Staff Writer

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No point having an online store if there’s no product to buy from it! Allocating stock, replenishing stock, adding new stock, and retiring old stock are all considerations for your online store.

10 Questions To Consider When Managing Your eCommerce Product Inventory

1. Who is responsible for allocating stock to the online store?
A merchandise planner normally holds the responsibility of allocating stock types and quantities to a store, based on predicted needs of customers. Ensure they are committed to understanding the nuance of your ecommerce platform and its shoppers.

2. Who is responsible for maintaining stock levels for the online store?
Again, a merchandise planner is normally responsible for this, however, they often need to rely on the accuracy of stock figures provided by warehouse staff to make accurate restock allocations. These two roles need to be closely aligned and communicating well in a culture of cooperation and teamwork.

3. How often do you replenish your stock levels on your website?
Many retailers look to improve the speed and accuracy of stock updates for their online store by integrating into their ERP/product management system. Utopia is never missing a sale, and never allowing an online order for an out-of-stock product. And in a perfect world, stock updates and product statuses would occur instantly in real time. But as yet, most of the retailers we have worked with in the small to mid markets don’t have the technology, networks or infrastructure to make frequent stock updates, let alone in real time. Talk this through with your supplier, merchandise planner and logistics manager, and understand what your options are.

4. Are your stock inventory levels for your online store manually entered, or are they integrated with your WMS/ERP?
If they are manually entered, be aware of the requirement for frequent stocktakes and manual changes to your online stock figures. If they are integrated, you may require less stocktakes but still need rigorous stock management procedures to keep stock accuracy high.

5. Will you take pre orders? Back orders?
Pre orders and back orders both have significant implications for merchandise planning, stock allocations, warehouse operations and customer communication, as well as your front-end user interface and your back-end systems and processes.

6. Are you going to sell all your stock available online, or only part of it? Do online sales need to be allocated back to physical stores?
Determine whether all your products are suited to be sold online or if there are any restrictions (trade, legal, freight, practical or otherwise) that limit which products you make available for selling online.

7. Who is responsible for managing and updating your product content?
This is normally the job of a dedicated web store administrator who will be familiar with the workings of the back end of the website, and who will have a good relationship with the merchandising and marketing teams. They will have a good understanding of your product groups and types and will ensure products are correctly indexed on the online store. Integration with your ERP can help automate some of these processes.

8. Who is responsible for setting product pricing?
Consider your price positioning online and whether it will be the same as your in-store pricing, and how this positions you with other online competitors. Also investigate whether you may need discrete pricing for customers in different locations.

9. What is your policy for exchanges, returns and refunds?
Many online retailers offer free returns, exchanges and no questions asked’ refunds to reduce the risk of purchase to online shoppers. Sometimes traditional in-store policies are amended to take into account theonline policies.

10. How will you reintegrate returns back into stock?
This is challenging, particularly for apparel and footwear retailers who tend to have a high return and exchange rates. Frequent and accurate stock updates become critical issues for these types of retailers.

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