Having a good inventory management system and processes is a surefire way to make sure customers have the right expectations when placing orders, and end up being happy, repeat customers.
Of course, omnichannel shopping means that customers may place orders online, in a store, over the phone, via carrier pigeon, or through marketplaces. This necessitates that every outlet mentioned has the same record of inventory, so that customers aren't ordering products you don't have.
Without a solid inventory management infrastructure, it's all too easy to disappoint customers when they find that their order will be delayed, after they've already purchased it.
The SkuNexus platform is optimized for omnichannel selling. Containing functions for inventory all the way through fulfillment, you can manage your entire back end process in one platform.
Expectations of Omnichannel Shoppers
When given the choice, consumers prefer omnichannel enabled retailers. While online commerce was once dominated by the 30 and under crowd, Business Insider now reports that one in four people above age 55 made an online purchase on a mobile device and their total online buying power exceeds several billion per year.
Convenience and ease are main features driving this older generation of shoppers, many of who may not be completely comfortable giving up shopping at brick-and-mortar store, due to habit and perceived trustworthiness. Breaking into this niche of shoppers means letting them know they are able to physically view an online item in store, or are able to take back an unwanted item in store – without the hassle of returning packages through the mail.
The conversation between eCommerce vs brick-and-mortar stores is definitely ongoing, with support for eCommerce on both sides.
But in reality, the answer to that question is a moot point, since customers tend to vote with their wallets.
Giving Customers a Choice
Today’s customers shop wherever is convenient for them*. It’s not your job to make them choose a specific place, but rather to enable them to shop in the way that they prefer.
A customer may see a pair of shoes in an internet ad and buy directly from the site, or their buying cycle may be elongated if they choose to view the item in a physical store. A common scenario is a combination of both.
Large retailers like Target, Best Buy and Walmart are scoring big with this strategy, increasing order values and retaining more cross-channel shoppers.
Luxury retailers are slower to this trend, but it can be implemented with the right order management system that is able to communicate directly with the store POS system. Man hours to fulfill from any store are manageable; with store associate downtime – orders can be picked, packed and pulled in just a few minutes.
Some retailers are even extending this strategy to fulfilling orders directly from physical locations. This cuts down on the need for expensive warehouse space and staff and gives customers the choice of shopping from every single rack the business has, all online. Retailers must be wary of in-store fulfillment backfiring if inventory counts are not kept accurate – and loss of items due to theft, manual error or damage must be taken into account for potential customer service calls.
Inventory Management Brings the Business Together
According to Fox Business, last year luxury retailer Neiman Marcus announced that it is considering a sale and drastic changes to the company structure, due to a crushing debt brought on by “inventory management issues that left them unable to fill orders.” It is a common enough story with traditionally brick-and-mortar retailers that are struggling to move to an omnichannel strategy that encourages both online and offline sales growth.
An inventory management system should not create siloes or divisions within the company. Visibility across the enterprise is key to accountability and making sure that all moving parts are in sync – from order capture to fulfillment and shipping.
Bringing In-store and Online Together
Companies with online retail presences that also have physical stores can leverage fulfill from anywhere capabilities to ensure out-of-stocks online happen less, and out-of-stock in-store can be fulfilled online – making both sets of customers happy.
To achieve a cross-channel selling strategy, your order manager platform must support:
- Buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS) capabilities
- Online order fulfillment from any physical location
- Online purchase returns in-store
- Ability to see if inventory is available in-store and where
- Store locator feature with directions embedded
Fully Automated Fulfillment Builds on Accurate Inventory Management
Automation of workflows decreases the likelihood of delayed shipments and orders, a main driver of Neiman Marcus’ failure to launch a successful eCommerce strategy, according to Fox Business. Tailoring the workflows and pick-pack-ship planning to maximize efficiency will get the orders to customers’ door faster, freeing up customer service and increase probability of returning customers.
With all the competition in today’s online retail landscape and the globalization of eCommerce – everything must work perfectly in order to retain loyal customers. Up-to-the-minute inventory counts and real-time visibility across the enterprise can eliminate these common pitfalls that are detrimental to your online business.
Facts back up these strategies. Accenture reports* that “77% of surveyed retailers cited that enabling ship-from-store had reduced or significantly reduced their fulfillment costs” and “88% cited that enabling ship-from-store had improved or significantly improved their customer satisfaction metrics."
Fortunately, an inventory management system does not have to be a source of stress for your company, choosing the right platform can bolster sales and increase customer satisfaction, whether you have online-only fulfillment, brick-and-mortar, or a combination of both.