Inventory Authority: Three Critical Business Capabilities for Achieving Store Fulfillment Success
Store fulfillment, including buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) and same-day delivery from stores, is one of omnichannel retail’s biggest success stories. Shoppers love it, particularly when it’s fast and free, and demand is still growing. In response, more and more retailers are preparing their stores to be fulfillment points. In fact, ninety percent of retailers say they plan to implement buy online, pick up in store by 2021[i].
From an operational viewpoint, store fulfillment can be challenging if not executed with care. This challenge is particularly acute in the functional area of store inventory management. An accurate view of store stock is essential to building a reliable omnichannel offering. If inventory accuracy is low, a retailer’s omnichannel offering can go wrong quickly, including damage to brand reputation.
Here are three critical questions retailers need to answer to ensure they have the right inventory authority to provide a reliable omnichannel offering:
- Do I have accurate visibility of inventory across all of my stores to support online orders?
In the digital age, store stock is consumed in new and different ways on a real-time basis. Store fulfillment adds a new layer of complexity and requires stores to make available real-time inventory information to any sales channel to avoid mistakes and wasted journeys, such as promising an item for pickup that is not available. So, when expanding omnichannel offerings like BOPIS, retailers should aspire to have a global view of all aspects of inventory across their network, including stores.
An essential ingredient for omnichannel success is an omnichannel order management system (OMS) with enterprise inventory capabilities that provides a complete and real-time view of inventory across any and every fulfillment location in the enterprise, including stores, in-transit, on-order and third-party owned/fulfilled inventory. With complete inventory information made available to any sales channels, retailers can confidently offer customers the ability to order products for store pickup or same-day delivery.
- Is my stores’ inventory being used optimally to improve margins?
While a local store may have inventory availability to handle the fulfillment of online orders for next-day delivery, this may not be the most profitable way to process the order and keep the customer promise. As a retailer’s omnichannel fulfillment offering matures, it must balance keeping customer promises with improving profitability. For example, for a next-day delivery order, it may be more profitable for a retailer to prioritize the use of inventory in one store over another to deplete a large amount of stock in one of the stores and avoid costly markdowns. Order management systems with intelligent fulfillment optimization capabilities can evaluate combinations of inventory availability, constraints and business conditions in real time to continuously optimize how store inventory is used in fulfillment to enable a retailer to deliver on customer promises while improving profitability, regardless of inventory network size, complexity or topology.
- Do my store operations have the tools they need to manage inventory accurately?
A retailer’s store teams and operations are front and center in the job to provide highly accurate store inventory to power a retailer’s omnichannel fulfillment offering. As such, there are steps retailers should take to ensure the store has the tools to accelerate store inventory management work, eliminate complicated inventory data entry steps and, ultimately, reduce the data errors that degrade inventory accuracy. Mobile-based inventory management applications that guide store associates in managing all aspects of store inventory management can improve store inventory accuracy, including the timeliness of inventory updates.
The panacea to improving store inventory accuracy might be store inventory tracking using RFID. Auburn University’s RFID Lab found that when retailers make store inventory available with RFID tags, store inventory accuracy rises above 99 percent, whereas traditional store inventory accuracy is typically below 70 percent. With RFID-optimized store inventory data, store inventory management becomes automated, helping retailers expose timelier and significantly more accurate inventory availability to sales channels, improving sales performance.
Time to Push Possible®
It’s true that introducing or expanding store fulfillment options has a massive impact on operations across a retailer’s organization. However, innovative retailers are overcoming these challenges and delighting customers with their accurate and reliable services, choosing the right technology and technology partners to Push Possible. Many have enjoyed the added benefit of add-on sales, generated when customers come into stores to pick up their purchases. Research by IMRG suggests that 40 percent of consumers will make another purchase when they come into a store for a click-and-collect order.
There are many positive outcomes, but our advice is to plan carefully before launching or expanding store fulfillment and to use modern retail technology like Manhattan Active™ Omni to be confident you have inventory authority to delight customers, deliver sustainable growth and experience as little operational pain as possible.
[i] Zebra, 2017 Global Retail Vision Study: Reinventing Retail