If you are selling across multiple channels, managing inventory and shipping can be a real challenge—unless your 3PL partner has invested in the right kind of technology.
More and more, merchants are selling their goods across multiple channels, including eCommerce platforms, mobile apps, brick-and-mortar stores/POS systems, and direct to consumer (DTC). This does create many opportunities. For example, more companies are trying subscription service models, and some stores are even opening without inventory, providing a showroom floor and then shipping items to the shopper’s home from a central location.
This new multi-channel world comes with its challenges, however. Inventory management is one of the biggest. The ability to optimize that inventory can have huge effects on overall profitability. On the other hand, mistakes and delays can take a chunk out of your brand reputation...and the bottom line.
Managing orders and inventory across multiple channels requires the right technology. For example:
There needs to be good two-way communication between your channels and inventory systems. For example, when a purchase gets made, you want your stock levels to be updated automatically. When you start running low on a particular item, you will want your eCommerce platforms to reflect the limited supply to encourage sales...even as you reorder to avoid a back order situation. These transactions have to occur seamlessly across all of your channels.
Most software designed to integrate with multiple channels is created with enterprise clients in mind. Many of their features are unnecessary for small-to-medium businesses, and the price tag is well out of their range anyway. These businesses can take advantage of such integrations, however, by partnering with a 3PL that has already developed software with such integrations in mind.
Cloud-based inventory management allows key people access to data about stock levels, expected demand, shipping patterns, and more. This data can be accessed from any location, at any time.
This is important for multi-channel businesses because it means that inventory can be stored anywhere, and managed from anywhere. A merchant can, for example, ship all items from a central warehouse in a convenient location, minimizing the storage space needed at individual stores. Or reserve inventory to meet commitments to key Clients while making the remaining stock available for other sales. Or receive important reports and alerts at corporate headquarters as inventory is moving.
Finally, the cloud also provides stability, scalability, and savings. These become increasingly important as a business grows.
Having the right data, right when you need it, allows you to hedge against risk, find solutions to problems, and contain costs. (A good 3PL partner, by the way, collects, uses, and shares that data.)
For example, imagine receiving reports that could tell you:
- Which channels or stores are more successful with specific products
- Which channels or stores are performing poorly and need to be adjusted
- What the effects of your latest marketing campaigns were
- Which products are being bought together, and where this is happening most
- Which products are seeing seasonal fluctuations in demand
Furthermore, you should not be limited to using only pre-canned reports. What if there is a specific question that needs to be answered? Or what if you simply want to see the raw data? Being able to collect all the data you need to make decisions is incredibly tough with a multi-channel business model. Again, the right technology can make all the difference.
Here at Materialogic, we made this investment long ago. To manage inventory and shipping for our clients, we developed a cloud-based solution, Infoplus, which provides the kind of integration and reporting discussed above. This is now a huge value-add that we can bring to our retail clients.
If you are interested in how Materialogic can use this technology to your advantage, you can reach out and contact me: