It’s 2023, which means digital solutions exist to ensure you don’t oversell, run out of stock or inaccurately forecast.
Automated inventory management systems (IMS) help you with planning, purchasing and forecasting and give you visibility from the point of purchase all the way through to order fulfillment.
And the results you get from inventory automation are impressive. Graff City used automation to streamline their lengthy processes down from one full day a week to just 30 minutes. That’s roughly a 1500% boost in efficiency. Who doesn’t want to be over 1000% more efficient?
Having more efficient inventory management processes results in a better customer experience.
So keep reading to learn how automated inventory management helps you compete, improve customer satisfaction, and ensure you never waste your budget, stockout or overstock again.
What is automated inventory management?
Automated inventory management is a process that requires little human interaction when managing your inventory. If you’re a retailer, wholesaler or distributor managing inventory, you’ll likely benefit from automating certain processes.
If you’re managing inventory using paper ledgers and spreadsheets, it’s not only time-consuming, but it can be riddled with errors. Manual inventory management means you can’t accurately forecast, and there’s more chance you overstock items resulting in considerable wastage — from expired or outdated inventory to additional warehouse holding costs.
And for the customer? 41% of global online shoppers expect their orders within 24 hours, but manual inventory management can delay picking and packing orders and errors in order fulfillment, i.e. delays or incomplete orders.
Automating your inventory management removes any uncertainties for both you and your customers.
Benefits of an automated inventory management system
Streamlining your inventory management with automation doesn’t just improve efficiency; it positively affects your entire organization. From making more informed business decisions to cutting unnecessary costs.
Here are just a few of the benefits you can enjoy:
Reduce human errors. Humans make errors. But these errors slow down processes, which impacts the customer experience. Introducing automation means you have less human interference, regaining control and precision in your ecommerce business — two things you need to scale your operations.
Accurately forecast stock levels. Without forecasting, you risk overstocking or understocking items, losing money. Money spent on overstocked items could be spent on other things like fine-tuning your branding or trialling a new marketing channel.
Make informed replenishment decisions. An IMS automatically reorders products once stock reaches the minimum inventory level you set. And real-time data entry means you know exactly what your inventory levels are at any given time. You’ll always be able to meet customer demand and never find yourself facing a stockout.
Reduce inventory holding costs. Automating your inventory management makes your supply chain process more efficient. This means you’re not paying for obsolete inventory. Companies typically pay between 20 – 30% of the total inventory value in holding costs. These are overhead costs that you can reduce immediately with the help of automated inventory.
Track key sales and financial metrics. With an automated IMS, you can understand inventory turnover ratios and assign inventory costs based on priority and expiration dates with FIFO (First In, First Out) inventory method. A platform like this gives you a reliable process for analyzing sales patterns, helps you predict future sales, improves profitability and maximizes efficiency to meet your long-term business goals.
9 ways automated inventory management can significantly improve customer satisfaction
The relationship you have with your customers is directly responsible for business growth. Without a good customer experience, your brand reputation can suffer, customer retention declines and customer loyalty decreases — it’s a tricky position to come back from.
Here’s how you can improve customer satisfaction by automating your inventory management.
1. Real-time inventory updates mean more accurate inventory
Real-time inventory updates mean you will always have clear and accurate visibility over your inventory. You can say goodbye to guesswork, missing items, warehouse discrepancies and inventory logs.
With these inventory updates, you can make smarter, better-informed decisions because you know the data in front of you is reliable. And data is reliable across all sales channels, from Amazon and eBay to Magento and Shopify, so you’ll never second guess your data.
Regardless of which channel customers purchase through, stock levels are updated instantly. Customers can buy the products they want easily, avoiding disappointment.
2. Speed up customer response times by connecting order data
Connecting order data to customer tickets helps customer support respond to enquiries more efficiently. Customer expectations are consistently high, with 40% expecting responses within an hour. But companies struggle to keep up, with 50% falling short of these expectations.
By giving support teams access to all relevant customer information connected to their email address, it makes responding to and solving customer queries seamless, regardless of how the customer gets in touch — email, SMS, web chat, or social media. All support agents can access centralized customer information instantly.
3. Track the entire order journey for supply chain visibility
Imagine being able to track the entire order journey as a retailer. With an automated IMS, you can. Retailers can watch in real-time as orders come through and as inventory automatically updates across all marketplaces. This data then syncs to the warehouse all the way to tracking shipping information.
Tracking the whole order journey like this gives you unrestricted visibility of the supply chain. Meaning you can manage your inventory levels better, track the movement of goods, and identify areas to improve — i.e. you can be more agile to changing market conditions, adjusting stock levels based on this information.
4. Automate inventory counts to help you focus on what’s important
By automating your inventory, you don’t have to rely on employees to track stock levels and activity in the supply chain manually. Instead, knowing your inventory count is accurate means:
- You’ll never experience a stockout or overselling again. Even if orders are returned or exchanged, these processes are managed inside the same system, so as soon as an order is returned, that inventory is immediately up-to-date.
- Having reliable inventory data means better inventory forecasting. To meet customer demand, you need to be able to analyze sales patterns and adjust your purchasing decisions accordingly. You can’t do that accurately with pen and paper, software makes things like this simple.
- You can focus on other add-value activities to help you achieve your growth goals, like analyzing customer buying patterns, improving your omnichannel experience, and outshining competitors.
“Without an automated inventory management system, we would be spending all of our time checking stock levels and adjusting orders manually instead of focusing on what really matters — the customer experience!”
— Mac Steer, Owner and Director of Simify
5. Streamline order management to improve order fulfillment times
Automating inventory management means everyone is working from the same page, regardless of warehouse locations and fulfillment centers. Your bricks and mortar stores, 3PL provider, and sales channels all access the same inventory information.
