As anyone who’s ever dipped into international shipping knows, there are myriad costs involved in the process. Shipping labels, packing slips, inventory holding costs, sometimes fulfillment center costs, customs, returns – and, of course, the literal shipping fees themselves. With all these costs taking a bite out of your profit margins, it can be difficult to get started, or even to stay in the game, when it comes to expanding to international marketplaces. It can be crazy, but it doesn’t have to be.
Hold up – Why would I want to expand internationally?
Constant access to smartphones, tablets, laptops, computers and 2.4 billion Internet users (that’s over one third of the Earth’s population) – what does that add up to? An enormous sum of potential buyers. By selling only domestically, you’re crippling that number. Easily the best thing about the Internet is the ability to readily access information, goods and services, anywhere. Are you going to deny an enormous percentage of Internet users your information, goods and services, by refusing to sell internationally? Ecommerce retailers that don’t expand internationally are doing themselves a disservice. So: on to ways to save.
Cutting corners with accurate inventory
As an inventory and warehouse management system provider, we’ve come into contact with countless ecommerce merchants and their setups, and seeing all that, we can’t help but notice a few recurring themes. Online retailers who maintain accurate inventory quantities, both in their warehouses and on their various online marketplaces, consistently have better marketplace feedback, lower customer service and warehouse workers costs, and fewer mis-ships, mis-picks, out-of-stocks and ultimately, fewer returns.
Taking control of your inventory is as easy as (ahem!) implementing an inventory management system. We’ve found that using barcode scanners is a game-changer – the amount of human error that’s prevented is really staggering. We’ve seen clients lower their out-of-stock percentage from 6 percent to 0.5 percent from one week to the next after getting started with barcode scanners and our inventory management system. As annoying and damaging as out-of-stocks, mis-ships and returns are domestically, they can become debilitating internationally, and preventing those extra costs is really the first line of defense.
The second line of defense is channel management. We can’t stress enough how important it is for the quantities in your warehouse to be accurately reflected on your various online marketplaces (your website, Amazon, eBay – Amazon UK, eBay AUS, etc.). If your inventory is synced across all your channels, you won’t have to be constantly taking down and putting up product on all your channels every time something sells – your inventory system will do it for you whenever you get an order in. You can imagine how vital this is when it comes to reducing out-of-stocks and negative customer feedback. Our inventory management system, SkuVault, integrates directly with a ton of marketplaces and ecommerce platforms, like Amazon, eBay, Shopify, ChannelAdvisor, Bigcommerce, Volusion, Magento, Mozu, ShopVisible, and even shipping platforms like ShipWorks to sync your inventory quantities.
Finally, you’ll want to look into all the little ways to save and keep organized. For example, one of our favorite little ways to save is by combining your packing slips and your pick lists into one entity. Those tiny material costs add up. Most shipping platforms allow you to customize your pick lists, which you can use to make them presentable enough for your customers to see. Our inventory management system does the same thing – you’ll find that a lot of systems have the option. One less step, one less expense.
International expansion doesn’t have to break the bank for your ecommerce business. There are tons of ways to save – when you’re looking to cut corners, consider taking control of your inventory. Between reduced returns, out-of-stocks, mis-ships, customer service costs and negative customer feedback, it’s a way to save that comes with a great deal of other benefits.