E-commerce is becoming a more popular idea for retail stores however there are certain issues that present themselves for a retail store. The main issue is with regard to inventory and making sure that orders can be fulfilled in a timely manner. Keeping your online inventory current and in stock is critical to developing good customers that will continue to purchase.
In today’s world online consumers expect their orders to ship almost immediately or at least within a day or so. They also require the ability to track their orders to know that what they ordered will get to them within a few days. When a store cannot fulfill the order in this time frame it often leads to canceled orders and lost customers.
This can play havoc on the retail store that has an e-commerce site. By the nature of a retail store the immediate inventory is limited by the space in the building. While some inventory may be able to be re-ordered as needed this presents the issue of quick fulfillment to the customer. Say it take 4 days to order from the manufacturer and get in stock, another day to receive it and re-pack it to be shipped to the customer and then another 3 days in transit to the customer. Seeing as most shipping providers do not work weekends without huge up charges the customer will now have waited 8 business days or nearly 2 weeks to receive their order.
This is clearly unacceptable and will not produce a good customer base for your website unless you are truly one of the only vendors for these particular products.
The solutions to the issue with inventory require your store to be up-to-date on each product, whether or not it is in stock and if it is out of stock the time frame for shipping. Sounds like an easy solution however for a retail store that is selling things off the shelf every day, keeping an up-to-date reading of what is in stock can be very difficult. Here are a few of the solutions;
- Manually Updating Each Day: This is fine if you only have a few items but when you have thousands of products this is very unrealistic.
- Automated updates via spreadsheet: A good programmer can setup a function to export your inventory readings from you current point of sale system and then import that inventory into your online store. This solution would take one person about 15 minutes each day to perform and would do a fairly good job at keeping the online inventory current enough to where most orders could be fulfilled as expected.
- Limiting online inventory: This would involve only putting items in your online store that you maintain a permanent inventory of. The downfall to this solution is your online store doesn’t contain everything that you sell. For businesses that only carry limited production items, such as a clothing store, this is not a viable solution.
- Fully Integrated Point of Sale / E-commerce Website: This is the solution that Gliffen Designs has come up with. It is a 100% web based point of sale system that is interconnected to your website. You can sell all of the same inventory on the website as you have in your store. As soon as a product is sold out of the store it is immediately shown as being out of stock on the website. Click Here to Learn More.
Another topic that needs to be covered in this thread is drop shipping. This is a great option for retail stores assuming that their manufactures offer the service. However, the same issues need to be addressed. Does the manufacturer maintain a permanent inventory of the items? Will they be able to ship within a day or so? and will they brand the package with your companies information?
If you own a retail store and plan to start an E-Commerce website or if you already have one, make sure that you address the issues of fulfillment and inventory. Rapid fulfillment is critical to having a successful web store!!!