WooCommerce for WordPress is the plug and play version of setting up an e-commerce store. It runs with WordPress, is a free extension, can be set up in minutes and is very feature-rich. For retailers who want to explore making money through WordPress, either by selling products or by using affiliate marketing, installing WooCommerce is a great first step.
In fact, for your first web store, you might want to choose WooCommerce. Fast setup and ease of use guarantees that you will have a store up and running in a few hours. Additional plugins allow you to track sales analytics, generate new leads through advertising and report sales from your web store accurately.
When it comes to inventory management, WooCommerce plugins may or may not be right for you. While several plugins allow you to manage inventory on WooCommerce, chances are that you have other sales channels or would want to expand into them, and inventory is best managed as a consolidated entity. When fragmented, it can lead to confusion and losses.
This article tells you how you can manage inventory accuracy on your WooCommerce store.
Use Inbuilt Features
WooCommerce has options to set inventory controls that help maintain accuracy. From the Inventory link under settings, you can determine how long the stock must be held in card before being added back to inventory. This way, all products that have made it to the shopping cart but have not been checked out can be added back to the inventory after some time. Within that time period, the stock is considered to be removed from inventory on the assumption that it will be sold.
You can set up notifications and alerts for low stock and out of stock products to be sent to your email address. This allows you to order stock as soon as you receive an alert and maintain inventory at required levels.
For individual products, you can also decide whether you wish to allow backorders. Inventory values are displayed accordingly allowing you to fulfill backorders with ease while keeping your inventory levels updated.
Conduct Frequent Stock Audits
In every warehouse or storage center, stock counting is a regular practice. At least, it should be. Manually getting down in the dirt and counting every single item in the inventory gives you a much-needed picture of where inventory stands. This allows you to correct any errors in book entries, write off products that have been lost or damaged and only sell that which you have.
Count your inventory in cycles, or if you have to shut the warehouse down, plan in advance for those orders that you may receive when you are closed. Use a warehouse map to guide you and avoid repeat counts. If you have a smaller storage area, it is worth moving all counted stock to a different location within the premises to avoid confusion.
Can you keep a tab on digital inventory? For example, say you sell a video for downloading but would like to limit the number of downloads, you can do that with WooCommerce. You may want to do this in order to avoid people copying your content, or when the vendor of this content allows you to sell only a few downloads for the price you pay.
Counting digital inventory is easier because you can have checks in place well before you start selling. You also know exactly how much you have sold simply by looking at a screen. Chances of a discrepancy in these numbers are few to none. Physical inventory, archaic as it may seem, needs to be counted often, and systematically.
Order Stock Only When You Need It
Dead stock can sink your business. Having too many products in the hopes of selling them is as bad as having no products to sell. In the latter case, you lose money through a lost sale and in the former, you lose money in the form of unsold goods.
Calculate exactly how much stock you need based on past sales data. If you’re just setting out and have no sales data to fall back on, observe market trends for your products and get an estimate of how much a competitor is selling.
You can then use this data to estimate how much you can sell in a given time period, the time your vendor needs to supply products to you and the amount of stock that you can hold as a safety net. Calculating these numbers is a straightforward exercise once you have your data. If you would like to understand exactly how to calculate these numbers, this guide can help.
If you come to the conclusion that you will be selling ten items of Product A in a span of one day, and your vendor takes a week to supply them to you, you need to stock 70 items to avoid running out of stock within the week. The key is to find out the number of items you expect to sell and the time your vendor takes.
Use An Inventory Management System
When you’re just setting out in retail, it is tempting to use spreadsheets for inventory management- they just seem like a hassle-free, cost-effective alternative. However, one bad inventory call can cost you dearly, especially as your business grows. We have no way of predicting how soon and to what scale a particular WooCommerce store will grow, so it is best to plan for growth.
A good inventory management system can solve half the inventory woes that plague retail businesses big and small. It can help keep inventory up-to-date in real time, it can be integrated with other sales channels, it can alert you when stocks are running low and it can also help you manage shipping and accounting for good measure. Some inventory management systems that integrate with WooCommerce also offer special rates on shipping so you can get greater bang for your buck.
By integrating your inventory across sales channels, you avoid selling on one channel when you’ve just run out of stock on another. In other words, you can treat your inventory as a single unit that all channels draw from or return to.
Most significantly, an inventory management system can help you keep your inventory levels just where you need them with very little hassle.
Automate Your Purchase Orders
One way to maintain inventory accuracy is to reduce the scope of human error. As we’ve discussed earlier, an inventory management replaces human labor when it comes to stock counting and maintenance of accuracy.
Some systems can take it a step further and automate your purchase orders as well. From the earlier stock calculations, you know certain attributes such as expected sales and the time taken by a vendor to supply products. Once you feed these into the system, it can automatically send out a purchase order to the vendor when stock levels fall too low. This ensures that there is no delay in stock arrival due to communication issues.
If you ever decide to stop selling a product, you can also disable the instruction for automated purchase orders for that product, and that’s that. The system will stop sending out purchase orders on your behalf.
By eliminating one more step from your day-to-day operations, you can focus on ways to grow your WooCommerce store without having to worry about stock accuracy.
Rinse And Repeat
Hard as it may be to let go of, inventory sold off at a very low margin is still better than inventory that just occupies space. Keep running through your product catalog often to spot those products that aren’t selling as well as you thought they would. You want to retain only those products that move fast from your virtual shelf, and discard those that take a very long time.
In order to clear out the slow moving goods, a sale is often the best choice. You can sell products at heavy discounts and still make a reasonable profit off of them, and also empty your warehouse to accommodate other fast moving goods. Several retailers do this immediately after a period of heavy sales, such as Halloween and Christmas. By doing this, you eliminate half the products that don’t sell, yet take up time in inventory counting.
Mohammed Ali is the Founder and CEO of Primaseller, a MultiChannel Inventory Management software that also helps sellers build brand credibility by ensuring that accurate stock information is reflected across sales channels and orders are fulfilled on time. When not running a startup, Ali is often caught lapping up the latest book in fantasy fiction.