Two coffee shop employees managing retail inventory on a laptop.

Retail inventory management: 15 best practices for 2024

Retail inventory management refers to the systems and processes used by retailers to ensure stock levels meet customer demand. The goal is to have enough inventory to meet customer demand while optimizing your warehouse for profitability.

Every retailer wishes they could see into the future. Imagine knowing exactly how many items to carry to meet customer demand. Unfortunately, this is impossible without a magic crystal ball. The good news is that every retailer shares the same concern. The answer to this problem is retail inventory management. This is different from inventory management, which covers the entire supply chain.

The retail inventory management process has two main concerns: Retailers need enough stock to meet demand, and they must manage the stock efficiently. Basically, you don’t want too much or too little inventory. Depending on the size of the retail business, there can be multiple retail and warehouse locations to consider.

No matter what you sell, retail inventory management is the key to profitability and customer satisfaction. Research shows that sales can grow by an average of 6% when companies correct their retail inventory errors. The same study revealed that 60% of inventory records are inaccurate. Businesses can make improvements by following best practices, so let’s explore the best practices for retail inventory management.

An illustration with the definition of retail inventory management.

What is retail inventory management?

Retail inventory management refers to the systems and processes used by retailers to ensure stock levels meet customer demand without wasting storage space. The goal is to have just enough inventory to satisfy customers while optimizing storage and ordering for profitability. Many businesses use inventory management software to stay efficient and competitive.

Retail management is more than just inventory management but inventory plays a huge role for obvious reasons. Businesses can’t survive without the inventory available for customers to buy. Modern businesses can manage inventory for multiple locations, including online stores, and proper retail inventory management is key to customer satisfaction.

Types of retail inventory

Retail inventory accounts for more than the finished goods a business sells, it also includes items for on-site repair and maintenance services. Knowing what types of inventory you have is an important part of the management process.

There are many types of retail inventory, such as:

  • Raw materials
  • Unfinished (work in progress)
  • Finished
  • MRO (maintenance, repair and operations)
  • Packing
  • Excess
  • Safety stock

Many retailers can have in-house manufacturing, especially small businesses. Woodworkers, jewelers, and microbreweries often have multiple types of in-store retail inventory.

For example, a craft beer company can store raw materials (hops and barley), work in progress (fermenting beer), finished goods (bottled products), packing materials (bottles, cans, boxes), and more. The Winery use inventory management to leverage retail data and streamline operations.

Retail inventory management best practices

The complexity of retail inventory management increases with scale. Establishing best practices early will set you up for success, whether your business is big or small. Consider how each best practice below can apply to your organization.

1. Evaluate your systems

Evaluate your retail inventory management system at a macro level before diving into specific issues. A total system audit can provide up-to-date information on your inventory, vendors, and more. You can use this data to update your current retail inventory management system or populate a new system.

A thorough system evaluation can highlight the strengths and weaknesses of your current retail inventory management processes. It’s helpful to know where you struggle the most so you can choose the best system for your needs. For example, a business struggling to meet seasonal demand might want a platform with advanced reporting analytics.

2. Set goals

Establishing KPIs is important for tracking performance, monitoring issues, and meeting important business goals. KPIs help businesses communicate with stakeholders, set quarterly goals, and keep themselves accountable. KPIs should be S.M.A.R.T., which means they represent business goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.

Establish S.M.A.R.T. retail inventory management KPIs, like:

  • Supplier lead time
  • Supplier defect rate
  • Holding costs
  • Inventory shrinkage rate
  • Stockout rate
  • Demand forecast accuracy

3. Analyze your sales

Hindsight is 20/20. This is especially true for retail inventory management, but only if you keep accurate data. You can learn a lot by analyzing past sales and spotting trends, and demand forecasting will help your business make informed inventory management decisions.

Look for trends in:

  • Seasonal demand
  • Customer favorites
  • Unpopular items

Sales data can be useful for strategic planning and pricing. For example, strategically timed in-store offers can help clear out valuable storage space when demand dwindles for seasonal items. With sales analysis, you can pinpoint the most optimal time to do this.

4. Be proactive with forecasting

You wouldn’t plan a picnic without checking the weather. And you shouldn’t order inventory without forecasting demand. Proactive forecasting is about looking ahead so you can make smart inventory decisions. This way, you can order the ideal inventory to keep customers happy while maximizing storage space.

Just like forecasting the weather, you want reliable data. Spreadsheets and file folders aren’t enough to stay competitive in the modern business landscape. Choose a platform with advanced reporting capabilities to put your data to work and make better decisions.

5. Prioritize the customer

The customer is always right. By keeping your customers top of mind, you can feel confident that you are making the right business decisions. Maximizing profits is important but should never detract from the customer experience. Customers are delighted when they can buy what they want but will never be impressed by your optimal storage space.

Retail inventory management can ensure customers always get what they want, even if you don’t have it in store. Outlets with multiple locations can pull available stock from other stores. Dropshippers can use vendor information stored within their inventory management system to ship items directly to customers.

A list of retail inventory management best practices.

6. Document your products

Thoroughly documenting your inventory and vendor details is the first step in retail inventory management. But don’t set it, and forget it. Up-to-date documentation is a key part of accurate forecasting.

Your retail inventory documentation should include details such as:

  • Product name
  • Product code
  • Retail price and cost
  • Wholesale price
  • Vendor information
  • Minimum stock amount
  • Reorder level
  • Supply days or estimated time of delivery

Log your products with as much detail as possible. Even photos can help sales staff impress customers and move inventory. Consider every department’s needs and create processes for updating inventory details. You can share this up-to-date information across systems for order fulfillment, point of sale, and more.

7. Build strong relationships with suppliers

No system is perfect, and errors happen. Strong supplier relationships make addressing things like delayed orders, missing or damaged items, stock outages, or missing payments easy.

Communication is key to a solid relationship. Suppliers appreciate when you update them, and a positive relationship can improve communication and create trust. A relationship built on trust will help you negotiate prices with suppliers. Retailers need suppliers, so consider these relationships as part of your retail inventory management process.

8. Choose your inventory technique 

Choose the inventory technique that best suits your business. It’s important to consider things like the stability of your cash flow, cost fluctuations, and your business’s location.

Examples of popular inventory management techniques include:

  • ABC Analysis categorizes inventory by its level of importance. A is the most important, followed by B, and then C.
  • 80/20 states that 20% of your inventory drives 80% of your profits. This method helps businesses prioritize inventory in relation to profitability.
  • FSN classifies inventory as fast-moving, slow-moving, or non-moving. This can be useful for planning orders and organizing storage.
  • XYZ categorizes inventory by demand variability. X items have the most consistent variability and are therefore easy to forecast.

9. Create a functional warehouse layout

Functional warehouse layouts allow clear visibility, smooth transfer of goods, and easy access to inventory and equipment. This helps make order fulfillment fast and easy.

Some examples of warehouse layout designs include:

  • U-shaped
  • I-shaped
  • L-shaped

Read up on warehouse layout best practices to make the most of your space. A well-organized warehouse helps improve retail inventory management. Functional warehouses let employees focus on important things like receiving inventory and updating tracking information.

10. Be strategic when storing inventory 

Warehouses can improve functionality when you store goods logically based on their type or category. Clear categorization can help you store important goods for easy picking, while you may store less important goods in harder-to-reach areas.

Best practices for storing inventory:

  • Make popular items easy to access
  • Keep heavy items close to the floor
  • Track storage with inventory management software
  • Categorize inventory for optimal storage and retrieval

Storing inventory with no strategy can chew up profits because it slows down everything. Items become hard to retrieve or, even worse, impossible to find without a thorough audit. You want a system that ensures all products are retrievable and in good condition.

