How to provide real time stock information to your online channels

Products and stock availability are the heart of online retail. And offering products without indicating whether they are in stock or when they could be delivered can mean a frustrated customer, a lost sales opportunity or even the loss of a loyal customer.

Providing the customer with up-to-date stock availability maximises the sales opportunity. And during peak trading periods, the speed at which orders are placed, and stock moving in and out of the warehouse can mean that stocks between the two systems can soon get out of date. And this is where a systemic link real time updates can help.

When considering setting up of real time stock information for an online store, the following elements should be in place:

  • High levels of stock accuracy at your fulfilment points – it is no good providing information to an online store if it there is a risk of it being in accurate. Take steps at each fulfilment point to improve the accuracy of the data, and consider using safety stock margin to manage the risk.
  • Make sure that the IT processes are up to scratch to provide a regular update of stock information to the website and to provide orders down to the warehouse. Ensure that there is a reconciliation process so that the stock levels remains “in synch” between online store and the website.
  • Agree what type of message there should be about stock levels on the Product Page. Stock availability messaging can be used to persuade your customer to buy sooner than later. Rules can be set so that when stocks become low, then the message changes or the number of units left can be presented.
  • Determine the point at which stock is reserved for a customer. Nothing annoys a customer more than finding that a product that was “available” when they added it to basket is in fact out of stock when they go through checkout. Provide a time window for a period of time after the customer has added it to basket
  • Measure, monitor and improve the process: Indicators such as: how often there are out of stock products on the website; number of failed stock allocations; rate of order pick fails, number of reconciliation errors;  will build the picture for how well the overall process is working and where improvements can be made.

 

How do you provide information about stock levels to your website? How do you reduce the chances of a customer ordering a product that has become out of stock. Please share your thoughts and comments.


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About 

Hi, I am the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of eCommPoint.com.
I launched eCommPoint.com to share the fruits of my experience designing order management, fulfilment, home delivery and customer service systems and processes for ecommerce retailers.

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