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How Inventory Automation Can Help Ecommerce Sellers This Holiday Season

by
August 16, 2016

 

This post is contributed by Dion Beary of Ecomdash. Dion writes about ecommerce, television, and sci-fi movies. His passions are Twitter, casseroles, and 00’s rap. He uses his job as a content creator for Ecomdash to prop up his addiction to Chuck Taylors and Vans.

The holidays are coming up faster than you think. The Christmas Creep thrusts the season on us sooner ever year. For some, that’s annoying, but for internet retailers, it’s the best time to sell. Fun fact: do you know why the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday? It’s because businesses who have been operating under a loss (or in the “red”) all year finally turn a profit (putting them in the “black”).

The year cycle of an ecommerce business should look something like this:

  • January – April: Prepare your products by adding new inventory, testing pricing strategies, and identifying your offseason peak periods.
  • May – August: Prepare your systems by listing to new marketplaces and implementing new software solutions.
  • September – December: Sell, sell, sell.

Sellers use this cycle because they want to make sure their stores are ready for the holiday rush. You don’t want to get halfway through the shopping season and suddenly realize you’re unprepared to handle the increased sales. Trying to implement a new system at that point would be like changing head coaches in the middle of a football game.

Now is the time to prepare yourself for the holiday rush.

What are some good inventory management strategies for an ecommerce business? You can trudge through listicles looking for “expert advice” all day long, but there’s only one key that’ll save you significant amounts of time and money.

Automate.

I recommend every business owner I speak with that they should go hands off by getting an inventory management software system. The human error factor is unavoidable, and you can’t afford to miss sales during the holiday season over inventory management blunders. Here are a couple of ways that inventory management automation will help you make more money this holiday season.

Faster Shipping

Like a lot of people, I’m a last minute holiday shopper. Last year I laughed at people on the news waiting in the cold for Black Friday deals, but I bet they were laughing at me on the news getting bottom barrel gifts on Christmas Eve. This type of procrastination isn’t only limited to brick and mortar stores. The prevalence and holiday shipping deals last year proves it. Your customers want to know that when they buy from you, the gift will arrive in time for the big day.

Proper inventory automation software increases shipping speed by removing middle man communication between warehouses. You might be used to forwarding your sales orders back and forth between shippers, buyers, and warehouses, but manually passing information back and forth is tedious and a waste of time. Every transfer of information is another chance a mistake will be made, and mistakes lead to angry customers, returns, refunds, and bad reviews. Hands off communication routes sales orders to warehouses, Amazon FBA, or suppliers without you having to lift a finger. It then forwards the tracking information directly to the customer. If you fulfill your orders yourself, automation software can create shipping labels and packing slips that can be printed directly from the application.

Managing Spikes

Every seller hopes that the holidays will be a big period from them, but how many are actually ready for mega success? I get to speak to a lot of business owners in my line of work, and one of my favorite questions to ask them if they’d be able to handle a day when they doubled their average sales. If they say they can’t, I always suggest that they revisit their backend process. If your current system isn’t prepared to manage a huge sales spike, then that system is hindering your growth and needs to be replaced.

The great thing about inventory automation software is that you no longer have to worry about whether or not you have enough inventory, because your purchase orders are managed as well. Set up auto alerts to remind you of low inventory, and even create and email purchase orders from within the application. If you do run out, your inventory will be automatically listed as unavailable. Running low on inventory is especially a big no-no on Amazon where a lot of sellers can find themselves banned from selling for overselling on the store. Overselling is when you take money for an item you don’t have the inventory to fulfill. It can be a simple mistake, but it damages Amazon’s reputation. If left unchecked, all sellers would suffer. It’s your responsibility to avoid getting banned for overselling and managing your sales spikes with inventory automation software is one great way to do it. Imagine having to watch everyone else make sales on Cyber Monday while you sit on the phone with an Amazon rep trying to get your seller privileges back.

Feedback Improved

Customers aren’t as complicated as some sellers think. All they want is a great product at a fair price delivered at a reasonable time. If you can provide these things, they’ll have no problem giving you positive feedback. The problem is that buyers forget that online sellers aren’t robots. You’re human beings who make mistakes just like everyone else. There’s no way to entirely eliminate human error, but you can lessen it. How? Eliminate the humans.

Okay, I don’t mean literally eliminate the humans. I just mean automate. The more you can automate, the more consistent and reliable your process will become. Consistency is a big selling point when it comes to customer feedback. Customers want to know that what they’re paying for is exactly what they’re going to get. Since so many people use reviews when figuring out what to buy, your higher seller ratings are going to go a long way in building trust and establishing yourself as a great seller.

Final Thoughts

Don’t put your inventory management on the backburner. I know some sellers like to be really hands on, but the benefits of inventory automation are just too good to pass up. You only get one holiday season per year. Can you afford to blow it? I doubt it. Try out inventory automation software now so your process is hammered out by the holiday season. Seeing the results in your bottom line will be the ultimate holiday gift.