11. Eliminate deadstock

Deadstock should be eliminated immediately. Holding inventory costs (also known as inventory carrying costs) typically equal 15%–30% of the inventory’s total value. It can feel like a loss to sell deadstock at a low price, but there is little benefit to inventory that takes up valuable storage space.

You can get rid of deadstock in a few ways:

  • Put deadstock items on sale
  • Bundle deadstock with popular items
  • Check with suppliers about returns
  • Do a free giveaway
  • Donate deadstock
Why is inventory management important in retail

12. Plan ahead for surplus stock

Surplus stock is a necessary part of giving customers a great experience. Better to have too much stock than too little. And to avoid deadstock, planning for surplus stock is important.

Seasonal forecasting can give you a clear picture of demand, including when it begins to slow down. Account for these times and get creative about moving your surplus stock.

Think of strategic ways to move stock and keep customers excited:

  • Promote a big sale ahead of time
  • Create fun in-store displays of surplus stock
  • Encourage sales to move surplus stock with KPIs and rewards
  • Promote specific surplus items on social media

13. Track moving inventory 

Tracking in-transit inventory supports accurate forecasting and budgeting. Understanding the length of time between ordering and receiving inventory is important. The more data you have, the better your ability to plan.

Tracking moving inventory is also important for relationship management. Suppliers and retailers both share concerns over inventory transportation. Customers will also appreciate knowing where an item is and when to expect it. Inventory tracking this way can put customers at ease and stop them from going to another retailer.

14. Schedule regular inventory audits

For best results, you should audit inventory once every quarter. This need can vary depending on your industry and how fast stock moves. Every business should perform a thorough inventory audit at least once a year for accurate data as part of their retail management process.

When you properly account for inventory, you can optimize storage and increase profit opportunities. Inventory audits also reveal damaged, out of date, and recalled goods. Remove these items because you can’t sell them. You can account for deadstock and subsequently put it on sale to create more storage space for on-demand items.

15. Automate retail inventory management with software

Automation can improve accuracy, streamline processes, and provide actionable data for your business. Automated retail inventory management software can help you handle production and management with automated dashboards, reports, and reminders. Integration abilities can even sync inventory data across all your stores and devices.

Almost 46% of small and medium-sized businesses track their inventory manually or don’t track it at all. Retail inventory management software can save you lots of time but also help you make smart, data-driven business decisions.

Retailers, wholesalers, and online sellers use products like Cin7 Core for:

  • Inventory management
  • Point of sale
  • B2B Portal
  • Commerce integration
  • Accounting efficiency
  • Robust reporting

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Alongside best practices, we want to answer some frequently asked questions about retail inventory management.

How do you keep inventory in retail?

You can monitor inventory levels in retail stores with a system called retail inventory management. Inventory gets counted when it arrives at the store and when customers buy it.

Businesses also need to perform inventory audits regularly to ensure their counts are accurate. Audits will account for inventory that is missing, damaged, or recalled.

What is the retail inventory method?

Accountants use the retail inventory method to estimate the value of a business’s current inventory over a specific period. The process is simple, but the results are only an estimate. Businesses use this method to avoid a costly manual process.

What are the benefits of retail inventory management?

The main benefits of retail inventory management are:

  • A clear view of inventory levels
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Increased profits
  • Reduced deadstock
  • Improved use of storage space
  • Powerful data for business insights

What tools to use for retail inventory management?

Retail inventory management software provides tools for:

  • Retail inventory management
  • Point of sale (POS)
  • B2B e-commerce
  • Warehouse management
  • Reporting and forecasting
  • Third-party logistics (3PL)
  • Direct Electronic Data Interchange (Direct EDI)

What is the best retail inventory management software?

The best retail inventory management software can scale alongside your business as it grows. Switching platforms can be time-consuming and create room for error, so you’ll want to consider where your business will be in the future.

Your software should also provide features that help your business grow. Choose a solution that supports your ability to streamline operations, increase sales, lower operating costs, and improve customer satisfaction.

If you are a small or medium-sized business that wants to increase sales and be more efficient, book a demo of Cin7 today. Let us help you reach your business goals quicker and easier.

A quick and easy guide to good retail management

When shoppers find exactly what they’re looking for in a store, they leave happy. And when they leave happy, the store management is happy because the chances are those customers will come back again, or better yet, give a good recommendation to one of their friends.

It takes a lot of work and planning to get to this point, of course. The store has to have the right look and be open and inviting, and merchandise has to be displayed appealingly. The inventory also has to be managed well. This means having enough of an item in stock to be able to replace it quickly in the store when it’s sold – because it looks better if everything is well-stocked – and having enough of it in storage to be able to do this. This means ordering more, knowing when to do this, and doing it early enough to cover lead times – the length of time it’ll take a supplier to turn purchase orders around. The umbrella term for all these activities is retail management. In this blog, we’re going to break down the areas that make up retail management and look at them in detail.

Understanding the importance of retail management

The word retailer comes from the Old French retaillour or retailleor, and it translates as someone who sells items in small quantities. This interpretation pretty much stands today: store owners stock goods in limited amounts, and their customers usually buy items in ones and twos.

You may be wondering why we’re going into etymology. Well, it’s to give an understanding of the scope of the businesses we’re talking about. And when you get your mind around that, we can delve into the challenges and decisions that are specific to retail stores.

The central challenge of a retailer is to give their customers a good experience, to let them know they’re welcome, understood, and appreciated. It’s how you get them to come back. This experience runs from creating a look that reflects the interests of the shoppers to streamlining the checkout. For instance, a book store will have subtle color tones, be crammed with books, have quiet areas to check out reading material, and could be playing easy-listening classical music in the background. A shop selling clothing to young people, on the other hand, mayl use bright colors to decorate their interior, should have the right mood lighting, and may be playing Top-Ten music hits very loudly.

Differences aside, there are aspects that all retail establishments have in common. First among these is internal organization. When a customer walks into a store, they should very quickly be able to work out where everything is. In our bookstore example, the works will be categorized by genre, each one having its own section; and within that each book will be placed on a shelf alphabetically. In the clothing store, it’s garment type – jeans will be on one rack, coats on another – and to make everything even easier to find, each rack will have its clothing grouped by size.

The second thing all stores have in common is salespeople. There’s an art in choosing the right sales people, but more on that later.

The third characteristic shared by retail is the checkout. paying. Nowadays, there are several options for this: cash, card, or online via an app on a cell. It should be a smooth, simple process.

Taken together, all these facets add up to what’s called retail management, and when it’s done well, it’s good retail management.

The process of retail management

If you own or manage a retail store, you’re responsible for everything that goes into the running of it, from getting the right inventory to giving customers a good experience to handling employees. We’re going to break your job description down into its component areas and take a close look at each one.

#1 Planning

Like any endeavor, the first step in any retail enterprise is to plan it out. This covers everything from interior design and layout to choosing what goods to get from suppliers.

We’ve already covered design, so let’s get down to layout. As described in our examples, depending on the kind of items you’re selling, a potential customer has to feel comfortable in your space. If you’re selling tech, that means spacing out your devices and lighting them brightly to invite those entering your store to “play” with each one; if you have a thrift shop, you’ll want your items to be thrown together in batches to appeal to your customers’ bargain-hunting instincts. It’s all part of driving foot traffic to your establishment.

Irrespective of the kind of items you’re selling, you have to give careful consideration to where you place your checkout. You’ll want your shoppers to be able to see it easily, but you won’t want it to block the free flow of customers. For these reasons, it’s probably not a good idea to place it near the entrance. Similarly, if you run a clothing store, you shouldn’t put it near the changing rooms – that would not only block access, it could look like a brazen grab for a sale and put customers off.

Keeping the interior of the store clean and tidy is also important. It’s part of making your walk-ins feel they’re welcome.

