Learn how to efficiently manage inventory across multiple sales channels, including ecommerce, retail, and wholesale, with our comprehensive guide to...
Challenges and Benefits of Inventory Visibility
Inventory visibility is absolutely essential in today's e-commerce market. Learn the challenges and the 5 major benefits of getting it right.
Inventory visibility — viewing and tracking your inventory levels — is absolutely essential in today's e-commerce market. To meet the ever-growing needs and expectations of today's consumers, you need to know what you have and where it is at all times. Otherwise, you risk extra costs and poor customer service due to inaccuracies when monitoring and managing inventory.
In fact, McKinsey & Company reports that companies worldwide are experiencing warehousing costs of nearly 385 billion per year. That figure isn't expected to drop any time soon since the order fulfillment process continues to get more complex. Nonetheless, real-time inventory visibility will be the key in the coming years as we all move towards more efficient inventory control and a sustainable supply chain operation.
Challenges of Inventory Management and Control
Although managing your inventory efficiently is key to the success of the entire supply chain operation, businesses face many challenges in the process. The most crucial challenges worth noting are the following.
It's common for businesses to stock more inventory than they can sell, especially if there's a surge in purchases that unexpectedly halt after being restocked. The problem is that if you don't have a clear understanding of what's in your inventory and where it is, you may find yourself replenishing SKU that doesn't need it or even heavily discounting products just to clear space for new inventory.
On the other hand, you may even find yourself struggling with keeping your inventory in stock. Without proper warning from efficient management and control, miscommunication could lead to customers making a purchase on items you don't have in nearby warehouses. This will mean disruption in restocking and much longer wait times that will impact customer satisfaction. It's also worth mentioning that operations aligned with marketing and promotional campaigns could help you avoid over-selling.
Lack of Synchronized Data & Full View of Inventory
Inventory management controls consist of several steps, from calculating how much you need in stock versus how much you have to pack it all up and shipping it to the customer on time. Keeping those procedures synchronized and your company in tune with the entire process can be difficult. This is often why inventory is too stocked or not stocked enough in warehouses.
Managing your inventory manually is one of the most outdated and inefficient methods used in the fulfillment process. Manual tracking and paperwork can become tedious quickly and more vulnerable to inaccuracies. Add in inventory in multiple warehouses, and you'll have an even more difficult time tracking your inventory without digital help.
Limitations & Scalability
It's nearly impossible to scale your business to its full potential when you're limited by what you can track and manage in fulfillment. This is especially true if the complex process leads to:
- Issues fulfilling customer orders
- Fulfilling orders inaccurately
- Delayed shipments
Real-time inventory management is a vital component of running a successful business for both supply and demand needs. Brands have to be able to monitor stock and check inventory status in real-time in today's hyper-competitive retail environment.
As you can see, without real-time inventory management, it's difficult to keep track of inventory levels and know when to replace items to meet demand without overstocking and increasing holding costs.
The following are some of the advantages of real-time inventory management.
5 Major Benefits of Real-Time Visibility
Real-time inventory visibility makes a significant difference in efficient inventory management and customer satisfaction. After all, the better you understand your inventory, the easier it will be to stay on top of potential problems by:
- Communicating shortages to customers before they make a purchase
- Using strategic discounts to clear out overstock before it costs you more money
- Keeping up with replenishes when and where necessary
Here are the most significant benefits of managing your inventory with real-time visibility.
1. Better Inventory Management & Control Inventory Forecasting
Real-time inventory visibility will allow you to evaluate what you have in stock overall and where at. This is significant because it will inform the decisions you make on inventory right now and contribute to the decisions you make in the future. After all, access to reliable forecasting will allow you to determine a more accurate inventory count and when restocking will likely be needed.
2. Better Customer Experience
Another noteworthy benefit is the boost in customer experience and satisfaction when you can accurately account for all your inventory. Meeting shipping expectations is achievable when you have a thorough understanding of what's in stock and where. What's more, customers are more willing to continue doing business with you again after positive experiences. At least 74% of consumers admit they buy based on experiences alone.
3. Greater Alignment With Marketing
Accurate inventory visibility can give you a leg up on your marketing efforts. Your team can plan launches, collaborations, and promotions further out, and with greater effect, if they know what products will be available, and when.
4. On-time Operations
Timing is everything as your business grows and you add more SKUs. Having a reliable Inventory and Order Management System will ensure that you're keeping up with the boost in sales and maintaining healthy inventory levels. This will become a substantial competitive advantage since it will improve the reliability of your delivery when operations are on-time, and deadlines are met.
5. Customer Date Promises
Customers expect you to meet their delivery dates. In fact, Forbes reports that Amazon has gotten customers so accustomed to fast delivery that 77% of surveyed consumers admitted to abandoning "a purchase due to unsatisfactory shipping options."
With inventory visibility, you'll be able to track the entire operation and prevent potential delays for your customers. At the very least, you can get in contact to explain the situation and save your relationship with the consumer.
Improve Visibility With Software
Manually managing your inventory is no longer acceptable in order fulfillment because it's not efficient enough to ensure you're meeting consumer expectations and demands. Software can help achieve this by not only giving you complete access to inventory in one warehouse but aggregating inventory from many places. You can also rest assured that:
- Your stock is always up-to-date and popular items are being restocked appropriately
- The supply chain process will run smoother
- Orders are being fulfilled accurately and on time
- Fewer disruptions will get in the way of growing your business
- Your operations can better support your marketing and promotional schedule
This will continue increasing in importance since the probability of human error and mistakes in manual tasks is 18-40%. Contact us for a free demo and more insight into transforming your fulfillment process with better inventory visibility.