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Better Backorder Management With Inventory Availability Dates

November 4, 2011

As the holidays approach, supply chains get tighter and minor delays can cause big stresses. One of the worst stresses for a business owner is not having inventory available for product sales. Stock outs cost money and time.

We've talked before about one way to work around inventory "stock outs" – Back Order Management. In this past blog post we talked about breaking down the problem set and presented ways to set up your online store when a stock-out notification was more an indicator of a slight supply chain delay (verse no longer selling the product).   Many sellers are now actively pre-selling inventory before they get it. This can be a great way to increase your sales volumes.

Keeping customers informed that the product will be slightly delayed is a continued challenge. First, you want to tell them before they buy if there will be a delay. This is important at all times; but, particularly if you are selling on a marketplace with an active feedback community. Second, you really want your customers informed of expected inventory availability so they don't bombard your customer service teams with the same question "When will it ship."

Some sellers like Angry Birds have taken it to an extreme and have entire web store that is dedicated to "coming soon" products – setting up buyer expectations and streamlining their order management processes by separating the issues of live inventory from pending inventory.

Shipwire just made this entire process a whole lot easier to manage.   We extended our Inventory API to add details for next "expected inventory date" if there are no products in stock. This is a pretty elegant solution to a complex problem.

  • Shipwire knows what your inventory levels are and our real-time inventory API can feed this data in real-time to your favorite e-commerce systems and marketplaces.   We have had this features for a long time.
  • Shipwire also knows when your next scheduled shipment is coming in to any of our warehouses (or Shipwire Anywhere locations). We know this because of the Advanced Shipping Notice (ASN) informs us what products are coming, in what quantities, to what location, and on what date. Our receiving processes are designed around this.
  • Any orders that are sent by your shopping cart/marketplace to Shipwire while inventory is out of stock are automatically held as "back orders" in Shipwire.
  • As inventory arrives we can apply the first received inventory to the pending backorders. We're actually really good at this. Here is a case study of us doing this for 7K orders for TheGlif.com last holiday and getting their entire Kickstart project shipping done in 24 hours.
  • This works for inventory going to Shipwire warehouses and Shipwire Anywhere locations.

The InventoryUpdateResponse tag also returns a lot of data about the history and future sales expectations ("backordered") of this product.

Also worth mentioning here that your Shipwire Account includes the ability to set up alerts on inventory status – such as something running low.

Here is a screenshot of a recent API call where _AvailableDate_ is returned and made available to upstream systems

Nate Gilmore

Nate is the Vice President of Marketing & Business Development at Shipwire. He oversees channel development and the developer network, as well as our marketing and public relations. Previously, Nate spent six years at Concentric (acquired by XO Communications), where he ran product management, sales, and marketing. Nate has also held various legal positions in intellectual property and business law. He holds a B.A. in History and a J.D. from Santa Clara University.