Another major consideration when working out layout is shoplifting. Arranging items so that your employees can see as many of the areas as possible is a good way of preventing this. If shoplifting becomes a serious problem, however, surveillance cameras should be installed.

#2  Choosing suppliers

When you’ve worked out your layout, you need to get your products in. You’ll probably know what kind of store you’re opening when you sign a lease for the space, so buying comes down to finding suppliers and setting up accounts with them. Then it’s a matter of working out your markups, guesstimating returns, and researching your competition. Purchasing inventory is such a crucial part of store management.

When you’re looking around for suppliers, you should be checking out the following:

  • Their selling price – best to go with someone who offers the lowest price,
  • Whether they can deliver to your store,
  • Length of time it will take them to deliver items to you – their lead time – this has to be taken into account when reordering,
  • Their after-sales service,
  • Their return policy,
  • Terms of their invoices – specifically length of time they give you to pay, and
  • How much credit they’ll give you.

It’s a good idea to find several suppliers to work with. This way, if one doesn’t have what you want or can’t deliver, you have a fallback.

Then it’s a matter of working out your markups, guesstimating returns, and researching your competition.

#3 Receiving, storing, and displaying

First thing when a shipment comes in from a supplier is to check the goods against your purchase order and their invoice to make sure you’ve received everything you’re being charged for, and you should inspect each item for quality. If anything is damaged or incorrect, you send it back.

Next comes storage. If you have a small shop, this could be a back room; but if your business is larger, say something like a box store, you’re going to need a bigger space, a much bigger space, something that’s more like a warehouse.

When it comes to displaying items in your store, several matters should be taken into account. Things that are more likely to catch a customer’s eye should be right up front, near the entrance.If some of the things you sell are heavy, they should be on shelves that are near the floor, not on high levels; items that are similar should be grouped together; and small items that could be last-minute purchases, like socks or small packets of candy, should be next to the checkout.

The placement of any discounts you’re running is also important when trying to encourage sales.  These should always be clearly labeled, preferable on their area of the shelving as well as individually on the product. Essentially, you’re building goodwill with your customers, and if an item they pick up—thinking it’s discounted—turns out not to be, they’re going to be upset. For some types of things, like clothing, however, it’s a good idea to have a dedicated area for all discounted items.

Of course, as a retailer selling in ones and twos, you’re probably going to be stocking a lot of different items in different colors and sizes. This makes keeping track of everything  a challenge. Technology can come to the rescue here, technology like Cin7’s inventory management software. Cin7 tracks inventory in real-time, letting you know exactly what you have and how much of it you hold. It can also automate your purchase orders, registering when your stock is low enough to warrant reorder and taking care of it. 

#4 Hiring and managing employees

This is important because a salesperson can make or break your retail business. Number one when checking out prospective hires is that they should like people. They have to have bright personalities and show a degree of patience. In short, they should enjoy interacting with customers, be happy to help them find what they want and be willing and able to answer any questions. Plus, they should be able to calmly listen to complaints and be willing to resolve issues. It also helps if they have knowledge of your business category. Thus, if you have a hardware store, you’ll want salespeople who know a lot about home improvement; if you have a beauty store, you’ll want salespeople who love and are up-to-date on things like make-up trends.

Your sales staff should also be adept at using your checkout, otherwise known as your point of sale system. Depending on the size of your store, you may have an employee dedicated to taking customer payments, so it’s important they be well-versed in whatever system you use.

And for you as a retail manager, once you’ve selected the right people to work for you, it’s your responsibility to keep a subtle eye on them to make sure they’re not taking advantage, and to resolve conflicts and grievances they may have. If your staff is content in the workplace, it’s reflected in the way your business performs.

#5 Service and sales

As indicated in the section directly above, your sales staff should be able to give your customers a gentle nudge when they’re undecided about whether to buy or not. That, essentially, is what a good sales person is defined by.

To make your customer experience complete, a smooth checkout is the cherry on the cake. While a point of sale (POS) can be defined as an old-time cash register, today much more sophisticated, online-based systems are the norm. In addition to adding up the cost of items, if several are purchased, these modern-day systems can scan barcodes and process different payment types, from cash to credit cards and cell-phone apps. They can also store your customer’s information – useful if there are returns or you want to send them marketing materials – and keep track of your inventory.

Cin7’s POS can do all this and more.

 

Optimize your retail operations with Cin7

To sum up, when a retail store is run well, customers have a good experience and walk out happy with the item they want, and your staff are content and put in that extra effort for you.

Then there’s control of your inventory, getting the right stock in and ensuring you have enough of it at all times to satisfy demand. That’s where Cin7 can be helpful. Cin7’s cloud-based software gives you a bird’s eye view of all your inventory, and can produce data to keep you on top of what items are selling best. Cin7 can also create loyalty programs and, as discussed, streamline your checkout.

If you want to learn more about Cin7 and how it can bring improvements to your retail business,  call one of our experts today and book a demo.

What is freight shipping and how does it work?

Modern businesses from every industry now operate across multiple states and countries. Thus, they need fast, efficient shipping services.

 

What is freight shipping?

Freight shipping means transporting heavy or large volumes of goods, commodities, and cargo by land, sea, or air.

Freight shipping is important for any business that caters to people in different locations. Most ecommerce businesses serve customers worldwide, and often they partner with third-party logistics providers (3PL) for their freight shipping services.

 

Freight vs. parcel

According to FedEx, any shipment weighing over 150 pounds is considered freight. Any shipment under 150 pounds can be shipped as parcels. For instance, a microwave you booked online and delivered to your home is a parcel. A truck of microwaves shipped to the home appliance store is freight.

 

How does freight shipping work?

When goods are too heavy or delicate to be shipped by a standard ground shipping carrier, freight shipping is needed. Freight shipments involve packing items in wooden pallets or crates to keep them safe during transportation.

In general, freight shipping companies use ground, air and ocean transportation. The freight shipping company can recommend the best suitable mode of transportation based on your freight items and weight.

It’s highly advisable to discuss the delivery options with your freight shipping partner. For instance, if your warehouse doesn’t have appropriate equipment for easy loading and unloading of goods, your freight shipping partner can help you with some loading equipment to unload goods at an additional cost.

Freight shipping companies often send messages with a tracking number and freight carrier details when the truck is on its way. After the freight reaches a nearby terminal, you will probably receive a call from the freight carrier. You can schedule an appointment date and time for your freight delivery. You can inspect the shipment for any damage before receiving it.

As an ecommerce business owner, you must clearly understand freight shipping options before collaborating with a 3PL. Thus, you can choose the best shipping method that suits your business requirements and customer needs. For instance, investing in reliable inventory management software is highly recommended if you sell your products on multiple ecommerce platforms. The software allows you to integrate with diverse shipping service providers and fulfill orders in multiple locations.

 

Types of freight shipping

Let’s discuss the significant types of freight shipments used for commercial purposes.

1. Air freight

Air freight is the ideal mode of transportation if you have to ship high-value items. Air shipment is more common in the pharmaceutical and medical industries. Though it comes with a substantial cost, the shipment reaches the customer faster.

2. Rail freight

Businesses with large goods that need to be shipped within the country prefer rail freight. It is inexpensive compared to other freight modes but it may take a longer time than a truck. Often, businesses use rail in combination with other transportation modes to ship freight.

3. Ocean freight

Ocean freight is an alternative to air freight when you have to ship freight overseas. However, shipments can take a long time to reach their destination with ocean freight. If there is no urgency, ocean freight is a perfect choice.

4. Full truckload (FTL)

Businesses go for FTL freight shipping when they have enough stock to occupy an entire truck. A standard truck can carry around 26 pallets or load more than 15,000 pounds. However, the load weight or the number of pallets varies with the freight shipping company. Thus, it is always advisable to ensure the limits with the freight service provider.

