Remaining unaware of the stock in any business often dictates the success or failure of an e-commerce business. This is because the unavailability of stock can lead to increased logistics costs and losing an ideal customer. However, stock availability is not an impossible feat to achieve.
With the advent of new technology and inventory management systems, keeping track of inventory has become a cakewalk. Everyone – from small businesses to large corporations – can now use these tools to keep a check on their stock levels and replenish them as and when required.
In this article, we discuss the role of stock availability, the many reasons behind low stock availability, best practices to improve stock availability, and its many benefits.
What is Stock Availability?
Stock availability refers to the status of inventory or products readily accessible and in sufficient quantities to fulfil customer orders in e-commerce businesses. It signifies an online retailer’s ability to promptly and accurately meet customer demands.
Maintaining good stock availability in the highly competitive e-commerce industry is crucial to ensuring customer satisfaction, driving sales, and building a positive brand reputation. It involves effective inventory management practices, such as accurate tracking of stock levels, demand forecasting, replenishment strategies, and efficient supply chain management.
From 2016 until 2021, the total value of e-commerce sales increased by five times annually. This is a 40% growth! By optimising stock availability, e-commerce businesses can minimise stockouts and provide a seamless shopping experience to their customers – all while having a bite of this massive pie!
Understanding the Impact of Stock Availability
Understanding the impact of stock availability is vital for e-commerce businesses aiming to thrive in today’s competitive landscape. Stock availability directly influences customer satisfaction and loyalty. When products are consistently in stock and readily available, customers are more likely to have a positive shopping experience and develop trust in the business. On the other hand, stockouts can lead to dissatisfied customers, lost sales, and a tarnished brand reputation.
Moreover, stock availability has a direct correlation with sales and revenue generation. By ensuring products are available when customers want to purchase, e-commerce businesses can maximise sales opportunities and drive revenue growth. Effective stock availability management involves accurate inventory tracking, demand forecasting, and streamlined supply chain processes, all of which contribute to the overall success of an e-commerce business.
Reasons for Low Stock Availability
While most businesses try to avoid issues caused subject to the availability of stock, they can, nevertheless, go into such a phase due to a variety of factors. It is vital to understand these reasons in order to combat them effectively and efficiently. Below are some of the most pertinent factors contributing to low stock availability.
- Poor Demand Forecasting
Poor demand forecasting is one of the key reasons for low stock availability. Inaccurate predictions of customer demand can lead to understocking or overstocking situations. Insufficient inventory levels result in stockouts, disappointing customers, and missed sales opportunities. On the other hand, overstocking ties up valuable capital and warehouse space, leading to increased holding costs and potential obsolescence.
- Irregular Supplier Deliveries
Irregular or delayed supplier deliveries can severely impact stock availability. Suppliers failing to deliver products on time disrupts the replenishment process, causing stockouts. This situation can arise due to supplier inefficiencies, transportation delays, or supply chain disruptions. Maintaining strong supplier relationships and implementing effective communication channels can help mitigate this issue.
- Limitations in Warehouse Space
A lack of adequate warehouse space can significantly limit stock availability. Insufficient storage capacity restricts the amount of inventory that can be kept on hand, leading to frequent stockouts. E-commerce businesses must carefully assess their warehousing needs and consider options such as optimising space utilisation, implementing vertical storage solutions, or exploring third-party fulfillment services to address this challenge.
- High Levels of Product Returns
Inventory levels suffer when returned items are not promptly processed and made available for resale. Efficient reverse logistics processes, including timely inspection, refurbishment, and restocking, are essential to minimise the impact of returns on stock availability and maintain a healthy inventory flow.
- Shortage of Skilled Labor Resources
A shortage of skilled labour resources can hinder efficient inventory management and impact stock availability. Inadequate staffing can lead to delays in order fulfillment, inaccurate inventory tracking, and disruptions in the replenishment process. Investing in employee training and leveraging technology solutions can help optimise labour resources and ensure smooth operations, ultimately improving stock availability.
- Unfavourable Economic Conditions
Uncertain market conditions may cause fluctuations in customer demand, making accurate demand forecasting more challenging. Additionally, economic constraints can impact supplier reliability and disrupt the supply chain. E-commerce businesses should be prepared to adapt their inventory management strategies during difficult economic periods to mitigate the impact on stock availability.
Strategies to Improve Stock Availability
Now that we know the exact reasons for low stock availability, it is imperative to address these factors and implement strategies that might help overcome these challenges and improve stock availability for an e-commerce business. Below, we have offered some strategies that might help improve stock availability.
