Two weeks into the UK lockdown and we are beginning to return to a “new normal”. Whilst some product categories have suffered badly, many others are experiencing a sales boom. Overall our customers have experienced growth versus pre-COVID-19 weeks of over 75%. We wanted to find out what challenges multichannel retailers were facing during these challenging times. So we carried out a detailed survey to find out the biggest issues for eCommerce businesses selling across multiple platforms such as Amazon and eBay. The headline is that around two thirds of respondents said that inventory and stock management was a major concern, while 13% also stated that product listings and 10% said that billing administration had a serious impact on their operations.
Multichannel sellers’ greatest challenges
Here’s what we found:What do you see as the greatest challenge as a multi-channel seller?
- Inventory and stock management (65%)
- Listings (13%)
- Billing (10%)
- Order management (8%)
- Shipping (4%)
Why inventory management is so critical for multichannel sellers
At the same time, we asked our respondents exactly why inventory management is important to the business.Here is a sample of what they said:
- “Stock is our biggest single asset and consumer of cash”
- “Too much stock is a drain on financial resources”
- “The wrong stock results in products being tied up longer or worse price cuts, reduced profits or losses”
- “Exposing all of our stock on every sales channel risks overselling and damaging negative feedback from disappointed customers”
- “Splitting stock across sales channels exposes us to losing larger orders as it looks like we can fulfil them”
- “Amazon’s prioritisation of specific product categories due to COVID-19 is a real problem”
Whether you are selling on the high street, through a webstore, through an online marketplace like Amazon or eBay, on or all of the above, properly managing inventory across all of your sales channels can, it seems be the key to your success or the cause of your failure.
FBA – the immediate challenge / opportunity
Sellers using Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) face could face a serious challenge. Amazon is temporarily prioritising household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products coming into their fulfilment centres. If a seller has products that are not in these categories, then they may find that buyers of their goods face a lengthy wait to receive their purchases. This is forcing many of them to look to other selling destinations – marketplaces and their own website. This results in diversified multi-channel selling, stock and order management and with this comes an increased administrative burden especially in regard to inventory management.
Real-time stock management
The solution to inventory management challenges old and new is to view your inventory as one and make it available to all through every channel. To do this, however, real-time stock management is needed. Every time you sell an item, the stock level has to change in every sales channel in real time. This is relatively easy to do if your sales volumes are low, sales are few and far between or if you have only a couple of channels to manage, but as your business grows, these management challenges can become a real headache. This is where inventory management software comes in. This allow these processes to be automated and managed effectively, allowing eCommerce businesses to focus on their products and customers.Here is a sample of the features our respondents said that they would like from their ideal inventory management solution.
- “We want to connect to eBay, Amazon and our webstore and make all of our stock available everywhere at once.”
- “We use Amazon FBA, we’re at risk and need to diversify but we’ll struggle with the added workload.”
- “We want to link our inventory together so when a sale is made anywhere, stock levels are updated everywhere.”
- “It would be great to link stock by SKU and create or update in bulk by CSV or manually uploads without the need for manual entry.”
- “Automatically link our listings based on the SKU to enable us to have our entire inventory listed in every location.”
- “Bulk import/export, CSV updating, manual updating, apply advanced stock rules, stock history and product variations.”
Multichannel selling definition of success
We asked our customers what would define success – what outcome they would like to see as a consequence of deploying this kind of technology. They responded:
- Diversifying selling destinations
- Eradicate overselling
- Never missing out on a sale
- Minimise errors
- Save time
- Improve customer satisfaction
- Integrate all of our ecommerce activities in one solution
Conclusion and findings
So here’s a summary of our conclusions and key take-aways from the research:For online retailers who sell through multiple sales channels, almost two thirds of respondents cited stock management as the biggest chore and an enormous administrative burden.
- The vast majority sold through at least two online sales channels each of which required them to manage stock through different online systems in isolation.
- Many take shortcuts in an attempt to overcome the challenges of manual stock management but these can leave dissatisfied customers or cause lost sales.
- Automation is seen as a key approach to address many or all of these challenges and lead to smarter, more efficient stock management and increased sales.
- Though stock management is the biggest problem, it is not the only one. Managing listings, orders, billing, shipping and messages across multiple sales channels are collectively just as if not more problematic.
- Multichannel eCommerce software is seen and welcomed as a means of helping retailers to diversify their sales channels, automate the management of complex ecommerce business processes and freeing up time to focus on the retailers’ priority – keeping inventory off the shelves and into the hands of their customers!
And don’t forget, ChannelGrabber’s multi-channel ecommerce software helps you to automate the management of listings, inventory, orders, billing, shipping and messaging so frees up your time to focus on keeping inventory off the shelves and into the hands of your customers. Learn more about inventory management