Best Practices For Online Inventory Management

All ecommerce store owners understand how important it is to be able to track and monitor not only the purchasing behavior of their customers, but also the stock in their virtual shelves.  If you don’t track and monitor your inventory, you are setting yourself up for financial and customer service problems down the road.

Your store software is designed to keep track of the number of items in your store, but there are variables, like customer behavior, that can make this complicated at times.  Here’s an example:

Say you have a store that sells hats. You have 10 berets in stock, and you sell 8 of them online, which would leave you with two. There is also one beret in someone’s basket who is currently browsing your store, which makes one less beret available. Then, when you count again, you realize that you only had 9 to start with, not 10. You mark the product out of stock, manually changing the number of berets available from “1” to “0.”

This is where things could potentially become very confusing. If the person who was browsing your store and put the last beret in their basket decided not to check out after all, this means that the beret goes back into your inventory, and the “0” is changed back to “1.”  Another customer sees the beret for sale and purchases it.  Then, when you see the order, you assume that your software has a “glitch” because it is allowing customers to purchase products that aren’t in stock and is incorrectly updating your inventory.

Virtually no business has a perfect count of its entire inventory, all of the time. Even Wal-Mart doesn’t have perfect inventory counts 100% of the time and they invest tens of millions of dollars a year into technology designed to keep their inventory up to date. It’s imperative to keep some stock on hand for returns, exchanges and other unforeseen issues, so it can be a wise suggestion to “hold back” some inventory from your online store for those occasions.

When it comes to your online store, here’s the way we recommend “doing inventory” in your Miva Merchant store when it’s vital to have counts that are as accurate as possible:

1. Put the store in Maintenance Mode
2. Delete ALL Baskets (not just Expired Baskets) via Admin – This is the vital step to ensure your count is perfect
3. Update your inventory (flat file upload is the fastest way to do this)
4. Take your store out of Maintenance Mode and back open for business

The above process can be time consuming and is overkill if you only need to update a few items. In those cases we recommend using the Show Baskets Module from Emporium Plus. This module allows you to:

• View all open baskets in a table format
• Track abandonment rates
• View the contents of all open baskets

Additionally, this module can help you to more effectively track orders, update your inventory, and keep your virtual stock room organized in general. This way if you need to update only a handful of items, you can delete expired baskets and then check the remaining open baskets for any inventory currently in active shopper’s baskets.

Remember, even the smartest software can’t think like a human. Luckily, Miva Merchant store owners can take advantage of the many modules designed to make the task of running a store easier.

Merchants can also visit the Miva Merchant community forums for additional solutions and support.