6 Most Important Things You Should do While Processing Orders

The life cycle of an online sale can be roughly broken into three parts – pre-order, order processing and post-order. Here, the pre-order phase deals with issues like research, sourcing/purchasing of inventory, SKU coding, pricing, setting up of the online shop, etc. The post-order phase is all about shipment tracking, payment, dealing with returns, etc. While we will deal with each of these phases in separate posts, this one is particularly about the all important order processing stage. Order processing is what you will do once you have received the order through your online portal, till you have successfully shipped it off to your customer. A myriad number of processes are involved between these two stages, each of them as important that the next. First of all, you will need all your orders from different online marketplaces to be consolidated into one single sheet. This can be done in a hassle free manner by using a multi channel inventory management software like Browntape. Once this is done, various other steps like checking inventory, making pick and pack lists, creating manifests, etc. are to be done. We have made a list of the 6 most important ones. Let us look at each of them in detail.

How to Process Orders?

1. Checking Inventory Status

Once your order list is consolidated, you need to check your inventory for the availability of the desired product. This is where the vitality of SKU codes is realized. Is the product in stock? If no, can it be procured in time? If it is available, is it available at multiple locations? In the big picture, the location based availability of the product will be a major factor in the delivery time to the customer. Once the desired product is identified and the stock is deducted, this is when you really start processing the order.

2. Creating a Pick List

Now that the products have been identified as being in stock, comes the time to pick them up for packing. This seems like an easy enough process, but can be a cause for major mistakes. Create a specific ‘pick list’, or a list of items to be picked from the warehouse. The pick list would not depend upon individual orders of customers, but rather, a single list of all the products to be shipped on a particular day. The job of the person to whom the pick list is assigned is to just collect the products in bulk and deposit them to the packing centre.

3. Creating a Pack List

The pack list is a whole different ball game. A single customer may end up buying multiple products which would have to be collected and packed together. A pack list is exclusively based on individual orders, to assist the packing process. Clump the products delivered according to your pack list. Creating two different lists for your picking and packing needs would drastically reduce a margin of error.

4. Handle the Courier Issue

Is the order from an online marketplace or your own website? Does the online marketplace provide a courier service? If it does, print shipping labels and AWBs and notify the marketplace for a scheduled pick up. If the order is to be self-fulfilled, you must have a courier system in place. Are you planning to bear the courier costs or do you expect your customer to do so? Each of these scenarios requires different steps in planning and documentation. Remember that the customer must be notified before the purchase that he/she would have to bear the cost of delivery.

5. Print Shipping Labels and Manifests

Once the nitty-gritties of the courier are taken care of, print and paste shipping labels, AWBs and other documentation, and dispatch your products. A very important step is to create a daily manifest that shows how many orders are in transit and waiting to be fulfilled. This will be your master list till the products have been delivered to your customers. Create individual manifests for the different courier services that you will employ. This will keep your processing dashboard extremely clear and transparent.

6. Notify Your Customers

Many online sellers forget this vital step during order processing. Please send timely notifications to your customers regarding the status of your orders. With an inventory management software like Browntape, this will be done automatically for you. Take care to create systems so that flags will be raised in case of delays in courier transportation. You can even share the courier tracking number with your customers.

This was our brief take on things to do once you receive an online order. For more information or queries about any aspect in online sales and ecommerce, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Browntape. Happy selling!

5 Signs You Need an Inventory Management System

It is natural to think twice before investing in an inventory management system. Traditional methods of order management have worked for you until now, so why shouldn’t they in the future? As an independent online seller, most of your time and strategic efforts are involved in managing and operating your business and servicing your customers. Why would you want to put extra time and money to invest in another piece of technology you don’t know much about? The answer is that because it makes your life easier. Inventory management systems are specifically designed for online sellers such as yourselves so that they can delegate and automate most of the repetitive and mundane tasks while enjoying an ease of access and efficiency in their operational processes. Read on if you want to be convinced about the importance of inventory management system in your online sales process.

When Should You Go for an Inventory Management System?

1.When You Are Up to Your Neck With Work

An inventory management system gives you the ability to control the complete expanse of your online business through one console. This is especially true if you go for a multi channel inventory management system, through which you can consolidate your business from all your online stores into one portal. The benefits of having everything under one dashboard are immense. This means ease of access, less clutter and more order in your operations. It also means that every change in your inventory, personnel or product catalogue will be recorded and stored, drastically reducing any margin of error. With multiple user access systems, all your employees can be able to access the console and efficiently carry out their responsibilities.

