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Introduction

The first step in preparing for the holidays is to make sure you've optimized your inventory availability. With the surge of increased sales, it’s important you are ready to support the demand. Not sure where to start? Don't worry! We’ll walk you through everything you need to make sure you’re ready.

Centralize your Inventory

How many times have you had to check and re-check inventory stock quantities? And exactly how confident are you in the information you’ve documented? When you manually track inventory and rely on multiple systems, you’re risking missed sales opportunities and your sanity! In this section, we’ll tell you how to setup your inventory operations for success.

Bringing Disparate Systems Together

Centralize_your_inventoryThe challenges of managing inventory is even more difficult when you’re managing across multiple sales channels. If you’re currently using disparate systems to handle stock quantities, purchase orders, invoices and more, the chaos of the holiday season will make growth nearly impossible. You’re leaving your business more vulnerable to human error, overselling and poor customer service - none of the things you want during such a critical time. 

Take the reigns over your inventory and start with a central solution that’s going to sync your inventory, orders and sales all within one location so you can easily keep track of what’s happening. This will allow you to quickly respond to low stock quantities and assure customers are getting what they want.  

What features to look for in an inventory system

It can be tough finding the right solution for your business. Everyone runs their operations differently, and finding one product that serves all your needs is going to take time. Often times, businesses will have to reevaluate their operations process in order to fit a solution they need. But, it's a small price to pay for scalability.

For today, let’s begin with the core of your inventory operations. It all starts with your main priorities - accurate data, cross-channel communication, and actionable insights that help you make smarter business decisions. You want a solution that provides the information you need automatically, but also something that helps give you context and insight. To make the adventure a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of features you should look for when shopping for a solution: 

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Look for these key features in an inventory management solution:

  • Automatic Multichannel Syncing
  • Publishing Listings
  • Multichannel Order Tracking
  • Sales Channel Reporting
  • Low Stock Alerts
  • Product Bundling
  • Shipment Tracking
  • Historical Order Imports

Have a unique business setup?
Explore these advanced features:

  • Amazon FBA/FBM/MCF
  • Multi-Warehousing
  • Wholesale Management
  • Drop Shipping
  • Product Bundling and Kitting
  • Predictive Analytics
  • Sales Forecasting

Explore how Stitch’s inventory management solution can help you centralize inventory and automate your entire holiday operations!

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HOW TO AVOID OVERSELLING

There’s nothing quite like telling your customers, “Sorry, we no longer have that product,” to crush their spirits. This is damaging to your reputation, customer satisfaction and ultimately - your bottom line. Avoid overselling and maximize every sales opportunity by following these quick tips:

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1. Implement an order management system. We can’t stress it enough!  Having an automated system that provides you with low stock alerts is going to save you from missed sales opportunities and angry customers. You'll have a real-time view into what's selling fastest and automatically send purchase orders to suppliers. 

2. Assign an internal inventory champion. If you’re bringing new hires on board for the season, assign one of them to be in charge of monitoring stock quantities across the board. This will boost motivation and provide you with one go-to person for information.

3. Get creative. With automatic order tracking tools, your team can pull reports and figure out what products are performing best. With this data, encourage them to creatively promote less popular items to even the load until you can get more stock of best sellers.

4. Anticipate needs in the market. If you spend some time researching trends before the season begins, you will have a better sense of what might fly off the shelves more quickly. Take a look at what’s trending in your market, what competitors are doing and what your most popular items have been this year so far.

Upload your historical order reports directly into Stitch and compare product performance by channel today. 

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Get Your Return Process Ready

The dark side to purchases: returns. It not always bad though. If you're savvy, customer returns can provide you with another opportunity to upsell and increase retention. The important thing is to remember every interaction counts. Here are the three factors to consider when creating a return process that keeps customers coming back: 

Returns

Clear Expectations

Customers like when you provide them with a streamlined system for returns, but make sure this also works for your internal operations. Give very clear guidelines on how, when, and where returns needs to be made. If you do have Final Sale items, make sure they are clearly noted in your inventory, and also denote this in your return policy.

Upsell Opportunities

Sure, you’ll receive returns - it’s inevitable! But look at this as an opportunity to interact with customers and sell them products they’ll like even more. Make sure you understand why they are returning the item and make relevant suggestions about what they like. Maybe they’ll even thank you for suggesting a better item!

Convenience 

Convenience is key when it comes to providing a strong experience for customers. After the holidays, no one wants to dive back into the shopping chaos. Make it stupid simple for customers to return items and make the experience memorable.

Forecasting Holiday Sales

Holiday sales traditionally account for up to 40 percent of a store's annual sales. But is that true for businesses across the board? No one is arguing that the holidays bring in the big bucks for retailers, but if you’re going to maximize your sales this season, make sure to focus on what your unique business insights and data are saying.

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Exploring Your Historical Data

Public forecast reports on consumer behavior can be helpful when setting expectations for your own business, but most often than not, it can just confuse your business goals and get you off track. When you’re looking forward to plan inventory needs during the holidays, first take a look at what your season looked like last year and how much you’ve grown since.

To complete accurate and successful sales forecasting, you need at least two years of data from your business. A common pitfall of forecasting is not collecting or having access to enough information to make decisions. With that two years of data, you’ll be able to easily validate or disprove that 40% of annual sales statistic, either by the most recent four quarters or the last calendar year, which ever works best for your business.

 

 

 

Business Goals First, Data Second

It's so easy to jump ahead and use all the data you have to make decisions. What's important to remember is that your business goals should be driving what data you leverage. If your goal is to focus on the most profitable products and bank on the 80/20 rule (80% of your revenue can be attributed to 20% of your product line), then do that. Don't worry about every single piece of data if it's not going to help you move forward.

Explore what products were popular and find ways to incorporate that knowledge into your inventory plan. See a few stragglers that didn’t perform as well? Do some research and make sure what you’re ordering for this season reflects that insight.

 

 

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