FTL is only cost-effective when you have enough stock that covers the entire truck. Since you will be paying the truck’s total cost, unlike other freight shipping methods, you should make optimal use of every space available in the truck. It may be worth the money as order deliveries are much faster in FTL, as there are no stoppages in the middle for delivery.

5. Less than truckload (LTL)

Businesses opt for LTL when they have minimum freight quantities. In other words, shipments heavier than a parcel but not large enough to occupy the entire truck space are ideal for LTL freight shipping. Generally, shipping companies set minimum and maximum weight limits for LTL freight shipping. The weight limit varies from one company to another but ranges from 150 to 15,000 pounds, around six pallets.

In LTL freight shipping, businesses will share truck space with other companies. For instance, the shipping company will collaborate with multiple businesses and accommodate their goods optimally in the available truck space.

The prime advantage of LTL shipping is paying for what you store, not the entire truck. However, the downside is that goods are often transferred to different trucks before being delivered to the destination, taking more time for delivery.

6. Partial truckload (PTL)

Another option between LTL and PTL is partial truckload (PTL). If your shipment is over 5,000 pounds or six pallets, PTL can be a cost-effective method for you. Otherwise, it works like the LTL freight shipping method. You split the cost of the truck with other businesses, and you pay for what you store. One advantage of PTL shipping is the relatively low chance of transferring goods to different trucks.

7. Intermodal

Intermodal shipping means shipping freight by two or more modes of transportation. With intermodal containers, freight companies move shipments between truck, train, and ship effortlessly. Businesses prefer intermodal shipping as the freight is moved in containers without manual handling of items. Moreover, it is pretty cost-effective as there are no labor costs.

8. Expedited

Expedited freight shipping is the most expensive of all shipments and is reserved for emergency or time-bound shipments. Generally, expedited goods travel by air rather than by ship or rail, making it costlier. Plus, it also involves transporting goods in express shipping lanes for prompt delivery.

 

Importance of faster delivery

According to Grandview Research, the global same delivery market size is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.3% from 2020 to 2027. The research further predicts that the market growth will be due to increasing urbanization, rapid ecommerce adoption, and evolving customer expectations towards delivery services.

As an ecommerce business owner, you should address the customer’s expectations of faster delivery. Shipping is a pivotal part of the supply chain as the order is closed only when the product reaches the customer safely and promptly.

Whether you own an online store, sell in multiple online marketplaces, or supply to major retailers like Walmart and Target, partnering with a 3PL company can be a winning supply chain strategy. However, before collaborating with a 3PL, knowing the basics of freight shipping and its costs can help you choose the ideal shipping method.

 

How much does freight shipping cost?

Shipping cost directly impacts your business’s profit or loss. Thus, keeping the shipping charges minimal while offering faster delivery to your customers becomes crucial for long-term success. In general, freight shipping costs depend on multiple factors, including

  • Cargo weight,
  • Cargo package dimensions,
  • Value of the cargo,
  • Shipping destination,
  • The urgency of the delivery,
  • Custom clearance, and
  • Unexpected delays.

Based on these factors, you can narrow down the mode of transportation for your shipment. Especially for international shipping, you may need to choose between air and sea freight. For instance, some loads can be too big or too risky for air shipments. Thus, consider all factors before finalizing the shipment mode.

 

3PL or freight forwarder: Which is better?

As an online retailer, you will ship products to customers all over the world. Partnering with the right shipping company can provide better customer service. Therefore, do your research before partnering with a shipping service provider.

The two most common shipping service providers are freight forwarders and third-party logistics providers (3PLs). Understanding how they work will help you choose the right service provider to align with your business objectives.

Freight forwarder

Freight forwarders are companies that move goods from your warehouse to your customer. They don’t really handle transportation or supervise drivers, but they actively manage your shipment. In short, they act as a mediator between you and the freight carrier. Freight forwarders often decide the mode of transportation – truck, air, or ocean for optimal order fulfillment.

Shipping carriers are generally expensive, but freight forwarders regularly deal with multiple shipping carriers, so they can get you better deals for your shipments. Freight forwarders have the expertise and in-depth knowledge of how various modes of transportation work. They are familiar with customs, as they often deal with importing and exporting goods.

So, freight forwarders can help you ship your products anywhere in the world.

3PL companies

A 3PL company can do all a freight forwarder can and manage the entire supply chain process. A reputed 3PL company will maintain your products in optimal condition, get you the best possible shipping costs, and ensure the right products reach the right customers when an order is placed. A 3PL company also handles reverse logistics.

Furthermore, a 3PL company allows you to receive orders from every sales channel and fulfill them seamlessly. By outsourcing your logistics to a 3PL company, you can focus on your business growth and customer experience.

 

How can an inventory management system help your business to ship freights to diverse locations seamlessly?

As an ecommerce business owner, you will regularly ship your products to multiple locations, catering to diverse customers. Thus, managing logistics is as crucial as managing inventory for your business. Cin7’s multichannel inventory management system comes with around 700+ business tools like accounting, marketplace, 3PL warehouse, shipping, and more that connect all your orders, inventory, shipping, and workflows. It’s an all-in-one software that allows you to manage inventory, ship and track orders, monitor analytics, and more. Reach out to the Cin7 team for a quick demo now.

How retailers can thrive in tough economic times

The last few years have been really hard for retailers. Disruptions from the Covid-19 pandemic forced many businesses to slow or halt operations altogether.  Factory shutdowns created a production backlog, with 38.8% of small businesses facing delays from suppliers, according to the US Census Bureau.  At the same time, consumer demand for many products spiked as people panicked about the future, making it difficult for retailers to meet demand.

Today, there are new challenges for retailers. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has destabilized the energy and commodity markets. Labor shortages have made it difficult to find workers, and inflation is at 40 year highs. In fact, in a survey conducted by Small Business for America’s Future (SBAF) 60 percent of 1,576 small business owners said that inflation is their top challenge.

 

What can retailers do to improve their situation?

 1. Improve your inventory management

Inflation makes it expensive to replenish your inventory from suppliers. You need to either raise your budget to get the same level of inventory that you got before the inflationary period, or you must lower your order quantity.

It is important to be strategic about your inventory, as piling up unsold inventory raises storage costs and freezes your working capital.

ABC analysis is a popular inventory classification method that can help you sort your inventory. It helps identify the critical SKUs that generate the majority of revenue for your business.

To learn more about ABC analysis, refer to our detailed guide.

Using your sales data, you  can eliminate underperforming SKUs. You can channel your working capital to acquire the best sellers by removing the bad ones. To ensure that you don’t overstock underperforming products, it is important to always have a clear picture of what is in your inventory.

Cin7 inventory management software offers advanced reporting features that can improve your inventory planning. In addition to inventory tracking, you can gauge the performance of your SKUs and forecast the demand accordingly. With the right data at your fingertips, you can make better decisions around inventory replenishment and avoid overstocking situations.

2. Use inventory management software to leverage multichannel sales

Using specialized inventory management software can be a gamechanger for multichannel sales.

Without inventory management software, you’ll have to manually allocate inventory for your offline and online stores, which can lead to a loss in opportunities. For instance, say you sell smartphones on Amazon, Shopify, and your bricks-and-mortar store. If you have 100 units of iPhone 13 ready to sell, then you have two options:

Option 1: Placing maximum inventory for all channels

In this option, you put the same quantity (100) on the online and offline store. The problem is if you receive 60 orders online and 60 orders offline at the same time, you cannot fulfill all the orders as you have oversold your inventory. You have a total of 100 units, but the ordered quantity is 120.

Option 2: Dividing the inventory
Another option is to divide the inventory across all the channels. You can allocate 33 units for Amazon, 33 units for Shopify, and 34 units for your offline store. In this case, the issue is underselling. If someone wants to place an order of 50 units on Amazon, but you’ve listed only 33 units, you’ll miss out on potential sales despite having inventory in your backend.

