Selling products on more than one channel can help boost sales and your bottom line, but it can also lead to confusion in the workplace. Businesses that adopt omnichannel sales strategies tend to achieve 91 percent greater year-over-year customer retention rates than businesses that don’t.
Managing so many different channels is all about data and preparing for the worst-case scenario. Some of your suppliers may fall behind on deliveries, you may lose track of important orders and items in the warehouse or you may end up fulfilling the same order more than once if your workers are having trouble making sense of your sales data.
If your company is selling on multiple sales channels, use these tips for effective inventory management to keep up with demand without running low on essential inventory.
1. Sharing Inventory and Sales Data
When it comes to multichannel selling, the best thing you can do for your business is to make sure every employee has access to the same data at the same time. You need to optimize your sales data by storing everything in one place. Customers have a lot of options when it comes to shopping for goods, including social media, your website and in-store, as well as Amazon, Shopify and other third-party shopping platforms.
As new orders come in, your sales data should update automatically. Make sure incoming orders reach the system quickly so your team doesn’t lose track of one channel while focusing on another. For example, the system may receive order information from Amazon before Facebook, which means some of your customers might be out of luck as your workers focus on fulfilling certain orders and not others.
Every time one of your workers picks up a scanner, tablet or computer, they should see the same order information as everyone else. Streamline the loading/unloading process to make sure your workers scan incoming and outgoing items. They should follow strict instructions when sorting inventory to limit the number of missing items.
2. Keep Inventory Visible
It’s also best to keep your inventory visible on the shelf, as this will improve the picking process. Scanning items and using voice recognition tend to be the most effective when it comes to increasing picking efficiency, but there are other ways you can speed up this process.
Use industrial wire baskets, as found on ContainerExchanger.com, to keep your inventory visible so your workers can quickly identify the contents of the container without looking at the label or messing with lids. These baskets are easy to move around and will help your team to quickly move inventory to the loading dock if needed. They also come with open slats so your workers can easily reach inside the container and grab what they need.
Many warehouses will use signs and labels to direct their workers when picking items off the shelf, but this can do more harm than good in some situations. Workers can easily get confused if they have to look at hundreds of signs every time they search for an item on the shelf. You can also use color-coded storage containers to streamline this process.
3. Double-Check the System
Keeping your inventory visible will also help you avoid certain errors in the system. If one of your employees forgets to scan an incoming item, or something goes missing on the shelf, the system may fail you when you need it most. The system says the item is in the facility, but it’s nowhere to be found.
That’s why it’s important to double-check your inventory with spot checks. Your workers can physically inspect your containers to make sure you have an accurate count in the system; otherwise, you may fall behind on certain orders.
4. Sorting the Inventory
You can also rearrange your inventory on the shelf to reduce confusion when picking items off the shelf. Use bulk containers, plastic totes and stack racks to organize your inventory based on the sales channel, destination, urgency or the type of product in question. This will help your team stay focused on important customer information when fulfilling orders so they don’t confuse different packages, customers and items.
When it comes to inventory management, get to know the velocity of your products or the speed in which they tend to fly off the shelf. The faster the velocity of the item, the more accessible it should be. If some of your products tend to be popular with consumers, keep your storage containers close to the loading dock to speed up the fulfillment process.
You can also keep more popular items closer to the ground. Assign a different velocity rating to each type of container or shelf so employees can quickly differentiate between popular versions of your products and those that don’t get as much attention. For example, place heavier items in metal storage bins and lighter, less valuable items in plastic totes to simplify the identification process.
5. Look to Non-Traditional Companies
Multi-channel sales data can muddy the waters when you’re trying to stay on top of your inventory. As you introduce your products on new platforms, you could get hit with more orders than you ever anticipated. That’s why it’s important to come up with a surge plan in case you run through your inventory faster than expected.
Keeping surge items onsite can inflate your storage costs so it’s best to partner with additional suppliers instead. Consider partnering with non-traditional manufacturers and suppliers to keep your business more flexible. If one of your suppliers falls short, you can easily bring in new products from another company.
You should also share your sales data with your suppliers to make sure they can keep pace with demand. Depending on just one supplier is like putting all your eggs in one basket. Give your company more room to respond to incoming orders by partnering with different companies.
Use these tips to keep up with demand when selling your products on multiple channels. It’s all about staying one step ahead of your customers so you never have to let them down.