The holiday shopping season is potentially “the most wonderful time of the year” for retailers. It can account for a significant portion of a store’s annual income: in November and
December 2020, US retail sales totaled $789.4 billion. The 2022 holiday season is coming up fast, as increasing numbers of consumers aren’t waiting until after Thanksgiving to start shopping; they’re ready to go as early as mid-October, according to Statista.
While good inventory management is important all year, it’s especially crucial during this busiest shopping season. Does your store have the best handle on your warehouse inventory? What can you do to improve your warehouse management — and how can a mobile tablet solution help?
1. Forecast Product Demands
First, you’ll need to do some advance planning. You need to know what products to have on hand this holiday season, and how much of each to stock. Having too much warehouse inventory means wasted capital on products that are taking valuable shelf space away from better-selling items. Plus, you may have to slash prices — and profits — to move unpopular items. On the other hand, too little inventory means your shoppers may not find what they want, which could drive them to your competitors.
If your point of sale (POS) system includes efficient inventory management and access to good reporting and analytics, you’ll have the information you need to make informed predictions. You can look at past sales history and what is currently trending. What goes into effective forecasting? You’ll want to look at sales velocity, which is the rate of sales during the days when the product was in stock. The formula is:
Sales velocity per month = (365-day sales / # of days in stock during those 365 days) * 30 days
You’ll also want to consider seasonality, or whether you should examine an item’s sales from the most recent month or its sales from the same month last year.
2. Streamline Order Fulfillment
Once you know what products to stock, the next step is to optimize the buying experience by making order fulfillment simple, easy, and smooth. Whether your customers are shopping in-store or online, you’ll want a process in place that streamlines ordering from start to finish. Warehouse tablets can help maximize efficiency of order picking, while in-store employees can use them to assist customers on the floor and line-bust if necessary. In both cases, real-time inventory updates can put all the information you need for warehouse management decisions right at your fingertips.
3. Prepare Against Overstocking and Sell-Outs
Your warehouse inventory management solution should allow you to track your product carefully and accurately. If you know what inventory you have at all times, you can avoid overstocks and stockouts, both of which can harm the bottom line and reduce your crucial holiday profits. Real-time inventory updates are especially important if you are warehousing for a business that offers multiple buying methods: online and in-house. In addition to helping with forecasts, your sales information can assist in generating purchase orders to ensure adequate stock maintenance: order products and amounts you can sell steadily without running out. And a tablet allows you to access that information from anywhere with an Internet connection.
4. Handle Returns with Ease
Another reality of the holiday shopping season (and warehouse inventory management) is the rate of returned items. During the 2020 holiday season, retailers expected an average of 13.3% of merchandise to be returned. The rise in returns has been fueled by the rise in online shopping, as customers can’t examine items in person or try them on to gauge the best fit before purchase.
Whatever the cause, you’ll need to know what your process will be when returns start coming back after the holidays are over. Returns are part of the customer experience, and you want to make those experiences as positive as possible. According to an NBC News story, 89% of customers say that a negative return experience will make them stop buying from that retailer, while 97% say a good return experience influences their desire to continue making purchases. As with initial sales, the flexibility and mobility of tablets can streamline returns and warehouse management.
Choosing a Tablet Solution for Warehouse Inventory
What should you look for in a warehouse tablet? Besides the features that will streamline your forecasting, order fulfillment, overstock and outage prevention, and handling of returns, you’ll want a rugged tablet that can withstand the wear and tear of the warehouse environment. It should be made with durable materials and have a high Ingress Protection (IP) rating to survive bumps, drops, and spills. Your tablet solution will put the information you need at your fingertips to help you maximize your warehouse management and your profit margin through the holiday season and beyond.