inventory control leads to happier customers

As 2017 progresses, and retailers are confronted with the uncertainties of the border tax and an ever-shrinking labor market, staying on top of inventory is still a guaranteed way to keep customers happy.

I read recently that one of the major turn-offs for shoppers is when they have spent time online choosing a product, especially if the product requires them to spend time choosing variables, such as a piece of furniture which has fabric, finishes and sizes to consider, only to find when their purchase is added to the cart (or later) the product is not available.

Most of these companies use some type of inventory management system to track products that are in stock, sold out or coming soon, yet accurately representing inventory is still one of the most difficult areas for retailers to stay on top of.

The one size fits all approach offered by many of the inventory control products available still leaves enough friction in the process of managing stock to turn customers away.

xocbox works with many different types of retailers, and we see that all have unique business scenarios that make managing their inventory unique. We work with retailers, suppliers and manufacturers and see the supply chain from both ends of the puzzle. Whether you choose EDI, assistance with supplier feeds or are a manufacturer looking to expand your selling outlets, talk to xocbox to see how we can help you fulfill orders and keep your customers happy.

strategies stores are using to stay ahead

The latest sales data indicates that online sales are continuing to grow, while the pace of in-store sales is slowing down for many retailers.

Big box stores are adopting different strategies to deal with this shift in the way consumers shop, but there is no question they are taking this trend seriously.

Target announced recently that its fourth quarter online sales grew by 30% in 2016, while its store sales dropped by 6.1% year over year, prompting Target to cut its prices at the expense of profits. They are also planning to make better use of stores as fulfillment centers, and equipping all sales associates with mobile point of sale devices. The concept behind this strategy is that shoppers will think of Target as a great place to shop with great prices.

The brand Tommy Hilfiger who in the past derived sales not only from their own stores, but also from high street giant Macy’s, chose a different route. Tommy Hilfiger’s in store sales were lackluster and Macy’s is planning to close many of its stores, further contributing to the brand’s decline. Deciding to modernize the brand, Tommy Hilfiger looked to social media to bring the brand to the attention of younger audiences, and then debuted its latest collection with a fashion show in Venice Beach, California – an unusual move for a brand that would typically show its products in New York. The results were astonishing, with a surge in sales online in the 24 hours following the show, and 50% of traffic from first time visitors.

In line the with these stores, Kohl’s has also seen growth in its online sales and a decline in its in store sales. To counter this, they are reducing the size of their stores from around 88,000 square feet to something smaller, and reducing inventory by 3% across all stores for the next three years.

Whether it’s a price change, a new way of marketing your brand, or re-evaluating the use of the square footage in your bricks and mortar store, the pace of change in today’s retail industry requires continual assessment to keep the attention of today’s consumers.

Small and medium sized retailers also have to be innovative looking to more control of inventory, switching from in-store to online sales, using physical space not only as a store but also as a fulfillment center, and using technology to bring it all together – and who said retail was easy!

What is Drop Shipping?

shipping boxes and suppliesWhen you open an online store, the main thing you need is inventory.

Without any products to sell, you don’t have a store.  This seems pretty obvious.

However, many people are surprised when they start listing products online, as it often takes many more product lines and categories than first anticipated to fill an online store.

So if you don’t have the funds to buy hundreds of different product lines, or simply don’t have the storage space, then drop shipping may provide the answer.

How Does Drop Shipping work?

Basically, you do not purchase products to store in your own warehouse until sold.  Instead, you make arrangements with a wholesale supplier to list their products on your website, and when a product is sold, the supplier ships the product.  Sounds simple.

The arrangement is straightforward enough, however, there are a few things you should be aware of.

  • Firstly, you lose control of the inventory, and this may ultimately cause customer service problems.  For example, if there is a delay in shipping, or a product is damaged on arrival.
  • Also, since drop shippers usually sell to many retailers, keeping track of their inventory, as well as your own is difficult.
  • Profit margins on sales are also lower than if you were to purchase products and sell them directly to your customers.

The benefits of drop shipping are:

  • You can add more products to your website, and give your customers greater selection.
  • You don’t have to deal with the packing and shipping of products yourself.
  • You can begin your retail store without the expense of buying inventory to stock your store, so this can be a good way to get started.
  • You can “try out” a new product or new category, just to see if it’s a good fit for your store, without actually buying the product.

In conclusion, drop shipping has many advantages, and some disadvantages.  Retailers often find a combination of products housed in their warehouse, and those shipped directly from drop ship suppliers is a good way to go.

Once you have elected to work with a drop shipper, always monitor their performance in regard to product fulfillment and customer service.  If you find that a particular supplier does not perform well for you, it is better to stop selling that product, rather than risk your online reputation.

For information about selling through drop ship vendors, and how xocbox systems can help you keep track of shipments and inventory, please contact xocbox.