Many businesses today operate across multiple online and offline channels, stores such as Amazon and Shopify as well as traditional channels. And while adopting a multichannel strategy can no doubt be advantageous for a business, not having the right processes and systems in place can be disastrous — from inaccurate data that skews business decisions to being stuck with slow-moving stock or even unknowingly neglecting activities that need attention.
For businesses that operate across eCommerce sites, multiple physical outlets and third-party marketplaces, inaccurate inventory data can lead to major problems. This may mean selling the wrong stock, under or overselling, or ordering the incorrect amount of stock. Forecasting is also near impossible when you can’t predict supply shortages and demand surges with any confidence.
By making the move from periodic to perpetual inventory, a business can manage and monitor stock from the moment it enters the warehouse to the moment it is delivered to a customer. Perpetual inventory systems tend to provide the most up-to-date figures, without relying on time-consuming stocktakes for accuracy. This kind of system automatically syncs stock and sales information across all your retail outlets, eCommerce stores, and multiple warehouses in real-time. And with cloud-based inventory management software, every person across the entire supply chain of a business can view the same data at the same time.
With only one or two channels to market, it is relatively easy to optimise inventory for each channel. But as more channels are added, systems can quickly unravel, clouding inventory visibility and stock management. This can make it incredibly challenging to balance ordering an optimal amount of inventory and hoarding safety stock. Tying up cash in inventory can be particularly risky to cashflow. When unsold stock expires or becomes obsolete, dollars are at stake.
Managing inventory in one central location helps businesses track stock on hand, and what is expected to come and go from the warehouse. Being able to accurately track sales and inventory movement across each channel naturally improves forecasting, helping to determine demand patterns and ensure product replenishment calculations are optimised.
Multichannel selling increases the complexity of a business’ operations. As sales orders grow, for example, so too does the time required to manually process every transaction and make adjustments for human error. As new products and channels are added to that mix, the result can be overwhelming.
A great multichannel strategy recognises the unique needs of each channel but doesn’t manage them in silos. B2B businesses can minimise manual tasks like email ordering or phone calls by moving to an online eCommerce platform. Businesses that can automate low-value tasks such as counting and re-ordering stock and generating invoices, will have more time for value-add activities such as customer and supplier relationships, sales engagement and business analysis. These are the activities that deepen customer loyalty and contribute to the bottom line.
SMEs know the key to a successful, and profitable, multichannel strategy is about more than the channels to market you choose, it’s about getting the right processes and tools in place to manage them.
Gareth Berry, CEO, Unleashed Software