Inventory management can be a time-consuming and error-prone process for multi-channel eCommerce businesses. The quality and accuracy of inventory management is especially critical during the peak holiday selling season, which can be can be the single most important time of the year for these retailers. According to the NRF, nearly 20% of retail sales happen from Black Friday through Christmas with close to 40% of sales taking place between November 1 and December 15. Having the right amount of inventory on hand to meet consumer demands can make all the difference in the success of a retailer’s holiday season.
Putting time into some advance planning can better prepare you to meet the unpredictable demands that your business will face, especially this year with only 26 shopping days. Without proper planning, this peak holiday selling season can create a perfect storm of inventory management challenges. By recognizing problem areas likely to cause problems, you’ll be better equipped to weather the season. Avoiding stockouts, fulfillment bottlenecks and meeting delivery demands can make the season merry and bright for you.
So how do today’s multichchannel retailers address these challenges? Here are suggestions based upon our research and our customers’ experiences:
- Get an Early Start
Synchronize your schedule of marketing campaigns with the availability of products featured in promotions. Actively manage merchandise assortments in conjunction with marketing plans to know what items you’ll need to keep the demand plans balanced. Get areas of your warehouse or store ready to receive the products you’ll need and have a logistics plan to efficiently move these items. If you’re drop shipping, coordinate schedules with drop shippers and/or warehouses that store and distribute your products.
- Create a Holiday Sales Forecast
Analyze previous holiday sales, consider anticipated consumer trends and, if the research is available, evaluate recommendations in your industry segment. Determine what worked and what areas are in need of improvement. Consider orders from your best shoppers and look at their buying behaviors during peak selling periods. Look at impulse or fast moving items that tend to sell out quickly and be sure you can readily restock these items to meet demand.
- Have Accurate Information
Accurate inventory and sales data enables you to make efficient and effective decisions before the season starts and throughout your busiest holiday times. And don’t forget to manage your customer list along with any mailing lists you may purchase.
- Automate the Inventory Management Function
An inventory management system allows you to track and control your inventory across all sources. Inventory management software that integrates data across multiple selling channels adjusts your inventory levels when an order is placed or a sale is made. Inventory management software allows you to track your inventory status and will make it easy to manage and fulfill orders from shopping to shipping all year long.
- Connect with Suppliers
Your vendors have holiday sales goals just like you and are likely to be looking for ways to get their customers to buy from them. Don’t be afraid to negotiate prices or delivery terms which can help you save money and keep you stocked with the items you need.
- Don’t Overlook the Details
If you ship your own merchandise, in addition to having the right amount of inventory available, you also need to be sure that you are well stocked with other retail holiday essentials including gift wrap and bags, gift cards, bows, special holiday packaging, extra shipping boxes, packaging tape and other supplies. You can’t move your inventory if you don’t have the packing and shipping supplies you need. If you work with a drop shipper, drop shipping transfers the pick, pack and ship tasks to the shipper.
- Think Ahead
Give some thought to how you’ll handle returns and the impact anticipated return levels will have on your inventory levels.
Take the necessary steps now to ensure you have the inventory on hand meet your shoppers’ demands. For additional tips to help you have a great holiday selling season, access our on-demand webinar, “The Top 5 Insights to Help Prepare for Seasonal and Holiday Rushes”.
Happy & Successful Holiday Selling!