How to Grow Your eCommerce with Data-Driven Inventory Insights with Stefan Loncar

How to Grow Your eCommerce with Data-Driven Inventory Insights with Stefan Loncar
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Join us on Inbox Invaders as we dive into the world of data with Stefan Loncar, CEO of Loncom Consulting. Discover how data can optimize inventory management and marketing strategies for e-commerce brands.

- Understanding how data solves inventory problems

- The importance of clean data and identifying bad setups

- Choosing between off-the-shelf solutions and custom builds

- Forecasting demand and aligning with marketing strategies

- The role of dashboards in making quick, informed decisions

Read on for actionable insights and expert advice on harnessing data to drive e-commerce success!

Wiehan  Britz: Welcome to another episode of Inbox Invaders, where we talk about everything related to email and sms marketing. I'm your host, Wiehan. Today I have a super, super special, super special guest joining me today, Stefan Loncar, the owner of Loncom Consulting. I'll have him quickly introduce himself and then we'll get cracking with the meat and potatoes of the chat.

Stefan Loncar: Perfect. Yeah, cheers for that. So yes, Stefan, I'm the CEO of long consulting. We are operational data analysis and systems implementation agency. Basically work with ecommerce brands on forecasting, inventory production optimization, net profit calculation, all the back end operational stuff. And then we also resellers of a lot of systems. So inventory management, CRV, CRMs, and we implement those for e commerce brands.

Wiehan  Britz: Love that. It's quite a mouthful to summarize that all the smart things, they dig into large data sets, pull amazing observations and insights from it to help ecommerce brands be better at utilizing their data. So today's subject matter, I want to dig a little bit into inventory management, forecasting and how you can use that across some of your other marketing channels, especially email sms marketing. So I'm going to hand it over to Stefan. So the format of the call is we will be talking about the problem they are trying to solve for ecommerce brands and how that could fit into email sms marketing channels. He'll then also unpack any case studies, any very practical solutions to it, just so we can all, you know, learn from him their experience and approaches. So I'm going to hand over to you, Stefan, enrich us with your knowledge.

Stefan Loncar: Sure, absolutely. I appreciate that. So in general, we think that any inventory problem is a data problem rather than anything else. So it's not your system problem. Of course there's poor systems, there is good systems out there in the market. But in general, what we're trying to communicate that around operational stuff in e commerce brands, majority is inventory related, product order related. And that's all data problem that we are trying to solve with e commerce brands. Common thing that we do with them is implement an inventory management system.

Stefan Loncar: Do any improvements, work with the tech provider to try to get it to a stage, our customization, how the brand wants it. After that system starts collecting data, then our service comes in place. So we are there analyzing it. We are trying to forecast what the future of that inventory is going to look like straight away. We are forecasting the demand, we are forecasting the buying kind of cycles and so on. From it we can learn quite a lot. If you know a couple of scenarios, what you're going to sell in the future. That straightaway ties into production, that ties into pick and packing, that ties into marketing expenditure, into budgets, into net profits and various other areas.

Stefan Loncar: So we work quite a lot with suite or management teams of ecommerce brands. We try to leverage the data. I think it's very important for now is we are crazy niche in what we do because we don't touch marketing data, we don't touch market research data, but we really look at the data that the business is collecting. Right? So the business intelligence, those products, those orders are somewhere where we basically live in. And that's the data that they really analyze. That's the data that you can pull a lot of insights from. You can make quite a lot of decisions from that side. And knowing your inventory, knowing what you're going to sell in the future ties in, as I said, everywhere.

Stefan Loncar: I think, especially in email marketing. You know, I think that we spoke about last time was saying, you know, why am I sending this email to a segment of 100,000 customers when I only have 10,000 inventory, right? So what if everything sells out and then the customer, so the email 2 hours later comes in and doesn't have their size. So those are kind of the problems that we are trying to solve. The buying cycles is something that we influence quite a lot with our data analysis. Also the sizing split and things like that. Sizing split. People get it wrong so many times, but that's a data problem. That's a data analysis problem.

