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Inventory issues are a business owner’s worst nightmare.
Especially when you’re in a growth phase, and in the middle of expanding to meet customer demand, it can set back your sales team and impact your bottom line.
Whether you’re an e-commerce or brick-and-mortar store, inventory can get the best of you, and when it comes to inventory forecasting, the majority of retail business owners simply don’t know where to start. Failing to have a sales and inventory sales forecasting plan will usually lead to lost sales, time wasted running around in circles.
What’s the solution? Inventory forecasting.
Inventory forecasting assists businesses in optimizing their inventory purchasing what products to buy, how much to buy, and when to buy. Alternatively, it assists in knowing when it’s time to liquidate unsold inventory.
The key with inventory is understanding past trends to the past to predict the future sales potential. When a business is operating on a “what’s to come” basis rather than just focusing on what’s happening now, operations can run smoothly, especially with inventory.
Here are five reasons why inventory forecasting is essential for the success of your business:
Better cash flow
Let’s face it. We’ve all been there. Cashflow is tight because we just made a huge inventory purchase. Then for the next few months, we begin to get anxious as to why it’s not moving fast enough. When you optimize your business with inventory forecasting, you can accurately predict how much inventory to buy every time so you’re not put in a tight spot with cash flow for your business. And in today’s rapidly changing sales landscape, that makes all the difference.
It is not easy running an entire business. Most days, there are several fires to put out at once, locations to run, customers to keep, suppliers to manage and employees to maintain. You’re busy enough trying to deal with daily operations. Investing time in sales foresight is yet another issue on your mile-long list that is eating away at your time. Forecasting involves various preventative measures so you don’t have to spend hours constantly putting out inventory fires. By making it a part of your business operation, you’re ensuring that you will have enough time to run your business actively, instead of reactively.
With proper forecasting strategies and procedures, you can cut out a lot of complications and processes that are slowing down operations. Inventory forecasting allows simplicity to take over so you can operate on a step-by-step plan instead of jumping all over the place in your inventory tracking.
Save on labor with software
With the ever-increasing technology, businesses are able to cut back on unnecessary labor costs. If an algorithm can do it in way that’s quicker and unbiased, then why hire an employee? Inventory forecasting software is able to complete the simplest tasks to even the extremely sophisticated. One of the more sophisticated tasks, for instance, is predicting what products a customer is likely to buy if they buy a specific one. (eg. if a customer buys product A there is a 93% chance they will also buy product B).
If you’re wanting to ramp up your business to the next level, then it’s time to pick up that money left on the table. Without proper inventory forecasting, your business is losing money. According to a study done by IHL group, retailers lost $1.71 trillion due to out-of-stocks in just one year. This is easy money lost due to lack of forecasting. By preventing out-of-stocks you can prevent a big chunk of lost revenue, and cushion your annual revenue.
As you can see, implementing an inventory forecasting strategy is crucial in ensuring the success and future growth of your business.. Especially when you are in a transition and need to consider whether to hire more people or make that big inventory purchase, inventory forecasting is an essential tactic to lower risk and increase performance in your decision making. 2019 could be the year you save you hundreds of hours of mindless number crunching and even thousands in profit by simply implementing an inventory-forecasting plan.
Running out of stock is one of the last things that any retail business owner wants when a product is in hot demand. It is not only disappointing, but it leaves money on the table by letting your customers search for alternatives from your competitors. To avoid such a scenario, inventory forecasting needs to be utilized and implemented across all retail businesses, from mid-sized operations to large-scale enterprise companies.
Inventory forecasting isn’t simply a matter of analyzing past historical trends and predicting future demands. Accurate inventory forecasting requires the right data set from multiple data sources.
Before diving into the data and stats surrounding demand forecasting, it’s worth noting that, within the supply chain context in the eCommerce industry, there are three main types of forecasting, which are:
Demand forecasting: This is the investigation of the companies demand for an item or SKU, to include current and projected demand by industry and product end use.
