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Multi-channel inventory management has become the norm for all successful online retailers. Consumers interact with a single e-commerce business on a wide array of different platforms, integrations, and channels. 

At any given moment, your customers could be tracking an order from Amazon, setting up a return on your main website, or selecting a shipping method on Instagram Shopping. Even though this sounds profitable, it can only be so if you are able to successfully manage all of these channels at the same time. 

Each of these touchpoints presents an opportunity to interact and connect with your customers. This is true 360 commerce. Meeting your customers wherever they want to shop.

Implementing multichannel inventory management isn’t a walk in the park. You have to manage stock levels across multiple platforms, fully integrate your data feeds, and even manage your shipping. Shipping is a huge part of 360 commerce and that’s where Sendcloud’s seamless integrations come in handy.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is multichannel inventory management?

Multi-channel inventory management is pretty self-explanatory. It’s the process of managing inventory, orders, and shipping across all the sales channels businesses can sell their products. Whether that’s marketplaces, social platforms, a webshop, or maybe even in Zuckerberg’s dubious metaverse.

Multi-channel inventory management, however, isn’t without its struggles.

The positives of multi-channel inventory management

The benefits of multi-channel inventory management are vast. But only as long as you have the right systems and software enabled. 

Typically, when speaking about multi-channel inventory management, people are speaking about using software that centralises these processes. With that in mind, the following positives consider multi-channel inventory management with the right systems in place.

Optimisation & Automation

Without automation and automated optimisation, managing inventory across an eclectic mix of sales channels is close to impossible. 

Imagine trying to manage a handful of sales channels then an exciting new one *cough* TikTok *cough* pops up from nowhere and you have to test and implement a watertight strategy? That’s not going to be fun.

With automated systems for inventory and shipping & returns, you get a clear overview and can manage complex processes from one simple-to-use platform.

Better Customer Experience

Centralising all your shipments in one place makes it easier to set up fully branded tracking, manage returns, and ensure that you’re using reliable and trustworthy couriers

The last thing you want is a customer placing an order for inventory that’s not available. But that’s only one aspect of a great customer experience. Multichannel inventory management can ensure product listings are correct, orders are tracked through delivery and inventory is replenished ⁠— each of which further improves the customer experience.

Easier to Scale

Another benefit when implementing multi-channel inventory management with third parties such as Sendcloud is the ability to scale. You can find new couriers, new sales channels, and even expand internationally from a third-party company you already have a strong relationship with. 

Moving on from the huge positives, there are a few small negatives of multi-channel inventory management also. 

A man in an office setting up multi-channel inventory management.

This is how many staff members it takes to manage shipping on multiple channels with Sendcloud…

What challenges come with multi-channel inventory management?

Managing a single webshop is difficult enough. So, as you can imagine, spreading your business across more channels only multiplies these difficulties.

Overstocking & Understocking

Understandably, when you start spreading your stock across more channels, you’ll inevitably encounter some issues with overstocking and understocking. 

Understocking leads to an unreliable catalogue and unhappy customers & poor reviews. While overstocking can lead to additional stocking fees & wasted spending. Both of these issues are only worsened when selling on multiple channels. 

Shipping Chaos

Another issue caused by multi-channel inventory management is the chaos that it can cause with shipping. Without a centralised shipping platform like Sendcloud, businesses have to manage shipping from each channel they are selling on separately. This can cause lost shipments, missed updates, and poor tracking options for customers. 

Negative Customer Experience

It’s hard to maintain a certain standard when selling across multiple channels. When selling on your own webshop, it’s relatively straightforward to manage and track any potential negativities. Every new channel presents a new challenge. To ensure a positive customer experience, you need to find ways to maintain a consistently high standard across all channels. 

We’ve touched upon multi-channel inventory management in general. However, we’re shipping experts. So…

What features to look for in multi-channel inventory management shipping software

Multi-channel inventory management shipping software is a saturated market. In order to find the best, you need to consider the following. 

Multiple Couriers in Multiple Countries

The bread and butter of any shipping software are the courier integrations they have. They’re the most important aspect of shipping. They impact customer experience, returns, tracking capabilities, shipping options, and more. 

Couriers are also your gateway to new regions and territories. You should carefully consider both national and international courier integrations offered by the multi-channel inventory management shipping software you choose. 

Integrations with Selling Platforms & Shop Systems

The second most important aspect of shipping software is the integrations they have with various platforms and shop systems. You need to ensure that your shop system and desired channels are fully integrated before committing to any particular shipping software. 

It’s also important to consider platforms you wish to sell on in the future when you’re in a position to scale up your business. 

Easy-to-use Interface

The point of automation is to make things more efficient and, ultimately, quicker. With software, the interface plays a key part in this. Find a shipping solution that doesn’t require a Master’s degree to become fully trained. 

Analytics & Data Insights

Getting data insights into your shipping activity is vital for a successful shipping strategy. You need to be able to track specific couriers, return rates, and get regular reviews of your shipping activity. 

360 Shipping Features

Being able to optimise shipping from checkout to returns in one platform is the definition of efficiency. You don’t want to waste time jumping from one platform to another when handling the different aspects of shipping. 

As you’ve probably worked out, Sendcloud is home to one of Europe’s most popular shipping platforms. Discover more about how Sendcloud works.