With omnichannel shopping becoming the new norm -- retail and e-commerce businesses need to adapt their inventory to meet the variable demand. Products need to be viewable organization-wide. And they need to be available for online, curbside, and in-store shopping at the same time as the average consumer uses a variety of channels before making a purchase with 81% saying they've used both physical and digital channels in the past 6 months according to Digital Commerce 360.
But the obvious question is: why? How does connecting your inventory in an order management system (OMS) help your business? In this post, we’ll look at 4 ways.
The most obvious and important benefit of connected inventory is the flexibility it offers your business. Rather than being locked into a particular channel (i.e. online vs. in-store vs. BOPIS), inventory can be used interchangeably for any type of shopping.
Products housed on the shelves of your brick-and-mortar locations can be packed up and handed to customers at the curb or shipped to them directly via ship-from-store (SFS) or employee delivery methods. And warehouse inventory can be routed anywhere to respond to stores’ low inventory levels and fulfill online orders.
Ultimately, this means you’re less likely to have stockout issues when it really matters.
Quicker Delivery Service
While 1-2 day delivery has become a standard expectation and best practice in the last 12-18 months, it’s no less difficult to do. Not only has online shopping activity skyrocketed recently, but finding the fastest (and more cost-effective) fulfillment route has also become more complicated.
However, connected inventory may offer the solution. According to a 2020 report from McKinsey, connecting your inventory can actually decrease your delivery time, because it enables you to ship products from lots of different warehouses and stores to fulfill customer orders.
As a result, you don’t have to wait for a certain location to restock its inventory. And you don’t need to ship orders from a fulfillment center that’s significantly further away from a customer than a store. Whichever location has what your customers need and is an optimal distance from them can take care of their order fulfillment.
Track Channel Performance
When you track performance by channel or location, you’re getting limited data. Your inventory levels are siloed, channel popularity is segmented, and fulfillment preferences are difficult to measure. As a result, you’re less able to tell what’s working and make improvements.
Connecting your inventory allows you to better compare fulfillment methods and see which channels are performing the best, so you can invest more energy and resources there. More importantly, an omnichannel view of your inventory allows you to pinpoint locations or channels that need help.
With all of this data in your hands, you can confidently make decisions and allocate resources where they need to be to keep your customers happy.
Better Customer Care
When information is siloed by channel, location, and customer -- customer care gets difficult and confusing. Answers are more difficult to hunt down, calls have to be routed from person to person, and sometimes no one knows exactly how to solve the problem. And that’s an issue because customers need clarity to be comfortable and confident doing business with you.
Organizing your inventory in one place makes customer support easier by putting all the information needed at your agents’ fingertips. By viewing product availability organization-wide, they can better help customers track their return package or get a complicated order placed. And with a unified view, they can better support customers who are dealing with lengthy backorders and slow order cycles.
In essence, they can respond to problems faster and with better results.
Retail and e-commerce shopping has changed drastically over the last few years -- and businesses need to adapt to keep up with the ongoing progress. Fortunately, by connecting inventory in every store and fulfillment center, you can deliver orders faster, offer better customer care, accurately track your performance, and allocate your inventory wherever it’s needed to keep your customers coming back.