If you’re an online retailer, it’s likely your business will be selling across multiple channels, even if you’re yet to explore all of the options available. Ensuring your back office system’s multi-channel integration strategy is working for your inventory and stock demands is key – especially for a growing business. Today, we’re sharing the key elements your business needs to consider when it comes to inventory multi-channel selling.
When trialling a new marketplace, businesses will often dive straight in with partners like eBay or Amazon. Typically, the partnership starts with little regard for the logistics of how operations will work further down the line. Listings will be created manually using the platform’s own tools, i.e. SellerCentral. Quite often, the processes and procedures that have built up over time with regards to how new products are launched will be short-circuited. For the purposes of testing a new channel, this can be highly effective. However, as a method for ensuring that the channel has been configured in a sustainable and appropriate fashion going forward, there will be issues.
Once you’re ready to integrate a new channel into your back office solution, your inventory and stock control are the key elements that you need to get right. Your requirements on this will vary from channel to channel, from the flexibility of eBay; where you can generate your own product content, even to the extent of using HTML to customise the look and feel of your listings; to the control of Amazon; which will force you to list your products using their reference and content. However, there are some common threads that run through any channel or marketplace that you’re selling on.
1. To what extent do you wish to integrate?
Longterm, most businesses will want to automate their inventory and stock control across all of their channels. This will ensure that there is as little operational impact as possible. Whether you go there from day one or stagger the automation of your products on your new channel will depend on:
- What your new channel partner / website can support
- The cost / benefit of automating this against handling it manually – if you’re only intending to sell a small number of items, then full integration may not be appropriate at this point.
- What the product data in your back office system is capable of supporting.
The last of the points above brings us onto the second major inventory and stock control thread when implementing a new channel.
2. Variants / Size Colour Style (SCS)
Whilst variants/variations of a product are common, the way in which each retailer handles them differs based on what’s appropriate for their audience. From a Khaos Control perspective, our Size Colour Style functionality allows users to build up multi-layered product profiles. This means up to four different variation elements which can be used to automatically generate all of the final products in the range. This is efficient, ensures that your product data is consistent and of high quality and provides your web developers and/or other channels with your variant data in a usable and clear format.
Taking those benefits aside though, you need to consider the impact of selling variants on your new channel, particularly with regards to:
- Are your variants going to be in the same format on every channel you sell on – or are they going to vary? What works well on your website may hold you back on eBay and vice versa.
- Are you going to sell all of the variants in a specific range?
- Are you going to want to provide different detailed content for different variations of the same product?
Khaos Control is designed to be flexible in this regard, allowing you to deliver on any of the above scenarios, but you do need to consider these before you start linking up your channel and your back office system, as realising half-way through that you have differences with regards to your variants and then having to implement these ‘on the fly’ will result in wasted time and effort – at the least.
3. Decide what you’re going to market through the new channel
This will depend on your business and the sector(s) that you’re in, but it’s rare that companies simply list everything they sell via an additional channel. Your back-office solution should be flexible enough that you can curate a range of items into a structure that your website / channel / marketplace can then interact with.
Potentially your company may have multiple brands on the same channel / marketplace. This can work well when targeting a different customer demographic with the same product, as it allows you to change the tone and style of your message, whilst not creating an immense operational burden with regards to escalating your preparatory and ongoing work accordingly.
4. Segmenting your available stock
One of the biggest challenges of selling across a number of different websites, channels and/or marketplaces is that of ensuring that your stock levels are correct. It’s key to remember that when it comes to inventory multi-channel selling, it’s important to be consistent. Customers are less and less accepting of companies offering something for sale that then turns out to be unavailable. Khaos Control offers you a range of options in this regard, from ring-fencing stock for specific channels/websites, to assigning a % of your available stock to each channel.
Assessing what will work best for your business and configuring this appropriately upfront is key and will ensure that you are able to market your product as widely as possible. It also means you can keep the promises you make to customers when it comes to order fulfilment.
As you would expect – and as you may already know – Khaos Control’s standard API for web developers and its integrations with key channels such as Amazon, eBay, Not On The High Street, Play.com and Magento, provide the ability for companies to implement multi-channel integration within their business quickly and efficiently. All of the above issues having already been considered and planned for. Khaos Control comes with a wide range of tools for; automating your integrations, handling your fulfilment and ensuring that your ongoing customer communication is efficient and seamless. For more information on Khaos Control and inventory multi-channel selling, book your demo here.