More and more companies are beginning to adopt Omni-channel strategies, if they have not already. Selling through multiple channels is great, but can pose major challenges around inventory visibility. Both you and your customer need to have visibility to your inventory network. While most companies have begun focusing on their own visibility, they have yet to extend this focus to their customers.
Used correctly, inventory visibility can be a major competitive advantage for a company. Let’s examine how to accomplish this.
It all starts with having an accurate view of your network-wide inventory across all selling channels at all locations. Simply knowing the total inventory of an item in your network will not be sufficient enough. You need to drill down deeper to an item or location level. It is critical that you can understand this internally before trying to provide this level of visibility to your customer. Once you have this internal visibility, how do you provide the customer with visibility?
Many companies are using a simple tool, like a low-stock indicator, on their website to display items that have a risk to their availability. Once an item falls below a low-stock point, an alert is sent to the website and that item shows as having low stock. Of course, this all depends on a seamless integration between your Order Management System and E-Commerce platform.
Furthermore, some companies are providing the number of units available on their website. The more visibility you are willing to provide the customer, the more buying power you will instill in them. For example, let’s say you have two units left of an item. Your customer visits your website and sees the item available. Without any sort of low-stock indicator alerting your customer, they could leave your website and not purchase the item only to come back and find the item is no longer available.
A low-stock indicator creates urgency for the customer and screams “if you don’t buy this item now, it may not be here when you come back”. This can convert the prospective customer to a buyer. It can even drive customers to the store to purchase the item, increasing foot traffic in your local stores.
You would think this concept is widely adopted, but according to the recent Order Dynamics Omni-1000 Research report, only 63.3% of US retailers provide at minimum a basic in-stock indicator on their site. That’s almost 40% of companies who may be losing customers due to their lack of inventory visibility.
Provide your customers with at the very least a basic visibility to your inventory levels. It will go a long way in empowering your customers as buyers and creating a competitive advantage for your company.
Contributor: Kevin Quigley