Customer experience can make or break your ecommerce business. In fact, 89% of consumers have stopped doing business with an ecommerce company after a bad experience, and a customer is 4X more likely to buy from a competitor if the bad experience was service-related rather than price-related. What’s more is that consumers are 2X more likely to share a bad experience online than they are a positive one. To account for that negative experience, it would take 12 positive reviews to convince readers that the one issue was resolved.
For online stores, one of the biggest hurdles is inventory management, especially as sales and traffic increase. In essence, proper inventory management is essential for ecommerce and lends itself directly to an improved customer experience.
Below are the three most common inventory management challenges, as well as information on how you can improve the end-user experience for your customer.
Overselling occurs when you sell in excess of what you actually have in stock. An oversell results in an out of stock (OOS) order –– so named for the standard “We’re sorry, but the item you’ve ordered is out of stock” email that most companies send when they’ve oversold.
Out of stock orders are tremendous sources of distress for both retailers and customers. These orders lose sales and garner negative feedback. That negative feedback can then lower placement in search results and discourage potential customers from converting. Customers that experience out of stock messages often become angry, disappointed and/or disillusioned with your company, and are unlikely to visit your store again.
How do you prevent oversells and the resulting negative sentiment? The surest way to do so is to:
- Keep an accurate count of your inventory by establishing an airtight auditing procedure and utilizing barcode scanners to reduce human error.
- Sync your inventory and push that accurate count to your various marketplaces with an inventory management system that integrates with your channels. Then, pull your orders into one central location. This way, your quantities are live on your channels to show in real time the availability of your products.
- Should anything slip through the cracks, discover the source of the error with the history reports in your inventory management system. Track down and rectify the issue asap.
Stockouts & Undersells
A stockout is an item you don’t have in stock that is currently listed on your site as unavailable. How is this an inventory error, you might ask? Because this is an item that sells well, rather than one you are phasing out, so you’re keeping the product listing up and customers notified until the item is back in your warehouse.
This scenario, though, shouldn’t occur. It makes your website look under-stocked, and it’s disappointing for your customer, who’s finally tracked down the listing for the item they’re looking for, only to see that they can’t get it. It’s a tease that leaves customers frustrated and loses you a potential sale.
It makes your website look under-stocked, and it’s disappointing for your customer, who’s finally tracked down the listing for the item they’re looking for.
Prevent stockouts with the forecasting features and reorder reports of an inventory management system. Forecasting will help to identify trends, for example how quickly certain products are selling. Reorder reports remind you to reorder products so you’re always able to have quantities listed.
Undersells are similar to stockouts in that the product has a listing and you’re intending to sell it. What defines an undersell, however, is when you have a product in your warehouse, but some or all quantities aren’t listed for sale. Undersells, while occasionally intentional, often happen in disorganized warehouses, where product is misplaced, mislabeled or forgotten. Undersells can be prevented by utilizing “locations,” which allow you to store your product wherever you like in your warehouse(s), without having to manually rearrange product when you get more in. Inventory management systems accomplish this with product barcodes, location barcodes and barcode scanners.
Picking & Shipping Errors
Mis-picks, mis-ships and damaged product are the three main picking and shipping errors, and they can all be drastically reduced through an inventory management process called Quality Control.
- Mis-picks: When your pickers pick the wrong product.
- Mis-ships: When your shippers ship out the wrong product(s) on an order.
- Damaged: When you send out the correct product, but it’s damaged to such an extent that it becomes a customer issue.
Quality Control (QC) can be incorporated in many ways and throughout many stages of the order fulfillment process. QC can happen on pick, where the picker checks the item against the order and performs a visual inspection to check for damage and accuracy. QC can be conducted right before shipping the product out, by either the shippers themselves or by a dedicated QC person. However you decide to integrate the Quality Control process, it’ll act as a shield to maintain your customers’ expectations –– after all, receiving the incorrect product or a damaged item are just about the worst things that can happen to your customer, besides not receiving their product at all.
There are a lot of factors working against your ecommerce company to kill your customers’ experiences with your ecommerce brand. Don’t let poor inventory control be one of them.
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