Selling products across multiple channels has its benefits. You’re able to reach a wider audience and maximise sales while offering much-needed convenience and care to your customers. But there’s a balancing act to perform when managing stock for sale across multiple channels, or even just two channels. And if you drop the ball, you could end up with unfulfilled orders and unnecessary expenses. So what’s the best way to manage your stock?
There are multiple ways to organise your stock. You could have a separate warehouse for each channel, such as one for online and another for in-store. But this isn’t the best option. Usually, businesses end up doing this if their current warehouse is too small to accommodate all stock, the picking process for items varies greatly between channels, or they believe it’s easier to forecast stock demand. But this is far from ideal.
You not only have to deal with the expenses of monitoring two properties, but you also have to buffer against uncertainty in both locations. So you’ll have a significant, unnecessary surplus in stock across the business, especially if your forecasting isn’t precise. It begs the question: what’s the alternative?
One big, segregated stock pool
As a top eCommerce platform, we’ve seen many types of management. But by far the most effective is having one stock pool with virtual segregation, also called virtual ring-fencing. Let’s look at an example.
If you’re a retailer selling in-store, on your own website, and on Amazon, you can just have one large warehouse. However, you segregate the total amount of stock and assign it to each sales channel. For example, if you had 400 items, you can allocate 100 items for each channel.
Overnight, you may find Amazon has sold more items than are in stock, and the same has happened on your eCommerce site. If you had separate stock pools for each channel, you would be in a mess. You might have to contact customers and tell them what they ordered isn’t in stock, and you’ll likely lose customers because of unfulfilled orders. Or you would have to contact suppliers and see how fast you can replenish your stock pools.
But with a segregated single stock pool, you simply move items from the other channels to the ones that need it. In this example, you would move stock from eBay and in-store allocations, and re-allocate them to Amazon and your website in a few clicks. This gives you time to reorder stock and replenish all channels without letting customers down.
It still makes sense to forecast stock needs separately. But with the ring-fencing method of stock management, you’ll be able to better estimate the appropriate stock volume allocations for each channel over time. There will be less risk of overbuying stock which goes unused or buying too little, and this will save your business money.
You need sophisticated management software
Virtual ring-fencing is the best way to manage your stock, but not all eCommerce platforms make this easy. If you’re with a platform that doesn’t allow smooth, streamlined stock management, your business will leak money. Your platform needs to be able to:
- Hold all product information, be it images, GTINs, BIN locations, and categorisations
- Give customisable inventory views
- Allow tracking and management of multiple stock locations, BIN locations, and stock values from the same interface you manage the sales channels
Some eCommerce platforms don’t offer sophisticated stock management tools because their focus is on the front-end design and usability of your site. Others have brilliant back-end systems, allowing seamless management behind the scenes but the front-end of your site suffers as it’s neglected. You need an eCommerce site that can do both to provide the best customer experience.
The Shopit eCommerce platform bridges the gap between seamless front-end eCommerce and efficient, productive back-end management, bringing them together in one interface. It’s one of the few eCommerce sites that does this well, helping you manage multiple websites, and multiple stock locations from one place. To see how our tools can revolutionise your stock management, visit our website or get in touch with us today.
Surahi believes in that good people, good processes and structure produce great companies.
With a keen interest in globalisation and personalisation, she writes about the opportunities for growth to everyone