2.When its Getting Difficult to Manage Your Customers

Inventory management systems can also play a big role in helping you manage your customers. With automated email notification services integrated within the software, your customers receive timely emails regarding the status of the product they ordered. This means, every time you change the status of a particular order on your console, for example from ‘Order Received’ to ‘In Transit’, an automated email in sent to your customer. The system also helps you match the right order with the right customer by making all your data easily accessible.

3. When You Are Spending too Much Time on Printing and Packing

Printing, packing and dispatching are some of the most mundane tasks that an online seller has to take care of. But what if there was system that could help you efficiently manage them and reduce mistakes? This is exactly what an inventory management system does. It creates and prints customized, branded invoices and shipping labels, creates barcodes, SKU codes, basically, everything short of actually packaging the product. And who knows, in some time it will be able to do that too! Using an inventory management system in your packaging and dispatching process reduces the operation time by half! What else do you need?

4.When Your Catalogue is Starting to Get Unmanagable

Inventory management systems can help you effectively manage your catalogues and purchasing processes. They allow you to create, classify and edit product information, brand assets, specifications and pricing. At the same time, they let you configure kits, upsells and cross sells. Multi channel inventory management services go a step further and give you the power to edit and maintain catalogues on multiple online stores through a single portal.

5.When You Don’t Know What Your Operational Strategy Should Be

A good inventory management software also consists of a strong analytics suite in its dashboard. It continuously feeds and records important data relating to the sales and purchases of your products online, inventory changes, catalogue changes and profits. It consolidates and processes the data and presents it to you in the form of graphs, charts and other user friendly analytic tools. You can even feed customizable metrics in some software so that the reporting is done on areas you specifically wish for. All this goes a long way in enhancing your business strategy and helping you make informed business decisions.

In conclusion, Inventory Management System is like a little Genie in a bottle for you. It takes care of your front end, back end and everything in between. So where do you look for your very own inventory management system? Get in touch with Browntape to know more about the benefits you can reap with inventory management systems, or sign up for our 30 day free trial. We are the leading multi channel inventory management software developers and vendors in India and we will be glad to help you out in your online business endeavors.

What are SKU Codes and How to Create Them

When it comes to keeping track of inventory, one of the most common methods employed is assignment of a Stock Keeping Unit, or SKU code to individual products. An SKU is a unique item, such as a product or a service, as it is offered for sale that embodies all the attributes connected with the item that distinguish it from other items. These attributes might include but are not limited to the brand, size, colour, manufacturer or warranty. Thus, a code that holds all this information about an item gives it a unique stature in your inventory, which means that tracking and recalling a particular item becomes easy. Also, since the code holds all the relevant information about the item, someone adept at reading the code can know everything about the item without having to go and check ‘the side of the box’.

There are a few other systems that incorporate codifying products for tracking purposes, like the Universal Product Code, or Global Trade Item Number, which utilize barcodes to identify with unique products in a database. The key factor with SKU is that a retailer gets the freedom to create his/her own SKU codes and incorporate them in the inventory system without having to adhere to a larger tracking scheme. With SKU, a retailer retains the flexibility of controlling the size of their inventory, changing manufacturers or wholesalers without the hassle of a system overhaul. Of course, the key here is that the SKU codes must be well created. That is, the user must be able to access all the relevant information about the product without confusion or misinterpretation through the code. So how does one go about creating good SKU codes? Let us find out through the 5 hard tips that follow.

How to Create Good SKU Codes

1. Make Your Own SKU Code

Try not to incorporate the manufacturer/wholesaler code within your SKU code. It might seem like a good idea to just pick up the manufacturer’s code and add a few prefixes/suffixes to create your own, but it’s a bad practice. In this case, you would have to completely overhaul your coding system in case you change your manufacturer or wholesaler. It’s too much hassle.

2. Decide What You Want Your Code to Say

Decide what information you want to access through the SKU code. There is no point loading the code with information you are never going to require. The main purpose for creating SKU codes is that you have an identifier with which you can visualize a unique product. Hence, use enough information for a successful identification of an item, but no more. For example, if the year of manufacture is irrelevant for a particular set of items, do not incorporate it in the code. It will just eat up space and would be prone to misinterpretation. Store this information under the product description tag, instead.

3. Use the Cascade Method

Create codes that are logically decipherable. For example, if you are planning to sell electronic equipment from different brands, first create a cascade chart for your information. How a cascade chart works is – start off by taking the largest set of information about your item first – in this case, ‘Electronic Equipment’ – and call it set ‘E’. Then you take the next most relevant subset, for example, ‘Laptops’. Let us call that set ‘L’. Then you ask, what brand does this laptop belong to? What model does it belong to? And so on. Keep adding attributes till you can uniquely identify that particular laptop in your warehouse using only the code. Stop adding the questions as soon as this unique identification is possible.