An inventory management solution saves you from the trouble of allocating inventory. It syncs your inventory in real-time, so if you receive 60 orders from Amazon, it automatically reduces the available inventory to 40 in Shopify and your offline point-of-sale system.

In addition to multi-channel sales, offering omnichannel support (i.e., unifying the online and offline buying experience) can sweeten the pot. Joe Troyer (CEO of Review Grower) says, “Customers are smoothly switching between online and offline experiences, and they are willing to shop at businesses that can make this transition as simple as possible. In-store research and showrooming, the practice of inspecting a product in-store only to make the buy online, are now more widespread than ever thanks to the development of mobile retail.

By incorporating real-time feedback across channels and devices and engaging the customer wherever they may be, they may use the right customer data to build an omnichannel customer experience that enables consumers to participate whenever and however they choose.”

3. Learn from competitors

You should carefully monitor the actions of your close competitors. Ask:

  • What are my competitors doing to attract more customers?
  • Are they making any changes in their pricing strategies?
  • Are they offering any discounts or bundling products to offer more value?
  • How are they promoting their business across various channels to attract new customers?

The insights you collect will help you in determining the price changes in the market so that you can maintain price parity.

For those who are pondering over offering products much cheaper than the competition, with the intent of attracting their customers — this can backfire. For instance, low pricing might signal that your quality is inferior to your competitors (tarnishing your brand image). Additionally, increasing your sales volume by reducing prices doesn’t necessarily lead to higher profits when there is inflation.

4. Outsource fulfillment to 3PL

Being strategic in what you outsource can be of immense help in reducing your operational costs and freeing up working capital. You should focus on cutting costs without sacrificing the product’s quality.

Third-party logistics (3PL) providers are businesses that take care of an organization’s supply chain and logistical operations. 3PL providers can offer a lot of fulfillment services such as

  • Warehousing,
  • Shipping and receiving,
  • Order picking and packing, and
  • Returns management.

If you do all this on your own, you will incur the hassle of setting up your warehouse, hiring and training employees to fulfill the orders efficiently, managing payroll, and maintaining the warehouse. Outsourcing this to a 3PL can help you save money. Additionally, as they specialize in fulfillment, you can expect a lower error rate in shipping orders.

Altogether you get better efficiency and professional experience while saving you time and resources.

Speaking of logistics, Amazon has made it a norm for customers to expect free shipping. However, offering free shipping at this time can put you in a very tough spot. Here is a suggestion from Anders Ekman (COO at Ingrid delivery platform):

“Interestingly, there is a “sweet spot” where paying for delivery might mean selling fewer products, but still earning more. It turns out that free shipping is not always the best solution for every e-retailer after all.

To give you an example, one of our customers at Ingrid started experimenting with paid delivery options instead of offering free shipping for all orders. Once they began to charge 10 SEK more for the delivery, the conversion decreased by 2.5% but the value of an average shopping cart increased by 4.2%. At the end of the day, revenue from deliveries alone increased by 11% and the profit margin increased by 5.5%.

If you’re still skeptical, you can start small – A/B test your delivery checkout alternatives, and offer different delivery options and prices based on what margin you have on the product (for example, a high-profit margin item should have a lower delivery cost and vice versa). Whatever you decide, don’t be afraid to start charging customers for deliveries. Experiment with your delivery strategy and different software integration – the results might truly surprise you, despite the current economic climate.”

5. Revamp your pricing and promotional strategy

High inflation also strikes your supply chain partners, and they are likely to offset the “extra” expenses upon you. For instance, if you use a fulfillment partner to deliver your products, rising fuel prices could force them to raise their fees and increase your expenses. You need a strategy for pricing because drastic price changes can negatively impact your sales.

Here’s what Lou Haverty (CFA and founder of Enhanced Leisure) recommends: “Retailers feel a pinch on both sides. Retailers face higher costs sourcing their products, but face slowing consumer demand. They can either lose margin or risk lower customer sales if they raise prices.

Their best option is to reduce product quantity instead of price. Keep the price the same, but slowly reduce the quantity sold at a given price point. This creates the least amount of negative customer feedback.”

Rethinking the product assortment is also crucial for maintaining healthy sales. “Due to rising prices, customers are less likely to stick with a single brand and are instead purchasing private-label items.

Retailers may take advantage of this by revising their category strategy frequently. Product-specific inflationary pressures and quickly altering customer preferences must be balanced by winning retailers. For example, their balance of private and national brands might be reconsidered.” says Sina Will (Marketing manager at Foxbackdrop). You can also bundle your low sellers with best sellers to clear off your inventory and offer a better value to the customers.

At tough times like this, you need your loyal customers more than ever. Here are some tips by Amar Vig (MD at London-fs) to build customer loyalty, “Remember that most customers also serve others in their day jobs, so when they are behind the counter, they want to feel significant.

Promotions and freebies can undoubtedly help customers feel special, but personalization is the actual secret to a truly memorable experience.

Retailers can increase customer loyalty by getting to know their clients through their prior purchases and hobbies. These conclusions can be drawn from statistics or even from a straightforward chat. Which of these approaches is most practical will undoubtedly depend on the size of the company, but no company should be too big to have a casual chat with a regular client.

The customer’s preferred form of communication may be used to give customized content and offers that anticipate their desires and requirements and direct them down the sales funnel toward their next purchase. Even a personalized email subject line can make all the difference.”

6. Leverage working capital

You need a consistent cash flow to combat inflation. If your expenses exceed the income generated, you have a negative cash flow. Conversely, if you’re making more cash than paying – you are cash flow positive.

The benefit of having liquidity can’t be overstated. Thanks to consistent cash flow, you can continue running your operations as usual. You’ll be able to pay your staff on time, boosting their morale and productivity. Moreover, you can avoid out-of-stock situations by having enough money to buy more inventory.

If you’re running an offline store, then negotiating better rental terms with the landlord can help alleviate the monthly overhead. Leveraging your bargaining power can also help in saving some working capital. “While small retailers don’t exert the same sort of control as big retailers, there are still ways to reorient your supply and distribution networks for cost and distance efficiencies, even if it means saying goodbye to some old suppliers and making friends with new ones,” says Alice Li (Founder of First Day).

In case your retail store isn’t able to generate enough consistent cash flow, you can resort to retail borrowing solutions. You can get a business line of credit to get some relief. Finding a suitable financing option can help your retail business to cover up for the extra expenses led by inflation.

7.Refine the buying experience at your retail store

To survive, retailers need to find ways to deliver better value to the customers. The rise in online shopping has made competing tough for some traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.

Brandon Wilkes (marketing manager at The Big Phone Store) highlights the importance of cleanliness, “The pandemic has highlighted the importance of health and safety, and this is likely to be a key consideration for consumers in the future. Retailers will need to ensure that their stores are clean and safe, and that their products are sourced from reputable suppliers. They will also need to be transparent about their health and safety policies and procedures.”

“Brick-and-mortar retailers can use their physical locations to create unique customer experiences that cannot be replicated online. In addition, retailers can focus on providing personalized service and developing relationships with their customers. By doing so, they can create a loyal customer base that will continue to support them in the future.” says James Jason (founder of Notta.ai).

To deliver a stellar buying experience, you need to listen to them. In the words of Bill Glaser (CEO of Outstanding Foods), “Retailers can also improve customer retention (guaranteeing profitability) by innovating according to customer feedback. Small businesses have the unique advantage of adjusting quickly to changing consumer demands. Your business can survive and thrive during economic downturns if you hone in on customer needs.”