Stefan Loncar: They haven't analyzed their data. They didn't split the sizes between the quantities bought in the right way. And that influences all over the place. The worst thing and the thing we definitely don't want is spending money on ads, spending money on email marketing and people coming in and they can't buy anything.

Wiehan  Britz: I think that's solid. I mean, you've mentioned quite a few golden nuggets here. I quickly want to just unpack it from start to finish here. You've spoken briefly about your setup here. Do you see a lot of bad setups within, within the industry, the ecosystem? Because I mean, we know this saying, you know, bad data in, bad data out. Do you feel like that is a core problem that also needs to get solved within the ecosystem?

Stefan Loncar: Yeah, I think I fully agree with that, with that statement. Look, data is, imagine that there is a brand starting out, right. Data is not their focus. It shouldn't be their focus at the beginning. It should be marketing, it should be the product, it should be the team, it should be the sales, right. Data shouldn't be the focus at the beginning. Data comes in when you already have a team established, when the sales are coming in, when marketing is sorted, when the product is good, right. And that takes time.

Stefan Loncar: But when you get to that stage that you need to take a look at the data, then you're kind of kicking yourself in the head saying, wow, this is not clean. My reporting is not easy to pull up my dashboard. So my data analyst always says we are as good as the data that is given to us. So the majority of our work at the beginning, when we start with any focus, brand data cleansing, trying to make consistencies between all of that, standardize the data, and when we get the data in the shape that it's analyzable, then we start with all the analytics. And that takes a little bit of time. Changes within the company, of course, and various others, we always try to minimize the changes because I'm a big advocate that tech should work for us and not we should work for tech. So we always try to reflect that into, to make it as seamless as possible. But yes, inconsistencies and the mess that data is in.

Stefan Loncar: E commerce is number one hurdle that we try to tackle with you.

Wiehan  Britz: And on the point of, you know, set up infrastructures, would you say that for a certain size brand you would go off the shelf solutions? And I don't know exactly what the off the shelf solution is versus custom build, because custom build, of course, holds a lot more power. How would you advise ecommerce businesses on the infrastructure they need for their business?

Stefan Loncar: Yeah, so it's a difficult question. I think it really depends on, well, first, depends on the budget. Budget is something that we are constantly battling. We have from our side a lot of analytics software out there that we can utilize for brand, but it costs quite a lot of money. So in order to implement that, in order to set it all up, in order to get it working and pay that monthly SaaS fee for that analytics tool, sometimes the bill can get high quite quickly. So we always working, you know, with budget, that's the first constraint that we have.

The second one is, you know, really, as you said, looking at the size, looking at where the brand is, but mostly we look at the customizations, right. So how, how that brand is operating, what are the internal processes, which customization is necessary when it comes to all of these things? So in case customization is high, I would always advise custom, but in majority of brands that don't have complex logistics and don't have complex supply chain altogether off the shelf solution is something that I always recommend because some of these things that, you know, you worry about when there is a custom solution implemented, you don't have to initiate off the shelf because that company is taking care of that.

Stefan Loncar: Of course, we can also go into off the shelf. There is again, poor solutions, good solutions, trying to find the right one. I always recommend, you know, me being a little bit salesy here, but always recommend engaging with an agency because you need to use experts that is going to tell you what is good, what is bad.

Wiehan  Britz: Yeah, absolutely. I love that. Moving on to you, you pointed out forecasting demand. I love that keyword demand, just because as an email, SMS marketing agency, we thrive on, you know, hitting where the demand sits. How do you. So of course, you know, as an email marketer, if you just throw me with, oh, yes, 700 skus, push it out, let's go. That's overwhelm. Is there some categorization system that you've brought into your workflow or setup where you can determine the high profit margin products, the high replenished products, products that pairs well in bundle, slow moving stock, you know, all these different, you know, type of categories.

