International ecommerce strategy is both somehow more and less difficult than the average merchant might expect. Yes, there are a number of pitfalls, such as dealing with VAT, import fees, and no end of paperwork. But once you really get into the swing of things and develop a certain level of infrastructure, most of these issues begin to more or less handle themselves. On the other hand, there’s a number of troubles that might be discounted by the average seller that can compound into big issues in the blink of an eye. How does one offer consistent two-day shipping, for example, when cross-border shipping and delivery times can be so unpredictable? The Covid-19 pandemic has only made these issues more present and difficult to avoid than ever before.
Luckily, we have a few tips for some basic best practices that, while they won’t solve every one of your issues, will at least give you a great starting point from which you can begin to grow your international expansion ecommerce endeavor. When it comes to giving your business a little wiggle room to breathe, small solutions can multiply into big savings much faster than you think. Read on to discover our tips for selling internationally without breaking the bank.
Inventory planning, or forecasting, is the practice of using predictive analysis of historical sales data to estimate and make educated guesses about future customer demand for a product or service. It’s about far more than Googling how to manage inventory in Excel. This enables businesses to make better decisions regarding supply and the amount of inventory to keep on hand. It’s by no means an exact science, and will almost certainly never be 100% accurate. Because of the number of factors that can affect a customer’s willingness and ability to purchase a given product over time, the actual mechanics and techniques involved in demand forecasting can be quite difficult. It’s for this reason that many businesses use some sort of software or artificial intelligence to make the calculations on their behalf and track matters such as seasonality. Inventory forecasting is especially important in businesses that sell internationally because everything is operating on an increased time scale. Therefore, you effectively have less warning before a stockout becomes a potential problem.
If you happen to sell out of a specific SKU, you have what’s known as a stockout. Stockout costs can be more than you expect. Not only do they represent a missed opportunity for sales, but if it’s a product that your buyers are clamoring over, having a long period of time where the coveted item isn’t available can damage trust and brand loyalty. Hype only goes so far towards keeping your customers loyal. International ecommerce examples of businesses paralyzed by lengthy stockouts are unfortunately a common tale. It’s wise to maintain a certain level of safety stock in your ecommerce warehouse to avoid this outcome.
In a nutshell, you can understand the definition of safety stock as the minimum level of inventory required to last you through the arrival of your next shipment of merchandise. Different merchants and 3rd party logistics providers will have differing ideas and opinions on what constitutes an acceptable minimum level of supply, and there’s a number of calculator sites out there that can help you make the best decisions possible for your business. Having a robust understanding of what constitutes an acceptable level of stock to keep on hand is an instrumental part of demand planning.
Physical distribution can help alleviate supply chain interruptions or other difficulties, but what is it? Not to worry. It’s simply how products are spread across fulfillment centers to ensure the maximum range of delivery in the shortest possible time. Logistics and distribution management is a field that’s full of complexity, so we’ll try not to get bogged down with technicalities here. But as an overview, warehouses are strategically placed to maximize their one- and two-day delivery range. After all, we live in a post-Amazon world where customers expect their packages almost yesterday, and if you can’t deliver that, they’ll go looking for someone who will. In these strict conditions, it’s a priority to make sure that your fulfillment center is as well-placed as possible. Mature fulfillment companies often operate whole networks of warehouses, optimizing their physical distribution services by making sure they’re able to service even more remote, rural areas of the country… or the world.
Demand forecasting is an invaluable tool in cross-country selling that reduces up-front and running costs while maximizing revenue. No matter the size or age of your international ecommerce company, it’s a valuable technique that will without a doubt provide valuable insights. With the advent of AI and machine learning, these numbers are quicker and easier than ever to have close at hand. If you think demand management software is a good choice for you, P2Pseller is proud to offer demand and inventory planning tools with real-time updates, 24/7, for all our e-commerce selling partners. Sell more, scale infrastructure, and grow your business to unprecedented levels. We’re excited to help you smash sales records quarter after quarter, with zero stress and zero phone calls.