Managing an online retail store can be overwhelming. On the surface, everything looks put together, well executed and seamless. But underneath lies chaos, operational headaches, and a lot of inventory problems. For apparel retailers, creating a streamlined, omnichannel experience for its customers is critical in increasing sales and growing a brand. But if the foundation is crumbling, it won’t be long until everything else follows.

 

If retailers don’t prioritize inventory management, their sales cycles will spin out of control at worst and develop huge sales gaps at best. And as they grow through different sales channels, scalability will become impossible.

Before running to the hills, know that there is a better way to deal with these issues. Inventory spans all departments, so to master the sales cycle, retailers should think about first getting inventory management under control.

 

Here are a few ways inventory plays a role in the retail sales cycle:

 

Meeting the needs of customers

Customers aren’t privy to the series of events they set off when they hit the “Buy Now” button – and that’s how it should be. If businesses want to provide a positive experience for customers, keeping these details hidden is important. Making sure your operational processes are in order is an integral part of building that critical experience.

Selling apparel brings additional complexities because apparel items often have multiple SKUs and variants that require careful tracking to keep things in line. For example, if a clothing company offers five different shirts, that shirt likely comes in multiple sizes with multiple colors, patterns, textures and more. All of these variations can make tracking inventory very difficult.

Even more, tracking orders can be tricky for retailers who are running their business through manual systems. Even automated, but disparate, systems won’t cut it. If retailers are selling through multiple sales channels, a central automated system will provide the support they need to scale.

Purchasing with profits in mind

Tracking inventory through a central system will not only provide customers a better experience, but it will also enable retailers to view important sales data. Solutions like Stitch Labs, provide retailers with a sales forecasting report that provides them with helpful insight into what they should be purchasing next.

 

From an inventory system, retailers can easily find out what they need to order, create and send a purchase order to suppliers, and manage all incoming inventory within one place. Because of this, retailers will can better understand their inventory turnover and make smarter purchasing decisions.

 

If inventory is being tracked through different methods among multiple channels, it’s easy to make mistakes on how much inventory is needed. These mistakes will lead to overselling or underselling, leaving retailers with missed sales opportunities and a poor customer experience overall.

 

Keeping operations in line

Creating a streamlined operations process is key in growing a business. Everything from hiring employees to managing your finances has to be optimized to support a scaling company. Before implementing silos, cutting off company-wide communication, it’s important that retailers realize the value in emphasizing inventory. Products are the central focus of your business and when you implement systems that support the path in which they follow, operational efforts become much more streamlined.

 

Making accounting simple

Business owners don’t often enjoy gathering financial data for their accountants. This takes time away from the rest of their business and typically apparel retailers will want to spend their time crafting new products and ideas. A central inventory management solution will allow retailers to automatically pull important financial information like profits, COGS and more. This relieves stress from business owners and provides their accountants with the information they need right away.

 

Expediting shipping and streamlining fulfillment

As businesses grow, they’ll likely expand to multiple sales channels as well as several warehouses to store inventory. This can quickly lead to a logistical nightmare if a clear process isn’t put into place.

 

As sales orders increase, creating streamlined fulfillment processes will get very tricky. An inventory solution will provide retailers with a full view of what inventory is stored in which location and customize orders to automatically pull from certain warehouses. Solutions like Some systems also integrate with third-party fulfillment platforms such as ShipStation and ShippingEasy to sync shipping data for more accurate and timely status updates.

 

Access to this operational efficiency provides customers with a better experience and removes opportunities for error.

 

Profitability

When an inventory management system is in place, retailers are able to quickly track revenue and profits. This will allow them to make smarter decisions about what inventory to continue purchasing for maximum revenue opportunities. However, without a system in place, retailers are often left with unsellable stock sitting on their shelves.

 

To focus on growing a business and stay on top of what customers demand, it’s important that apparel retailers create a strong business foundation with a central inventory control solution. The ability to sync to multiple channels and track inventory quantities, sales and orders is what allows great companies to accelerate and grow their businesses.

 

Contributed article by: Brandon Levey, CEO of Stitch Labs

Brandon is the creator of Stitch Labs, a.k.a the ThinkerUpper, and writer of the original code that makes the product operate. He has a diverse background ranging from microsystems and nuclear security to iPhone accessories and sustainable apparel. When not coding he enjoys perfect lattes and dinners at Nopa. If you need to find Brandon you can probably see him scooting around San Francisco on “The Hog.”