Imagining a world whereby stock isn’t tracked and managed is barely worth thinking about.
We’d miss out on sales, end up with too much stock to store in a back office – or even worse, suffer from increased costs as a result of missing a shipment or rescheduling one. To avoid stockout and maximise return on investment, retailers rely on a robust inventory management process. However, the problem is that retailers are drowning in a sea of inventory.
The more the sea rises, the harder it is to stay afloat. On the other hand though, should the water levels decrease, the boat encroaches on further danger. It’s important for retailers to find the middle ground – and sail by calmly.
To avoid the stormy seas, retailers need to prepare to face difficult journeys along the supply chain.
Avoiding the stormy seas
The retail supply chain used to be simple. From supplier to distribution centre, distribution centre to the store, and store to the customer – it has barely changed in 150 years. Yet, today retailers face a stormy journey. As consumer expectations continue to change, and rapidly. The need to fulfil these increasing demands across multiple new channels driving up inventory.
In fact, according to Gartner, 54 percent of retailers say that fulfilling online orders from store increases store inventory by 10 percent. Essentially, even the best run retailers could be having issues with increasing inventory as they expand across channels.
However, what’s more, it’s quite likely that the inventory is covering up issues, not just with the production system, but with issues with the overall omni-channel fulfilment system. These issues can include poor sales forecasts, problematic inventory placement decisions, supplier delivery delays, missing process orchestration, data silos and inefficient manual processes.
Finding the middle ground
To avoid these bumps in the supply chain and to improve the process, retailers need to implement the right technology to facilitate necessary data flows. This applies to both inside and outside of the organisation.
The best place to start is in finding out what the source of these issues is. In doing this, the inventory can then be controlled.
When it comes to inventory and visibility, a great starting point is real-time inventory visibility. This offers instant insight into stock. Think about it. It’s 11am and you’re expecting a bulk delivery, but you have no idea where it is. A real-time inventory visibility solution can help every retailer to overcome this with real-time insights that can make it possible to meet the demands of customers and planners through any channel. By understanding real-time inventory status across all your locations, you can determine the most beneficial way to use the inventory at any specific time to maximise sales and profits. This, whilst also ensuring customer satisfaction.
Increased visibility over the supply chain is crucial in maintaining an updated view of inventory, regardless of the number of systems any retailer has.
A calm sail
We live in a more digital world than ever before. This means consumers are far less patient when going into a store when it comes to finding a certain product they are looking for. If a retail assistant were to walk over to a shelf to see if the product is still in stock, the customer might not wait. The ability to check the online systems is therefore key to giving accurate and up to date information to a customer regarding the location of an item – or alternatively, when the next shipment is due.
This doesn’t just apply to retailers. But, to the customer too. Today’s customers are no longer just going to traditional brick-and-mortar stores. They are shopping online via mobile devices, iPads and tablets. This means they expect to be able to check whether or not a certain product is in store – or if in fact, it’s stocked in a store nearby.
Whilst implementing real-time visibility into the inventory process may take time; it’s easy to understand. This is why it is important that retailers take their time to find the best solution for them. The retail industry is as its most competitive yet. To stand out in an already crowded space, customer experience must be at the centre of everything we do. This means ensuring every customer is satisfied, with the products they want – as available as they can possibly be. Managing stock efficiently and effectively is crucial to facilitating a top-quality Customer Experience – and in ensuring return purchasing.