Wiehan  Britz: So when you send a report over to the email department or the pay department, they know, all right, I've got these products and they've got these categoristics. So I can push them in certain ways. How do you make it possible for other departments out there to play with the data and it not being a big data dump of here's all the skus, let's push it.

Stefan Loncar: Yeah. No, I think e commerce is a fast moving industry. Right. Changes make, changes are made very quickly. It doesn't matter whether it's a big setup or a smaller setup. Things can done very, you know, in a couple of hours, you can already be pushing out that email or you can be pushing out that ad altogether, you know, done. Which, okay, sometimes doesn't work and sometimes things crash. But in majority of cases it does work for if you have a good agency, if you have a good internal team that can support all the content and various things around it, what I always then say is because of that, because of that agility that the industry has, you have to have live data constantly available for you.

Stefan Loncar: So all of the things that you've mentioned, you know, looking at the best sellers, looking at the high profit margin products, looking at, looking at everything around the business that is going to help that profit and sell product is something we try to reflect in a dashboard, basically, because the idea of how I see somebody running an e commerce brand is literally looking at the dashboard and making those big decisions that is going to maximize the market and maximize the opportunity at that time. It's no good. If I ask you right now, I ask constantly when we talk about e commerce brands, I ask them one question that allows me to sell our service much better, saying, what's your net profit right now? And then, you know, question marks. And then they need to say, I'll get back to you in a week. I need to analyze the data and so on. No, you should need to know that information at any time. You need to know what your best sellers are, you need to know what your bundles are working. You need to know what are the market opportunities out there.

Stefan Loncar: And that's something we are really trying to reflect with our data analysis to give those, those brands the insight that they can make the decision. I always say we cannot make a decision for them, but we can empower that decision with data analysis.

Wiehan  Britz: Also, you're talking about the dashboard. How would you advise any person outside of the data spectrum, how would you advise them to approach, let's say, either their client or their data teams to try and get access to this, to get some education around it? Because I see a very clear, sorry, very clear separation between you've got the data team and then you've got the actual marketers. And I don't see those teams being integrated very often. I would advise any marketing department, be it email paid, to approach and plug into these data departments functions of the business, because I think that's a critical thing is how can I get access to the dashboard? How can I learn more about it?

Stefan Loncar: Yeah, I think don't over complicate it. The beginning starts simple. We also big advocates here in Loncom in order to saying data analysis sounds complex. The combination of two words sounds very complex. But in reality is in majority of cases, when we're not doing any complex machine learning or AI forecasting, it is sometimes as simple as analyzing an Excel spreadsheet. And we try to not overcomplicated. Reason being, again, those fast decisions need to be made and sometimes within a day you need to make it kind of in the next couple of hours. So I would advise also the marketing agency saying, start small, just pull up a dashboard on, I don't know, Aurora's or kind of, you know, email open and various other areas.

Stefan Loncar: Those are all basic, I think, functionality with your tools like playbio. And so I would recommend pull it all together. Take a look at a simple data and then dig deeper. Right. So this is gonna need to be a stepped approach rather than everything at one time, because if you go down that route, you're just gonna get overwhelmed and you're gonna give up, basically. And we don't want that. So start small, take a look at a couple of metrics and then try to dig in deeper. What are you, those metrics telling you? Then compare those metrics with the last email or a similar email.

Stefan Loncar: Let's say we talk about email marketing and so on. So start small and then start building on it. And that's kind of the key. That's how we always start with clients. Because imagine somebody hasn't been using data and all of a sudden you are giving them this complex forecasting and complex AI models and various scenarios. Now start small, right. You need to also change cultures when you are handling data. So take your time.

Wiehan  Britz: I think that's a very good point. I fall into this trap of like, I love data. I think I'm very much like you, where we nerd about data. I've given it over to other team members. They overwhelmed, they end up not using it because it's just overwhelming. So I think that's a very, very smart point, is get momentum going by at least, you know, getting your feet wet in it. But step by step. I do like that last question or so, because I can see the time is running here.