Irrespective of the experience that you deliver at the offline store, there are still some strong merits of having an online store. For starters, you can reach out to more people than in your local vicinity. Even the operational costs of scaling are marginally lower than an offline store. Thus, instead of competing with online stores, it’s wise to also complement your offline store with an online store. Cin7 can help with that.

8. Make product returns a win-win situation for consumers and you

At a time when consumers are thinking carefully about their purchase decisions, you should do everything possible to mitigate their purchase risks. Allowing product returns is one such tactic that you can use for risk-reversal.

However, stores must weigh the cost of receiving returns. For starters, it increases storage costs, and you don’t want to pile up excess inventory that doesn’t get sold. In this regard, Gary C. Smith (President of NAEIR) says, “Returned products are a headache. They need to be inspected and repackaged, which takes valuable time. Plus, the retailer is taking a chance that the product won’t go out of style or expire before it can be resold. It’s unlikely most returns can be resold at full price, so even brand-new merchandise can end up at a liquidation warehouse or in the trash heap.

Rather than trashing merchandise or selling to a liquidation warehouse, where brand identity can be at risk, retailers have another option: Making in-kind donations to a nonprofit. The resulting tax break may be quite handsome, and it may even be more financially beneficial than reselling the merchandise at a cut-rate price.”

9. Use an inventory forecasting tool

In normal circumstances, retailers can accurately forecast product demand. However, with an inflationary environment, the market is volatile, so forecasting demand can become… demanding.

Incorrect inventory forecasting leads to situations like understocking or overstocking, both of which aren’t desirable for any retailer. Read our inventory planning guide to learn best practices to improve your forecasting. 

If you’re looking for a sophisticated software solution for inventory forecasting, you should check out StockTrim. Based on the demand levels and your supplier’s lead time, you can get details about the quantity that you should order to ensure that you don’t face stockouts. You can also analyze the current demand trends from StrockTrim. With the tool, you can even predict the demand for new products (without any sales history).

In addition to all this, Stocktrim perfectly integrates with Cin7

 

Way Ahead

Navigating economic challenges is part of the business of retail. Successful navigation is made easier with the right tools. Cin7’s inventory management tools offers real-time inventory visibility, advanced reporting features, and multi-channel sales management to give you better insights and improve your operations. Book a demo with our experts today.

Sales order benefits and best practices

The sales order process is one of the most essential workflows for most businesses. Optimizing the process can save money and time as well as enhance the customer experience. Businesses with efficient sales order processing in place have recognized a boost in cash flow and productivity. However, an inefficient sales order system has direct consequences on business performance – data errors, inability to fulfill orders, and slow cash flow.

So, what exactly is a sales order? How does it benefit your business? And what steps are needed to optimize the process?

Sit tight! We’re going to take you through the entire process including:

  • What a sales order is and the sales order process.
  • Why you should automate sales orders.
  • What the benefits of sales order automation are for businesses.
  • What the best practices are to optimize sales order processing.
  • How Cin7 can help your business optimize your sales order process.

 

What is a sales order?

A sales order is an official document generated by the seller when a customer places an order for a specific product or service. It’s generated in response to a purchase order (PO).

Just as a refresher, a PO is created by the buyer and delivered to the supplier for specific materials at agreed upon terms and conditions. The sales order is confirmation of the PO issued by the supplier and given to the buyer prior to delivery. The purchase order creates the contract and the sales order approves the sale.

The entire process is generally completed in three basic steps:

  1. The buyer generates a purchase order and delivers it to the seller requesting a certain quantity of materials at a certain price. Other items on the PO can include delivery schedule, delivery address, and purchase terms.
  2. Considering the purchase order, the seller issues a sales order for the buyer. The sales order approves the sale, sets payment details, and confirms the items on the PO that are included in the sale.
  3. Once the seller processes the order, the seller generates an invoice from the sales order for final payment from the buyer.

For those businesses that generate a handful of sales orders every few months, the process can be done quite simply using a manual system. However, businesses with a high sales volume cannot successfully generate manual sales orders without risk of errors.

Using manual entry for every sales order increases your risk of human error. Mistakes in quantity and pricing on the sales order lead to accounting errors. Using an automated sales order process dramatically lowers the risk of human error and accounting mishaps.

A sales order is also a critical document used for inventory management. It maintains a record of orders and provides information on inventory status. Using sales orders also allows you to track products in stock and on backorder.

 

The evolution of sales order automation

In the “old” days, managing orders involved many hands and mountains of paperwork. The lack of automated order management software meant that individuals from different departments needed to work together to manage inventory through the sales process, maintain accurate shipping and receiving details, and generate purchase and sales orders.

Using emerging technologies and innovation, traditional sales order processing has quickly adopted digital solutions. Consumer-oriented sellers like online retailers are aggressively embracing new techniques to extract specifications directly from purchase orders, eliminating manual input.

Electronic data interchange (EDI) systems are fully automated sales order processing applications. EDI uses optical character recognition to extract the information from paper and quickly – and accurately – transform the information into electronic data. Information is automatically entered into a human-related format and flagged should something require a recheck.

This is a far cry from using CRM solutions to generate quotes, orders, and invoices. CRM tools are unable to create new sales orders. At best, they handle customer information and sales history – as well as work for their intended use of contact management.

 

Benefits of sales order automation for businesses

Using an automated sales order system makes it simple to manage and update orders using a single platform. Moreover, implementing digital solutions increases the capability to respond to orders from all channels. In contrast to traditional sales order processing, automation can offer a wide array of benefits:

#1 Process orders faster

Automation is up to 75% faster compared to using a manual process. Eliminating manual coordination and data entries from the process leads to faster processing. It helps streamline each phase of the process, allowing businesses to pick and ship customer orders more quickly, save on processing costs, and enhance the customer experience.

#2 Maximize productivity and profitability

Using inventory and order management software, businesses can easily automate the entire sales order process. With this software, you can instantly create sales orders, shipping orders, and invoices thereby speeding up your order to cash process.

Another benefit of using automated sales order software is that it automatically counts and tracks your inventory. Additionally, you can set automatic notifications to alert you when your inventory levels are low.

In a nutshell, the faster you process and ship orders, the faster you get paid. Automation is one of the keys to a healthy cash flow.

#3 Improve accuracy and reduce errors

Automation can minimize or eliminate human interference in sales order processing resulting in improved accuracy. Moreover, some sales order processing systems can automatically extract information from purchase orders and generate sales orders without any manual involvement.

These smart systems are integrated with such features that use keyword detection to prioritize urgent or important orders, ultimately resulting in greater customer satisfaction and fewer returns.

#4 Streamline workflow using cloud-based solutions

Whether you’re a single or multichannel sales environment, cloud-based inventory and order management software can streamline workflow. Cloud-based management solutions provide a central location for all departments, regardless of location, to have real-time access to inventory levels and sales orders. Additionally, cloud-based solutions eliminate the risk of data loss.

Undoubtedly, implementing an easy-to-use software solution to automate your sales order process is a brilliant way to boost productivity and cash flow.

Best practices to optimize sales order processing

There are definitive ways to improve your sales order process. To make the optimization process simpler and easier, many businesses opt to outsource to a company specialized in customizing sales order automation. However, if you are considering the process in-house, here are the best practices that you need to know:

#1 Invest in an order management system

As your business grows, workflow becomes more complex. That’s where implementing an order management system helps minimize manual inventory and order processing tasks to increase sales from multiple locations with complex workflows.

Switching to order management systems means having a single unified platform to manage inventory. It automates the entire order-to-cash cycle. A cloud-based system  is accessible anytime from anywhere.

Making the investment to secure an order management system can ensure better profits in the long run as it requires fewer involvement of internal resources. Automating the process with an order management system will facilitate better communication between teams, improve workflow, and enhance the customer experience.

