Today, mobile commerce seems to be at the forefront of e-commerce. The ‘buying on-the-go’ trend is certainly good for business but it also requires that a retailer, using mobile applications as sole selling channel, pay particular attention to inventory management.
So how does one go about it? Here are a few tips that can help the m-commerce retailer save time and money through seamless order processing and inventory management.
1. Smart Stocking
M-commerce is not only about convenience, it’s also very much about instant gratification. In such a context, backordering is probably a counterproductive strategy. Someone who buys products or services using a mobile device is acting on impulse, consequently the process of fulfilling their order needs to keep up with the pace.
If you run out of stock and accept a backorder, you will be adding extra days to the fulfillment time. Meanwhile your client may change their mind about the purchase and cancel it altogether. Avoid such situations by maintaining an adequate safety-buffer stock that you can rely on when faced with a sudden rise in demand.
2. Spreadsheets No More
Does your business still use spreadsheets to manage inventory?
Not all oldies are goldies you know. If they are not duly updated, if even one entry is incorrect, your inventory will be out of whack.
Using an inventory management system (IMS) is the most efficient alternative. It will help you coordinate sales channels, automate key operational processes and maintain a clear, updated view on your inventory. Also, alerts can be set to announce problematic stock levels so that you may avoid running low or out of merchandize. Opting for an IMS requires an investment you might not easily make but, having one will transform the way you do business.
3. Audit Your Stock Periodically
When was the last time you performed a physical count of all the goods in your inventory? FMCG retailers for instance do this weekly, in order to make sure that concrete items match inventory numbers. It’s a simple but effective method to verify the content of records against the existing articles, identify losses caused by theft or damages and update inventory data accordingly.
4. Equipment Can and Will Breakdown
Imagine having all your inventory data stored in one or more hardware units; what happens if they get damaged or breakdown (and they will)? You’ll lose not only the entire product catalog, but your data on stock levels as well. Consider using a cloud-based storage system and you’ll be able to safeguard against data loss or breach and have the flexibility to retrieve your information independently of device and/or location.
5. Consider Outsourcing
In the fast pace of online sales, it’s easy to overlook parts of the processes set in place for operational and commercial purposes. Plus, going through all the daily routines can be time consuming and have an impact on productivity. If your level of automation is not sufficient to streamline operations, consider using third-parties. Have your vendors monitor stock evolution, average fulfillment time and shipping schedules so that you can better focus on the next business-critical steps you need to take.
6. Order fulfillment is a multi-layered process
Inventory management does not happen in a vacuum. Placed orders rely on the existing inventory for fast fulfillment and said inventory is shaped and reshaped by both sold and returned products. Order fulfillment plays a major role in how well you manage your inventory and its speed makes or breaks a sale. Keep in mind at all times that inventory availability, order returns and order frequency (to your own suppliers) are connected and interdependent.
7. Work on loss prevention
Losses in retail are unfortunately common place. This means you need to go the extra mile to diminish the risk of theft and damage. Mount security cameras wherever necessary and make a habit out of inventory audits. If a large stock stretches your resources, use promotional sales or bundled items to restore balance to your inventory (and your account).
8. Find the right inventory management style
Some businesses choose to accumulate extra (limited) stocks, mostly as immediate back-up in case of vendor delays or unexpected demand increase. For others it’s the ‘just-in-time’ inventory management strategy that produces results. For most however, excess inventory or low stock levels are ‘business as usual’. But it doesn’t have to be – if you have past data available, let math help you. There are specific formulas that you can use to increase the accuracy of needed stock calculations and fine-tune your estimations.
9. Use Suggestions
Product suggestions are not just a proven way of selling more and increasing the visibility of different product lines; they also keep your inventory moving. In your mobile app, include a ‘Suggestions’ section, populate it with what your consumers are usually browsing/ buying in connection with a specific item, and update it regularly.
10. Befriend Integrations
If your app developer/service provider offers inventory integration, go for it without hesitation. A one-stop interface for all business needs represents the best option as it significantly reduces the margin for error and saves you precious time and money. If that’s not possible, look to invest in a good inventory management system and set it up to export your sales channel data automatically.
Smooth inventory management makes the difference between thriving and struggling in m-commerce. So, use all the tools now available to ensure your place in the first category.