Operations Management Articles

How to Manage Your Inventory in an Omni-Channel World

by Karen McCandless
Published on 24 July 2015

magnifying glass on products

Out of stock. Three dreaded words that everyone hates and that spell a lost sale (and customer, probably) for your business. Getting your inventory right has long been a challenge, but never more so with today's channel-hopping customer.

Picture this scenario: a customer walks into your store having researched a product (and its availability) on your fancy, responsive-design based website, compared prices on your super slick mobile app, and checked out reviews on your fun and social Facebook page. Then they get in store only to find out that the product isn't available there. That's a lost sale right there, even with all the work you've put into having an engaging omni-channel experience. Or they walk into your store expecting to be able to return the product they bought via the mobile app. Nope, no can do: another lost sale and a very unhappy customer.

"Fulfillment is an often overlooked aspect of running an online business," says Sangram Kadam co-founder of inventory management platform Ordoro. "New retailers put in a lot of effort in getting the buying experience just right. But failure to deliver the purchase dents consumer confidence, and causes irreparable harm to the business."

Where's my stuff?

In this omni-channel world, there is no "typical" customer journey, which means you must be more agile with your inventory - both in terms of moving it across channels and having real-time visibility of where it is so you can update your channels. By not achieving this, you run the risk of either fulfilling orders from high-cost inventory areas, or losing the sale altogether.

If you want to get ahead of the competition, you need to allow your customers to research, purchase, and return through any channel. Easier said than done, of course. According to research, only 55 percent of companies have cross-channel inventory visibility and can transfer this inventory across channels. Meanwhile, 44 percent of respondents confirmed they are still unable to integrate inventory and order management across all channels.

Breaking down silos and embracing integration

But integrating inventory management across channels can be achieved, meaning you can use inventory for one channel in another. It may not mean a complete end to lost sales, but it will help meet the needs of today's channel-hopping consumer. This approach involves breaking down the divisions between in-store and digital teams, having a pool of inventory that can be used for any channel, and implementing an eCommerce solution that provides real-time visibility into where your inventory is, while automatically updating this information across all touchpoints.

Sync your inventory across channels

Ordoro's Unified Inventory management, syncs inventory across all of your storefronts, so when a change is made in one part, it updates across all your shopping carts and marketplaces. "Ordoro acts as your inventory master - monitoring orders coming in from across all your channels as well as inventory received from purchase orders - thus maintaining an accurate picture of what your inventory looks like," explains Kadam. "This inventory is constantly updated across all sales channels to avoid overselling situations."

The benefits of achieving this include not only turning potential customers into loyal ones by ensuring you fulfill their order no matter which channel they shop in, but also getting ahead of your competitors and picking up any lost sales that come from customers that have come up against the out-of-stock issue.

One company that is reaping the benefits is marketing and advertising firm PPL. "The best part about it all is that my customers are happier and much more likely to leave favorable reviews, reorder, and try different products we order," comments creative director and co-founder Floyd Sanchez.

Here to help

Kadam believes that Ordoro is poised to help more companies like PPL keep customers happy, not just by providing an experience that they want now, but adapting to future trends and developments in this area.

"Consumer buying behavior has changed over the past few years - from retail stores, to online purchases to social media," he says. "How people used to buy is very different from how they buy today and will be very different ten years from now. We are Ordoro are committed to helping retailers adapt to this evolution and grow their business by enabling them to provide a great customer experience."

This post was brought to you in conjunction with ecommerce software provider Ordoro.


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