Streamlining these processes means no more manual order processing and no more menial administrative tasks, like data entry. With an automated IMS, no order is picked, packed and shipped incorrectly, which makes your customers happier.
And guess what? 61% of customers will pick retailers whose systems are slick enough to offer next-day delivery. So if you’re a growth-driven retailer, improving order fullfilment should be a priority for you.
6. Automate key processes and eliminate human error
Any process that follows a rule can be automated. So when it comes to inventory management, there are a lot of menial tasks that are prone to errors or inefficiencies that you can improve almost instantly with automation.
As your business grows, your inventory needs become more complex, from managing more SKUs to keeping up with customer demand and reducing stock wastage. As you can imagine, this gets increasingly difficult to manage manually.
As you grow, it’s not just keeping on top of stock levels that’s important; it’s about preserving your brand reputation and meeting the expectations your customers have come to expect.
Some things you can automate:
- Reordering stock. Automation can help you understand which products are selling fast and need reordering. You can set minimum stock levels so your system automatically reorders to avoid stockouts.
- Warehouse management. You can automate inventory management so all warehouses have up-to-date stock levels, regardless of the sales channel. Easily check stock levels across locations and redistribute to warehouses where certain stock is in higher demand.
- Customer comms. Automating real-time order updates reduces unnecessary calls to customer service teams asking, “Where is my order?” A good experience increases the likelihood of repeat custom and positive customer reviews.
- Shipping and fulfillment. Real-time updates on inventory levels and locations mean quicker fulfilment, ensuring customers get the order in full and on time.
7. Let customers accurately track orders to improve experience
As a merchant, having access to accurate order information is vital. How else would you improve your shipping and fulfillment processes? But there’s the other side to consider — the customer’s experience.
Recent data reveals 90% of consumers want to be able to track their orders. But you can’t offer this to customers when you don’t have a reliable system in place.
An automated IMS sends customers real-time information about their order — if it’s been dispatched yet, when they can expect delivery or if the order is awaiting collection in-store.
8. Quick returns and exchanges minimize customer frustration
It’s easy to track returns and exchanges in an IMS because everything is centralized. This means returns and exchanges are quick and easy to track, ensuring your inventory is counted correctly when processing product returns.
Customers return 20% of items purchased online, and 23.31% of customers expect the return process to be complete in just 14 days, and 63% expect it within a 30-day window. So you need an efficient way to process returns if you’re going to meet customer expectations.
9. Deliver great customer experience regardless of channel
Over 70% of customers use more than one channel to start and complete a transaction, which means you should be delivering a seamless experience across all your sales channels. There’s nothing more disappointing than ordering an item to find out it’s out of stock or not available in your location. With an automated inventory management system, that won’t happen.
Instead, customers will receive the same services regardless of the sales channel — whether they purchase through your website, eBay, Amazon, Shopify, or Wish — they’ll receive a seamless customer experience.
Automating inventory has been a game-changer for customer satisfaction, says Boyd Hampers
After starting over 15 online ecommerce stores, Gareth Boyd, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Boyd Hampers, has seen first-hand how implementing an automated inventory management system can vastly improve customer experience.
Boyd Hampers sells gift hampers across multiple sales channels, including Amazon and eBay. And by selling across numerous channels, it’s important the company syncs inventory levels.
Limiting customer frustration with prompt orders
Implementing an automated inventory management system (IMS) has been a game changer for customer satisfaction, says Gareth. “With real-time stock updates, we can prevent over-selling and the frustration it causes. Our customers now receive their orders promptly, which reflects positively in our customer reviews and repeat purchases.”
Operational efficiency benefits the customer
Gareth explains that increased order fulfillment speed is one of the key benefits of using an automated IMS. Streamlining operations at Boyd Hampers has meant efficiency is passed onto the customer through fast and accurate order fulfillment, regardless of the sales channel. With an IMS, it’s easy to keep the entire team on the same page about what’s in stock, what’s selling fast, and what needs to be reordered.
So when a customer places an order, the process begins without delay, cutting down on waiting times. This makes for happier customers who are likely to return due to the efficiency of the service.
How Gorgias integrates with Linnworks to boost satisfaction and revenue
Integrating customer support software with an inventory management system is a no-brainer. It connects your customer journey through the backend, making your customer’s experience frictionless, regardless of the sales channel.
So what can a Gorgias-Linnworks integration offer your ecomm business?
Merging the two connects customer support tickets with the product and order information. Any information connected to the customer’s email address is pulled through into a widget and sits on the side of the customer enquiry ticket.
This means all customer service teams have access to relevant information connected with the customer, making customer response times more efficient, improving customer relationships and increasing the likelihood of repeat sales and customer loyalty (loyal customers spend 31% more than new).
Things you can expect from the integration:
- Use the integration to automate answers to common questions
- Customer support teams can answer emails and other inquiries within the same platform
- The widget automatically updates the order every 15 minutes, so information is kept updated
- If a customer has Linnworks data and creates a ticket or updates an existing ticket, the widget will pop up inside the ticket sidebar, giving the service team a full picture of the inquiry
Happier customers are the lifeblood of any ecommerce brand
Without happy customers, your brand will suffer. This means improving the process from the front end is crucial, but it starts with improving behind the scenes.
You need systems that integrate to deliver an unparalleled multichannel experience for your customers. As you scale, it’s important you put your customers at the center of everything you do — they’re what matter most. They want faster response times and support across multiple sales channels, so you need to find a way to give them what they want.
You can take your customer experience to the next level by connecting Linnworks inventory management with Gorgias and watch your customer service teams thrive, and customer frustrations dissipate.