Consumers have come to expect every store to carry a wide selection of instantly available products, so suppliers have to get creative in managing their inventory in a time of supply chain stress.
But the good news is that inventory management is evolving right along with customer expectations. While you can’t predict everything that might go wrong from production to sale, there are a number of tools at your disposal that will help you avert the worst inventory-related disasters. Here are four ways to save time and money on inventory management.
Your inventory management system tracks your inventory from production to sale. A cloud-based inventory management system allows you to accomplish this goal more efficiently. In cloud computing, the software is distributed over multiple locations, accessible from anywhere. This allows you to link multiple devices, accurately and instantly updating and tracking inventory. You’ll be able to track inventory in real-time, receive shipping updates, anticipate shortages, and prevent overstocking from any location.
There are a number of software applications that allow you to gather and analyze data to make predictions about inventory. These insights would be useful enough under normal circumstances, but its value becomes even clearer in the face of pervasive supply chain issues. With inventory forecasting, you’ll get a clearer idea of when spikes in demand occur, when certain products are more popular than others, and if these phenomena represent trends that will occur again or are just anomalies.
But inventory forecasting doesn’t just rely on past sales figures. It brings together customer data and market research, predictions of future trends, and data from all over the industry to create a clearer picture of what you can expect in the future.
Multichannel customer services have become omnichannel services. A multichannel approach offers customers both in-person and digital experiences. A physical location, a website, advertising (print, email, radio/TV), social media, and telephone are all part of a multichannel service, but they remain separate from each other. An omnichannel approach integrates all of those disparate touchpoints to give the consumer a consistent experience no matter how they engage with your business.
Omnichannel services improve the customer experience, but they can also improve your inventory management. Linking your brick-and-mortar stock and your online stock will help you avoid situations where your ecommerce platform says an item is in stock when you’ve just sold the last one in your physical store, a predicament more than 30% of businesses have found themselves in. Omnichannel inventory tracking also opens the door to in-store returns on online orders, which removes shipping costs from the equation and allows you to resell the item in-store.
According to the Bain Report, almost 60% of US Millennial and Gen Z diamond consumers consider environmental factors when making a purchase, and those numbers are even higher in China and India. These numbers will continue to grow worldwide, and the diamond industry has already taken steps to evolve their practices in the face of changing consumer preferences.
But making sustainable changes to your supply chain won’t just benefit the environment; they will make your business more efficient and adaptable, as well. Working with warehouses closer to your location can cut down on shipping costs and make it easier to respond to sudden increases in demand. A “circular supply chain” is another option, one that is becoming a viable alternative for many businesses. In the old linear supply chain model, raw materials are turned into products, products are shipped and sold—and packaging, and ultimately the product itself—is thrown away. But a circular supply chain seeks to recycle as much as possible along the way.
Many of these software options do not replace your knowledge and experience, but work in tandem with it. They can give you lots of data to work with, but you still have to trust your business expertise to get the most out of them.