#2 Automate the entire sale order process

Manual processing is vulnerable to human errors that can quickly turn the sales order process into an expensive blunder. Automation eliminates human error and repetitive tasks.

Automation is able to:

  • Generate the sales order when inventory is confirmed.
  • Show a flag or other warning when inventory level is low.
  • Send purchase orders to suppliers for restocking.
  • Send picking requests to appropriate warehouse managers.
  • Generate customer sales orders.
  • Schedule pickups and estimate shipping costs.
  • Communicate with customers to keep them in a loop.

To manage these processes, you will need to know more about inventory management software and order management systems. With the implementation of these two systems, you can handle the sales process, control inventory, and manage supplier requests from a single platform.

#3 Scrutinize your existing process

To optimize your process, you need to address exactly what you want or need to fix. Therefore, your initial step should be mapping out your current sales order process using a flow chart. Get into the details of each step to reveal all the nuances involved in the process. Include details about how long the process takes. Use this audit to easily address potential holes in your process.

These are just a few of the best strategies you can use to streamline your sales order process.

 

Cin7 can help you optimize your sales order process

Automating the sales order process can help establish a workflow that requires less human involvement and minimizes processing time – from initiating a sale through delivery. Automation fosters business growth. So, instead of implementing standard solutions, allow Cin7 to empower you with the flexibility to design a platform to match your business needs – and grow as your business grows.

Cin7 sales order management software makes it easy to manage your entire sales process from anywhere at any time. Offering a cloud-based system helps your team be more efficient and productive. By implementing Cin7 you can create automated workflows to keep your team connected and informed.

Want to learn more? Let a Cin7 representative walk you through the benefits of our order management software. Book a FREE demo today!

What fashion retailers can learn from H&M

Fashion trends come and go — and more fashion retailers should take advantage of them. Most companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their business each year, often using the same strategy over and over again. The truth is that, without experimentation, these businesses are losing out on a plethora of opportunities that come from innovation. This is one of the many things that fashion retailers can learn from H&M.

Factors that determine the success of an online fashion store

Buying fashion online is a different experience than buying from a mall or department store. Considering this, online business owners need to be able to attract, engage, and satisfy potential consumers who might be more comfortable buying offline.

H&M builds trust with customers

Online shopping is quick and easy, but many retailers find it difficult to create trust among potential customers. It can be difficult to discern fabric quality, color, texture of the clothing you’re buying — especially when compared to trying clothes on when you shop in person. H&M is able to build trust online, which is one of the reasons why they remain successful.

Background

H&M’s first store opened in Sweden in 1947, and today there are over 4,000 stores in 62 different markets including Africa, Asia, the Middle East, North and South America, and Europe.

H&M offers basics for men, women, and teenagers. However, they’re also known for offering “fast fashion” clothing collections from popular names including fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, pop star Madonna, Italian designer Robert Cavalli, and Japanese Vogue editor Anna Dello Russo. Here’s what fashion retailers can learn from H&M:

Leveraging influencers and fashion shows

Buying clothing online requires that customers both trust and accept your eCommerce brand. A good example is this H&M Image gallery, which showcases H&M’s collection through events and fashion shows that are picked by key influencers in the fashion world.

Connecting your brand and products with local fashion shows and events can make your brand stand out to consumers who already shop for clothing online. You can also collaborate with local fashion brands that are known throughout your community to get a boost, too.

Leveraging great content marketing strategy

Using social media to promote your brand and products helps build your audience. However, the way you market your products and styles determines your customer base. H&M Magazine is a good example of content marketing that keeps customers updated with fashion, beauty, and cultural tips and trends.

A good content marketing strategy will intrigue your audience and make consumers spend more time on your site. It allows them to stay informed about your brand and products, and ultimately pushes them to spend more time and money on your eCommerce site.

Having an international presence

Marketing is essential for creating your audience. So, how can you generate excitement about your brand?

H&M Stores allows customers to gain access to deals and announcements from all over the world. For example, H&M India’s site just announced the grand opening of their Mumbai store and promoted steep discounts for early shoppers. Specials and press like this encourages fashion-forward shoppers to take notice of your store.

Selling across multiple online channels increases your sales; however, creating a buzz about your brand can enhance your visibility among potential audiences — both domestically and internationally.

Guiding your customers

With so many options available, online shopping can be overwhelming for many people. Giving your customers the opportunity to learn about your products can be a great way to increase site traffic and generate brand awareness.

H&M Editor’s Picks gives consumers the chance to learn about a mix of relevant product combinations. It also helps guide them to make informed decisions when shopping online.

Having a dedicated magazine or “editor’s pick” selection not only educates your customers, it gives them a chance to see products they might not have considered before. These guides are a great way to boost sales and make a name for your eCommerce brand.

Making customers feel secure

Consumers who shop online want to feel secure about their purchases. Giving your customers information about your brand’s reliability can help eliminate any second thoughts, and have them feeling good about buying clothing from your store.

H&M customer service also ensures consumers feel secure by answering any and all pre-purchasing questions. These include details about returns, payment, size-guides, contact information, product, and fabric quality.

Having a knowledge base like an FAQ goes a long way in making customers feel safe, secure, and confident when purchasing from your site.

Partnering for good causes

In addition to clothing, H&M also participates in campaigns that add value by aligning with causes that people care about.

For example, H&M partners with the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) to be a leading water steward in the industry, does good work for animal protection, and makes cotton from more sustainable sources. All of these campaigns endear H&M to its customer base and help inspire brand loyalty. It also has the chance to expose your brand to audiences who might not have heard of you.

The importance of inventory and order management software

As you can see, there are many ways to look at H&M as a source of inspiration. As you implement these tactics, it’s important to measure where you are now, and what changes happen as a result of your efforts. That’s where having the ability to track your customer’s shopping behavior becomes extremely important. If you know your brand and audience, it’s just a matter of time before you match the correct audience with the correct products. Get a demo of Cin7’s inventory and order management software today.

Why denim retailers need better order mgm

Denim retailers and the importance of order management systems

The global fashion market is worth over $3 trillion dollars, and 2% of that market is made up of denim retailers. Massive denim companies like Levi Strauss & Co. have recently realized they could be saving huge amounts of money with better order management software  — so they’ve decided to upgrade. Here’s why great order management software makes a massive difference for denim retailers — and why it might make a massive difference for your company, too.

Understanding top denim companies’ market value

What’s the market value of Levi’s and others, and what kind of sales are they doing? Let’s explore the top 5 denim companies in the world:

  • Levi’s
    • Market Value: USD $7.6 billion
    • Sales: USD $4.75 billion
  • DIESEL
    • Market Value: USD $4.4 billion
    • Sales: USD $2.1 billion
  • GStar Raw
    • Market Value: USD 1.65 billion (market value) –
    • Sales: USD 810 million (sales)
  • Pepe Jeans
    • Market Value: USD $1.1 billion
    • Sales: USD $575 million
  • True Religion
    • Market Value: USD $925 million
    • Sales: USD $470 million

 

With these kinds of numbers, even the smallest inefficiencies can make a huge difference. Let’s see why Levi’s might have decided to make a change in their order management systems.

Analyzing the denim fabric market through 2025

Let’s take a look at some numbers, according to the Global Denim Market Report:

 “The global consumption of denim fabric increased from 5.5 billion meters in 2012 to 6.6 billion meters in 2016, at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of more than 4.77%. In 2016, the global denim fabric market was led by China, India, Europe, and North America. Today, the major manufacturers of denim fabric are concentrated in China and India.

In terms of volume, the global denim fabric market moved 6.6 billion meters in 2016 and is predicted to reach 9.1 billion meters in 2023, with a CAGR of 4.7% from 2016 to 2023.

Denim fabric is used in various types of clothing, household items, cowboy accessories, and more. However, the global denim fabric market is mainly driven by a growing demand for clothing. 

