Keeping your inventory in sync with customer demands is essential. And that is when real-time inventory management comes to play!
‘Out of Stock’ are the three most dreaded words for any eCommerce retailer that has the potential to make or break your business. As high as 52% of online shoppers do not proceed with a purchase if they find just one item is not in stock, even if the multiple other items in their cart are available. The stake for efficient inventory control is that high for your eCommerce business, and ensuring sufficient inventory at all times is the best practice to follow.
What is Real-Time Inventory Management?
Real-time inventory management is the process of keeping track of your inventory in real time so that you can fulfill your orders efficiently and on time to keep your customers happy. As soon as there is any movement in the stock, whether purchased or debited, the system immediately updates, and you receive a notification. The system tracks any and every movement in the stock until it reaches the customer.
There should be instantaneous and accurate synchronization of the stock levels with an inventory management dashboard. An efficient system enabled with technologies such as unique bar codes, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, and Quick Response (QR) code works behind the concept of real-time inventory management.
What is eCommerce Inventory Management?
eCommerce inventory management is the organized system of managing eCommerce business inventory that includes sourcing, storing, tracking, and shipping processes. It keeps a track and measures the amount, location, price, and product mix available in your company at any given time. An inventory management system tracks your stock level whether the products are stored in your warehouse or provided through your third-party logistics (3PL) partner or held by a separate business and purchased through dropshipping.
An efficient eCommerce inventory management system gives retailers accurate stock levels, such as which products are in stock, out of stock, need to be sourced immediately, and under or overstocked. Real-time inventory data impacts the company’s finance and helps make informed decisions on business and marketing strategies for the future roadmap and growth. Logistics and analytics play a crucial role in effective inventory management. Analytics provides data on purchase trends, seasonal trends, and variations in customer demand.
Manual Inventory Challenges
Most eCommerce retailers face inventory challenges at some point in the business, including retail giants like Amazon, Walmart, or eBay. Here are some of the challenges typical of manual eCommerce inventory management:
- Overstocking Leading to Dead Stock or Overselling. If you do not have an efficient real-time inventory system or cannot predict the shifting consumer behavior, then there is a high probability of overestimating stock requirements and overstocking products. Such a situation proves to be expensive, and chances are you end up with some amount of dead stock unable to sell. However, without an accurate update on inventory data might also lead to accidental overselling that directly affects your customer service and brand reputation.
- Unable to Scale Due to Manual Management. During the early stages of the business, many eCommerce retailers make the mistake of manually managing inventory to make it cost-effective. However, it impedes growth as manual tracking of inventory and order fulfillment across multiple channels hinders growth. Manual management has the scope of inaccurate reporting ending up in over or underestimating inventory available for customers to place orders.
- Lack of Visibility Across Multiple Warehouses. When an eCommerce business grows with increased product demand, it becomes challenging to manage inventory efficiently; especially with manual inventory management. To promote growth, you might sell your products across multiple channels. In such cases, it becomes difficult to track orders coming in from each channel which puts order fulfillment at risk. Apart from this, if you partner with multiple manufacturers and warehouses, it becomes a cumbersome process to keep track of orders, inventory, and relationships with different associates and partners.
- Lack of Data Insights. The most crucial challenge of not having a real-time inventory management system in place is the lack of data insights. For business growth and to make an informed decision based on business intelligence, you need accurate data and reporting. You need real-time updated data on your inventory fluctuations, shift in consumer demand over time for accurate demand forecasting and take appropriate action as required. Sometimes, you might need to monitor your inventory data closely to avoid missing any emerging opportunities.
- Unable to Segment Inventory by Fulfillment Type. Order fulfillment is crucial for online shopping. It is not enough to have the product in stock. You also need to provide your customer with the information on the fulfillment type before they make the purchase. Will they get it delivered home? Do they need to pick it up from the store? In either situation, how long will it take for them to get the product? So, it doesn’t suffice to know only the inventory. Instead, you should also be completely aware of which inventory to use to fulfill specific orders.
We have seen that there are quite a few considerable challenges of manual inventory visibility and management that can impact the growth of your eCommerce business. And that is why a robust inventory management system is the need of the hour for operational efficiency and customer satisfaction. Making a change in your ERP and middleware and then rolling those changes might become expensive and not much cost-effective. It is more competent to partner with an experienced 3PL provider with infrastructural and technical capability to integrate with your system. They help your business grow smoothly with hassle-free real-time inventory management and on-time, accurate order fulfillment.
XPDEL is a leading hi-tech provider of fulfillment and logistics services, on a mission to enable growth for eCommerce companies. Our existing customers know that everything we do or share is to help them grow. We are futuristics in our vision and constantly work on creating technology that allows us to meet customer expectations for today and tomorrow. We have a widespread network of fulfillment centers that enables us to efficiently handle nationwide delivery in the US – same day, next day, 2-day. Being located closer to the end consumer, we deliver much faster compared to others.