If you only sell one product, in one color, with a single configuration, making the leap to selling online wouldn’t be much of a challenge. But most B2B businesses have inventories that are significantly larger and more complicated. For large brick and mortar B2B sellers that want to set up an eCommerce presence, syncing inventory can seem like an insurmountable obstacle.
But it doesn’t have to be. The logistics behind inventory synchronization aren’t that difficult to understand, and once you have a system in place, the process becomes much easier to manage.
In our first B2B eCommerce Series post, we discussed methods for selling complex or custom products. In this installment, we’ll explore what you need to know to start syncing inventory between offline sales channels and an eCommerce site. These same principles allow you to sync inventory between multiple online sales channels as well (which we recommend in today’s hypercompetitive eCommerce world.) Let’s get started.
Syncing Inventory Using eCommerce-Friendly Product Names and Descriptions
In the third installment of this series, we’ll drill down into this topic in greater detail, examining common online product naming conventions. For now, it’s important to note that the names and descriptions that you have in your current business system probably won’t be suitable to use for eCommerce. Those internal names and descriptions are often shorthand and lack useful naming conventions or patters. The names and descriptions that you give your products online help both shoppers and search engines navigate your listings. If they’re convoluted, confusing, or inconsistent, your search rankings, site traffic, and conversions will very likely suffer.
Imagine you sell toasters. You feature ten different models in seven different colors, each sporting double and triple slot versions. Your product names should capture the information needed to distinguish all 140 different products. Think of your product name as a mini description. An example might be:
Mark 5 Low-Profile Toaster With Porcelain Heating Elements – Double Slot – Red
This name describes the product succinctly and unambiguously. It provides all the relevant details that customers need to quickly find what they’re looking for. This is important when syncing inventory, too, because it helps you identify which product you’re selling.
Descriptions should supplement your product titles, expanding details to better inform your customers. They should also fill in product features and benefits that are likely to appeal to your audience. Bullet points are an excellent way to list product features because they’re easy to scan.
Organizing Your Products Efficiently
Let’s expand the scope of our online store. Imagine you sell a host of other kitchen appliances along with toasters. How should you organize your products so that customers can quickly find what they’re looking for? More to the point of this article, how can we use product organization to aid syncing inventory?
You’ll design a hierarchical taxonomy that uses categories, subcategories, and attributes to group products together logically. Categories are top-level headings like toasters, air fryers, microwaves, and blenders. Every product you sell should fit into a category.
Subcategories allow customers and Google to fine-tune their search. You might subdivide air fryers into basketed and tray-style models. Toaster subcategories might include slotted styles and toaster ovens.
Lastly, attributes add a final level of refinement. You might separate microwaves by wattage, size, and mounting type. Customers looking for a blender could refine their search by speed, power, and capacity. Attributes allow shoppers to tick boxes to find exactly the product they’re looking for.
Include Clear Photos and Videos
No online product listing is complete without visual aids. Syncing inventory requires that your customers can shop online as easily as they can in person. Include clear photos of your products from multiple angles, showing interiors, exteriors, and critical features.
Videos are a nice addition if seeing the product in motion aids your customers in understanding how it works. They’re certainly not a requirement, but they can make a difference in whether you make the sale.
When organizing media, use the same naming conventions and categorizations to help you keep everything straight.
Syncing Inventory Using SKUs
SKUs or stock keeping units, are alphanumeric codes used to identify products. They’re normally expressed with barcodes, and they capture important product features such as brand, type, color, size, etc.
Assigning SKUs to all of your products makes it much easier when syncing inventory online. Your SKUs are single-point identifiers that make it easy to sort between products. There are software solutions like SyncPenguin and Trunk that automate inventory synchronization across multiple sales channels using SKUs. With automation in place, you won’t have to manually update inventory counts whenever someone makes an online purchase. All of your sales channels will update their inventory automatically.
Feeling a bit more confident? Making the leap to selling online doesn’t have to be intimidating. All it takes is the right systems in place.