For e-commerce businesses, stock control is an essential behind-the-scenes action that keeps your business ticking. After all, keeping the right items stocked so you’re not turning customers away is the best way to ensure consistent sales and growth.
As your business grows, it’s likely your inventory management system and processes will need to change. So, if you’re here because you’re looking into how to improve stock control to streamline your order fulfilment process, we’re going to walk through how to keep your stock in check. By the end, you’ll have a solid plan to make sure you’re always ready for your customers’ demands. Let’s get your stock sorted!
What is Stock Control?
When you started your online store, you probably didn’t picture yourself knee-deep in spreadsheets, tracking every last item. But here’s the thing: getting it right is a game-changer. It’s not just about having items to sell; it’s about having the right items at the right time — and not too much gathering dust in the warehouse.
Stock control is keeping an eye on your inventory, knowing what’s flying off the shelves and what’s not. It’s planning so you can meet demand without overdoing it. Getting this balance right means happier customers with more sales and less waste.
The Stock Control Process
The stock control process covers ordering, storing and tracking your inventory to to ensure stock levels remain consistent to keep up with order fulfilment. It typically includes:
- Ordering: You don’t want to buy too much, but you can’t afford to buy too little. There are several different formulas to calculate re-order levels, which can help with this.
- Storing: Once you’ve received your orders, you need to store them somewhere safe, clean and accessible so they’re easy to count and ready to send out to customers.
- Tracking: This is where you monitor what’s coming in and going out, so you’re less likely to run into surprises that could cost you sales.
All three parts of the stock control process process work together to manage your stock effectively by knowing what you’ve got, what you need, and when you need it.
Stock Control Challenges
Just like every superhero faces challenges, for e-commerce businesses, one of the biggest challenges is inventory control. If you misjudge it, the mistakes can cost you a significant amount of money and hit you where it hurts – your profit margin. This is typically as a result of overstocking, running out of stock or holding on to dead stock.
Overstocking happens when you order a lot more than you need. It can be tempting to overstock certain products as it’s comforting to know you’ve got it when it’s needed. But the truth is, it’s cash sitting on your shelves, not in your bank where it belongs. And if those products don’t move, you might have to drop prices to clear space, eating into your profits.
Stockouts happen when you run out of stock of an item that customers want to buy. Not only does it disappoint your customers, but it sends them straight to the arms of your competitors. Even worse than that, if you find you’re frequently experiencing stockouts, your customers will feel that you can’t meet their needs, and they might not come back.
Dead stock is the inventory equivalent of a ghost town. These are items that just don’t sell because they’re outdated, forgotten, or just not in demand. They’re not just taking up physical space; they’re holding financial space, too. Every penny spent on dead stock is a penny that’s not invested in products that could be selling and increasing your profits.
We’re going to assume you’re no stranger to these stock control challenges. And it’s easy to think that’s just part of running an e-commerce business. However, all of these stock control challenges can be tackled with the right stock control management systems in place.
How to Improve Stock Control: 7 Strategies
Improving your stock control isn’t just about solving problems. It’s about setting up systems that keep those problems from happening in the first place. Here are our top strategies, tools and tips on how you can do just that:
Demand forecasting means predicting what your customers will want in the future based on past sales data, trends, and even the season. The trick is to use all this info to make educated guesses about what your customers will want next. It’s not foolproof, but with the right tools and a bit of savvy, you can get pretty close to knowing what stock to keep on hand.
Regular Stock Audits
Effective stock audits help you spot problems like theft, damage, or just plain old human error before they can become bigger issues. They’re essential for businesses of any size, but especially if you have a large product catalogue or several warehouses storing your stock, so you can compare live counts with what your records say you should have and investigate any differences.
Not all stock is created equal. You’ll have some products that fly off the shelves as soon as they’re in stock, others that are popular in specific seasons, and others that provide a steady trickle of sales throughout the year.
With ABC Analysis, you categorise your inventory into three groups to gauge how to best stock items to meet demand:
- A for absolutely must-have items,
- B for important but not critical items,
- C for nice-to-have items.
This is an effective stock control method that helps you focus on what’s really important, ensuring you always have your bestsellers in stock.
Good supplier relationships are worth their weight in gold, and the more you nurture them, the more you’ll see the benefits. Being able to rely on a supplier or know that they can be flexible if needed means you can work together to keep your stock levels just right — and they might even bail you out in a pinch.
It’s easy to think that all you need to care about is getting the best price for your supplies. However, your suppliers are often the starting point of your supply chain process, which impacts your inventory, order fulfilment and customer retention. Prioritising your supplier relationships enables you to negotiate better prices, improve delivery times, and even impact the quality of the products you receive.
Your staff are the ones on the frontline, dealing with your stock day in and day out. It’s important they need to know how your inventory management system works, what’s expected of them, and how to use any stock management tools and tech you’ve got in place. If you invest in their training, you’ll see the payoff in fewer mistakes, more accurate stock audits and a more efficient operation.
Tools & Technology
Inventory management software can automate a lot of the heavy lifting in stock control. You can use it to track sales, forecast demand, reorder stock, and even alert you to issues like potential stockouts or overstock.
Your e-commerce platform should also be able to provide reports that show sales trends and patterns, which can help with demand forecasting and using advanced strategies for calculating minimum stock levels required to keep sales rolling in.
For warehouse management, you can use barcode scanners to count and update stock levels in real time. This can help speed up inventory tracking during stock audits and the order fulfilment process. If you’ve got a large product catalogue and stock in multiple locations, you can speed this up further with RFID tags, which not only help to keep track of your stock levels but also their exact location.
Adopt a Just In Time (JIT) Inventory Control System
The “Just In Time” inventory control system focuses on ordering only what you need exactly when you need it, keeping your physical inventory as light as possible.
Typically, the JIT system kicks in when a customer places an order with your business. At this point, you purchase the required goods from your suppliers to meet customer demand (and no more). Once you receive these goods, your internal processes will continue as normal before sending out the finished products to your customers.
It’s an effective stock control solution if you need to reduce overstocking and save space on storage, but it requires a streamlined supply chain process and limits your ability to offer fast delivery to your customers.
Outsource Stock Control & Management
Stock control is the backbone of your e-commerce business as it supports every other aspect, from customer satisfaction to your bottom line. At Delta Fulfilment, we help our clients to control stock by streamlining their supply chain management. As part of our order fulfilment solutions, we stock, supply and track your stock, making it easy for you to see exactly what you’ve got, what you need and when you need it.
Our warehouse systems integrate with our client’s e-commerce platforms so they can see exactly what stock we’re holding in our warehouses, and we manage all stock stored in our warehouses. By partnering with us, our clients are able to improve their inventory control with consistently up-to-date stock levels, making re-ordering stock a breeze. Book a call with a member of our team today to learn more about our e-commerce fulfilment services.