Stock Allocation and Your E-Commerce Shopping Cart
Many shopping carts now include the ability to see the status of an item; some even show number of units available and number en route to the warehouse. However, these details are often updated in timed batches, so they’re always slightly out of date. This means when inventory is low, shoppers can experience a big letdown when they find items are out of stock during check out or after.
With InOrder’s tight integration between web carts and inventory, e-commerce sites connected through an API can allocate units of stock as customers place items in shopping carts. Service reps can also help customers add items to carts and check them out over the phone if they desire. The upside is that customers know items in their shopping cart will be held for them, just like in a brick and mortar retail store. The downside is the risk of temporary denial of service (intentional or otherwise) until abandoned carts are put away. (Brick and mortar stores can also experience this problem, but in the online world, it’s on a much larger scale.)
So, is it better to configure shopping carts to allocate stock while customers shop? Or is it better to set carts as “price quote orders” that don’t allocate stock until customers check out?
The answer really depends on the nature of your business. However, if you do go with the “allocate as they shop” approach, there are ways to minimize potential problems.
One way is to set reasonable limits on the number of units of each SKU customers can add to their carts, based on common ordering quantities. This helps alleviate the impact of abandoned carts.
Another is to trigger alarms when stock depletes too quickly and reduce delays before putting away abandoned carts. Using InOrder version 9.2’s Email Communications Enhancement, you can set up a series of abandoned cart emails to remind customers to complete abandoned orders before releasing stock to other customers. Here’s an example:
Subject: Did you forget something? eLectronics Shopping Cart
eLectronics Shopping Cart Reminder
Thank you for shopping at eLectronics.
During a recent visit, you left one (or more) items in your shopping cart.
This is a reminder that we clear inactive shopping carts periodically.
There’s still time to complete your order.
Visit our website (http://connect.morsedata.com/), select your shopping cart and continue to checkout.
You added the following item(s) to your shopping cart:
Item #: HL61A750
Description: Samsung HL61A750 =E2=80=93 61″ Widescreen LED DLP HDTV2
Qty Ordered: 1
Net Price: $1799.99
Item Total: $1799.99
Our Customer Service Department is happy to answer your questions.
Phone: (800) 860-9515
You may also view your orders online by visiting: http://connect.morsedata.com/
10 Second St.
Dover, NH 03820
Another helpful tip involves reserving stock for other channels. For example, when sending stock to other e-commerce channels such as Amazon or eBay, it’s common to reserve stock so you can guarantee its availability as advertised. Typically, you set up InOrder EDI to send inventory to these channels based on quantities transferred to a designated hold access code. This helps keep customers happy by eliminating “no longer available” acknowledgements.
With a tightly integrated price quote-based shopping cart, you can warn customers of fulfillment delays when items are temporarily out of stock. Some sites avoid using the word “backorder” and instead simply frame delays in terms of number of days to ship (i.e. “ships in x days”). They can provide customers with a real-time prediction of arrival dates because they know how many of reorders are already committed to backorders.
What are your experiences or thoughts on stock allocation through your e-commerce web store?