Optimizing Inventory Management for Omnichannel Retailers
With the rising popularity of e-commerce, today’s consumers want to control how, when and where they shop. This demand for flexibility has led many retailers to explore new omnichannel strategies, offering both online and in-store browsing, purchasing and return channels. With the right approach, omnichannel can be an effective means to boost sales, improve the customer experience, and offer businesses an edge in the competitive retail environment.
For these strategies to be effective, retailers need to know exactly what products they have at any location, at any given time. However, it becomes increasingly difficult to accurately manage inventory as sales channels expand. Without true visibility into inventory levels, retailers run the risk of losing profits due to overselling out-of-stock products and overstocking slow-moving items.
Traditional inventory systems are no longer enough to keep up with the demands of omnichannel. Manual methods are not only time consuming and error prone, but they also don't offer access to real-time data. In order to provide fast, accurate service and a true omnichannel experience, retailers need a solution that synchronizes inventory and sales data across all channels for a high level of visibility and accuracy.
Real-Time Visibility With a Cloud-Based Solution
A cloud-based, automated inventory management solution can offer a single, real-time view of products at the store level, in the warehouse and across the entire supply chain. Using barcode scanning and radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, businesses can track inventory flow from the time it's received at the warehouse to when it's shipped to the customer.
Real-time sales updates from across all channels means inventory counts are never out of date. And with all data available on any device at any time through a secure cloud server, retailers can instantly generate an accurate count of a particular SKU and pinpoint each item down to its exact location. Armed with this data, retailers can make more informed business decisions and identify opportunities for greater costs savings, faster fulfillment and increased sales.
Lowering Costs and Improving the Customer Experience
Today’s customers expect their orders to be in stock, accurate and delivered on time. Traditionally, businesses have fulfilled e-commerce orders out of one or two large, centrally located warehouses. But as they look to shorten delivery times and reduce shipping costs, retailers have begun using local stores for fulfillment.
The real-time visibility provided by an automated inventory management system allows retailers to easily determine the fastest and most cost-effective fulfillment option for each order. This means that customers no longer have to wait a week for an item to be shipped across the country; they can choose same-day shipping or pick it up from their local store.
With the ability to fulfill orders from many locations, retailers can better balance inventory across all channels. Furthermore, with added insight into purchasing trends, they can easily forecast quantities for both peak and off-peak seasons so items are optimally stocked. This ensures businesses never miss a sale due to out-of-stock situations, and profits aren't diminished by surpluses and markdowns. In turn, the customer has a better shopping experience with more purchasing options and better item availability.
Ultimately, staying competitive in an omnichannel environment is all about providing a better, more flexible customer experience. With the real-time visibility and accuracy provided by an automated inventory management solution, retailers can attract and retain customers with more purchasing options, faster service and accurate, convenient fulfillment.
Greg Henry is vice president of client solutions at Barcoding, Inc., an integrator and reseller of supply chain data capture and mobile tech solutions.
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