What is inventory visibility and why does it matter?

May 19, 2022

Inventory visibility is the ability to view and track your inventory in real-time, so that you know the status of each SKU across all locations.

Whether in storage at a 3PL fulfilment centre or on its way to your customer, it’s important to know where your products are and how much of stock is available to sell at any given time.

Being able to track the movement of inventory across different locations and stages of fulfilment enables eCommerce businesses to make smarter decisions about how to manage their inventory, including:

  • When to reorder stock from suppliers and in what quantities
  • Where to store inventory (e.g. in-house or at a fulfilment centre)
  • How to allocate inventory across your distribution network (which is especially important in the case of international sales and omnichannel shopping)

Why does inventory visibility matter in eCommerce?

Without visibility over their inventory, online retailers can lose track of where their inventory is, how much stock they have, and which stock is being used to fulfil what orders. As a result, they can miss out on countless sales opportunities, not to mention suffer from high storage and shipping costs eating into their bottom line. Moreover, eCommerce businesses that are unable to account for their inventory can fail to deliver a seamless shopping experience across their online sales channels, which can harm the customer experience and damage customers’ perception of the brand.

The challenges of low inventory visibility

Various problems can arise from low inventory visibility. For instance, the quantity of a product available on your selling channel may not match what is present in your physical inventory, meaning you could be at risk of overselling that product and disappointing customers. Equally, low inventory visibility can lead to overstocking and inaccurate reordering from suppliers, which can tie up capital that could be invested in growing your business. Losing track of products – especially those with expiration dates – can also be costly for your business, not to mention wasteful and environmentally damaging.

7 benefits of increasing inventory visibility through a 3PL provider

Increasing inventory visibility can improve the resilience and efficiency of your business, among other benefits. As a trusted fulfilment provider, Zendbox uses automated processes and technology to help online retailers increase visibility across their inventory. With our intelligent Zendportal platform and its Inventory Analysis feature, we give online retailers the tools they need to view, track, and optimise their inventory in real-time. This enables businesses to continuously meet customer demand and avoid under or overstocking.

1. Efficient operations

By knowing exactly how your inventory is performing and where products are within the fulfilment process, you can save time otherwise spent searching for specific products or responding to “Where is my order?” (WISMO) queries from customers.

2. Improve demand forecasting and planning

With accurate inventory visibility, eCommerce businesses can continuously reconcile current stock levels against predicted demand, enabling smarter replenishment that ensures bestselling items are always available and the risk of stockouts are minimised. 

3. Unlock capital trapped in overstock

You can gain useful insight into your overstocked products and identify opportunities to unlock capital held here, which can be reinvested into other areas of your business such as marketing and product development. 

4. Reduce your overall business costs

You can leverage a comprehensive overview of your inventory to ensure you aren’t accumulating dead stock or storing excess inventory when there is a lack of demand for a specific product. This enables you to save on storage and associated labour costs, which can be better spent growing your business. 

5. Enhance your communications

Full transparency of inventory arriving at or leaving a fulfilment centre at any given time means you and your team can communicate more effectively with each other, suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders. Better communication makes for improved overall supply chain management. 

6. Improve order accuracy

With greater inventory visibility, you can ensure you have optimal stock across your sales channels to support accurate order fulfilment that keeps customers happy and returning to your online store. 

7. Deliver the best shopping experience

Better visibility over your inventory makes product and delivery challenges apparent before they reach the customer, enabling you to act quickly to ensure your business delivers the best shopping experience. 

Achieve total inventory visibility with Zendportal

Zendportal – our proprietary inventory management software – enables you to track product quantities, product performance, stock turnover, and more in real-time. From the dashboard, you can view how each of your products are performing, where products are in the fulfilment process, when you need to reorder from your supplier, and the value of any overstocked goods. 

Get in touch to find out how Zendbox could help you increase visibility across your inventory with Zendportal.

Micah George
Marketing Specialist at Zendbox

Micah assists in developing and implementing innovative marketing campaigns that promote the products and services at Zendbox. She also produces articles, eBooks and other useful resources to help online retailers optimise their eCommerce operations and grow their business.

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