On a normal day, inventory isn’t easy to keep track of — during the holiday shopping season, it can be flat-out chaos. In eCommerce, your best bet for keeping everything under control, including your own sanity, is to handle as much as you can early before the rush starts.
With all the distractions of the holidays, however, it can be hard to remember everything on your to-do list. To help you stay on the ball, here are 5 ways you can prepare your inventory early and free up time when you need it most.
1. Check Last Year’s Data
Rather than building your sales forecast on guesses and assumptions, it’s best to do it by the numbers. When it comes time to decide which products to stock up on, you’ll make better choices with concrete data taken from your own sales history.
It’s important to look only at the data from last year’s holiday shopping season, as opposed to the entire year. Customers shop differently during the holidays, and the types of products they buy as gifts don’t always match up with what they buy themselves other times.
Of course, your sales won’t play out exactly the same two years in a row, but your data provides the best starting point for the rest of your estimates. To complete your forecast, you’ll want to draw from some other sources as well, which brings us to our next point…
2. Forecast Demand from Credible Sources
Using last year’s data as your backbone, it’s time to flesh out the rest of your sales forecast. Although you won’t find anything quite as dependable as your own data, you can still uncover some credible leads if you know where to look:
- eCommerce blogs and retail news — Trade news and blogs, as well as trustworthy influencers, give good advice on which products are the next best sellers. Look to them overtaking a tip from a random social media account.
- Competitor sites — What products are your competitors discussing often? Keeping an eye on other brands within your industry can alert you to trends you might miss otherwise.
- Search engine data — SEO tools like Google Trends or Moz Pro show what keywords people use in online searches, including product inquiries.
Remember, a lot of people claim to know “this year’s hottest Christmas gift,” so be careful whom you trust.
3. Audit Your Inventory with COGS
Strange as it sounds, your best-sellers may not actually be your most profitable products. For one thing, profitability varies by the amount of markup, but there are also additional costs like storage, shipping, or special handling to consider as well.
A more accurate way to audit your inventory is to check the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) against revenue. In other words, don’t just look at how much you make from sales, but also how much you lose acquiring, handling, and delivering the inventory before the completed sale.
Knowing your most profitable products doesn’t just help with reordering stock — it can also influence which promotions you offer during rush days like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Super Saturday.
4. Synchronize Your Storage Locations and Channels
One of the most challenging parts of inventory management — any time of year — is consolidating all your channels, storage facilities, and in-transit deliveries. Inventory management involves a lot of moving parts, and often when you’re looking in one direction, something’s happening in another.
To make life easier, consider implementing inventory management software like ecomdash, which synchronizes all your sales channels, warehouses, and orders into a single, central online dashboard. Not only can you look up any inventory data in just a few clicks, but ecomdash also automatically updates your products pages on all your channels, including stock levels, so you never risk overselling.
5. Stock Up Early
Last but not least, you want to order and reorder your stock early enough so that it arrives on time with no complications. That’s another key reason to tackle your holiday inventory needs early — not just for your own piece of mind, but also to avoid unnecessary delays or missed sales.
The amount you reorder depends on your sales forecast — a good reason to use data you can trust. However, consider adding a small buffer just in case you succeed more than anticipated. It’s better to err on the side of too much than too little; having too much won’t lose you a sale.
As we mentioned in our WooCommerce Holiday Checklist, it’s best to order enough stock to last until mid-January. Although sales usually taper out in the beginning of January, you’ll still be extra busy with returns and starting the new year; you’ll appreciate having more time to reorder stock. On top of that, manufacturers and suppliers might be on holiday for longer than you are, preventing timely restocking.
Plan Ahead to Get Ahead!
Though there’s plenty of uncertainty to it, inventory management can mitigate the unknowns more than propagate them. Plan out tasks ahead of time, like identifying your best sellers and organizing all your channels into one place. Once your inventory for the holiday season is taken care of, you’ll be able to focus on the other priorities like customer service, promotion, and — most importantly — enjoying your own holidays!