Supply forecasting: Is a collection of data about the current producers and suppliers, as well as technological and political trends that might affect supply.
Price forecasting: This is based on information gathered and analyzed about demand and supply. Provides a prediction of short- and long-term prices and the underlying reasons for those trends.
90% of Retailers Fail in Forecasting Since they Ignore Lost Sales
A recent study carried for 2018-2019 period by Neogrid points out an important aspect that many retailers ignore when making their forecasts. The report says that 90% of small businesses do not use their past lost sales to make future predictions. Most of them only focus on demands which sometimes changes hence resulting in huge losses.
With a report of past losses otherwise called historical lost sales, the prediction will most likely be reliable. If you, therefore, run a retail business and would like to make accurate predictions, then make sure you have figures of your historical losses. Use them together with stats on demand, and your inventory forecasting won’t fail.
Retail Businesses Face Serious Problems Even After Spending a Lot on Inventory Management
Reliable information from Bossa Nova, a leading provider of data service says that one of its surveys found that even despite the huge spending that retail businesses make, 73% of them still make inaccurate forecasts. It further reports that most of the problems encountered are as a result of price inaccuracy among others. It, therefore, means as a retail businesses owner, you need to take the time to get accurate prices if you want to make accurate inventory forecasts.
Automating Your Retail Operations Boosts Productivity and Accuracy
Bossa Nova survey report indicates automation could be all you need to improve your productivity. In fact, 73% of the retail businesses interviewed reported that their employee productivity improved when they introduced robots. Furthermore, the same study says that 74% of the retail business owners interviewed expressed their confidence in automation. They argue that their accuracy in inventory forecasts increased when they automated their operations. You should, thus, consider automating operations as well as predictions if you want to improve accuracy, and most importantly, the productivity of your employees.
67% of Retail Businesses Think that Inventory Analyses and Forecasting is a Waste of Time
While inventory analyses and forecasting is being promoted as one of the strategies of making reliable predictions about the future, some retail businesses see it as a waste of time. In fact, 67% of businesses interviewed in Bossa Nova survey released on 28th Feb 2019 feel that spending time analyzing inventory isn’t a good way to use employee’s time.
Instead of spending time on inventory forecasting, most retail businesses often focus on serving the customers present at a given time forgetting that the future is also important. While such an approach can help maximize profits, it is important to note that demand changes with time. A business can only rest assured of existence in the future if it plans ahead through inventory forecasting.
Most Retail Business Lag Behind Technologically
Over 80% of retail businesses lag behind when it comes to the use of technology to find solutions to problems. What is happening is that technology is rapidly changing, and there are so many new technologies that retail businesses can utilize these days. Are you among those lagging behind? Your retail business can make great strides with the right technologies.
In conclusion, it is crucial for retail businesses to plan for future sales, and how to meet the demands of their customers without running out of stock. Alternatively, having excess supply will also mean losses and failed planning.
Curve uses machine-learning based prediction technology, allowing companies to accurately forecast sales, products, and support requests, to increase revenue and optimize profitability. Our unique technology goes beyond traditional business intelligence, by recommending the right solutions based on use cases and customer segments.
Last week, Shai Cohen, Curve’s VP sales gave a talk at a Supply Chain Management conference in Tel Aviv about the many benefits that machine learning provides in supply chain management. More specifically, Shai talked about how Machine Learning technologies such as Curve’s are helping merchants create clearer inventory forecasts that ultimately improve sales.
A recent report by Wakefield Research which surveyed companies with $500m+ in annual revenue suggests an ongoing catastrophe in how inventory is tracked and forecasted in the $1.3 trillion retail sector.
Over 70 percent of those surveyed, stated that inaccurate inventory forecasting is a major issue, resulting in costly supply-demand mismatches. Additionally, two-thirds of those surveyed reported difficulty tracking inventory through the supply chain.
