The pace of change in retail can be dizzying. Buying behaviors and customer expectations are changing in real-time. Shopping experiences are driving differentiation. And, in the midst of a global pandemic, retailers are continuing to rethink and retool how they can anticipate and meet evolving customer needs.
Multi-channel strategies have been replaced by omnichannel. It’s no longer enough for retailers to give their customers multiple platforms to choose from. Today’s customers expect the channels – in-store, online, mobile, and social – to blend seamlessly as they move from one channel to another and back again – often in the course of a single purchase.
Behind the scenes, an omnichannel retail strategy requires omnichannel inventory management. Omnichannel inventory is the ability to accurately manage your inventory across channels. To deliver a seamless omnichannel customer experience, you must have an integrated view of what’s in the warehouse, what’s sold, and what’s been ordered – in real-time.
Tracking the different sources and managing stock levels isn’t always easy. But the potential rewards are worth it. Omnichannel customers will spend up to 35 percent more per transaction and have a 30 percent higher customer lifetime value compared to single-channel customers.
Ready to practice omnichannel inventory? Start by avoiding these three obstacles.
1. Siloed inventory
As retailers shifted to multiple channels from brick-and-mortar or e-commerce only, they didn’t always shift their inventory management processes. That meant that supply orders and inventory data were still handled separately, channel by channel. So, when it was time to design and deliver true omnichannel shopping experiences, putting it all together could be a manual spreadsheet mess and cause inefficiencies like over-ordering or back-orders.
Achieving omnichannel retail means integrating back-end point-of-sale (POS) systems and processes across channels, including ordering, tracking, analyzing, and adjusting inventory.
Related: Customer Expectations: Why Retailers Need to Deliver an Omnichannel Experience
2. Limited tracking
A customer’s experience is only as good as your inventory management. By definition, an omnichannel experience means your customer may start shopping online but make the actual purchase in person at your store. If your website tells a customer the item they want is in-stock, it can’t just mean it’s in the warehouse. Inventory tracking and reporting need to be real-time and accurate – with visibility for both you and your customer.
Similarly, inventory tracking needs to keep you up to date across channels to ensure you’re able to keep the right amount of stock on-hand. If you receive a large online order, you may not be able to replenish your store shelves the next day without automated re-order triggers that take all channels into account. Leverage an integrated POS system to automate your re-order process, and make timely, data-driven inventory forecasting decisions.
Related: 5 Essential Facts Your Inventory Management Reports Should Be Telling You
3. Disconnected customer experience
Omnichannel retail is customer-centric. And even though it may feel like a back-end process, so is omnichannel inventory. As you consider enhancements to your inventory management, evaluate the impact on the customer experience.
Effective inventory management affects your customers in obvious ways, such as having the item they want to purchase available and accessible via the channel they choose to shop. It also affects their experiences in less obvious but equally impactful ways. For example, integrated inventory management can make it simple for a customer to purchase an item online and choose to pick it up curbside at the store’s brick-and-mortar location.
Here’s more on Omnichannel Inventory.
Taking an omnichannel approach to inventory automatically enhances your ability to deliver a true omnichannel experience to your customers. POSIM – a point-of-sale and inventory management system – makes it possible with integrated inventory data and robust reporting capabilities. Contact us for a demo today. And, check out more inventory insights in our guide, Countdown to the Holidays: 10 Steps to Optimize Inventory Management and Increase Sales. Download now.