The benefits of real-time stock quantity updates in the Shopping Cart

Or…conversely titled as ‘The Consequences of Misrepresenting Your Inventory Online’

Last Christmas my wife and I decided to give ourselves a significantly upgraded digital camera from what we currently had. We shopped online and we shopped early, just to make sure that we could use the first present opened to capture the rest of the day’s events. We found a site that offered a great price and confidently ‘pulled the trigger’ on our purchase. Then we waited…and waited…and waited some more. We waited three days past the expected delivery date before making an inquiry. We were informed that the model we had ordered was on “back-order.” Well, it wasn’t on ‘back-order’ when we ordered it! What happened between the time the site indicated ‘In Stock’ and the time we confirmed our purchase?!

The answer to such questions can lie anywhere between unscrupulous business ethics and unintentional gaps in business process. Regardless of the reason, we were absolutely livid. A little better due-diligence on our part would have served us well. It was easy to find a bevy of identical consumer complaints against the same company we had purchased from. It is, unfortunately, a circumstance that happens far too often to trusting online consumers. Just take a trip out to > and search the term “website out of stock” to see the vitriol levied against offending merchants. Whether by accident, or by bad design, as an online merchant, you can’t afford to have a permanent record on any such site.

This circumstance can be avoided, but not without integration tools like CartSpan. Carts generally do a good job of reducing manually initialized inventory when it is sold, but can’t account for transactions occurring in the back-end accounting system. This includes invoicing, item receipts, and inventory adjustments; all of which impact selling opportunities and the customer experience. When items are sold via the physical store, item availability needs to be reflected in the cart. When purchased items are received into the accounting system, item availability needs to be reflected ASAP within the cart to avoid missed sales opportunities.

There are a broad range of capabilities amongst eCommerce platforms with respect to how inventory availability is handled. At a minimum, most carts support an ‘In-Stock’ and ‘Out of Stock’ designation for items and provide an option for when these status’ are presented. More robust platforms can be configured to show the actual quantity available, indicate an actual ‘Back Order’ status, and even hide the item from a shopper’s search results if there is no stock available.

CartSpan has a rich feature-set to support this range of inventory management capabilities. The single most important of-which is the ability to reflect an actual back-order status, rather than an arbitrary (and often misleading) representation that stock has been ordered. It does this by evaluating the accounting system for open purchase orders when ‘out-of-stock’ conditions are encountered. This allows the shopper to confidently believe that stock is really on-order with the expectation of a reasonably delayed delivery.

Some organizations have more complicated inventory requirements when selling out of showrooms or managing safety stock.  For instance, a unit of product sitting on a showroom is technically ‘inventory’ but it may also not be available for sale; for obvious reasons. For these types of circumstances, CartSpan can be configured to indicate ‘out of stock’ in the cart at predefined inventory levels. Converse to this rule and contrary to the basic theme of this blog post, CartSpan can also be configured to reflect a minimum inventory quantity when inventory drops below a predefined threshold. No two businesses operate in the same manner and this last feature may be completely appropriate for one, while not for another.

If you are still evaluating potential carts, carefully research stock management capabilities to appropriately coincide with your own desired business processes. Doing so can greatly improve the shopping experience of your customers and hopefully eliminate any potential bad press that can damage your company’s reputation.

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