- Accurate Demand Forecasting
Accurate demand forecasting is essential to check stock availability issues. By analysing historical data, market trends, and customer behaviour, e-commerce businesses can make more informed predictions about future demand. Leveraging advanced forecasting techniques, such as statistical models and machine learning algorithms, can help optimise inventory levels, minimise stockouts, and ensure the right products are available when customers need them.
- Automation of Inventory Management Processes
Automation plays a crucial role in the process of tracking stock availability. Implementing inventory management software and systems can streamline functions such as real-time inventory tracking, order management, and stock replenishment. These inventory automation tools enable businesses to monitor stock levels, sales data, and customer demand in real time, allowing for proactive inventory management and better stock availability.
- Improved Supplier Relationship Management
Strong supplier relationships are vital for ensuring consistent stock availability. Close collaboration and effective supplier communication can lead to more reliable and timely deliveries. Building long-term partnerships, negotiating favourable terms, and sharing demand forecasts with suppliers can help minimise lead times, reduce stockouts, and optimise inventory levels.
- Adoption of Just-in-Time Inventory Practices
Implementing just-in-time (JIT) inventory practices can significantly improve stock availability. JIT emphasises minimising inventory holding costs by synchronising inventory levels with actual customer demand. By receiving and restocking products as close as possible to when required, e-commerce businesses can reduce the risk of stockouts and overstocking, improving stock availability and cost savings.
Benefits of Improving Stock Availability
Improving stock availability is among the best things any e-commerce business can do. Listed below are the benefits of strengthening stock availability through best practices. These highlight the importance of maintaining good stock availability in e-commerce businesses and how it can positively impact various aspects of the business, from customer satisfaction to financial performance.
- Enhanced Customer Satisfaction: By ensuring stock availability, e-commerce businesses can meet customer expectations and deliver on-time and complete orders. This leads to higher customer satisfaction and positive shopping experiences, boosting customer loyalty and encouraging repeat purchases.
- Increased Sales and Revenue: Improved stock availability allows e-commerce businesses to fulfil customer orders promptly, leading to increased sales. When customers find the desired products in stock, they are more likely to purchase them, resulting in higher revenue generation for the business.
- Reduced Stockouts: Stockouts occur when products are not available when customers want to purchase them. E-commerce businesses can minimise stockouts by improving stock availability and avoiding missed sales opportunities and customer dissatisfaction.
- Efficient Inventory Management: Maintaining optimal stock levels enables better inventory management. By accurately tracking stock availability and utilising inventory optimisation strategies, e-commerce businesses can prevent overstocking or understocking, reducing storage costs and the risk of obsolete inventory.
- Improved Operational Efficiency: Efficient stock availability management enables smoother order fulfillment processes. By having the right products in stock, businesses can streamline their operations, reducing fulfillment time and increasing overall efficiency.
- Competitive Advantage: In a competitive e-commerce landscape, having good stock availability can provide a significant advantage. Businesses that consistently have products available are more likely to attract and retain customers compared to their competitors, who frequently face stockouts.
- Positive Brand Reputation: Reliable stock availability builds trust and a positive reputation for e-commerce businesses. When customers consistently find products in stock and experience seamless order fulfillment, they are more likely to recommend the business to others, leading to increased brand visibility and reputation.
- Better Demand Forecasting: By monitoring stock availability closely, e-commerce businesses can gather valuable data on product demand patterns. This data can be utilised for improved demand forecasting, enabling more accurate inventory planning and reducing the risk of stockouts or excess inventory.
- Effective Marketing and Promotions: Improved stock availability allows businesses to effectively plan and execute marketing campaigns and promotions. With adequate stock levels, businesses can confidently advertise and offer discounts on popular products, attracting more customers and maximising sales opportunities.
- Operational Cost Savings: Efficient stock availability management minimises costs associated with stockouts, overstocking, and inventory obsolescence. By optimising inventory levels and reducing carrying costs, e-commerce businesses can achieve cost savings and improve profitability.
Stock availability is a critical factor for success in e-commerce businesses. It directly impacts customer satisfaction, sales, and overall brand reputation. By implementing accurate demand forecasting, leveraging automation in inventory management, strengthening supplier relationships, and adopting just-in-time practices, businesses can improve stock availability and optimise inventory levels. The use of technology solutions and data-driven approaches play a vital role in achieving this goal.
And if you’re looking for expert help in ensuring your stocks remain updated, consider investing in a 3PL partner such as Locad. With Locad, you will be able to access some of the best inventory management technologies and expert opinions. Furthermore, all your logistics needs will be entirely automated and off your plate. So, don’t wait any longer. Go and sign up today!