Summary: Controlling your inventory even in one retail store can be challenging, so just think about what chaos it can create when you go managing it across multiple channels. It would mess up everything from inventory reordering to order fulfillment. But, here’s a solution – an Inventory Control Software that can help you with managing multi- channel operations in the most efficient way. Let’s find out, how.
Successful order fulfillment is one thing that businesses thrive for, and maintaining adequate inventory is the first step towards that.
But manual inventory management has always led to stock outs, over spending, stock wastage, and other greater chaos. All this eventually results in missed sales opportunities. The major reason behind this inefficiency is that businesses don’t have visibility over their inventory levels and can’t accurately forecast future demand as well.
This is where Inventory Control Software can help you with, especially when you are handling multichannel operations.
What Is an Inventory Control Software in Multi-Channel Operations?
Inventory Control Software enables businesses to manage their products and stock levels across multiple sales channels like an online platform, a physical location, or even a vendor who offers your products to customers.
Some of the popular sales channel fall into the following buckets:
- eCommerce Marketplaces
- Retail Stores
- Personal eCommerce Websites
- Social Media Shops
- Modern Retail Stores
Major Challenges in Managing Multichannel Operations of Inventory Management
Businesses face multiple challenges while managing inventory for multichannel operations that might impact their customer satisfaction, delivery time, lost sales opportunities, and more. Some of the common challenges that businesses face include out-of-stock situations, inaccurate inventory tracing, increased ODR, and more.
Let’s understand these challenges in detail.
- Chances of Going Out of Stock
Digital customers today conveniently switch between multiple sales channels to find the best service, price, and delivery. This has made it mandatory for businesses to have enough inventory everywhere to fulfil omnichannel requirements because an out-of-stock message would easily divert your customer.
Moreover, a more negative customer experience is created when businesses, whether intentionally or unintentionally, mention wrong inventory levels.
- Stocking Up Extra Inventory
The fear of going out of business might mislead entrepreneurs that stocking up is normal. This would only lead to increased costs and resource wastage. Especially, while managing multiple channels, it becomes even more difficult for businesses to forecast demand and store inventory accordingly.
However, an effective way of dealing with this challenge is to analyze how every sales channel is performing against your expectations.
- Inaccurate Stock Tracking
Businesses need complete inventory oversight to determine which products are available on which sales channels and at what prices. Inefficiency in inventory tracking might lead to unpredicted understock situations and delayed customer deliveries.
- Increase Order Defect Rate
Order Defect Rate, ODR is a metric used by online marketplaces like Amazon to determine if the seller can fulfill customer orders and deliver a good customer experience or not. Surpassing the ODR limits would result in penalties and revocation of certain selling privileges.
So, you need to make sure that you are always on your toes when it comes to successful order accepting and deliveries.
- Inconsistent Customer Experience
While selling through one channel, it is easy for businesses to offer consistent customer experience, but when it comes to multiple channels, this might become a challenge. However, your customers expect the same type of customer service everywhere.
This can only be done when businesses have a complete view of their operations and the ability to respond to their customers on every platform.
- Poor Warehouse Space Management
To fulfil orders from multiple channels, businesses might misunderstand that opening warehouses at different locations can be the solution. Although this might help but when not done strategically it will only lead to increased shipping costs, delivery time, and even split shipments if items of a single order are to be collected from multiple warehouses.
Suggested Read: How Does Inventory Management Help with Stock Controls?
How Can Inventory Control Software Help Manage Multichannel Operations?
Let’s understand how the features of an Inventory Control Software can help your business manage multichannel operations:
- Inventory Management
Inventory management centralizes all your warehouse functionalities by keeping track of all the details related to stock levels, their specifications, and the history of multiple warehouse locations in one place.
This ensures that all your departments, from orders to shipping, can access information from a single source, resulting in improved collaboration.
- Inventory Barcoding
Entering multiple SKUs manually using traditional input methods requires a lot of effort and is even error prone. Here the inventory barcoding feature of inventory control software enables you to store, collect, and even organize product data quickly.
Irrespective of the fact that you are managing multi-channel operations, you will be able to track the product price and specifications easily with a unique barcode. In fact, barcoding takes only a few minutes, making it easily adaptable for your employees.
- Inventory Tracking
It helps you monitor the movement or level of your products in the supply chain. If you are managing one operational channel like your own eCommerce website from one warehouse, you would easily know which product was ordered, picked, delivered, or even returned.
However, in the case of multi- channel operations, you will not be able to track every piece of inventory manually. Here, using an inventory control software will come to your rescue and help you oversee inventory tracking for multiple locations and warehouses. Users can track their products using serial numbers, barcodes, etc.
- Reporting Capabilities
Inventory control software’s reporting feature comes with multiple modules that include report sharing, customization, report dashboard, pre-built inventory reports, actionable analysis, and more.
These automated reports help businesses to identify inventory trends and customers’ habits across channels. In addition to this, inventory reports can also be represented in visual formats with the help of pie charts, bar graphs, and other elements, making it easier to understand.
Using powerful insights, businesses can forecast future product demand and fluctuations in sales. These insights can help you understand when your sale is likely to increase based on past year’s performance and trends.
