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Top 10 Insights from the Experts: Overcoming Stock Issues

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Stock issues are affecting DTC sellers at unprecedented rates as the pandemic continues to shift ecommerce trends. How does a brand with major stock issues clean up their inventory? From overstocking to overselling, inventory management is a slippery slope. 

We’ve gathered both proven strategies and creative advice on how to overcome this issue. Learn from ecommerce industry experts and brands below: 

1. Make Customer Satisfaction Automatic

In order to overcome customer satisfaction when stock issues arise, set up an email or SMS campaign that automatically keeps your customers apprised (timing depending on your industry) of where their order is, and make your team available to them if they have any questions. Taking ownership and proactively keeping in touch will help reduce order cancellations and negative reviews. Noting limited supply has helped customers to understand that they should order sooner than later, but that should also be coupled with ensuring that the targeted audience isn't too large to exceed availability. Back in stock communications can help to let people know when available again.” - Emma Kimmerly from Gorgias 

2. Set Expectations When Sending Order Updates

“Get creative with your communications to your customers. A lot of the pain points from stock issues are connected to the customer's expectations on when they will receive their package. So, when the stock issue arises, it is important for you to get that information out in front of the customer starting with a copy on your site for new customers, to (email) messaging for existing customers waiting on their order to arrive. When the messaging is done proactively and honestly, loyal customers typically tend to be understanding. Especially, having gone through a pandemic and the impact it has brought onto supply chains.” - Matt Houlemard from Recharge

3. Problem Solve With a “Mystery Promotion” 

“Turn low stock issues into your greatest marketing asset. If you have backorders/pre-sells, work with your marketing team to turn these into more demand driving events. Scarcity naturally drives people to want to buy other items from your store, it's a great reason to reach out to customers and let them know that they should buy your other products before those sell out as well. When customers checkout you can lump your overstocked items into a general category of products and discount the price on your store. Then run a Mystery promo onsite and to your email/SMS list, where all sales are final and customers can purchase a mystery item at a discounted rate. Customers love the mystery element and it's a great way to reduce inventory levels of overstocked items.” - Jeremy Horowitz from Daasity

4. Use Data to Understand Your Inventory 

Work with your inventory management software companies to understand your growth and use data to guide all of your decisions. You will quickly learn how the market is responding to your products, however through segmentation you will be able to learn what products sell best and in which regions.” - Ben Stein of Payoneer

5. Don’t Forget to Forecast and Stock Up 

“The biggest mistake is waiting for the issue to occur. Often prevention is better than cure. A “what if” plan is always essential. The use of forecasting tools regularly to study the supply and demand trends can be useful to draw a flowchart of when there is a hike in orders usually or when there is a fall in orders for products. Analyzing past sales trends and planning ahead for the upcoming demand changes is the best thing to do. Here, historical data plays a major role in marking the trends. Stocking up ahead of the holiday seasons in Q3 and Q4 can get you a long way.”  - Aashi Gadia of SellerApp

6. Complement Technology with Human Support

“In order to overcome the challenges that come with selling inventory you need both human and technology support. Without both you will fail at properly managing inventory especially when scaling up a business and your sku count grows. There is no ‘set it and forget’ if you use multiple channels to sell (ie Amazon FBA, Merchant fulfilled, Ebay, etc). Every platform has its own universe and moving to its own beat. This affects the way you actively manage your inventory. With technology I would say that having a platform that both meets your needs as well as one that you can grow into as you scale up is preferred.” - Rolando Rosas from Global Teck

7. Include Your Marketing Team in Inventory Planning

“Managing your inventory well requires strong coordination between your marketing, product, inventory planning and finance owners. Ensure these teams are meeting regularly to discuss upcoming marketing promotions, new products coming to market, upcoming sales and discounting, current inventory levels and your cash available to buy more merchandise.” - Samantha Samuels from Friendbuy

8. Prioritize Your Supply Chain Technology 

“Traditional order management systems (OMS) were designed long before omnichannel existed so they aren’t flexible enough to support multiple channels, fulfillment methods, locations and return points. Instead they operate in silos, connecting only single channels to single inventory sources. This limits inventory visibility throughout the supply chain. When you don’t know how much inventory is available and where it is located at all times, it is difficult for you to make and keep delivery promises or route orders to optimal fulfillment locations. Prioritize finding supply chain technology that gives you a competitive advantage, multi-warehouse functionality and automation.”  - Gareth Roberts of Skubana 

9. Take Your Time With Fulfillment Centers 

“Trying to get started in too many fulfillment centers too soon, which becomes costly if the average savings per shipment doesn’t justify the additional expense (e.g., if your product catalog has 1,000 SKUs and you want to be in 3 fulfillment centers to reduce shipping costs and transit times, but you are then stuck paying for 3,000 storage units, in addition to the extra costs for receiving inventory, transportation costs to move products into new locations, etc.).” - Kristina Lopienski from Shipbob

10. Have a Flexible Remediation Plan 

“In my experience, this is typically a breakdown at the intersection of technology and processes. My best advice is to assume there will be a combination of technology and human driven stock level failures, and you need to have a flexible remediation plan, inclusive of CX comms, impacted customer analytics, etc.” -  Jono Schafler from LAUNCH (Trade Coffee, M.Gemi, Rockets of Awesome, Follain, BRUNT Workwear, Singuli)

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