In the early days of retail, a small business could survive and thrive while operating a single storefront with in-store only sales. Though some businesses still operate this way today, anyone in the retail game knows that multi-channel inventory is becoming less of an option and more of a necessity, especially if you want to scale.
Though some customers still want to shop in-store, many prefer to shop online using their favorite eCommerce platform. The challenges only become more complex as your business grows, spreading to more channels and marketplaces. How can you manage inventory across all your channels without tearing all your hair out?
This post will examine the top mistakes we see businesses make regarding multi-channel inventory. After reading, you’ll be armed with the information you need to recognize these missteps before they derail your inventory planning.
Unique Challenge of Multi-Channel Inventory
Before we dive into the mistakes you’ll want to avoid in your multi-channel inventory processes, let’s first discuss multi-channel inventory in general. What does ‘multi-channel inventory’ mean? Multi-channel inventory refers to processes you use to manage inventory and orders across the entire spectrum of sales channels you use to sell your products.
For example, if you have a store website powered by Shopify, but also list your products on Amazon and Etsy, you’ll use multi-channel inventory processes to manage your stock and replenishment across all three sales channels.
When juggling sales across multiple channels, you’ll encounter several unique challenges. Let’s take a look at three challenges you need to overcome to succeed in managing your multi-channel inventory:
- Managing Data: Selling across multiple channels may require using multiple tools or systems to manage and track those processes. When you’re compiling data from multiple tools, your processes become more complicated.
- Complex Supply Chain: Some of your channels may only ship within the US, whereas others may ship internationally. Different warehouse locations have different stock levels and communicate with only some of your sales channels. Your supply chain can get tangled quickly when you’re selling through multiple channels.
- Warehouse Management: Multiple sales channels may mean multiple warehouses and transportation modes. Coordinating stock, timelines, and transfers among locations can add an additional wrinkle to your inventory processes.
1. Working from Disjointed Data
The first mistake you’ll want to avoid in your multi-channel inventory efforts is working from disjointed data. This challenge can rear its head in a few different ways. Perhaps you’re working from data that comes from multiple tools or sources, or perhaps you’re only looking at the data from one channel to make decisions for your entire business.
Your data is your lifeline when it comes to your inventory planning and replenishment processes. When you work from disjointed or incomplete data, you risk making decisions that may negatively impact one channel to benefit another.
The simplest way to avoid making this mistake is to leverage an inventory planning tool that will connect all your channels, allowing you to plan and perform inventory forecasting across your entire business. For example, Flieber integrates with many major eCommerce platforms and tools, allowing you to access a single dashboard with all the data you need to advance your business.
2. Lack of Supply Chain Visibility
You will also want to avoid making the mistake of neglecting supply chain visibility efforts. Supply chains are notoriously opaque. Selling across multiple channels makes gaining visibility into every stage of your chain even more challenging and essential.
The danger of a lack of supply chain visibility is that without seeing into the various stages of your supply chain and tracking your inventory, you won’t be able to plan effectively. When should you place an order for it to arrive by the 1st? What happens if a shipment is delayed? The answers to these questions can be found when prioritizing supply chain visibility.
You can counter this challenge by using a demand planning dashboard. Putting all your data on a single screen gives you the ability to see most of the pieces of your supply chain in motion and enables you to make quick decisions based on real-time data.
3. Over-Relying on Safety Stock
The third expensive mistake you may encounter regarding multi-channel inventory is over-relying on safety stock. When used properly, safety stock is emergency stock kept on hand for unexpected demand surges. While holding onto some safety stock is an inventory best practice, over-relying on safety stock and using it as a duct tape solution for ineffective inventory planning processes results in several challenges.
When you keep too much safety stock on hand, you may struggle with challenges like deadstock and over-spending on warehousing space. Even in the best-case scenario, overstocking too many items results in capital being tied up in inventory that isn’t selling.
The best way to avoid making this mistake is to implement just-in-time inventory processes to ensure that you have the inventory you need where you need it at exactly the right time. You can also use a robust inventory planning tool, like Flieber, to help automate and manage replenishment processes.
4. Choosing the Wrong Inventory Planning Tool
Lastly, you’ll want to avoid choosing the wrong inventory planning tool to succeed with multi-channel inventory management. No tool is the perfect fit for every business, and choosing the wrong one can cause headaches for you and your team.
Inventory planning tools can be expensive. When you invest in the wrong tool, you’re wasting money upfront. Additionally, you may waste money down the line in terms of lost sales or other struggles if your tool isn’t sufficient for your business.
Choose the right tool by taking the time to research different software options. Check features, reviews, and testimonials. Once you’ve selected a tool, watch a demo or take a test drive of the system to ensure it will work as you hope for your business.
For direct-to-consumer sellers looking for an inventory planning tool that leverages sales history, AI, and more to create a complete picture of the future demand for your products, explore a free demo of Flieber today.
Handling Multi-Channel Inventory Processes with Ease
We want you to manage your multi-channel inventory easily, but this doesn’t mean maintaining inventory across multiple channels is easy. But you can begin your path to simplified multi-channel inventory planning and management by avoiding the four mistakes discussed in this post.
The best way to effectively manage multi-channel inventory processes is to implement the right inventory planning tool. Flieber’s inventory planning software uses advanced technology and data analytics to streamline your supply chain and inventory management processes, helping you make the right decisions when it comes to inventory replenishment.
To see how Flieber can help your business, schedule a demo of our solution today!