Ongoing supply chain disruptions, such as the war in Ukraine, have significantly impacted the operational landscape for B2B companies. These disruptions have created a ripple effect across global trade routes, causing severe delays in production, transportation, and procurement. As a consequence, maintaining consistent stock availability and, most importantly, displaying accurate stock levels to online customers have become intricate challenges for B2B organizations.
What is stock availability?
Stock availability is a business’s capability to fulfill incoming customer orders using inventory the business is currently holding in stock.
Stock availability is a key factor in customer satisfaction and loyalty. It hinges on the ability to answer a critical question: “Can my business meet my customer’s demands?”
Find out what B2B customers want.
Read the independent research in our B2B Buying Process Report.
Understanding stock availability and stock outs
The need to deliver products promptly and reliably has increased. Adapting to the dynamic supply chain landscape has become a strategic imperative, compelling B2B companies to get creative and employ innovative solutions. Meaning B2B organizations need to build agile and diversified supply networks and mitigate potential disruptions. The ability to navigate these challenges adeptly not only ensures operational resilience but also forms the cornerstone for maintaining a competitive edge in an ever-evolving business environment.
Example of the impact of poor stock availability and visibility on your customers
In order to understand the importance of stock availability and how we can utilize it to exceed B2B customer expectations, we need to take time to realize the greater effect of inadequate stock visibility. The effect of stock can be illustrated in this example:
A construction firm was scheduled to start reconstructing a part of the highway around New York. The construction firm won the tender because they were the only vendor that promised to deliver the project on time within the projected costs.
After they won the tender and all was arranged, one of their crawler cranes broke down. Without this crane, they could not work on the highway. With stress increasing, the whole project was scheduled to start in two weeks time.
After inspection conducted by the dealer of the crane manufacturer in New York, it turns out that an essential part of the engine was broken. Unfortunately, the dealer did not have the specific spare parts in stock. The dealer checked the web store of the manufacturer.
They had the spare parts in stock and with the expected delivery time. It would give them enough time to repair it and make sure the crane would be up and running before the project started.
The end-customer was extremely relieved. But after getting the order confirmation the next day, they were informed that delivery would take an extra week.
This extra week will delay the whole project for the end-customers using the roads in busy New York. Stock-outs have huge implications in B2B.
How does poor stock visibility impact your online business?
Not having an accurate overview and understanding of your available stock has consequences. Subsequently, your business will need to communicate this effectively to customers, which can result in detrimental losses.
You risk losing customers
Our latest B2B Buyer Report uncovered that in 2023, buyers say that accurate information on stock, pricing and delivery dates is the most important feature to them when buying from their supplier’s online channels. Consequently, 79% of buyers would be likely to switch to another supplier if they provided better online experience.
Your customers waste time looking for and placing orders online
2 in 3 B2B buyers prefer to place orders online through suppliers’ websites. This means that buyers are taking time out of their day to search and place orders online. When they can’t find the product that they are looking for, they will either immediately switch to a competitor or manually inquire about ordering a product, either via phone or email. The later results in time wasted not only for your customers but your internal teams as well.
B2B businesses take one leap forward when launching a web store. But take one giant leap backwards when their web store adoption is stagnant. When web store adoption due to incorrect stock information and mistrust in the web store, customers return to sales reps to ask tedious and time-consuming questions. Additionally, last-minute rush orders or emergency restocking can strain logistics and procurement processes.
Missed growth opportunities
Unavailable stock can prevent businesses from capitalizing on market trends, new product launches, or evolving customer preferences. This inhibits the ability to innovate and expand the product line.
Damaged brand image
We all know that word-of-mouth advertising can be a powerful marketing tool. Meeting customer expectations has emerged as a priority, carrying a large impact on brand loyalty and customer retention.
How can you improve stock availability and visibility?
Manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers are presented with unique challenges in maintaining optimal stock availability for their buyers.
However, there are five key strategies that can significantly improve visibility into stock levels and improve the overall buyer experience:
1. Implement robust inventory management systems
Investing in a comprehensive inventory management system proves to be the backbone of effective stock availability management. These systems facilitate tracking inventory movement, predicting demand patterns, and streamlining replenishment processes. They offer a comprehensive solution to strike a balance between keeping enough stock on hand without incurring excess carrying costs.
For a more in-depth understanding of inventory management, visit 4 effective strategies to reduce inventory costs.
2. Leverage integrated e-commerce solutions
Integrated e-commerce has opened doors to seamless interactions between B2B businesses and their buyers. An integrated e-commerce store is one that can either integrate with one, all or most of your back-office systems. For example, at Sana Commerce we specialize in ERP-integrated e-commerce and have built an e-commerce store that natively integrates with Microsoft and SAP ERP systems. Because your systems are natively integrated, your web store is updated in real time based on either your PIM or ERP data.
This not only allows buyers to view accurate stock levels 24/7 and make informed purchasing decisions, but also means you only need to keep track of product data in one place.
3. Strengthen supplier partnerships
Intentionally building relationships with suppliers and engaging in collaborative discussions about order volumes, timing, and terms can:
- significantly enhance stock availability and
- reduce costs.
When organizations have a better understanding of demand projections, they can work more efficiently to improve stock availability.
4. Conduct regular inventory assessments
Ensuring the accuracy of inventory data across inventory management systems and its alignment with actual stock in warehouse is crucial. Regular audits, which could include physical counts of inventory, play a crucial role in identifying discrepancies and providing retailers the opportunity to rectify inefficiencies that contribute to increased storage, shrinkage, and depreciation expenses.
5. Utilize web store features that manage customer expectations
- Predictive ordering significantly bolsters stock availability. By analyzing past buying patterns and market trends, businesses can accurately forecast demand. This enables warehouses to stock the right products at the right time, meeting customer needs promptly and preventing stockouts. Customers appreciate finding the items they want when they want them, leading to a positive shopping experience and increased loyalty.
- Expected delivery times contribute to expectation management. This enhances transparency. When customers know exactly when their orders will arrive, they can plan accordingly, reducing frustration and managing uncertainty.
- Backorder and preorder features keep customers informed about product availability, allowing them to make informed decisions. Even if an item is temporarily out of stock, these notifications provide reassurance and clarity, demonstrating that the company values their time and needs.
- Custom assortment rules play a crucial role in tailoring product offerings to individual preferences, leading to higher customer satisfaction. This personalized approach enhances the shopping experience and shows that the company understands and values its customers as unique individuals.
Incorporating these features collectively optimizes stock availability, showing customers that their needs are anticipated and catered to. This results in enhanced satisfaction, increased trust in the company’s operations, and a higher likelihood of repeat business and positive recommendations.
The long-term value of catering to buyer preferences
In the world of B2B e-commerce, customer expectations are high, and competition is fierce. So, the concept of stock availability is essential. It’s not merely about having products listed. It’s about having the right products in stock at the exact moment when customers need them. As market forces shift and customer expectations evolve, staying ahead requires a deep understanding of the B2B buyer. To navigate this complexity successfully, you must arm yourself with accurate insights and data.
The B2B Buyer Report is a valuable resource with real-world data on the preferences, behaviors, and trends shaping B2B buying decisions. The B2B Buyer Report gives you the insights you need to make informed decisions and foster better customer relationships. Click below for the full report — no contact information needed!
What do your B2B customers want?
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