Wiehan  Britz: So you're talking about forecasting demand, let's say, for the next x weeks or campaign months or big holiday seasons. How much time do you think an email or SMS marketer should give himself or herself to align with the inventory data? Align the, sorry, the timing of that to a big campaign push, like, let's say, your Memorial day sales, your Black Friday sales, should it be two weeks prior to that? Should it be three months? And does depend on different business types. How far in advance should we actually be aligning our campaigns with inventory data?

Stefan Loncar: Yeah. So I think the difference between what we do and what potentially marketing agency does with data is we have to be much more in advance because we look at operational. So let's take a fashion brand, right? Two seasons for sure, maybe two additional sub seasons during the year when buying cycles start much, much earlier. Sometimes we have retailers that order a year in advance, you know, even even more kind of from that side. So we always have to forecast further in the future and what is going to happen with that season altogether. So our work is very much in advance when it comes to marketers. I would advise them it's difficult to say really the time period, you know, I can't say a month and then everybody starts a month. Far from it.

Stefan Loncar: I would say big, big day push, you know, Black Friday, we are start. We started our preparations for some, some of the clients at the beginning of this year because they had to buy stock, right. But when it comes to marketers, they don't have to do it that early because they have to know what the stock is coming. But I would advise as early preparation as possible. I know some of the marketing agencies are getting ready for Black Friday in a month time. You know, they're gonna use the down period of summer in order to focus on what is gonna happen in like Friday and Cyber Monday or what is going to happen over Christmas. So as early as possible is always good. But you can get those metrics very quickly now.

Stefan Loncar: You can get the stock numbers from retailer because they probably already ordered it and it's in the pipeline coming into the warehouse, you can get, you know, you can predict the growth of those customers within the next couple of months. So what is the segment that you're going to be sending it and how do you match those two? Right. So I'm going to be sending this segment to this number of people that bought this frequently and that bought these type of products. It is a demand. Then you compare it with the inventory that is already there in the warehouse and you try to forecast how much that email segment altogether is going to sell. And that's a very interesting analytics that we constantly do with marketing agencies. And it's showing very, very good results because it's giving the brand, again, the insights of how much is it going to sell in that period. Straight away, they can then act on, you know, employing any additional temporary staff.

Stefan Loncar: They can put their resources in the right places. So we always work together with marketing agencies, with our clients, and that's the best way forward because we are really uniting the operational and the marketing which results in more sales.

Wiehan  Britz: That's solid. It makes me think of a very critical thing that I want to highlight as well is we constantly saying that you working with the marketing departments and so on, I think we always need to remember that the marketing team can also work with the data team, the inventory team. If we see that something has worked pretty well within a particular email blast or within a flow or an SMS campaign, we can always communicate it back to our inventory team to get them to potentially purchase more of that. Because I think in many cases the inventory team might not know the source and that's pushing or distributing these products. So it's critical to communicate both ways. I think that makes for the best symbiotic relationship, without a doubt. Okay, but listen, very good pointers. I absolutely appreciate the practical insights here.

Wiehan  Britz: How can people get connected with you? How can they get started with your conversation consulting service and just making use of your talents and services?

Stefan Loncar: Yes, I think inquiry side of things. So, that's the best one Stefan Loncom has on LinkedIn. Best way to kind of reach out and talk about all data, data related. It all starts very simple. We kind of organize a call, see what the problems are, see how we can help with, with our data and digital digital advice, whether that's the right fit. We scope it out, discovery, and hopefully we get started and bring some more data and insights into the business. So, yeah, that's how you can find us.

Wiehan  Britz: That's perfect. Ann is a good friend, so make friends with him. Book him for coffee or beer. Great guy. Thanks for that. Appreciate it. And yeah, hopefully someone out there have learned a lot from this. We will definitely host you soon.

Wiehan  Britz: So thanks, everybody. Thanks once for, once again for tuning in, and we'll be back soon. Yes, cheers. Bye.


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