Are Your Inventory Accuracy Levels at 99% and Rising?
If you say yes, let me tell you about some swamp land in Florida I am selling.
In the meantime, I recently had a chance to see how an online firm used Internet Marketing and Multi Channel Marketing to quickly build an online presence but have almost immediately ran into the weaknesses inherent in having weak backend systems.
These weaknesses are costing them money. Money that is literally flowing out the door.
JIT Reveals The Rocks
It is an old axiom of Just-In-Time (JIT) production systems that as companies lower the level of inventory they traditionally keep to cover problems in their supply chain, the rocks in the bay are revealed.
This is why Toyota, and many others, are famous for their Just-in-Time inventory management systems. If you run with close to zero inventory, then problems anywhere in your Supply Chain almost immediately ripple up and down the supply chain and can be addressed and money can be saved.
What does this have to do with Internet Marketing?
Well, in today's world of online stores, a successful online store (of which there are very few), can quickly overwhelm the small business that has little or no inventory management capabilities.
First off, Let's Define What is Internet Marketing
Internet Marketing enables you to build relations with customers and prospects through regular, low-cost personalized communication, reflecting the move away from mass marketing. Internet marketing builds authority using content to inform and build trust with prospects and customers, ultimately leading to a sale.
Digital Marketing Goes Beyond Internet Marketing
To further refine and clarify what we mean by Internet Marketing, we need to differentiate it from digital marketing. Essentially, digital marketing is a broad term for marketing strategies that leverage digital channels to promote products or services, from TV ads and billboards to social media platforms and pay-per-click campaigns. This indicates that digital marketing isn't limited to the internet. In contrast, internet marketing refers to a set of marketing strategies that are exclusively carried out via the internet.
Power of the Convenience of Internet Marketing
Internet Marketing enables you to be open for business around the clock without worrying about store opening hours or overtime payments for staff. Offering your products and services on the Internet is also convenient for customers. They can browse your online store at any time and place orders when it is most convenient for them.
A Key Digital Marketing Strategy
Marketing strategies come in an almost unlimited array of 'flavors'. Internet marketing, which is a form of digital marketing, covers a broad swath of activities. We are practitioners of what you might call a hybrid form of Inbound Marketing, using the Hubspot Enterprise Marketing Platform. Just what do digital marketing strategies consist of:
- Market Research to Identify Your Ideal Buyer Persona
- Content Planning and Content Development
- Keyword Research
- Website Design
- Search Engine Optimization
- Social Media Management
- Email Marketing
- Content Marketing
- Blog Posts
- Guest Posting
- Influencer Marketing
- SMS Marketing
- Social Media Advertising
- Pay-per-Click Advertising
- Link Building - Internal and External
- Interactive Video Content Development
- Press Releases
Marketing Campaigns Combine Elements of All of These
It should be obvious that some of these are 'marketing tools' while others are tactics. However, with a marketing automation platform, such as Hubspot Hub, you can leverage all of these in integrated marketing campaigns. It should be noted that some of these tools are external to Hubspot and we usually steer clients toward using tools that natively integrated with Hubspot. This drastically reduces the need for development and increases the effectiveness of the various systems.
For example, good web design based on search terms and your target audience, can greatly help you to generate leads. Lead generation, though, should be tied to your overall sales goals, and to your available and project inventory.
Google Merchant Center and Your Data Feed
One of the ways to tie the inventory available via your online business is via a data feed, which talks to the Google Merchant Center which, in turn, talks to the Google Ads platform and Google Analytics as well as the Google Tag Manager.
This is a critical element in providing up-to-date inventory information to the various Search Engines, as well as all pertinent offers and shipping details, to your Google Ads Campaigns (PPC).
However, you also will need this same type of data feed for your social media marketing efforts. For example, many ecommerce vendors sell directly on Facebook and therefore, your inventory availability information needs to be provided via data feed to ecommerce side of Facebook.
Inventory Status and Emails
Another critical reason for having both up-to-date inventory records is so you can use it to send out emails with relevant offers to members of your contact database. Emails can much more than simply deliver a promo code. They can help you build brand awareness, introduce new products and improve customer loyalty. In short, email continues to be the highest ROI marketing channel, and when done right can help you improve your inventory management practices. Now let's discuss some of the inventory 'pain points' you might run up against.
How do you know when you are about to run up against the rocks:
- You don’t have defined returns procedures commonly called RMAs (Reverse Material Authorizations).
- You have to manually process payments even with online payments in place because you do not 'trust' your inbound payment streams.
- You don’t have unique Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) Part Numbers Assigned
- You are selling identical products from different manufactures, guaranteeing part number problems.
- You do not have continuous cycle counting in place.
- You do not know what continuous cycle counting is.
- You do not know replenishment lead times.
- You do not know what your minimum re-order quantity (ROP) is.
- You do not realize you cannot sum inventory counts.
- You're running it all on excel.
Outsourced Fulfillment Doesn't Make The Problem Go Away
These issues, of course, only show up if you are actually touching inventory, or so it would seem.
However, if you are primarily selling online using internet marketing, such as affiliate marketing and someone else is doing the fulfillment operations, most of these issues probably also need to be addressed.
You should probably be thinking about end-to-end analysis to monitor and manage these problems.
Of course, to have a robust back-end system, there are many other common issues to address.
But, inventory management excellence is a little recognized prerequisite for internet marketing success.
SAP HANA Supercharges Supply Chain Visibility
With its ability to provide near real-time supply chain inventory visibility, SAP HANA is a game changer. When you combine it with your Inbound Marketing platform (Hubspot) and ecommerce platform (Shopify, Amazon), you have the foundation for creating a digitally fueled sales machine.
SAP HANA Consulting
Perhaps some of our SAP consultants can help you achieve the required level of excellence..
Have you seen inventory management problems with your online store backend systems?