How to master multichannel inventory management
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How to master multichannel inventory management

More people than ever are shopping online, which means business owners everywhere are scrambling to keep up. But as any small business owner knows, adding new e-commerce channels also means adding new challenges to your day-to-day – and they usually revolve around inventory. 

Managing inventory across multiple channels can be confusing, time consuming, and stressful. Plus there’s a high chance of errors, which can be detrimental to the customer service you’ve spent years perfecting. Is that just the price you pay for modernising your business?

The answer, of course, is no. Not only is it possible to connect your sales channels, but it can also be easy and quick to do so, helping you to painlessly cut out all the extra work, and leaving you to reap the rewards. 

Your inventory is a living thing 

Your inventory isn’t just words on a spreadsheet or pictures on an app. It’s real, sometimes big and often messy. It usually takes up actual physical space, and depending on what you’re selling, it can expire, go out of fashion or get damaged. If it’s not managed well, you’ll be overrun with excess stock, or you won’t have enough, disappointing customers who go elsewhere.  

Some of the biggest decisions you make as a business owner requires a thorough knowledge of your inventory. What to order more of, what to order less of, and crucially, how often to order it, are just the beginning. For centuries, it’s been a pen (or quill) and paper job (for some of us, it still is). But add multiple sales channels to the mix, and an already tricky element of the business becomes even trickier. 

Many businesses have solved this problem in one simple move: going omnichannel, linking their sales channels together to create one central inventory.  

The importance of inventory management 

Ideally, there should be enough stock in your inventory to meet the demands of all your customers without too much (or any) left over. Out of date or damaged stock must be sold cheaply, or disposed of another way, which is costly and wasteful.

But getting the balance right can be tricky: not having enough stock is a shortfall too, meaning missed sales, disappointed customers and sometimes outright chaos (especially if you’re operating in the food and drink industry). 

But there’s another element to consider too – the importance of having a real time, at-a-glance overview of exactly what you have in stock. If you’ve ever sold something in-store and forgot to update in your online inventory, you’ll know exactly why.

Having too much or not enough stock is usually a short-term problem – but selling a product you don’t have can be catastrophic for customer service and have a lasting impact on your business’s reputation (especially in the era of the online review). 

 How our users are handling inventory management: the data 

Our user research team has been investigating the inventory issues faced by Zettle users, across all sectors. We wanted to discover what their workflows look like, what challenges they face and what opportunities are available to improve the inventory process. 

So, what did we find out? According to our users, some of the main inventory problems are: 

  • Channel monitoring​: Sold items must be immediately removed for the inventory to avoid negative reviews and unhappy customers
  • Limiting inventory: Some sellers only display certain items in specific channels to save themselves time, which limits sales opportunities
  • Time blocking​: For service businesses like cafés or salons where the product is time, taking bookings in multiple unintegrated channels means risking double bookings

We found that many businesses are still using old school manual processes, like counting items on a shelf, using a pen and paper to record what’s missing, checking charts, taking pictures and uploading to websites. We know – and they know – this is rife with potential for error.

We also discovered that most businesses dedicate a portion of their day to sitting at their desk on a PC or laptop to work on their inventory. In fact, the average Zettle inventory user completes more than 90 inventory actions per week*. The good news? We can help you transform these time-consuming processes into something quick, easy and (practically) foolproof. 

How digital tools can help you manage your multichannel inventory 

Get a live, real-time view of your stock 

Our digital Point-of-Sale allows you to automatically capture every in-store sale, providing data and insights into your business. Tracking product performance and customer behaviour, the Zettle app puts priceless data at your fingertips, helping you to judge orders accurately, so you stock up on more of the bestsellers and less of the flops. It also helps you track seasonal sale patterns, saving you money and eliminating waste. 

Edit and view your inventory almost anywhere 

With our cloud-based app, you can run and manage your business from almost anywhere in the world, so you can trade those hours spent sitting in your office for a few minutes in the comfort of your own living room. Or get the best of both worlds and do a bit of both. 

Giving you the gift of time 

With your multi-channel business converted to an omnichannel business, you can cut out the hours (or days) of manual work and free up your time to do the important stuff – like creating an omnichannel marketing strategy, planning a new store or just taking some time off (finally). 

A personal assistant in the palm of your hand 

We’ve added lots of small but effective features that help our users make managing their inventory simple, including sending you alerts when stock is low – so if there’s a rush on something, you’re the first to know.

Making omnichannel easy 

Zettle e-commerce integrations

Our POS can be integrated with a range of the biggest e-commerce and booking integrations, like Shopify, BigCommerce or Tabology, at the click of a button. With your in-store shop connected to your digital sales channels, your inventories are automatically synced and quickly updated once an item is sold, or a listing is edited. No more mistakes, no more wasted time, and no risk of unhappy customers.  

Check out our e-commerce integrations to find the perfect match for your business. 


Footnotes

[*] Zettle by PayPal, study commissioned by Zettle by PayPal, 01/09/21 – 30/09/21, using data from 176,998 Zettle merchants in SE, FR, FI, DK, NL, US, MX, NO, SE, IT, GB, ES, BR.