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. Additionally, stores introduce services like “in-store order” for making additional products accessible to their customers per request.
In many retail organizations, stock information is often kept in different silos such as ERP, POS, WMS, et cetera. A problem is often, that stock information is not accurate, especially when it comes from the stores based on (still) existing error-prone manual processes or theft. Also, stock information is simply “outdated”.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 at the moment a customer wants to buy.
Real-time stock visibility provides shoppers with online insight into the availability of items on their wish list. 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.
Creating a very positive shopping experience and can result in loyal shoppers or even better: fans
Most omnichannel services, like “In-Store Order” or “Endless Aisle” require one thing: stores need access to additional pools of stock. Be it from a central warehouse, the e-commerce channel, another store of the same retail chain directly and instantly from the central stock of a connected brand.
If retailers and suppliers are able to grant access to their stock information, they can – collaboratively – enlarge the availability of items and fulfil customer’s demands. Vice versa the brand or online platform is able to connect to the stock of the retailer and use the stores as a local fulfilment centre and pass orders from their brand web-shop on to local stores.
Online orders from nearby can be picked and delivered to the customers within the same day or be provided as a “click & reserve” service. This truly creates a very positive shopping experience and can result in loyal shoppers or even better: fans.
The right assortment, and the best product availability, with seamless service and an emotional brand image sum up the perfect customer journey.
Nowadays, without RFID, retailers know that their stock information is typically not accurate. As a consequence, they set thresholds of minimum stock-levels in their IT systems.
For example, we see very often that only products will be promoted online if they have a minimum of three items in the store. The problem is that all products with two are fewer items on stock will not be promoted in the web-shop.
For many fashion retailers, this means that only 50% or less of their assortment is shown online. Here is where RFID helps: if you have accurate stock and you can trust the stock levels, you can show your whole assortment online. Thus, the sellable stock will increase.
A good example of how to leverage in-store stock to broaden online sellable stock comes from Outdoor Voices, a US-based digital native athletic apparel brand. Online orders play a significant part in Outdoor Voices’ business. Order fulfilment, therefore, is crucial.
One of the key results of their RFID pilot project is that the number of lost sales due to inaccurate stock dropped significantly. Web orders are located and picked from store shelves using RFID handhelds equipped with RFID-based stock management software. Orders are then shipped from there when they are not available in the distribution centre.
In addition, in-store safety stocks can be lowered as full inventory visibility allows for efficient replenishment.
Besides the benefits to their omnichannel journey, the use of RFID allows for increased product availability and improved on-shelf availability that has ultimately transpired in a lift for Outdoor Voices.