5 Things Sucking the Life Out of Your Retail Operations

This Halloween season, commit to cleaning up your inventory issues before your holiday shopping season begins.

learn more about Brandon Levey

By Brandon Levey


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When your retail company is growing, operations is the lifeblood of your business. But, between your disorganized warehouses and disparate inventory, evil forces are at play, sucking the life out of your operations and your team.

Related: The ABCs of Inventory Control

Make it stop! Breathe life back into your business and get ready for the upcoming holiday season by streamlining your operations and centralizing your inventory management. Here are five issues you should address this fall, to keep those ghoulish energies at bay and get your business back on track and ready for the holidays.

1. Disparate inventory systems

Your inventory is right up there with your operations -- critical to the life of your business. When inventory is housed in multiple warehouses, however, and sold through different channels and tracked in disparate systems, you're killing growth opportunities. Sure, it's easy to neglect this problem; you've become comfortable in the wacky systems you've created, right? Wrong. It's time to rip off the bandage and make real improvements to your inventory operations.

As multichannel processes become more common in the retail industry, you have more options for finding a central, online solution that integrates with your warehouses, sales channels and accounting, shipping and other business software. Centralizing this information in one place will free up more time and energy for you to focus on growing your business.

2. SKU-less inventory

Inventory identification isn't something you want to be grappling with, especially as you scale. One way to avoid this is by implementing SKUs (stock-keeping units) that serve as alphanumeric identifiers unique to your business.

Some retailers rely on the barcodes their manufacturers produce, but the problem there is that those barcodes often change, leaving you with mismatched information. Don't put your team in a position to re-configure product-identification codes. Implement your own system, which is independent of external parties and makes barcodes easy to decode internally, so you can maintain consistency among your warehouses and sales channels.

Related: How to Find Your Inventory Sweet Spot

3. Shopping cart abandonment

Ah, the real killer of a customer's experience: the online shopping cart. This is where transactions face their fate. If you're lucky, customers will move right along and finalize their orders, but what about those who want to escape? How do you keep them from leaving? Here are a few things you can do today to avoid losing them forever.

  1. Create a prominent progress indicator, setting expectations on what actions they need to take to place an order.
  2. Make your calls to action clear, especially if that involves contacting your business for help.
  3. Show a thumbnail profile of what the customer is buying, providing confidence and reassurance that he or she has picked the right thing.
  4. Don't make customers work to pay you. Offer several payment options that fit their preferences.

4. Missing the mark on data

Sales and inventory data can be overwhelming and difficult to collect. However, if you're not tracking successes and areas of opportunity, you'll regret it later. Retailers typically track sales information in multiple places and have a hard time piecing together what's relevant.

If you want to make smarter decisions and have greater visibility into your performance, implement a central inventory solution that tracks inventory, order statuses, sales data, COGS and more. It's important that this live in one place so your team always knows where to go for information.

5. Neglected social media profiles

Social media engagement is essential. Indeed, oftentimes, it's the only way your customers reach out. To keep all channels alive and well, make sure you're appropriately monitoring activity and responding quickly to customer requests via social media.

Consumer behavior is constantly evolving, but if one thing is certain, it's that customers want you to be where they are. So, if they don't go to your website for information or email your customer service team, social media is often the place they'll go to next. Be present, be action-driven and be timely in your response.

Related: How to Find Your Inventory Sweet Spot

Brandon Levey

CEO of Stitch Labs

Brandon Levey holds a BSE and MSE in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan. While working on domestic nuclear security systems analyses at Sandia National Securities, he started two retail businesses on the side. Through his experiences in the design and manufacturing world, he identified many problems faced by small businesses, leading to the eventual launch of Stitch Labs.

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