2020 lockdowns have accelerated already massive growth in the numbers of retailers who trade online – and in turn, this is driving increased demand for ecommerce storage and warehousing space.
Finding affordable space and using that space effectively are key to success for many ecommerce businesses.
Storage alternatives for ecommerce businesses
Finding a corner at home
It’s not uncommon for startup businesses to keep stock and supplies in a garage, spare room or even a corner of the living room.
Renting a self-storage unit or warehouse space
Once business picks up, available space at home may be insufficient. Having too much clutter at home is likely to become frustrating. A disorganised, home-based approach may also lead to mistakes, delays and unhappy customers.
It may also be sensible and cost-effective to combine office and storage space at this stage.
Outsourcing ecommerce storage and logistics
Ecommerce businesses with large amounts of inventory and high volumes of orders can consider outsourcing all their logistic needs.
A third-party logistics (3PL) provider may offer storage, stock control, packaging and dispatch services.
Tips for effective use of ecommerce storage and warehousing space
We offer some tips on how to manage an ecommerce storage unit or warehouse space for optimal efficiency.
1. Create a labelling system
Establish a system of labelling stock as it comes in, so it’s easy to find and quick to dispatch. Use a number or code that contains pertinent information at a glance.
This could include the shelf number, the type of stock and the individual item code. If you use inventory management software, these can be created as barcodes for easy stocktaking.
2. Establish guidelines
Plan how you want your warehouse or storage area to run. What procedures and equipment do you want in place? What rules do you need?
These guidelines must be communicated to your staff so that everyone is aware of how inventory and dispatch work when orders are placed.
3. Train your staff
Staff must be aware of the guidelines. Employees directly involved in stock will need hands-on training. If your warehouse or storage area is large, you may need a dedicated stock manager who is in charge of stock control.
4. Create an access control system
Limit who has access to the stock room to maintain order and minimise shrinkage. People coming and going can lead to unreliable stock levels.
Implement access control with a sign in/sign out system so you can keep track of who has been in the warehouse and when.
5. Optimise layout
Even for a small stock room, you should have a map that shows the layout of the room and where different items are stored. You don’t have to list individual items, just type of stock.
Stock controllers can see where they need to go instead of wasting time looking for items. This helps with stocktake.
6. Maximise your space
Maximise the space with a layout that makes access easy but doesn’t waste space. Look at ways to store inventory. High shelves can utilise high spaces while pallets work better for big boxes. Pegboards make use of wall space without taking up much room.
7. Place items according to their popularity
There’s a principle in retail called Pareto or the 80-20 rule. This means that 20% of your stock (the bestsellers) make up 80% of your turnover.
Identify your 20% and make sure those items are easy to access. You’ll see trends in sales and be able to prioritise the space accordingly.
8. Use inventory management software
Inventory management software makes processes simpler and quicker. It gives you an electronic (and usually cloud-based) record to go back to if necessary.
Automated systems communicate with online sales, so your stock levels are always accurate and updated live. These systems streamline processing new stock, dispatching and stocktakes.
9. Prioritise good lighting and equipment
The storeroom should be well lit and climate-controlled. This is especially important if you have a large warehouse.
Make sure any equipment for packing or dispatching stock is easily accessible. Proper equipment is a safety precaution. Don’t rely on ladders if a forklift is what you need. Staff must have essential personal safety equipment too.
10. Implement quality control measures
Quality control should be performed as stock comes into the warehouse – not as it leaves. It can be tempting to put this off if you’re busy, but it can cause issues down the line.
If an order is placed and the customer is expecting it, you don’t want to discover the item is broken, faulty or spoiled as you’re about to courier it.
11. Process incoming stock promptly
Incoming stock must be processed as soon as it arrives. This will keep your stock levels accurate and prevent over-ordering.
If stock arrives but isn’t put into the system, it will continue to show as out-of-stock and a reorder might be placed needlessly. This will lead to space shortages in the store or warehouse.
Warehousing and storage with XtraSpace
We offer clean, secure self-storage units and warehouse spaces that are ideal for e-commerce businesses.
At XtraSpace, we also offer:
- onsite courier services, as well as printing, copying and internet access, at our branches
- flexible lease options so you can change your storage space in keeping with your business needs
- affordable Flexi Office space (having office and storage space on the same premises can minimise transport costs and improve efficiency)
- branches across the country; if you choose, you can store stock at multiple key locations to enable faster deliveries.