Try These Inventory Management Tips to Improve Your Offering.
One of the hottest acronyms to come out of 2020 was BOPIS: buy online, pick up in-store. It’s used as a bit of an umbrella term for any situation in which a customer purchases a product online and comes to you to pick it up. However, if you need to specify, it technically means that the customer comes into the store to get their order.
BOPAC, BOPIS’s less popular sibling, stands for buy online, pick up at curbside - designating that the customer doesn’t leave the car, you go to them. This distinction became important during COVID, when we were all trying to minimize contact as much as possible.
However, post-pandemic customers continue to love BOPAC and BOPIS, and will expect these services to continue. Both iterations have benefits for all parties involved, when done right. That means you need to up your game so you can really take advantage of all these strategies have to offer.
With the ever-rising expectations of free and fast shipping, who could have guessed that showing up to a store to get a product would be such a heavy-hitter in the world of modern eCommerce? But even without the COVID disruption, curbside pickup solves a lot of problems that fast and free shipping just can’t seem to overcome.
For one, it combines the convenience of shopping online with the instant gratification of getting the product(s) almost right away - the very same day, in some cases. It cuts down on the aimless wandering down the aisles, while skipping the part where you wait by your front window for the USPS truck to arrive.
For two, shipping is rarely both fast and free - it’s hard to offer free shipping and stay profitable. By using curbside pickup, customers can spend their own time instead of their money, and potentially get the product faster than even the fastest shipping.
On the business side of things, it’s a little more complicated. But when done right, offering curbside pickup can increase sales, take advantage of potential excess brick-and-mortar space, and be a great added tool in your toolbox to bring in more new customers.
Moral of the story, there’s a lot to love about curbside pickup. So how can you take advantage of this hot spot in the eCommerce market? The short answer: up your inventory management game. Here are some tips to do just that.
To properly pull off a great BOPIS setup, you need to rely on technology to back you up. You’re essentially creating a new customer group that needs to flow in seamlessly with your existing in-store customers. Investing in a good technology stack will help you manage it all without going crazy.
Your POS system, or point of sale system, is where your customer completes their transaction - or at least that’s what it used to be. These days it’s less of a POS system and more of a multi-pronged platform, capable of handling a whole lot more. Part of “a whole lot more” includes direct integration with your inventory management system, order management system, and commerce website. You can invest in one that helps with both inventory and order management, or just one or the other, but either way, having everything integrated will be a life-saver.
Your inventory management system is largely used in the back end of your store. It tracks how much inventory you have, what inventory is coming in, and what you need to order. If you have an IMS with all the bells and whistles, you can set up automatic re-ordering and show stock quantities on the product pages of your website. Being transparent about low stock can give customers that fear-of-missing-out feeling and prompt them to buy lest they miss out. Automatic re-ordering helps keep inventory flowing smoothly.
An order management system is all about managing the orders that are coming in from customers. It will help you fill, process, and complete orders, and can also help you track sales and create forecasts.
By having all these systems integrated, you can track sales data, forecast future sales, and always make sure you have the stock on hand you need for both your in-person and online customers.
When you first introduce a new facet of your business like this, you aren’t going to be perfectly efficient right away; there will be a learning curve. The best thing you can do is set yourself up for success by leaving wiggle room for trial and error.
First, increase your safety stock levels before you launch. You don’t know how popular the new pickup option will be, and the last thing you want is to sell out too fast. While selling your inventory is ultimately the right idea, being out of stock will frustrate shoppers who visit your store and can’t find what they planned to purchase. Additionally, it can create frustrating ripples in your supply chain that can cost you more money as you try to get products back in stock quickly.
Second, make sure you have appropriate employee hours dedicated to picking, packing, and retrieving orders for customers. Have a thorough system set up so employees know who is in charge of fulfilling orders, where customers will come to get them, how curbside customers will coordinate, etc. As you learn how many resources you’ll need to dedicate to this effort and what works for your team, you can tweak accordingly. If your employees are too busy to fulfill orders, it could result in a partial or full cancellation of the order if the items sell out, which makes everyone upset.
It will take coordination, but offering pickup options for customers to choose from can help boost your conversion rate and assist with inventory management. For example, you can offer day and time pickup options, which can actually help you better control the flow of inventory instead of having a packed order waiting around for whenever they feel like collecting it.
Another great example of this is offering pre-sale options for products that have sold out. If your customers are willing to wait, you can collect pre-sale orders and notify them when the product is ready to pick up. Offering pre-orders can have a lot of benefits. Pre-orders boost conversions while shoppers browse, and help you more accurately order new inventory.
Your inventory management methods will be the key to providing your customers with an excellent curbside pickup service. Hopefully these tips will help you get ahead and prepare for this new offering in 2021 and for years to come.
Jake Rheude is the Vice President of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.