4. Fonts and Characters

Beware of confusing characters, or homoglyphs – O and 0, I and l, etc. It might sound trivial, but the font you use to print your codes play an important part in making sure that the reader is not confused. Our advice is to use bold, serif fonts that clearly define most characters without confusion. Try not to use symbols in your SKU codes. Even though it might seem like a good idea to use the ‘/’ to create breaks within your code, you don’t want Excel auto formatting the numbers, confusing them with a date. Other characters like $ and @ are too confusing and cause formatting errors all the time.

5. Use an Inventory Management System

Use an inventory management system to store and track your SKU codes. It’s just a better way of doing things. Most of your work becomes automated, your tasks are simplified and your formats are saved and notated for future reference. As compared to storing your codes on Excel files, which are prone to corruption, damage and confusion, inventory management systems give you a cleaner, more efficient perspective at the state of your warehouse.

Thus, we come to the end of our advice on SKU codes and how to create them. SKU codes are such an important part of your inventory management that you have to take proactive steps to create them efficiently. For further queries and assistance, get in touch with Browntape. We are India’s leading online inventory management system providers, and are always happy to help. Good luck with your sales!

Why You Must Use More Technology in Your Online Sales

The history of sales has changed drastically through the ages, and a few ideas have changed the process forever. When Amazon created the first online store in the 90s, The idea was simple – instead of bringing customers to the store, bring the store to the customers. This meant saving resources on inventory storage and display and more space to showcase a larger inventory size, even the eclectic, niche items. Soon, online selling took off like wildfire – Amazon expanded from selling books online to other products. ebay developed the same idea to come up with an ‘online garage sale’ concept. Today, online buying and selling is a common phenomenon in every household. We prefer buying online through stores like Flipkart and Snapdeal, rather than going to a physical store.

Of course, looking at the other side of the spectrum, we are also starting to prefer selling online through these stores, rather than from a physical one, right? This is because we get a chance to earn more, by actually investing less. Since our selling process is based on harnessing technology, doesn’t it make sense to intelligently employ technology to improve our sales. Allow us to give you 4 irrefutable reasons that will convince you to employ cutting edge technology in your online sales.

Why Go for Technology in Your Sales Process?

1. Technology Helps You Save Time

There are a lot of sales tools available in the market that help you do the more mundane tasks quicker – the best examples are sales and inventory management software. These software automatically collect and format your sales data across multiple channels and store it in one database, saving loads of time. Apart from that, you can purchase tools that specialize in managing and editing your online catalogues. Technology also helps you reduce the processing time on your orders. Your barcodes and shipping labels can be automatically printed a press of a button. This works wonders in saving your inventory dispatching and invoicing time.

2. Technology Increases Efficiency and Reduces Mistakes

Of course, just speeding up your process is not enough. To be successful with your sales you also need to focus on reducing your mistakes. We have seen so many cases where vendors make simple errors like mixing up SKU codes or copying/pasting the wrong product information. Technology at your service again – use automated customer database management systems to track and save all your customer data. It also means having a system that can reduce copy pasting errors and efficiently recalls data when required. Why do it the hard way if you can do it the smart way?

3. Technology Helps You to be More Professional

Like it or not, technology is the way to the future. As an online business owner, professionalism is how you will achieve respect and trustworthiness with the customer and even score brownie points in terms of the all important seller ratings. We recommend using customer relationship management or CRM software, to bring more professionalism in your sales game. These software are specifically designed to store all the relevant shopping data of a particular customer, from their shopping history to items that they might be interested in. You can then employ the software to have a more personal, customized touch to your service and send timely emails automatically to your customers regarding the status of their purchase.. This is a great way of achieving customer loyalty.

4. Technology Helps You Make Smarter Decisions

Using the right technology gives you an incredible amount of analyzable data. You can track your professional online presence and customer interactions on all your sales channels and pull out valuable data such as peak sales timings, location and channel wise sales that go a long way in helping you strategize business for the future. Apart from this, it can help you clear your lines of communication between your customers and your coworkers. While the right inventory management software can give you excellent data and analytics, you could also choose to use more specialized sales analytics tools that delve deeper into your online presence as a seller and match it with the current market trends and patterns.

