By Kalin Kassabov, founder and CEO of ProTexting.com, a fast-growing, enterprise-level text message suite of services.
It’s common knowledge that supply chain issues are currently widespread and affecting many industries. For small businesses, whether you have a retail outlet or an e-commerce store, it can be a challenge to keep popular items stocked and deal with impatient customers. Let’s explore some ways you can prepare for these challenges and keep your business running smoothly.
1. Keep Track Of Your Stock
Even during the best of times, it’s important to track your inventory. With frequent supply chain shortages, it’s absolutely essential to know what you have in stock and what needs replenishing. You don’t want to be caught off guard, running out of popular items and finding that it’s difficult to restock them.
2. Increase Your Inventory Whenever Possible
It’s not always possible to invest in lots of inventory when you have limited resources. In addition to budgetary concerns, you have to consider time, labor and how much physical space you have. There are a number of ways you can increase your inventory:
• When a popular product becomes available, buy as much of it as you can afford.
• Look for deeply discounted items to stock up on.
• Seek financing to invest in more inventory.
• Expand your space or consider renting storage space.
• Consider outsourcing solutions for storage, packing and shipping.
3. Be Flexible And Look Into Alternatives
With an unpredictable supply chain, you never know when a certain product will become unavailable, possibly at short notice. Be proactive and anticipate such problems. Research alternative suppliers, preferably in different locations. This way, you’ll be able to maintain your stock even if a certain supplier is unable to fulfill your needs. You can also be creative about offering alternative options for your customers. For example, if you have a restaurant or food-related business, research alternative ingredients and dishes to offer customers.
4. Use Efficient Tools To Manage Your Supply Chain
Using the latest automation tools can help you stay on top of your supply chain and plan efficiently. Currently, supply chain management (SCM) software is mainly used by larger businesses, which may be dealing with multiple departments, locations and niches. However, smaller businesses can also benefit from SCM, especially when supply chain issues are common. This software helps you track inventory, manage shipping and keep updated on which items are moving the fastest.
5. Be Honest With Your Customers
Supply chain issues are getting quite a bit of press lately, so people are most likely aware that certain items may not be available or may take longer to ship. Be transparent about this with your customers. Explain on your website that orders may be delayed due to circumstances beyond your control. If you’re having challenges with certain products, let people know about this before they place orders. Customers don’t want to be surprised, expecting something to arrive in a few days and having to wait a month.
6. Stay Informed
While supply chain disruptions can occur at any time, in many cases they are predictable. The situation may be very different, depending on your location and industry. Supply chains can be affected by politics, economic factors and weather conditions. Stay current with trends in your industry and with news affecting your products. If you can anticipate a likely shortage, you can take the appropriate steps, such as finding alternative products to stock. You won’t always be able to predict every future disruption, of course. You can, however, prevent some problems by keeping up with the latest developments.
Be Ready To Deal With Supply Chain Issues
The future of supply chains is uncertain. On the one hand, many issues, such as climate change, political instability in various parts of the world and the ongoing pandemic may continue to cause disruptions. On the other hand, promising developments such as blockchain management of supply chains may offer creative solutions in the near future. Small businesses need to do everything possible to prepare for all outcomes. This means being proactive, studying your data, looking for alternative suppliers and products and keeping your customers informed.