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Don’t miss these important inventory management techniques when scaling your e-commerce brand

Growth Secrets|16.09.2018

Are you concerned about overselling and unfulfilling orders when going global? These techniques will help you to fulfil every international order with maximum efficiency…

Managing an e-commerce store can be an incredibly exciting and lucrative business and going global can offer even more opportunities. But certain things can get more complex when trying to reach and build on an international audience for your brand. 

One essential task which can become more complex is your inventory management. And your inventory management may require some adjustments in order for you to successfully fulfil orders and exceed customer expectations overseas. It may be necessary to adapt to new shipping times, customs clearances, taxes and extra landed costs when thinking through your international inventory management.

Don’t lose international customers over poor inventory management. Good stock control is a vital component in providing the best possible customer experience.

This article aims to give away the most valuable techniques for excellent inventory management overseas. We will explain how inventory management differs when going global and touch on how having a great inventory management process can boost your international sales.

What exactly is inventory management and why is it important? 

Inventory management is a crucial part of the smooth running of your online store; without tracking inventory and updating stock levels, your e-commerce store will suffer and you may miss out on sales.

Inventory management is the prediction of how much stock you need for each of your products based on data forecasts from previous years. It keeps your inventory levels 100% accurate, preventing you from overselling products to allow you to fulfil all orders online with maximum efficiency, locally and overseas. 

Imagine a potential customer has heard great things about your brand. They visit your site and find the perfect product for their needs and are ready to make an order to purchase one of your products, they proceed to checkout, enter their card details and make the transaction- order complete. 

The next thing they know, they have an email from you apologising, saying the item or items they have just bought are out of stock but will be back in stock in a couple of weeks and asking if they’d like to wait or if they’d prefer a refund. This customer is going to be very unhappy and unlikely to wait for the item to be restocked. If situations like this happen on a regular basis, your e-commerce business will suffer due to poor inventory management.

Key things to consider for international inventory

Different tax laws

Don’t risk being penalised by being unaware of the different tax and VAT obligations across the globe, do your research and make sure to follow them as soon as you start selling to the new country or region. Choosing to ignore tax and VAT laws can lead to extremely severe consequences such as financial penalties from one or several tax authorities or risk your products being seized by customs, meaning you can’t fulfill customer orders. This results in a loss of sales and angry customers. 

To be extra sure, you might want to hire an in-house expert to make sure you calculate everything correctly - an incorrect calculation could again result in fines from tax authorities. 
Shopify Plus customers can rest easy, as the fully integrated tax compliance solution called Avalara Avatax comes as standard with the Plus package, making sure you follow any complex tax rules to protect your customers and your business.

Holidays & seasonal differences

As you already know, stock control and re-ordering can get a little more demanding at busier times of year, and these busy times differ all over the world. Each individual country and region will experience various holidays, seasons and weather conditions and you need to be up to date with them when thinking about your overseas inventory management. 

Holiday seasons such as Christmas are generally celebrated on the same dates all over the world (apart from some countries that don’t celebrate Christmas). However, the big sale days in the run up to Christmas like Black Friday and Cyber Monday can differ in dates. It is therefore important to check when the country you’re selling to holds its big sale days in order to prepare inventory for the big rush in sales! Do your overseas customers expect big sale days on Black Friday? Or do they expect a different sale day? Don’t miss out on sales by being unaware of these very important dates around the world. 

Seasons and weather conditions obviously vary across the globe so if you are managing an e-commerce brand selling clothing, it is important to offer the right products, at the right time. 

If you sell clothes in the U.K as well as Australia, they are on opposite sides of the world and experience a complete reverse in seasons. You’ll want to be stocking shorts and T-shirts to Australia whilst it is their summer season. But, at the same time stock jumpers, coats and scarfs to customers in the U.K (winter in the U.K.). 

The two websites will have completely different inventory management needs and your team (including your fulfilment centre), will need to be prepared in order to consistently fulfil orders to your local and overseas customers.

Fulfilment centres

A fulfilment centre’s role is to process, fulfill and track stock for your international online store, to make sure you never oversell. 

If you find a fulfillment center that is local to the country you sell online, they will take care of your inventory management within their country or region, making it much easier to fulfil each and every international order, helping you to deliver excellent customer service overseas without lifting a finger.

Inventory management software

Assuming you manage your own international inventory, you could experience various issues such as miss-picks and miss-ships, which will greatly annoy your customers and will give your brand a bad reputation in international markets. 

If your customers are ordering products that are out of stock and you’re fed up with using spreadsheets to manually manage your inventory locally and abroad, it’s time you (and your fulfilment partner) considered using inventory management software.

If your online store is doing well locally and overseas selling hundreds or even thousands of products, keeping up with inventory manually will become impossible. Luckily there is another option. 

Automation software will do all of your inventory management tasks for you in real time, tracking your inventory levels, orders, sales and deliveries, and avoiding over or understocking products. These tools even have the intelligence to add or remove products based on demand and consumer behaviour, leaving you to pick and ship the correct products. Game changer.

Inventory management software tools we recommend…

Veeqo

Veeqo’s inventory management tool is great for e-commerce brands who are scaling globally and want to prevent overselling. They can merge your inventory across all your sites so you don’t need to worry about updating your various sites based in different countries. If you would like to find out more, visit their website

Brightpearl

Similarly, Brightpearl’s inventory management software also reduces the risk of overselling by allowing you to easily maintain an accurate inventory through automatic updates across all of your sites. Here’s their website for more information.

Netsuite

Netsuite is huge, it is used by over 16,000 organizations worldwide. It’s inventory management software offers tracking in multiple locations, reorder points, cycle counts, demand planning and distribution requirements planning. For more information, visit their website here

Conclusion

Supposing you want to continually exceed customer expectations overseas and gain an excellent reputation with international customers, it is extremely important to make sure your delivery process is seamless with zero errors. This might seem impossible when dealing with inventory across the globe in multiple countries but a combination of inventory software tools and finding the best fulfilment centre local to your overseas shoppers will almost guarantee global success for your e-commerce brand. 

The last thing you want to do is oversell and frustrate your customers. Instead get an exceptional inventory management strategy in place- locally and overseas. This way, you will consistently meet customer expectations and experience a boost in sales as a result. 

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