All in all, there are so many tools out in the market for you to employ in your online sales business. Your job is to choose wisely and decide which tools you want and which you don’t. So how do you get access to all this technology and more? Just get in touch with Browntape to find out more ways with which you can employ cutting edge technology in your sales processes. We are leaders in creating and supporting multi channel inventory management tools for the Indian marketplace, and we can help you out!

6 Reasons Why Spreadsheets Are Killing Your Online Business

Although a traditional favourite, using spreadsheets to manage online sales can be mind boggling and excruciatingly painful. Well It is partly true that in theory, you can’t really go wrong with a spreadsheet. It is a permanent account of your incoming and outgoing inventory, is easy to edit and store. Before the advent of computers (and online shopping, of course), business owners managed their inventory using handwritten ledgers, which obviously became obsolete with the birth of MS office. You really can’t blame the sellers too. Who could manage a library of 100 physical books of records and a growing stock and business. But the best part was that, with digital records it became extremely easy to search and track a particular inventory article as compared to its physical counterpart. Perfect solution right? Well yes, for that time. It is now time you graduate from excel sheets too, just the way you moved on from physical ledgers, and for the same reason – technology.

Still not convinced? We will give you 6 hard reasons why Spreadsheets are no more the best inventory management solution for your online business:

1. Spreadsheets are Two Dimensional

You have an x and a y axis to a spreadsheet, in other words, a set of rows and columns. You would have to fix a few different variables for different columns and rows, for the spreadsheet to make sense. But then, how does this model look when your operation gains complexity? As a multi-channel seller, you would either have to use multiple spreadsheets to track your orders, and then consolidate the key variables from each into one master spreadsheet which can tell your total product demand and supply. Just thinking about that could give someone a headache. How many times have you prayed for a solution that made more sense than a dozen excel sheets? Looks like your prayers have been answered. Cutting edge inventory management systems are taking the market by storm, tailor made for the needs of a growing ecommerce business. With these multi-channel inventory management systems, you can integrate all your orders through different sales channel into one portal, automatically and let the software do all the dirty work like tracking your AWB numbers, printing your labels, and a lot more.

2. Spreadsheets Make Data Outdated

As a business owner, keeping records has two purposes – 1. keep track of demand supply information for accurate accounting of your business. 2. observe trends and patterns from past date that help you extrapolate and strategize your business. For example, looking at the annual demand supply pattern from last 2 years, you can estimate the demand for certain products during certain seasons, peak months or holidays. This becomes difficult with spreadsheets because there is very less version control. Soon enough you find yourself sifting monthly files through the crevices of your computer and trying to piece them together. An inventory management system on the other hand can give you all the trends, by time periods, channels, regions, and other demographic parameters with just a click of a button.

3. Spreadsheets are Unsafe

Considering they are essentially small, virtually unprotected files, spreadsheets are liable to get corrupted. How many times has it happened to you that have you opened a really old Excel file to find just gibberish inside. Also, spreadsheets, usually are open programs that can be manipulated by any user that has access to it. Your inventory data is precious, leaving it unprotected shouldn’t even be an option for a growing business. Inventory management softwares are usually incorruptible and password protected, which means that only you and your trusted employees can view and edit these documents.

4. Spreadsheets are Difficult to Share

One of the worst problems with spreadsheets is that they are extremely difficult to share and edit within a group. A file edited on a particular system cannot be synced into other systems that it exists in. While google spreadsheets and other cloud sharing methods sort this to an extent, it is not as feature rich as desktop spreadsheets like Excel. This means stale, inconsistent data and the problems that come along with it. As opposed to this, an inventory management system has a single entry point that can be accessible through multi user login. This means that the data within your inventory can be edited and made accessible to a group of your choice, hassle free.

5. Spreadsheets Do Not Provide Analytics

Sure, there are ways to extract analytics within spreadsheets, but they involve writing complex formulae and feeding them into the system. It also means manual effort into picturizing that data according to your needs and then commencing analysis. Inventory management systems have pre-existing mechanisms with which you can extract valuable analytics with a mouse click. Not only can you get insightful visualization of your data, but you can also exploit valuable strategic suggestions for sales, inventory and stock management that the system offers you.

6. Spreadsheets are Prone to Mistakes

Spreadsheets, especially the complex ones, tend to be pretty unreliable at a mass scale. On one hand, spreadsheets like Excel give you freedom to create your own formulae, conversion systems and in’s-and-out’s, but the same freedom can cause the downfall of your data. Trivial mistakes in feeding data, formulae or conversion units can lead to potential disasters. A common blunder is defining too few rows for a formula. With inventory and sales management systems this is not an issue. These are software specifically designed to fulfill your stock and inventory tracking needs. Hence, however complex your data size is, a good inventory management system is adept at handling it, no mistakes.

