting whether or not it’s going to rain during the walk to the sandwich shop! (We do not apologise for this terrible weather forecasting related joke) Deciding what stock to order in and when can make or break your business. How you choose to do so can be determined by many factors. Whilst 46% of small businesses reorder their inventory based on information from previous months, only 15% use forecasting software. This number shows how many businesses are just guessing. Utilising these technologies can radically aid your business and they are often included if you outsource your fulfilment.
By using modern inventory tools with statistical analysis, it becomes possible to not only manage your stock but also to predict how much you will need to order and when. This not only prevents you from running out of stock, but also from over-ordering, which in turn will save your eCommerce business money.
No one wants returns, but they’re an inevitable part of retail. The way that you manage them will send a positive, or negative, message to customers, but will also have an impact on your business. Handling returns is time-consuming, and if unplanned they can be very expensive. There are several reasons customers may return items, but:
23% of returns are due to the wrong item received
20% of returns are due to product being damaged (as seen below)
However, 92% of consumers will buy from your business again if returns are easy. This is both great news and an obvious incentive to manage your stock control wisely. If you were to outsource, make sure to check how they will handle your returns. Ensure that they would scan returns, and according to their condition, decide what would be the next step (whether they’re fit for resale, require re-packaging or need to be thrown off the nearest bridge) which would save your business time and money.
The warehouse management software used by the staff would also ensure that returned items are visible in real-time so that they can be re-sold as quickly as possible with the least margin erosion.
Accurate stock management can massively impact your business. However, whether this will be positive or negative depends completely on the level of control you have over your stock. If your fulfilment is managed by humans alone, it will only operate at 97% accuracy. However, with the use of management software, 100% accuracy can be achieved. Well managed storage means that products can be found quickly, handled efficiently and delivered to the customer as soon as possible.
Here are some things to avoid:
Multiple SKUs in a single pick slot location - one pot of cream can look very much like another one
Products with varying units of measurement all stored together where they can be easily confused
Insufficient lighting, which could hinder visibility - a dark cupboard under the stairs is not ideal
There are many things that can be done to ensure pick and pack accuracy. Regular stock takes will make sure that you know what stock you have matches the numbers in your reports.
Perfection isn’t impossible to achieve - there are cost-effective up to date technologies available to help you achieve 100% accuracy. Even if you’re only looking to improve your order accuracy a little, 0.02% improvement quickly adds up. You will also have the added benefit of very satisfied customers!
5) Fraud Prevention
Fraud and theft are an unfortunate thing every business should prepare for. A shocking 64% of small business owners have experienced employee theft of stock. Internal theft can have a terrible impact and can account for 80% of financial loss.
All businesses would like to be able to trust their staff, but there are several measures that can help to ensure your stock stays on the shelf until it’s in the post and on its way. Inventory tracking and barcodes are an excellent way of efficiently monitoring your stock and the staff handling it. The components of inventory tracking are a combination of mobile devices, online technologies and software. With the data stored centrally keeping track of stock numbers and where to find it.
Not only does this help prevent stock theft, but also has the added benefit of lowering human error in both pick and pack, as well as administrative tasks such as spreadsheets. Fortunately, inventory tracking systems are now easy to adopt and very cost-effective, well worth the investment for the protection of your stock.
6) Customer Satisfaction
Happy, repeat customers are vital for the success of your eCommerce business. Excellent stock management will ensure that the items they order are in stock, on the shelf, easy to find and in the post with ease. Having accurate information on your inventory and presenting it to your customers through your online store will provide excellent customer service, and encourage purchasing.
Customer loyalty is won through satisfying their needs, and just a 5% increase in loyalty can increase profits by a fantastic 25%. By fulfilling customer orders quickly and accurately, they are more likely to return and buy even more. 80% of eCommerce revenue comes from just 20% of customers - that loyal bunch you worked so hard to win over!
The buying journey has been pleasant for your customers, so getting the product should be too. With an efficient process that focuses on these six key areas should ensure the customer is delighted by getting the right product at the right time in excellent condition. Even if they choose to return their order that doesn’t mean the journey is over, the experience can remain to be a positive one, all thanks to your exceptional stock management.
By updating to smart, cost-effective technologies, systems and solutions, efficient stock control isn’t a world away. Inventory and warehouse management systems enable real-time reporting that keeps you in the know and gives you complete visibility regarding stock levels and Best Before Ends (BBEs). This will enable you to easily manage your orders and shipping and the six steps to success will fall easily under foot.
If you’re interested in improving your stock control, why not contact us and find out what we can do to help?