3 Tips for e-Commerce Companies to Navigate the Supply Chain Crisis

Supply Chain Crisis

3 Tips for e-Commerce Companies to Navigate the Supply Chain Crisis

No supply chain crisis is caused by a singular event. Rather it is a series of problems that build to the point of overall system failure.

Shipping companies were unprepared for the uptick in demand following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Manufacturers haven’t been able to get the raw materials or keep up with demand.

The lack of dockworkers and truck drivers to unload and move goods means cars sit half-finished on production lines and retailers are scrambling to fill their shelves. 

With a steady trickle of goods making it onto dry land, demand is increasing simply because no one knows when things will improve. 

As a result, prices are increasing. If the money doesn’t move through the economy quickly enough, it can cause some industries to shrink. In the worst-case scenario, it can trigger a recession. 

As an e-commerce retailer, your concerns likely have less to do with the national economy and more to do with keeping your business afloat during the supply chain crisis.

You need to ensure you can source inventory, get it to your warehouse promptly and pay a  reasonable price for it. To do that, you’ll need to get the best advice and put plans in place so you’re able to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

The Right Product Strategy

Every business is different so there is no one size fits all strategy that will save your business or protect it from financial ruin. However, there are some considerations that all online retailers should keep in mind when creating a robust product strategy.

Plan ahead

The most successful retailers have their inventory planned out well in advance. This is in part because it allows for considerable flexibility in lead times. It also helps to keep costs lower when buying out of season.

When you plan your inventory ahead of time, you can identify complimentary products to use for upsell opportunities and boost your average order value.

Setting out your inventory plan also makes it easier for you to budget because you will know the amount of inventory you need.

Working this way will help you to avoid running out of stock. It also gives you the flexibility to take advantage of new product lines or sales as you’ll know your finances inside and out.

Build up inventory

If you know certain items in your inventory have a high sell-through rate, it’s important to make sure you’re building up their inventory. Placing larger orders on these products will give you the stock you need to weather any future supply issues.

Building up your inventory also has the added advantage of increasing your negotiating power. When you’re placing a bigger order, it’s possible you’ll pay less per unit and even have lower shipping costs.

Competitor Research

Take some time to research your competition, so you can identify ways of gaining market share. 

Look for gaps in their product offering that you can exploit or identify products that you can offer at a lower price. If you’ve increased your order sizes you’ll be in a strong position to offer a lower price as your cost of goods sold (COGS) will be lower. If you’re able to sell the product at a cheaper price, you’ll be insulating your margins.

Diversify your Supplier Pool

It’s wise to conduct an audit of your suppliers to identify any that underperform. You should watch out for stocking issues, late deliveries, and unfavorable payment terms.

Working with more than one supplier offers you greater flexibility and reduces your risk. Risks include not getting your inventory in time, lack of stock, it getting held up at a border facility, or the risk of overpaying for inventory.

By diversifying your supplier pool (especially with suppliers that are in direct competition) you can take advantage of offers and discounts, allowing you to get the most bang for your buck.

Some issues can be resolved but if a supplier always delivers late because exporting from their country to the US is problematic then you need to look elsewhere. Domestic partners can help to resolve this problem. Sourcing from US suppliers could increase your inventory spend. However, shipping issues are far less common, ultimately removing the uncertainty of international shipments. 

Finding nearshore or in-country suppliers can be a real benefit to your business. Aside from avoiding the challenges with bringing in goods via container ship, local suppliers are often quick to respond. If you need an extra order, domestic partners are much better suited to get you the inventory you need.

Additionally, by sourcing inventory locally you are able to position them as a premium product and charge a higher price.

Infrastructure

Creating a robust infrastructure around your business can help you run more efficiently by reducing your overheads, giving you more budget, and helping you to react to changing conditions and opportunities as they arise.

There are two main things to consider regarding your infrastructure:

The Right Tools for the Job

Demand forecasting tools help you to understand what inventory you need and when. Your planning will go much smoother when you’re able to see the data on what products are most in demand.

Having this knowledge lifts much of the mythos surrounding stock management and allows you to allocate your budgets with greater confidence.

Other supply chain management and analytics tools help you to track your inventory and other key business indicators. Tools like these can help you minimize stock issues or delays in placing your orders.

Third-Party Logistics

Working with a third-party logistics operation can help take some of the heavy lifting out of your business. 

3PL partners are invaluable during a supply chain crisis. They can manage anything from warehousing to distribution, allowing you to lower your operation costs while improving service.

Some 3PL partners can also negotiate with suppliers. Occasionally they will represent multiple businesses looking to buy the same inventory significantly boosting buyer power.

This lowers the cost price for everyone involved and they handle any distribution of the inventory once it has arrived.

Paying for it

Of course, budgeting for a year’s worth of stock, doubling orders, and working with third-party logistics partners takes money.

Whether your money is tied up with third-party marketplaces or you simply don’t have the kind of cash to scale, Yardline can help.

We can provide a capital advance of up to $1 million based on your projected sales. That gives you the money you need now to overcome the supply chain crisis.



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