Websites: The New Inventory and Product Locators
We’ve all been there — going online to see if a specific piece of merchandise is currently available at a particular retail store, before taking the time to drive to said store or calling the store directly. If the online site shows that a product isn't currently available at that store (or the store location that's most convenient to you), the next likely step in the shopping journey is to look for the product at another retail store — most likely a competitor.
In today’s retail reality, being able to provide omnichannel product visibility is crucial. Not only does it help maximize a retailer’s efficiencies, but it's also the foundation of a retailer’s omnichannel consumer experience. Consumers don’t differentiate between channels, and they expect a retailer’s inventory to be transparent. As we can all attest to, consumers frequently use the internet as one of the first steps in their shopping journey to see if what they want is in store, before they head out to purchase it.
In short, today’s retail and brand websites must have all of the bells and whistles, serving as the new location to check inventory. Retailers must provide a single (and updated) view of inventory.
Accurate Inventory Visibility = Happy Customers
Local product visibility is becoming more and more important to consumers. Consider the following from Kibo’s recent consumer trends survey:
- 58 percent of consumers will not purchase from a retailer if product availability cannot be confirmed online;
- two-thirds of shoppers are less likely to buy from retailers unable to confirm product availability; and
- 40 percent of the time customers will make additional purchases when going to a store for in-store pickup.
Consumers desire to immediately see where a product is available. This can provide challenges for manufacturers and retailers without a single view of inventory across channels. However, with the support of an order management solution, powerful APIs can provide shoppers an accurate count of available-to-promise inventory. Any demand placed on an item is immediately checked against the master inventory list to determine its availability.
With a singular, real-time, available-to-promise inventory tool, all inventory is available to any customer shopping through any channel at any time, ultimately driving more traffic into stores, more sales, and increasing inventory turns and reducing markdowns.
Turning Dealer Locators Into Product Locators
Inventory visibility can play a key role for brands that want to have a better conversion from website to store. Brands selling online typically only have an e-commerce site without in-store pickup capabilities, forcing customers to pay for shipping and wait for their order to arrive; or a dealer locator page that only communicates that a product is sold at a dealer store, not necessarily if the specific product is available. Neither of these options provide a clear path to purchase that will give a shopper a direct link to a retailer with known inventory.
Shoppers want to find products quickly, and retailers should ensure they can find a product online and easily complete the purchase. When a retailer is able to provide real-time local inventory feeds on a branded website, it can more seamlessly track the brand experience and not risk losing out on a consumer going into a retail store and being sold on another brand. When dealer locators are turned into product locators, the shopper wins because they get the exact item they're looking for at a store near them. Brands win because they get the product in the hands of the consumer and get to have more control over the path to purchase. And retailers win because they have new consumers entering their stores.
Consumers expect to buy online from retailers and brands when and however they choose. It’s time to start giving them immediate access to the products they want via a best-in-class, information- and product-rich e-commerce site that can sell everywhere and fulfill anywhere, anytime.
Jennifer Sherman is the senior vice president of product and strategy for Kibo, a unified omnichannel commerce platform provider. Jennifer can be reached at email@example.com.
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