Whether you’re running a big or small online business, inventory is an issue for everyone. A business’s merchandise might be as diverse as fine art or as mundane as nutritional supplements, but inventory is something that every business grapples with. This is especially the case for online retailers, since traditional brick and mortar business have shelf stock space. As an online business owner, you’re left to find inventory storage and rotation solutions all in one place. Inventory shrinkage is caused by a multitude of different reasons, but one of the most notorious is mishandling of information. Things get lost, deteriorate, or lose their relevance if stored for too long. However, this can be avoided with a good inventory management system that streamlines the merchandise you have in stock, and also keeps track of what goes in and out of your store. Here are four tips for streamlining your inventory process that will allow you to not sweat the small stuff, and get back to what matters, growing your business.
Sync Online and Physical Merchandise
Inventory shrinkage can occur due to lots of different reasons. However, mismanagement and disorganization can significantly contribute to losses. In fact, 20 percent of inventory shrinkage occurs due to poor paperwork, according to the Houston Chronicle. Syncing what’s viewed in your online store with what’s physically in your inventory storage is a surefire way to always be on top of what you have, what you need, and what’s in stock. This can be done very simply these days using an iPad and the right kind of apps, such as those available from popular eCommerce platforms such as Shopify. Investing in the technology to automate your inventory system with your online sales will increase efficiency and reduce shrinkage. You’ll always know exactly what you have in stock, and you’ll no longer have to do double work by making a sale, and then physically having to make sure you alter your inventory data. Even traditional brick and mortar businesses suffer from inventory shrinkage due to poor administrative management, so you’ll be ahead of the game in this respect.
Making sure you have digital images of every piece of inventory is essential to keeping track of your merchandise. This is especially important if you’re running an online business that specializes in unique items, such as vintage clothing or art work. However, even if you’re selling factory made garments imported from overseas, you still should have something besides stock photos to see what you have available. If the item is some kind of specialty merchandise, you’ll want to take pictures from more than one angle. You can also use these photos in your online listing to attract more customers. The more details you can showcase, the better, since the buyer can’t examine the item in person. Shoppers feel more secure when no part of the merchandise they’re purchasing is left up to the imagination. This also allows you be aware of what condition the merchandise was in when you first photographed it, in case it sustains damage and you need to go back to compare.
If you’re running a smaller online business, basic home organization tips can be of surprising use. A deceptively simplistic solution is to use colored bins to code different types of merchandise, according to Real Simple. Having a functional, coded storage system eliminates wasted space and helps you better keep track of what you have in stock. This is mostly effective for online business owners who are running their eCommerce operation out of their own home, and aren’t dealing with a high volume of stock. Clever organization that maximizes the use of space is always in your best interests. However, that doesn’t mean the same principles don’t apply if you’re dealing with off-site inventory storage. Having a visual system, such as color-coding or spatially compartmentalizing a specific type of merchandise into one area, will be helpful in dealing with your inventory management.
A great way to understand exactly what you have and what you need is to not only know what you have and where it’s located, but also to make use of SKUs which will tell you the order history of each item, according to Logistics Management. Barcode generators and label printers are easier to use than ever, and are often mobile and easy to handle. Assigning each piece of merchandise a barcode can help you keep track of a wide range of information with a simple scan. Barcoding is especially useful for online businesses that are dealing with a high volume of inventory. This will also assist in making customer returns hassle-free and checking on the availability of a specific item easier, improving customer service. Barcoding is a simple, old-fashioned way to track inventory, but with the newest advances in technology and do-it-yourself eCommerce practices, it’s easier than ever to implement such a system yourself.
AUTHOR Derek Sall
Derek has a Bachelor's degree in Finance and a Master's in Business. As a finance manager in the corporate world, he regularly identified and solved problems at the C-suite level. Today, Derek isn't interested in helping big companies. Instead, he's helping individuals win financially--one email, one article, one person at a time.