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Inventory Management for eCommerce

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By Debbie Gregory.

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We hope that you enjoyed the first two articles in the Inventory Management mini-series.   This next article is about Inventory Management for eCommerce.

Clearly, eCommerce stores have very different inventory tracking needs than retail businesses do. The system can help you manage both your physical inventory as well as your online inventory. Working with an inventory management system can have some outstanding benefits for you and your company, even if you use drop shipping and have no physical inventory.

What are some good practices for eCommerce Inventory Management?

1.) Forecast Your Needs:

Like traditional retail stores, eCommerce shops also need to forecast their buying needs based on past sales. You should have a plugin for your online shop that allows you to view your point-of-sale analytics in real time. This will tell you which parts of your site are performing well, and which ones are not and what are the hot products or services that are in most demand.

One huge upside to eCommerce sites over brick-and-mortar stores is that you can easily get rid of underperforming products or seasonal products without having to pay in advance for the items or put them on clearance. You can forecast what you believe that you will need, and pivot as the need arises, usually with a simple click of your mouse.

2.) Use a Centralized System:

Currently, Excel is no longer the best tool for tracking inventory. There are quite a lot of apps and cloud-based inventory programs, from the very basic to the very complex, that are available.  If you are not already using one, it is time to switch over to the right one for you.

Depending on which application you choose, you can find inventory management software that will:

  • Alert you when inventory is low or expiring
  • Create customizable packing slips and barcodes for order fulfillment
  • Track all of your sales and inventory in real-time. This allows you see all the inventory levels of each one of your stores in one single place.
  • Create customized promotions and gift cards
  • Use your Point-Of-Sale data to monitor inventory turnover
  • Easily sync all the data from your Point-Of-Sale system, retail software, online store, and accounting software
  • Generate reports based on customer buying data
  • Help you integrate with the major retailers to reach even more customers

3.) Utilize Drop Shipping

One of the great things about an eCommerce store is that you don’t have to have your inventory physically in your possession. You can sell a variety of products from a variety of suppliers. You never have to actually handle the products or pack them or ship them yourself. You also won’t tie up a lot of your capital in inventory that may or may not sell quickly. The drop shipper will simply send out the order for you and they will even send it using your own branded packaging materials and paperwork.

4.) Delegate and Outsource:

Depending on how big your operation is, you may have someone who is managing your inventory for you. They may be the ones making the counts and forecasting the inventory needs. Utilizing centralized software makes delegating this task much easier as you and your employees can all see the same data in real time.

We hope the first three articles in this series on Inventory Management has been helpful to you.   Please stay tuned as there is much more valuable information ahead.  In the meantime, if you need to replace and upgrade computers and peripherals, VAMBOA has partnered with Dell Technologies to offer members and friends significant discounts.  Please check them out here:  https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/

Inventory Management for Retail

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By Debbie Gregory.

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We hope that you enjoyed the prior article in this mini-series on Inventory Management.  This second article is about Retail.   Keep in mind that retail outlets have very different needs than other ecommerce businesses. Retail stores are really required to have their inventory on-hand as compared to online stores that may utilize drop shippers and do not actually have any physical inventory.   Often, they do not need to tie up capital with inventory until clients place their orders.

Below are some good practices for retail inventory:

1.) Automate It:

The best thing you can do for your business is to automate monitoring your inventory levels for each of your products. Having the input on exactly what people bought and how many they bought, in real-time, will enable you to keep appropriate inventory in stock. Set your system up to alert you at a preset level so you can refill the item(s) as quickly as possible. This will also help you keep better track of past performance and allow you to make better seasonal forecasts. It also means you will have what your customers want in stock and this translates to greater revenues.

2.) POS Analytics:

POS (Point-Of-Sale) analytics allow you to do more than simply track your inventory.   Point of Sale analytics will tell you quite a lot about your company’s overall performance, how every product is selling and how many items you sell over time. These analytics let you know which items are performing well and those that are not.

