Many brands rely on a network of retailers and distributors to have their products assorted online. While smaller brands can keep an eye on everything, it rapidly gets out of hand for more prominent brands. Quite often, the reality of distribution is actually far from the original plan. And the more intermediaries there are, the higher the risk of mistakes. Even with a carefully managed network of retailers, the reasons for brands to monitor their online assortment are plenty.

1- Identify gaps in the distribution

Distribution gap - online assortment monitoring
In this example, there is obviously a gap in the distribution of Product 2 at Retailer 3.

It is not uncommon for brands to realize that one of their products was not assorted by a retailer. This may happen for a variety of reason even though the brand did ship the product to that retailer!

  • The retailer has both an e-commerce website and brick-and-mortar stores. They decided to keep that product offline.
  • The retailer is just late or made a mistake, and the products are sleeping in a warehouse.
  • Someone in the brand’s team, or the distribution partner, has made a mistake or failed to close the sale for that specific product.

Brands may want to address gaps to increase sales, display consistent product ranges and occupy as much virtual shelf space as possible.

2- Fix stock issues faster and sell more

out of stock online product monitoring
In this example, retailer 2 ran out of stock of Product 1, and Retailer 4 ran out of Product 4.

Retailers eventually run out of stock; out of stock product pages hurt both sales and brand image. In the era of e-commerce, professional buyers usually handle hundreds of Stock Keeping Units (SKUs). It might be several days before they do call for a reassortment.

Some retailers like Amazon will actually display just how many units are still in stock. Although this is mostly intended for the final buyer, brands can use this to their advantage to anticipate shortages and minimize the delay before the products are restocked.

Besides hurting sales, stock issues can also have a long-lasting negative impact on search performance. Algorithms like Amazon’s have some memory built-in and may penalize a product that is frequently out of stock in the search results.

3- Find new distribution opportunities

Online stock and assortment monitoring distribution opportunity
There is a chance to have Product 1 and 2 be assorted at Retailer 3.

By monitoring the assortment of competitors on a large variety of websites, brands sometimes uncover e-tailers that they did not consider before. Competitive intelligence is one of the keys to expanding market share and total sales volume.

4- Keep 3rd party retailers into the fold

Many e-commerce websites, including Amazon, use a marketplace system. Some products may be sold and shipped by 3rd party retailers. Although the customers are free to pick their favorite option, most will just use whichever is triggered by the Add to cart button.

In this example, Amazon has the BuyBox. The product is sold and shipped by Amazon. This is the optimal situation for the brand.
In this example, Amazon has the Buy Box. The product is sold and shipped by Amazon. This is the optimal situation for the brand.

On Amazon stores, the retailer to whom the sale is going depends on who owns the Buy Box. If a manufacturer deals directly with Amazon, the product should be sold in direct. This is the situation that optimizes the revenue for the brand.

3rd party sellers are usually independent retailers or brick-and-mortar stores looking to make an extra buck. Sometimes, however, it may be worse: grey market, stolen merchandise, unauthorized retailers, counterfeits, repackaging and so on.

For brands and manufacturers, keeping an eye on big marketplaces’ Lost Buy Boxes should be one of the priorities of online assortment monitoring.

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5- Navigate product life cycles

Managing the distribution of a product throughout its life cycle is a challenge. Launch and end-of-life are two very thorny stages that brands must address diligently.

Product launches are crucial and require impeccable execution. Assortment monitoring is one of the keys to successfully launching new products. In particular, brands should check at least daily that:

  • The product pages have been set up with a release date or the ability to place a pre-order.
  • Each retailer releases the products on the date they are supposed to. The timing may differ if some retailers have a temporary exclusivity.
  • Watch for early signs of depleted inventory (“Only 8 units remaining“) if the product launch is successful.

Similarly, the end of a product’s life requires some monitoring:

  • Taking down old product pages that will never get reassorted
  • Eliminating older versions of a product to avoid confusion.

How to begin online assortment monitoring as a brand

Monitoring online assortment in your market has a lot of advantages. It benefits brands and retailers both. Although it is possible to monitor assortment manually for low-scale companies with a small set of products and competitors, you may rapidly want to set up an e-commerce monitoring solution.

To achieve the benefits mentioned in this article, look for a solution that:

  • monitors an extensive list of e-commerce websites,
  • updates their data several times per day,
  • stores historical data for a long time,
  • offers an intelligence overlay, so you don’t rely on data engineers,
  • has an alerting system for availability changes, new product pages, etc.

BlueBoard is an e-commerce monitoring software offering top-of-the-line solutions to monitor online prices. Try BlueBoard for free, find out if we are a good fit for your current assortment monitoring challenges!