If the stock you sell on your website is the same physical stock that you sell in your store then you’ll be aware of terms like ‘Overselling’, ‘Double Selling’ and ‘Stock-outs’. You’ve probably experienced these terms first hand and suffered the knock-on effects surrounding them. Most EPOS providers offer systems to tackle the brand-depleting logistical oversell issue, but you need to make sure they are correctly implemented, in my experience, most are not, and it’s destroying customer service levels. This article highlights some common causes of Oversell, and how YOU can successfully fulfil web orders time after time.
A client sought our help after failing to fulfil 20% of daily orders. Being unable to fulfil orders was such a regular issue, it became accepted as the norm and the client employed someone whose sole purpose was to contact the 20% and apologise whilst trying to retain them as a customer – a huge expense to the client and a huge workaround. With almost all competitors trading online, customer service is key. My client had truly experienced ‘Oversell Hell’.
The cause of fulfilment failures
Thankfully my client’s customer service level is now on the up. But what was so wrong that 20% of daily orders were left unfulfilled? Here is a list of common causes of ‘Oversell Hell’:
- Poor connectivity, delays and blockages
- Software unable to gracefully recover from connectivity issues
- Overcomplicated fulfilment procedures
- Poor stock management
- Poor integration
- Problematic software
Looking at each of these points in more detail:
1 – Poor connectivity, delays and blockages
Unreliable broadband connections at any point, or something that interferes with and blocks the data from being transmitted. It only takes one EPOS to stop sending out sales data, and suddenly your website is allowing online shoppers to buy the same items that have just been sold on the device hidden behind the blockage. I find the main causes to be:
- Routers that randomly decide to block traffic
- Overprotective ISP’s who decide to block destination IP addresses
- Cheap Broadband
All of which can be avoided by using a quality ISP. Most EPOS Systems are built to run offline but that doesn’t mean you want them to. Invest in business broadband through quality ISPs.
2 – Software unable to gracefully recover from connectivity issues
When your internet resumes after a period of downtime, the EPOS needs to catch up. If your software doesn’t handle outages well, the slightest blip can cause inaccuracies in stock whilst struggling to re-synchronize. With a system that recovers quickly, you won’t notice blips.
3 – Over complicated fulfilment procedures
Once a purchase has been made online you are against the clock to take it off the shelf. The following needs to happen fast:
- A fulfilment location is allocated
- Location is alerted
- Items picked, validated and no longer available to sell
The longer this process takes, the bigger the oversell potential. To maximise your fulfilment success, you are looking to take the item off the shelf within minutes of the purchase.
4 – Poor stock management
If your stock levels are out in the first place, problems are inevitable. Keep your stock control tight using a reliable stock system. If possible, make regular or rolling stock checks.
5 – Poor integration
I’ve been working with web developers for over 10 years helping them integrate their systems, some get it right, others really get it very wrong. Make sure you choose a company with experience and options. At Touchretail we have built platform specific connectors for Magento, Magento2, Shopify, Visualsoft and for everyone else we have a feature rich API.
Whatever route you choose the fundamentals are the same. The website needs to notify the stock system quickly when items have been sold, and the website needs to be updated quickly when sales are made through any channel.
6 – Problematic software
Our client’s case seemed to lie with their original software. If you don’t have a reliable inventory system at the heart of your operation, the best internet connections and websites are not going to help. Your stock control software is the backbone, this part needs to work, and work well.
Ok, how do I avoid all of those issues?
Choose your suppliers wisely, find out who their clients are. Run through the above points while speaking with suppliers. Talk to retailers who may be able to advise on their experiences, good and bad. Make sure your website developer talks to your stock system developer – ideally before anything is signed for!
A process to successfully fulfil web orders time after time…
The key is simplicity. A time consuming, complex fulfilment procedure will leave items available for oversell. We use a streamlined order fulfilment process at Touchretail:
- Order processed on website
- Order appears instantly in the stock system
- A fulfilment location is allocated (manually or automatically)
- Location notified
- Item picked and de-stocked
Most of this is automated. Staff are alerted when they need to pick and doing so is a really simple process. Items are picked within minutes of the order being processed online – it’s this communication and simplicity that helps you successfully fulfil web orders time after time.
Customers who receive great service will keep shopping and refer your brand to others. Everyone is online so it’s important to stand out from the crowd. Successfully fulfilling web orders is a key part of providing great customer service.
Successfully fulfil web orders and prepare for growth.
The correct marketing of your website can rapidly build your business. A sudden increase in order volume could result in the inability to fulfil orders on time, or at all, or the wrong items being dispatched. You could end up in ‘Oversell Hell’. Early preparation keeps your customer service level and brand credibility intact so your business can grow online.