Managing inventory is one of a retailer’s biggest tasks, priorities and headaches, and today the proliferation of channels is making the job even more difficult. With consumers demanding more options in receiving the goods they purchase, retailers are challenged with devising an inventory fulfillment strategy to meet expectations and maximize profitability.
A system that enables you to manage inventory across your entire retail organization is key to giving customers the connected retail experience they expect. Here are two of the benefits of making an organization-wide inventory management system a reality:
Many retailers have approached store fulfillment with skepticism and caution, largely because e-Commerce traditionally has been viewed as a competitor to brick-and-mortar. The thinking has been: if I ship the last Widget A from the store to someone who bought it online, what happens when another customer walks in looking for that product?
However, there are inventory management systems that help ensure orders are fulfilled from the best possible channel, increasing product exposure and availability across all channels. You can establish minimums so the last Widget A isn’t completely out of stock at a store, but is instead shipped from a different location. Fulfilling from the store should involve employee training to ensure the strategy is executed as seamlessly as possible.
Inventory fulfillment strategies involving shipping from stores and in-store pickup offer numerous benefits. For example, retailers can get products to customers more quickly. Instead of waiting days or weeks for an item to arrive by a carrier, products available at the local-store level can be shipped quickly or made available for the shopper who wants to make a quick trip to the store — which has the added advantage of enticing a significant percentage of customers to make additional purchases while they’re there.
The Single Stock Pool System
Retailers are becoming more familiar with the single stock pool approach, which dictates that all inventory is considered as a single pool of stock, as opposed to the traditional approach dedicating some inventory solely for brick-and-mortar and another inventory batch for e-Commerce. This methodology can reduce late-season markdowns, keeping profits higher and improving sell-through overall. And again, product visibility is maximized, reducing instances of customers being disappointed when they don’t find what they’re looking for.
In order to properly roll out this kind of inventory fulfillment strategy, retailers need robust systems that can eliminate silos and truly integrate disparate software platforms, ensuring inventory data is up-to-the-minute in terms of accuracy. Only then can retailers be confident that their inventory is fully available to customers regardless of the channel on which they’re shopping.
The evolving retail landscape is compelling merchants to investigate new approaches to inventory fulfillment. Some are mimicking Amazon’s model of building distribution centers close to metropolitan areas in order to get orders to customers more quickly. Yet others are building separate sprawling e-Commerce distribution centers. Big box retailers such as Target, Walmart and others are taking a fresh look at their store size and operations, embracing smaller footprints and leveraging their physical locations to fulfill orders placed online.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for inventory fulfillment as retailers experiment with an array of strategies. But the winning formula always ensures product is available to customers regardless of their purchasing channel.
Paula Da Silva is Senior Vice President of Sales for Asia Pacific and the Americas for CitiXsys. She has more than 10 years’ experience in the retail industry associated with delivering innovative software solutions to mid and large sized retailers. Known for her strong track record of operational excellence and managing a global ecosystem of technology partners, Da Silva has been instrumental in building the iVend Retail into a global market leader in the retail industry and plays a major role in the Company’s overall performance.