A few of the most common challenges that eMerchants, as well as brick-and-mortar retailers, are faced with is predicting online demand for their products, especially during holidays (Black Friday, Cyber Monday etc.). Another major challenge is managing inventory for both online and offline activities.
Due to rapidly emerging tech, a major shift is being witnessed across every industry vertical, and the supply change industry is no exception. Professionals need to be prepared for a sudden influx of new orders on account of quick growing retail businesses, or alternatively an unexpected business slowdown which may lead to unsold inventory. That’s where machine learning comes into play.
As Shai shared with the conference attendees, “Curve uses machine-learning based prediction technology, allowing companies to accurately forecast sales, products, and support requests, to increase revenue and optimize profitability.” He also said that “Curve’s unique technology goes beyond traditional business intelligence, by recommending the right solutions based on use cases and customer segments.”
Machine learning when used in conjunction with IoT further provide real-time monitoring throughout the supply chain. With the right sensors and reporting, organizations can track every item through its supply chain with ease. This allows for the identification of core inefficiencies that need to be resolved, as well as the ability to streamline the supply chain process.
In short, Machine learning now makes it possible to discover patterns in supply chain data by relying on a mix of historical data and algorithms that quickly pinpoint the most influential factors to business growth.
According to a report published by eMarketer in 2016, the trade and commerce sector will experience double-digit growth until 2020. During this period sales are expected to increase by over $4 trillion.
It’s clear that only a handful of industries can boast about such a beaming future. To make sense of our rapidly changing industry, we’ve compiled for you some of the most disruptive and potentially beneficial trends in e-commerce that marketers and consumers can expect to see in the very near future.
Greater Integration of Machine Learning and AI
Given the increase in marketing and business automation, it is inevitable that the commercial sector will continue to be influenced by a deeper level of artificial intelligence and machine learning in the years ahead.
In fact, machine learning is already integrated into today’s leading e-commerce retailers. In the upcoming years, however, additional e-commerce retailers will increasingly utilize the many benefits that machine learning offers in order to maintain their competitive edge.
Additionally, product recommendations, upsells, product bundles, as well as inventory forecasts, are also poised to become even more accurate and helpful. As a move away from keyword and human-based recommendations occur, merchants with a wider range of signals for product purchases history will become evident. In essence, retailers will have the power to know what the customer wants, before the customer does.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to talk about retail search without mentioning the advent of voice search. In the near future voice will be one of the leading drivers of online sales innovation, specifically with consumers on the go.
With an increase in the adoption of smart home appliances such as amazons echo and Googles Home, retail purchases are witnessing the incorporation of voice search,
Voice search, particularly in the smart speaker market, is not just a matter for convenience and neatness anymore, but it is the next stage for customer loyalty. For instance, the sales completed via Amazon Echo units also provided retailers with many new selling opportunities, with upsell rates of more than 60% for some product lines.
Faster shipping and better delivery logistics
One of the very few remaining differentiators when it comes to e-commerce sectors is the time and quality of delivery logistics that a retailer carries out. As we all know, Amazon is the indisputable king of e-commerce delivery and seems to remain firm on its throne for the coming future. Even more intriguing is the data on Amazon’s fastest deliveries- just eight minutes for a forehead thermometer and a mere nine minutes for 5 pints of ice cream.
We’re not too far away from a time when we can expect Amazon and other e-commerce retailers to step up their logistics game and offer their customers lower delivery times and better services.
Unprecedented growth in mobile checkout systems and IoT
These days, without mentioning the use of mobile checkouts and payment systems, anticipated e-commerce trends would not be complete. Mobile payment has been one of the most brilliant changes to the way people shop since e-commerce has skyrocketed. The mobile payment market has increased steadily since 2015, and now there are ten different systems available today. These also include Apple pay and Google pay as well as proprietary offerings from different banks including Chase and Softbank.
With ongoing innovations and new technologies being introduced daily, the e-commerce sector has and will continue to witness one of the fastest evolutionary shifts that the industry has ever seen.