EPCIS, or: how stock visibility goes beyond store walls!

Retail is changing – we all know that. In the past, a retailer’s business model was focused on getting the right products for the best price shipped to stores at the right time. Those days are over.

Today’s market has become much more complex – predominantly driven by new digital services. As technology has embedded itself in customer behavior, shoppers switch between e-shops, stores, social media channels and marketplaces. As a result, retailers are challenged to make this a seamless shopping experience.

Increase the available stock across all channels
Nowadays, shoppers do research online and check if certain products are ‘in-stock’ before or while  they start their purchase. They are craving for ways that can tell them where they can order or even pick their desired products up right away. Giving shoppers an online insight in the availability of their wish list can drive sales. Whether this is handled at a basic level where the website tells consumers if an item is ‘in-stock’ or by displaying the exact stock information: the overall objective for omnichannel brands and retailers is to improve and maximize the available product range.

Legacy systems are neither connected nor real-time 
In many retail organizations, stock information is often kept in different silos such as ERP, POS, WMS, et cetera. Another problem is often that stock information is not accurate, especially when it comes from the stores based on (still) existing error-prone manual processes. Oftentimes, stock information is simply “outdated”. For example, if a retailer is just collecting overnight stock positions from various systems, the result of this calculation from last night will not represent the actual stock situation in the moment a customer wants to buy. And finally, not having accurate insights into stocks has negative consequences: too much inventory sucks up the cash flow in carrying costs, while too little leads to stock-outs and lost sales. And as retailers develop more and more channels to increase revenue and brand awareness without real-time stock visibility to manage the whole thing, mismanagement costs just keep rising.

EPCIS as a stock visibility platform
On this platform, I have often expressed my view on the necessity of RFID-based stock management for retail stores. But, while this is a super-efficient way of creating stock accuracy in stores, it is also just the “tip of the iceberg”. Once products are equipped with RFID-labels (ideally at source), it is possible to seamlessly track and trace all movements along the entire supply network. Using RFID technology in the supply chain enables error-free, real-time efficiency and visibility throughout the operations. RFID read-events are then synchronized with an EPCIS repository (e.g. Nedap !D Cloud), which – as a consequence – acts as a (real-time) stock visibility platform. Such a platform provides a standardized single point of integration to business and consumer applications for complete supply chain and inventory visibility in real time. It monitors the inventory transactions and movements from all related sources in real-time and can provide (accurate) stock information to relevant back-end systems, such as order management.

A seamless shopping experience
So, why settle for less if you are able to create an agile omnichannel order fulfillment strategy? An EPCIS repository allows brands and retailers to provide customers full and real-time insights in available items, wherever the item is located. Customers buy what they expect to buy, don’t get disappointed and are able to pick it up or to order online, whatever they prefer. That’s what we call a seamless shopping experience.

You want to learn more? Then visit the !D Cloud page or meet us at the RetailEXPO in London to hear firsthand from peer retailers how they improve their stock accuracy using RFID.

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About the author: Tom Vieweger

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