A POS analytics system answers important questions including:

  • What are my best-selling products?
  • Are these products strong sellers all year long, or is there a special season when they sell better?
  • Do some products perform better in one part of the store than another?
  • Which of my stores perform better than my other stores (which specific locations perform better than others)?
  • Which items were purchased with coupons?
  • Which items are purchased together the most?

3.) EDI:

Electronic data Interchange (EDI) is a cloud-based system that replaces the old-school email, phone, and fax order placements. EDI combines all the typical documents needed for a single transaction including purchase orders, purchase order acknowledgments, advanced shipping notifications, packing lists and invoices into one easy to use digital system. Your staff will no longer need to compare different physical documents to place an order, confirm inventory, send incoming shipment alerts, confirm what was shipped, bill for items received,and more.

4.) Practice Order-to-Shelf:

Order-to-shelf (OTS) Inventory Management is a new trend that was started by several grocery stores to reduce their storage and labor costs. It is just like the “just-in-time” inventory process many automotive manufacturers use. Basically, everything that you need for the day arrives that morning and you sell everything by the time you close your store for the evening. The next day a truckload is waiting for the process to begin again. This reduces spoilage and cuts down on storage costs since you are not storing anything, and nothing will go to waste.

VAMBOA hopes that this second article in our mini-series on Inventory Management has been helpful to you.  Stay tuned for the rest of this informative series.   We want to remind you that VAMBOA has joined forces with Dell Technologies to provide special discounts to our members and friends.  With the new normal, there is a huge need to update our computers and peripheral products.  Here is a link to the discounts:

https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/

Inventory Tracking Software for Your Business

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By Debbie Gregory.

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VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association is pleased to provide this mini-series of articles on Inventory Management for our Veteran and Military Business owners.  The first article in this series is about the right Tracking Software for your Business.  We hope that these articles answer your questions, offer you valuable information and are enjoyable.

Proper inventory management is a valuable tool that makes running your business so much easier. If you do not have a system in place, you will need to find and select the right one that will work for your company size, inventory size, and your budget.

Below are the main factors you need to consider before selecting your inventory tracking software platform:

1.) Cost:

The cost of purchasing and/or upgrading your system is one of the major concerns for any business. This is certainly one of those “you get what you pay for” items.  You need to be sure that the system can handle your specific business needs right now as well as allowing you room to grow with what you anticipate needing in the not too far off future. Do not select a system that is so inexpensive and cannot handle what you need it to do.  At the same time, do not select the most expensive and feature-rich option if you are not planning on growing into a major national retail chain.  In other words, do not buy more than what your needs will be now and going forward.

2.) User-Friendly:

The next biggest concern is how easy the system will be to integrate and use. You need to find a system that is user friendly so that you don’t waste a ton of time and energy trying to figure it out and training yourself and others.

3.) Integrations:

You need to be sure that the inventory software integrates with your other business tools.  For example, your inventory management software should be able to integrate with your accounting software, shipping software and your email newsletter provider. Integrated systems should allow you maximize your free time of on some of your other daily tasks.

4.) Detailed Reports:

You will likely need an inventory tracking system that provides detailed reports about your inventory. You need to be able to easily see which products are the most popular in your product offerings and which ones are not so you don’t waste money with the unpopular ones that are not selling.

5.) Product Customization Options:

You need to be able to change your products quickly and easily and not just the quantity. You need to carefully select the right software that allows you to quickly change item prices, shipping, and other important information.

6.) Customer Support:

This is very important from the get-go when you are trying to implement the new system or if there is a major update to the system later. You need to select a platform from a reputable company that you believe will be in business for some time. Additionally, it is very important to make sure that they include support in the purchase of your new system. Test out and call support prior to your purchase and make sure they are there to easily respond to your needs.  Make sure that customer support answers call and emails in a timely manner. If they do not, you might seriously consider another vendor.

We hope that you enjoyed this first article in our series.   VAMBOA also wants to let you know that we have partnered with Dell Technologies and if you need to update your computers and peripherals, please check out the special discounts just for VAMBOA Members and Friends here:  https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/

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