Looking forward to increasing your online sales, but don’t know how? Well, we’ll let you in on a little secret. Implement a continuity program, and voila, before you know it, your sales will go through the roof. Or maybe not.
Continuity programs, commonly referred to as subscription boxes or models, would do you no good unless you have inventory management best practices in place. For that matter, the very success of any such program is dependent on how well you manage your inventory.
And before you put your thinking cap on, rest assured, we won’t be telling you “how to devise an inventory management strategy,” for there are hundreds of clickbait posts on the internet that claim to be the ultimate inventory management guide. However, having catered to the individual needs of hundreds and hundreds of online businesses with our inventory management services, what we can tell you is how an efficient inventory management system could ensure that you easily get the most out of all your eCommerce subscription models. Let’s start with the do’s and don’ts.
- Hitting the bull’s-eye. eCommerce subscription models are best suited for high-margin consumable products, the ones that require consistent supply. So, for starters, you need to single out all such products, to be able to get the most out of your continuity program. But the pressing question is, why? Why can’t you go ahead with just about any product? Well, the answer is simple. If the customers don’t require a specific product over and over, they won’t order for it, thereby affecting your inventory turnover ratio, and defeating the very purpose of floating any such program, to begin with. Not to mention, the products that you plan to offer as a part of your subscription box should be kept track of at all times. Yet another reason for you to take inventory management seriously.
- Plan for demand
- Figure out your MSLs (minimum stock levels)
- Take to barcode scanning
- Avail inventory management services
- Embrace FIFO for good, especially if you sell perishable products
- Avoid taking down the product page
- Don’t leave the customers to fend for themselves; explain
- Notify them of a tentative availability date
- Push such products further down the category page
- Recommend related items
- Not giving up on slow-moving products.You do need to identify the products that sell like hot cakes, agreed, but at the same time, there may be some products that are seldom ordered, the ones that would be easy to take note of, if you invest in inventory management services. Anyway, you can always put such products to some other use. Take for example, the good old “surprise and delight” approach. Yes, a thank you card, a referral program, and a personalized message from you, the owner of the business, are all great surprise and delight ideas, but so is a free sample. For instance, if a customer has been continually buying shampoo off of your eCommerce site, they would love to receive a hair masque as a free sample. And while you’ll certainly get in the customer’s good books, chances are they won’t opt out of the program any time soon, and even better, may even start buying the masque that you offer.
- Getting your message out loud and clear. Lay it all out. Clearly communicate the terms and conditions of your continuity program if you want to retain the customers for long. It goes without saying that clarity will not only help your customers, but could also be your gateway to reducing the number of chargebacks, often resulting from buyer’s remorse, or in some cases, out of sheer confusion.
- Taking up the “customer is king” approach. You want to know how to boost eCommerce sales? Well, let the customers do what they want to do. There, you have it, the sure shot formula to success. Understand that different customers have different needs. For some, it may be convenient to pay upfront, while others might like to pay over a period of time. Similarly, some of your customers could choose to receive monthly shipments, while others may be looking forward to bespoke shipping. Here’s some food for thought: the more flexible you are, the more likely are your customers to stay loyal to your auto-replenishment program.
- Using it to the fullest. A continuity program is the perfect opportunity for you to sell. For example, you can notify the customers via email, just before their next shipment, and use the very same email to cross-sell and offer add-on products.
The Underlying Need For Inventory Management
How To Avoid An “Out of Stock” Situation
What If You Do Run Out Of Some Products?
- Taking the customers for granted. Just because customers may have agreed to give your continuity program a shot, doesn’t mean it gives you the liberty to cut corners. Make no mistake, for when they opt for subscription services and commit to make a minimum number of purchases, they expect value. Live up to their expectations, or rather exceed, if you want your continuity program to be a success, and eventually, increase eCommerce traffic. And speaking of success, well, try and refrain from resorting to a shortcut, so to speak. A big discount or a free trial does sound tempting, agreed, but neither gives the customers a reason to stick around for a while. In short, offer “value,” and they’ll be in it for the long haul.
- Catching them off guard. eCommerce subscription models require you to lay your cards on the table. Meaning, there can be no hidden charges, none whatsoever. And moreover, the customers should be able to opt out at free will. On that note, the mere notion that canceling your subscription services could be a nightmare would prevent customers from signing up in the first place. Again, the customers are known to take a subscription box at face value, and so it’s all the more important that you do not break their trust.
Standing in the way. Your customers should be able to manage the subscriptions all by themselves, if they so desire. Better still, if they can take a look at the future orders and/or edit the corresponding delivery dates, there’s nothing like it. And it makes no sense to take control of the subscription model, especially because doing so could:
- Irk the customers, for obvious reasons
- Increase the workload of your already overworked in-house experts, who’d be burdened with the additional responsibility of micromanaging everything.
- Shooting in the dark. Unless you have a buyer persona handy, you’d be making a futile attempt at getting your customers to opt for your subscription model. Do your research. Find out your target audience, and while you are at it, dig deeper into their buying habits. More importantly, zero in on the products that could make your program all the more enticing.
- Bombarding them with options. An eCommerce subscription model should address a customer’s pain points and not add to their misery. If there are way too many options to choose from, they’d give your program a miss. The very reason that they’ll sign up for one is to make their lives easier. And if you and try and complicate things, be ready to witness a higher churn rate. Believe it or not, eCommerce continuity programs do backfire. Make sure yours doesn’t.
- Resorting to “sticker shock”. Now, that could be one of the biggest retention killers, and can probably nip your continuity program in the bud. If you were to, say, sell a $100 product for $5 when customers first hop on and sign on the dotted line, and then suddenly billing them a straight $100 for each of their future shipments, they would be in shock, like literally. Yes, discount is in fact the very answer to this million-dollar question of how to increase online sales fast, but a rather dramatic price difference is a potential red herring. Beware!
- Not measuring the success. You play by the book, give your customers what they want, opt for inventory management services, and do everything you can to float a top-notch subscription model, but what if it doesn’t quite make the cut? Well, you’d never know unless you take to split testing. And when you do, you’d have a clear picture.
Bonus tip: To cut down on costs, you could take to sustainable packaging, and maybe even kill two birds with one stone. Now, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, packaging makes up for a whopping one-third of all household waste. And therefore, when you switch to bioplastics, or say, jute, cotton, and other plant fibers, you not only spend less, and get to pass on those savings to your customers, but also do your bit for the environment. A win-win!
Benefits of A Continuity Program
All your customers are important, there’s no two ways about it. But in all honesty, those who give you more profits do determine the course of your marketing strategies, and rightly so. And guess what, with subscription models in the picture, you’d have far more customers with a relatively high CLV or customer lifetime value.
Lower acquisition costs
Acquiring a new customer is no cakewalk. And not only in terms of effort, but who’s to say that you won’t have to spend a fortune to acquire one? With a continuity program, you are in for a treat. The more people you get to sign up for your eCommerce subscription model, the lesser amount you’d have to splurge on getting the new ones on board. And there’s this apparent benefit of word of mouth, as in your loyal customers are highly likely to get you some new ones.
A continuity program, if executed well, could give you the upper hand. But then again, it calls for planning, and more importantly, requires you to ensure that your inventory is being efficiently managed. And even if that’s not one of your strong points, worry not, because our inventory management solutions can easily save the day. We offer inventory management services for all major platforms and marketplaces. So whether you are on the lookout for eBay inventory management services or having a hard managing your inventory for Amazon, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let’s take it from there.