Slow-moving inventory is a common issue in eCommerce. Inventory that does not sell as expected often takes up storage space, incurs additional costs, and ties up cash that you could otherwise be investing in your business. In this article, we explore the common reasons behind slow-moving inventory and examine effective ways to maneuver unpopular products out the door.
What is slow-moving inventory?
Slow-moving inventory is often defined as SKUs that have not sold (or have sold minimally) during a set period of time (90 days, 120 days, etc) as determined by the seller. Once you determine the desired metrics for identifying slow-moving inventory, run a report to help you identify and analyze these underperforming products.
Why is your inventory moving slowly?
This can be a nuanced, complex issue that may take some troubleshooting. Here are some common reasons that inventory may be moving slowly:
Seasonal Demand – If you are selling holiday-themed or seasonal products, these will naturally become slow movers during off-periods. Ensure that you are rolling seasonal products out early and are keeping tabs on your competitors to prevent your SKUs from becoming slow-movers.
Forecasting–Optimism often reigns supreme when forecasting. If you purchased too much product in anticipation of higher-than-realized sales, you may end up with slow-moving inventory in storage.
Marketing Strategy – Taking a close look at your marketing mix will help you better analyze your slow-movers. Are you selling through the right sales channels? Are you running enough ads for this product? Are you maximizing a blend of organic and paid social media content? Ensure that your product, price, promotion, and place are all working together to maximize your success.
Quality Control– If your product is of low-quality or if your customers have documented a known issue in public review forums, this item will likely become a slow-mover.
Bulk Order Issue – Many suppliers offer tempting bulk order discounts for companies who are willing to buy in bulk. If you ordered too many of something to reap discounted pricing, those savings may be nullified as a result of your slow-moving inventory.
External Threats– Sometimes market events and competitor activity can vastly affect the success of a product. If your competitors launched a similar product, targeted your audience with a hot ad, and/or reduced their pricing, any of these tactics may have sabotaged your product’s ability to sell.
Website Usability– Having a poorly designed website can easily damage your profitability. If your site looks outdated, is difficult to navigate, contains copy errors, or has cheap photography, it will breed distrust among your visitors. Investing in your website and creative content is an important way to improve conversion rate and earn trust from potential customers. Test your slow-movers (and your website in general) by running A/B tests or engaging in customer discovery research, and adjust your online store as necessary.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)– Ensure that you are adequately including keywords and metadata on your website to help crawlers identify and rank your pages. This will help to make products that are currently obscure (and perhaps slow-moving as a result) more visible to customers.
What should you do with your slow-moving inventory?
There are a variety of techniques businesses can use to jettison unpopular inventory. Our customers have had success with the following strategies:
Promotions – To best promote your slow-moving inventory, it is beneficial to understand who, if anyone, purchased these products when you first offered them. If you can find any trends, leverage this information to retarget past customers through email promotions.
Bundling – Consider bundling your slow-moving inventory with some of your winning products. This will catch the attention of potential customers, and, if it is successful, will also increase your average order value (AOV).
Upselling– Upsell your less popular products by placing them strategically throughout the checkout process. eCommerce buyers often purchase on impulse, especially if they have had a good experience with your brand so far — if you thoughtfully upsell relevant slow-moving products, customers may very well add them to their cart.
Mystery Items– This strategy entails offering a “mystery item” to customers for a low set price. Customers purchase the item not knowing what will arrive, and they are often surprised and delighted when they receive something that they perceive to be a deal. Learn more about the mystery item strategy here.
Sales & Discounts – Clearance sales, flash sales, and other versions of discounting also help to make slow-moving products more attractive. Advertise these sales through email blasts to alert customers.
Slow-moving inventory is a common problem in eCommerce, and there are a variety of reasons that can cause your product to sell more slowly than anticipated. To reduce slow-moving inventory, leverage promotions, bundling, upselling, mystery items, and other sales/discounts to make these products more appealing to customers.