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David Dennigmann
 
May 2, 2016 | eCommerce , Fulfillment/Shipping | David Dennigmann

Managing inventory in an ecommerce environment

Over the past decade, online shopping has emerged as a top preference for consumers. In fact, CIO wrote 2016 ecommerce sales in the U.S. may exceed $550 billion. As your winery determines ways to expand and reach a larger audience, it makes sense to consider the benefits of launching or enhancing your online wine store. While there are many logistical concerns to note in this process, it is very important to understand the unique challenges of inventory management. As your winery grows and aims to deliver your products to a much larger group of people across the country, an effective inventory management process is essential.

How ecommerce impacts inventory
At the highest level, tapping into the ecommerce space will impact your winery because you will hopefully sell more products over a shorter period of time. However, another area of complexity comes from the fact that when you operate an online wine store, you are not directly removing items from your in-store inventory and handing them to the customer. Instead, you need to have an integrated solution that updates your inventory of wine as customers add them to their online shopping carts.

Ecommerce also translates to a demand for warehousing. In order to fulfill orders in a timely manner and service a wider array of regions throughout the country, you'll need to have a strong warehousing solution so you can bring your wines closer to the consumer.

Finally, you must consider the return process and how that impacts your overall inventory. Retail Customer Experience wrote that according to Dale Rogers, professor of logistics and supply chain management at Arizona State University, only 33 percent of retailers offer a truly omnichannel return process and policy. While accommodating returns may not seem like a priority for a winery, there are actually plenty of reasons a customer would need a refund, including damaged bottles or corked wines.

Working toward seamless inventory management
The fact of the matter is, to be successful in the ecommerce space, you need to be prepared to manage inventory on a larger scale. A few solutions to consider include:

  • Work with an experienced direct-to-consumer logistics partner who has expertise in warehousing and fulfillment, and has knowledge of the wine industry. Does this provider deliver "best in class" fulfillment services?
  • Integrate your order and inventory management with your online wine store, so your inventory will update in real-time.
  • Leverage shipping service integrations that allow you to ship wine to consumers quickly and cheaply.

Inventory management is perhaps one of the greatest challenges of running an online wine store. In any industry, it is difficult to expand this operational part of running a business to accommodate a larger customer base. However, seamless inventory management can be even more complex for wineries due to the production process and the necessity for flawless delivery. With the right understanding and partnerships, you can ensure your online wine store is a success.

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