The importance of omnichannel inventory management

Consumers are no longer constricted to shopping through one channel. Someone could just as easily buy from a merchant online as they could in-store or via a mobile device. For the most part, that’s good for retailers, as it enables them to expand their base of operations beyond the geographic location at which they are headquartered.

However, there are some potential drawbacks that merchants may not consider, particularly when it comes to inventory management, and these cons could negatively affect the shopping experience. For instance, say a consumer is driving to work and she stops into a store really quick. She sees a product she really likes, but needs to go to work. At work, she decides to make the purchase and orders it online. On the eCommerce website, however, the product is unavailable or out of stock, even though she just saw it in-store. She is unable to make the purchase and then forgets about it.

In this instance, the lack of interplay between the retailer’s online and offline storefronts cost the company a sale. In a worst-case scenario, the negative shopping experience may even encourage the consumer in question to not go back to that store. Omnichannel shopping is a big benefit to eCommerce operations, but it also comes with a unique set of challenges that retailers must respond to in advance.

Inventory management in the omnichannel environment

Situations such as the above are difficult to manage and may be unavoidable at some points. Behind the shelves, there are numerous complications associated with the ensuring the right products are available on store shelves, and everyone from inventory analysts to IT systems administrators play a role in the situation. However, inventory management software can go a long way to help retailers bring their disparate shopping channels together.

“Companies may have inventory problems because they operate these channels as distinct business units, each with its own infrastructure and inventory,” Rod Sides, the retail and distribution practice leader with Deloitte Consulting told the Wall Street Journal. “They are not using store inventory to fill online orders, and online inventory to fill merchandise gaps in their stores.”

By making a few forward-thinking investments in eCommerce software, merchants will be better able to manage both in-store and online operations.