To sum it up, while spreadsheets have their advantages, there are actually better ways to handle your online business. Convinced yet but don’t know where to start? Get in touch with Browntape today to know more about running an online business, hassle free with a cutting edge inventory management system. Browntape is the leading multi-channel inventory management service in India, coming from a team with years of experience and expertise in the field of making your online sales enterprise successful.

 

5 Things to Look for in a Cloud-based Inventory Management System

Whether you are an enterprise selling your products online, or an individual business owner trying to use the various online selling platforms to make a profit, an inventory management system is a must for you. Here are a few tips on how to choose the right inventory management system for your needs.

What is an inventory management system?

An inventory management system is anything that helps your selling process to run efficiently, right from the moment a customer orders your product, to the time when it delivered to their doorstep. This means keeping track of all the orders, their locations, timings, pricing, matching the right product with the right order, labelling and dispatching. As you can see, this is an extensive process, and a lot can be done to optimize it. A simple pen-and-paper or an excel sheet can also be your inventory management system, where you can track your basic orders and deliveries, but that is very rudimentary, time-consuming, and is prone to human errors. As your business grows, you need what is known as an inventory management or inventory control software. There are many of these in the market, but it might be difficult to choose between them, especially in India where these systems have recently been introduced. So how do you choose which one is right for you? Here’s how.

Choosing the Right Inventory Management Software

1. Go for a Multi-Channel Inventory Management System

This is a must if you are an online seller. The great thing about the internet is that you can showcase your product on a lot of websites and get customers from around the world. In India, eBay, Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal, Shopify, etc. are some of the major online selling portals. Now, tracking orders is a time consuming job on its own. Doing the same for multiple online portals can be extremely inefficient. Thus, the multi-channel order management system. It automatically fetches and consolidates all your online orders, from various sources including your website, to a single panel, so that you can easily track them. When a product sells on any one of your online sites, the inventory on the rest of the sites gets updated automatically with the new reduced quantity. If you are an online seller being faced by the problem of handling multiple selling channels, go for a multi-channel order management system. If you are selling on a single site, going for it might incentivize you to increase your online selling presence, because it makes things so easy!

2. Efficiency and Customizability

You need a system that allows you to play with your product data as you like. Importing and exporting product information into the system and out it for offline use should be available and simple enough to do in a couple of clicks. Moreover, you should be able to create product barcodes for you to put on your items so that at the time of shipping you can simply scan the items when picking them from the warehouse. It should allow you to automatically send an email to your customers on receipt of the order, automatically prints the bill, creates a shipping barcode and processes shipping labels saves so much of your time and resources. What you have to look for is a customizable product – one that lets you choose which of these services you want to exploit and how. One that lets you create a system of management that is comfortable to you and assists you through it.

3. Inventory Alerts & Analytics

Go for a software that alerts you of the items that are low on stock, out of stock and that are committed for pending orders at any given time. It should allow you to order your products with ease when required. Furthermore, a system that provides you with detailed analytics of your online transactions is very important because now you not only have a software that assists you in inventory management, but you have one that can help you out with business strategy too. It can arm you with valuable data, for example the online channel, location and region wise order densities, order timings and product pairings. All this gives you a better perspective of your business and helps you strategize for more profit.

4. Pricing and Security

Only pay for what you get; no more, no less. Many inventory management system providers provide the basic services as freeware and then charge you as your inventory/business tends to grow, depending upon the amount of channels you want to sell from or the amount of orders you get per month. Look for scalability, because you do not want to change your pre-established systems if your provider cannot handle the amount of incoming orders. Since this is a portal through which you would do virtually all your online transactions, make sure that the software is tested and certified to be secure from malware and hacks. Safety first.

5. Try the Software

Ask your prospective Inventory management software vendor if they can provide you with a trial run. Get a feel of the software – is the UI cluttered or is it clean and sharp? Are the tracking and management systems well designed? Is there potential for inefficiency? Are there any known bugs? Go through the whole process of inventory management, starting from the incoming order to the code allotment to the final dispatch. Make sure that you are comfortable with what you are getting into.

Get in touch with us at Browntape to get assistance in getting and setting up a great inventory management system, specifically designed for ecommerce sellers in India. We will help you make the most efficient use of your resources and make the most of your online business. You can also try our 30-day free trial of Browntape’s Multi-channel Online Inventory Management.