3 Common E-Commerce Inventory Issues

October 29, 2019

Brands By Bradley Hearn

As an online seller, you have an endless array of daily responsibilities to attend to. Maintaining high-quality product content. Finding and fixing marketplace errors. Measuring and adjusting digital marketing strategies. And the list goes on.

So it’s easy to understand why inventory management might fall to the bottom of the priority list. 

Keeping inventory updated across multiple channels is hard work, especially during busy seasons when staff is already being pulled in a hundred different directions. The more channels you list on, and the more SKUs you have, the more complicated the process can get.

But fail to take inventory updates seriously, and your company could soon find itself battling negative reviews, lost sales and high costs associated with warehousing surplus stock.

In other words…

If you haven’t yet tapped into the power of automation for inventory management, it’s beyond time to start.

To help, we’ve pulled together a list of three common challenges — and the automation strategies you can use to address them quickly and effectively. 

Inventory issue #1: Inventory isn’t syncing across multiple channels

You know it’s time to revisit your process for updating inventory when you receive an order for an out-of-stock item. This scenario is a common one for brands and retailers that are actively expanding to new marketplaces: Each time you add another sales channel to your portfolio, the risk of overselling increases. 

And the longer a sold-out item is listed as available, the more likely you are to be faced with unhappy shoppers, damaging reviews and negative ratings. Getting even a few minutes behind can lead to costly consequences.

Thankfully, there is a relatively simple solution to this common problem. By automating inventory management across channels, you can ensure consumers see accurate inventory quantities everywhere they shop. 

Inventory issue #2: You never seem to have “just the right” amount of stock

The only thing worse than showing inaccurate inventory to consumers is having the wrong amount of stock. Whether you’re running out of product too soon or regularly end up with excess that needs to be purged, it’s costing your business.

Run out of inventory ahead of your next shipment, and you’ll end up paying a premium to get your suppliers to accelerate delivery. Find yourself stuck with an overflow, and you’ll sacrifice valuable warehouse space or lose profits to closeout pricing.

To keep this cycle from continuing, accurate inventory forecasting is key. This automation technology conducts SKU-level analysis of sales data to forecast precisely how much stock will be needed to meet demand over the next 30, 60 or 90 days. It’s one of the most effective ways to decrease the risk of overstocking, understocking and paying unnecessary fulfillment fees for extended holds or expedited delivery.

Inventory issue #3: You’re still making a lot of manual updates

When it comes to inventory inaccuracies, it’s not just your bottom line that’s at risk. Each sales channel comes with its own set of standards for inventory and order management. Failure to comply can result in costly suspensions and lost sales. 

Compliance may be manageable if you only sell on one or two channels. But list across multiple marketplaces and shopping engines, and it can become incredibly difficult to keep up with the wide range of requirements.

In fact, without automated processes in place, many sellers find themselves in over their heads when trying to juggle multiple warehouses, shipments and tracking details.

If this sounds familiar, it may be time to look into third-party logistics. Working with a 3PL provider can put important details in the hands of experts who specialize in various aspects of order and inventory management and returns.

Bottom line: While inventory management may not be the first (or even tenth) task you tackle, it’s arguably one of the most important. Especially if you’re trying to scale your business. Once your product catalog is listed and live on e-commerce channels, the next step is ensuring consumers can find what they need — when they need it. With automation options advancing every day, it pays to put as many of your inventory processes as possible on autopilot.

And if you don’t already have software in place, check out some of our third-party partners like SkuVaultDeposco and Scout SFT  — they can help sync your back-end inventory across multiple channels.

Struggling to shed excess inventory as you put new automation processes in place? There’s an eBook for that. Check out the top tips from ChannelAdvisor’s e-commerce experts in the free resource: 8 Ways to Eliminate Excess Inventory.

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