For many vendors and merchants, the holiday season and end of the year can see a sharp increase in orders and sales. To make it through this season with your sanity intact, you should probably have a holiday plan already in place.
However, for all the procrastinators out there, it’s not too late to take steps to ensure your operations run as smoothly as possible through the end of the year.
Be sure you're checking off these tasks as you navigate the busy holiday season.
Review your storage layout.
You probably want to take a good look at your warehouse space and layout, and make sure you can accommodate the influx of product you'll receive over the next several weeks.
Make sure the flow of incoming and outgoing inventory properly utilizes your space so that your team isn’t scrambling as your order traffic picks up. Take a look at your organization, and consider grouping high-demand products together. Now is also the time to emphasize correct, consistent bin and product labeling to your team —everyone should be able to read labels easily and quickly during this busy time.
Prioritize supplier communication.
If you know what items are hot sellers during the holiday season, be sure you’re stocked up and communicating with suppliers regarding what you expect you’ll need in order to fulfill as many orders as possible and avoid the notorious “out of stock” response on your website.
Stay ahead of the game, and review your sales from last year. Take note of your best sellers, and consider stocking up on those products before you start to run dangerously low. Maintaining good communication with your supplier will help you avoid unpleasant inventory situations.
Plan ahead to stay marketplace-compliant.
In addition to stocking up on items to keep your customers happy, you'll also want to stay compliant with your ecommerce marketplace during the holiday season. Be sure you don't get hit with a penalty for running out of stock or shipping the wrong order in all the craziness of holiday fulfillment.
Keep your processes streamlined.
Make sure your processes are nailed down for both regular and seasonal staff. If you use integrated tools for managing inventory, order processing, and shipping, now is the time to take full advantage of those. There will be no guesswork in tracking down inventory for fulfilling orders if everyone is following the established procedure and inputting information correctly.
Emphasize to your team members the importance of utilizing your software and workflows. If set up properly, your systems and processes will help employees keep orders moving with little to no snags.
You can also keep inventory moving in and out smoothly by monitoring your daily sales in real-time and adjusting as necessary. While planning ahead always helps, in today's market you need to be flexible in order to avoid losing money on overstocking.
Prepare your customer service team.
While not directly related to managing your inventory, equipping your customer service representatives to handle holiday-related questions will help boost positive online reviews and encourage return customers. Make sure your CSRs have a clear script for your return policy and other common holiday questions.
With Thanksgiving (and Black Friday and Cyber Monday) right around the corner, be sure to take a deep breath and make smart inventory decisions during the holiday shopping season.
What other tips or practices have helped you manage your inventory during the holidays? What do you hope to improve on for next year? Let us know in the comments.