For instance, you may see a rise in sales during a festive season. Users can take advantage of this information to avoid situations of stock unavailability. Moreover, this way businesses can ensure that they are not missing any potential sales opportunities.
- Inventory Related Alerts
Alert is one main feature of the inventory control software that never lets you go down the set stock limit across channels. You no longer need to manually check all the sales channels for their inventory level, as soon as you hit the set limit, you will get an email or SMS alert to restock.
This enables users to optimize the inventory levels as and when required and minimize stock wastage. In addition to this, users can also set other alerts that include shipment delay alerts, protentional stock outs, and more.
- Kitting & Bundling
An ideal inventory control software must come with a feature to sell products as kits and bundles. For instance, if your customer places an order for a combo of shampoo and a conditioner, the software must deduct the inventory from the bundle SKU, shampoo SKU, and the conditioner SKU.
- Purchase Order (PO) Automation
Merchants still make POs manually by hand, and then separately enter them in the inventory control system. As a result, even after having an inventory management system, users need to manually update stock levels in the system. However, with the PO automation feature, merchants can now generate POs by auto populating the data.
In addition to this, in the inventory control software, merchants can also check order statuses like drafts, rejections, approvals, sent orders, etc. Accordingly, businesses can maintain the level of required inventory.
|Best Practices to Follow for Inventory Control:
Benefits of Managing Multichannel Operations with Inventory Control Software
An inventory control software can benefit businesses by creating a sync between warehouses and sales channels, making the supply chain more efficient, improving customer experience, and more.
Better Sync Between Sales Channels and Warehouses
Updating real-time inventory levels even on one channel can be challenging when done manually. But if the same needs to be done on multiple channels, it only creates chaos. For instance, on a particular day when your sales are good and the inventory is decreasing, you will not be able to update the accurate inventory count.
This will happen because, till the time you will update the current value, more orders will be coming in simultaneously. As a result, you will always be behind the real-time inventory count, thus leading to inaccuracies.
However, this situation can be completely avoided by implementing Inventory Control Software that comes with EDI, Electronic Data Interchange. It ensures that users can update and evaluate all their inventory related data at a single location. This further improves the synchronization between multiple sales channels and warehouses.
Manage Multiple Product Descriptions
Writing and updating product descriptions for multiple products is a challenging task even when done on a single sales channel. But, with multichannel inventory software, users just need to focus on writing descriptions, as sharing them on multiple sales channels can be automated.
This ensures consistency in brand communication, irrespective of the platform where the customer engages with you.
Be Efficient in Supply Chain Operations
There might be orders that will require you to ship products from multiple warehouses, and supply chain automation can help you in determining the efficient way to fulfill the order on time. If the same thing is done manually, it might result in delayed deliveries, partial order fulfillment, and incorrect orders.
Moreover, you can also automate updates sent to the customers related to shipment tracking, updates, etc., to reduce customer anxiety and incoming queries with the customer service team.
Improved Customer Experience
Having an out-of-stock tag on your products or notifying it during the checkout process is like creating sales opportunities for your competitors. Businesses can prevent this by updating their inventory level in real time using an inventory control system.
Multichannel inventory management software also ensures accurate product listings, order tracking, alerts on minimum inventory levels, etc., to improve the overall customer experience.
Andrew, the VP of Purchasing of LowCarb, a Canadian health food retailer was managing two physical outlets, 2000+ SKUs, and two eCommerce websites, all manually. He was spending somewhere between 15-20 hours every week in inventory management, where his major work was to make and update purchase orders.
Andrew would always go by making a rough estimate of orders and inventory which resulted in repeated stockouts. He wanted a more strategic way of forecasting purchase demand to prevent stockout.
Then, he found the inventory control software that would allow him to reorder inventory at the same time and maintain a minimum inventory level. In fact, it would use last year’s sales to accurately forecast future demand.
As a result, now Andrew is buying more intelligently and making more savings.
How to Choose the Right Multichannel Inventory Control Software?
To select the right multichannel inventory control software, first, you need to analyze your business requirements and understand why you want to implement one. Your reason might vary based on the challenges you are facing. Irrespective of your reason, we recommend you check multiple inventory control software listed on Techjockey and select the best one for your business.
However, while choosing a multichannel Inventory Control Software you must take into consideration the following points:
- Ensure that the software offers you a 360-degree view of inventory at all locations and channels
- Inventory Control Software must allow you to update sales and stock levels in real time
- The inventory software must come with reporting capabilities that will help you calculate inventory turnover, gross percent margin, carrying costs, customer fulfillment rate, etc.
- An ideal inventory system must facilitate easy integrations with your existing sales channels, accounting systems, multiple warehouses, vendors, etc.
- The inventory control solution must offer forecasting capabilities so that you can easily predict future demand and don’t end up under stocking or over stocking
- Must allow users to enable barcode scanning for items that will be helpful for easy and accurate inventory tracking and tracing
Suggested Read: Understanding the Role of Software in Inventory Management
Managing inventory across multiple channels creates chaos which leads to frequent out of stock situations, canceled or delayed order deliveries, missed sales opportunities, poor customer experience, and more.
All this can be easily avoided by implementing inventory control software that allows businesses to barcode products for accurate tracing, forecast demand to estimate required inventory, and eventually, create a better sync between warehouses and different sales channels.