The global denim fabric market was valued at $19.7 billion in 2017 and will reach $25.4 billion by the end of 2025, growing at a CAGR of 3.2% during 2019-2025.”

The key suppliers of denim who are associated with denim giants like Levi Strauss & Co. are from all around the globe. Here’s a list of some of the biggest ones:

  • Vicunha, Canatiba, Isko, Arvind, Aarvee, Nandan Denim Ltd, Santana Textiles, Weiqiao Textile, Partap Group, Black Peony, Orta Anadolu, Jindal Worldwide, Etco Denim, Raymond UCO, Bhaskar Industries, Sangam, Oswal Denims, Suryalakshmi, Xinlan Group, Artistic Fabric Mills, Foshan Seazon Textile and Garment, Cone Denim, Zhejiang Sitong Textile Fashion, Weifang Lantian Textile, Bafang Fabric, and KG Denim.

Since these companies are from all over the world, it’s important that the supply management system of these retailers remains resilient. With so many players, and such massive quantities, it’s very important to be as precise and transparent as possible.

On top of that, denim retailers also divide fabric into multiple categories: light denim fabric, medium denim fabric, and heavy denim fabric. This means that order management systems need to help keep track of product type, product development stage, and varying processing techniques. So, how do these companies keep track of all kinds of stock levels, replenish their warehouses in a timely fashion, and make sure everything runs smoothly? That’s where fantastic order management software is extremely beneficial. 

Reducing waste with textile circularity

Historically, fashion companies have been very wasteful. Recently, Levi Strauss & Co., along with many other large denim companies, have started to emphasize sustainability. Concepts like textile circularity cut down on waste by using recycled materials.

The term ‘textile circularity’ is closely related to “circular economy” – where inefficiencies and waste are greatly reduced. Essentially, textile circularity allows denim to be reused, giving clothing a ‘second life’. However, In order to have true textile circularity, it’s very important to be organized. Once again, that’s where great record keeping and fantastic order management software is necessary.

So, why did Levi Strauss & Co. switch management systems?

“The previous order management system for Levi’s was reducing the company’s customer service options. The limitations of the system meant that Levi’s often couldn’t help a customer until post-shipment, which is potentially problematic for customers that wanted to alter their order or payment before it shipped,” says Chane Steiner, CEO of Crediful.

Steiner further added, “With the need to reach global markets, Levi’s needed a system that would allow for global integration. Third-party retailers, distributors, and shipping companies needed to be compatible with Levi’s in order to address their fulfillment needs.”

What order management software did Levi’s choose?

Ultimately, Levi’s chose an order management software called Manhattan, Still, however, there are many questions as to whether this software will be able to fulfill their requirements. Manhattan doesn’t offer as many features as Cin7, and they also don’t offer a free trial — so it would be hard to tell whether or not it would be the right order management software for you.

With Cin7, you can add automation to your most complicated processes and seamlessly operate your online selling business. We offer real-time updates and order synchronizations — so you’ll always have precise and actionable data at your fingertips. Plus, we provide a number of vital integrations (shipping, orders, supply chain, accounting, customer support, etc.) to make sure everyone in your company is always on the same page.

Should Levi’s have gone with Cin7? We might be biased, but we definitely think so! Get a demo of Cin7 today and see how a partnership with us can help save you money, time, and effort.

Sell more with unified commerce

Product sellers who have reached a high level of success and are still bogged down by manual processes need to adopt a unified commerce software solution that allows them to interconnect each critical aspect of their operation. Many of the 8,000 product sellers we work with here at Cin7 have experienced explosive growth since the start of the pandemic made online shopping a necessity.

Often, these companies find their reliance on manual stock counts and data entry has become unsustainable and increasingly prone to human error. We find that when a company begins searching for IT help to modernize their software stack to keep up with their growth, they’re ready for the power of unified commerce.

Cin7 provides a unified commerce solution like no other on the market today. Cin7’s all-in-one unified commerce solution automates all your workflows – how and where you sell, how you manage all your inventory, how you fulfill orders and how you manage your finances.

Bring critical business functions together

Adopting and paying for disparate software programs to manage individual business needs is certainly one approach to consider, but leads to the “swivel chair” approach of having to toggle between accounting programs, spreadsheets, ecommerce backends and shipping applications. It may seem like progress, but this approach is costly in both monthly fees and staffing resources.

By bringing all of your business functions together, across sales and operations in a unified and automated workflow, Cin7 helps sell to more customers through more sales channels and process more orders – more efficiently and faster than ever before.

How unified commerce creates a top sales operation

Here’s a scenario that illustrates the concept of unified commerce:

Your company sells products to consumers both online and in brick-and-mortar locations. You also have a healthy wholesale distribution division that sells in bulk to major retailers. Over time you’ve grown to 3 branded online marketplaces, Amazon, Walmart and Ebay, 4 custom ecommerce sites and 10 physical store locations.

Adopting an end-to-end software solution that connects to marketplaces and enables you to manage your ecommerce sites combined with overall inventory management and sales tracking will streamline your operations and save thousands with the efficiencies it creates. The solution should allow you to track store inventory, transfer orders to other locations, ship orders from your stores and warehouses, and manage customer loyalty programs.

It should also let you work with the third party logistics provider (3PL) you have contracted with to manage your warehouse operations, fulfill orders, and process returns.

Because you are a fashion retailer, and fast changing trends dictate what products are popular at the moment, you require real time sales performance analysis so you are not tying up too much capital in overstocked inventory.

Unified commerce brings together all aspects of a product seller’s business. When orders are placed, either by consumers or in bulk by major retailers, transactions are automatically recorded to accounting programs like QuickBooks and corresponding adjustments are made to inventory quantities. Ongoing management of each sales outlet is maintained within the Cin7 platform.

Workflow automation is a key benefit of unified commerce. Purchase orders can be set to generate when stock levels hit a predetermined threshold. Wholesale orders can be placed directly into your system by major retailers who have established an EDI connection with you. The fulfillment process is triggered automatically, sending orders to your 3PL. Stock can be shifted from one warehouse or store location to another. A dedicated payment portal is also provided so wholesale customers can easily keep their account current.

Perhaps most importantly, the customizable analytics reporting capabilities of Cin7 give management visibility into real time, accurate financial data both in dashboard views and pivot-table ready reports.

Our research conclusively confirms that product sellers thrive, grow sales, and reduce costs when they adopt a modern tech stack with a cloud-based inventory management solution that embraces the unified commerce approach to selling.

A complete selling solution

Product sellers that capitalize on unified commerce, a holistic solution that interconnects every critical business process across sales and operations, realize several benefits:

  • Sync sales, accounting and inventory control in real time
  • Design branded B2C and B2B websites to sell to consumers and major retailers
  • Completely integrate your Shopify site and your retail location with included POS app
  • Set order thresholds to automate purchase orders when stock runs low
  • Refer to sales dashboards or customize demand forecast reports
  • Assign orders to your 3PL for accurate fulfillment and shipping
  • Maintain a modern cloud-based tech stack
  • Maximize warehouse space
  • Cut overhead and keep headcount trimmed
  • Quickly process invoices and payments from wholesale customers

About Cin7

Cin7 helps over 8,000 product sellers benefit from unified commerce to move more orders with greater accuracy to more satisfied buyers. Efficiencies created by unified commerce save on overhead and provide a great customer experience. Cin7 simplifies your ability to sell by bringing together over 700 established connections with online marketplaces, major retailers, shippers, third party logistics providers and accounting programs. At a fraction of the monthly subscription fee for a bloated ERP solution, Cin7 delivers all of the key functionality a modern product seller requires.

Gain the unified commerce advantage over your competitors. Request a Cin7 product demo and get unified.