In retail, mistakes have direct and indirect costs. Not having the stock your customer thinks you do is a prime example of this. Minimizing cost and perfecting the customer experience are both key aims for omnichannel retailers, but getting a grip on stock is an ever present challenge. What’s the right solution?
Chances are if you’ve worked in retail for any real amount of time, you’ll have felt the pain of not having stock. Not just in your store, whether that’s offline or online, but when trying to secure more of what your customers need from other channels. Running an omnichannel retail operation means coordinating so many moving parts to keep control of your inventory that many organizations become overwhelmed and settle for a system that works ‘well enough’. There is, however, a better way.
Old Problems, New Age
Right from the start, let’s just clarify something – managing stock has always been a challenge. But the true challenges that face retailers now is the weight of customer expectations. The boom in online retail in not just the past decade, but particularly the past 3 years has dramatically shifted the bar in terms of what customers believe they should be given from an experience perspective.
Serviced by giants like Amazon, people want everything tomorrow, or even sooner, if they can get it. That means that every time you say you have stock but it turns out you don’t, you’re going to frustrate your customers, and they’re going to go elsewhere. It really is that straightforward, and unless you’re offering a seriously unique product, your retention and brand image are going to take some big knocks.
That said – looking beyond the customer issue for a moment – every time you don’t have the stock you think you do, it costs your business. Think about the waste of resources involved in processing an order you can’t fulfill. Once you’ve disappointed the customer you’re going to need a staff member to manually check stock and report on it – taking them away from a customer facing value add activity. And that’s before you’ve issued a refund.
Yup, mistakes with stock drives costs throughout your business.
To get this sort of problem under control, you need to look at your current IT architecture and process flows. Think about it this way – while updating your stock values every hour might sound reasonable on paper, if you have high volumes of customers at certain times of the day, it’s going to end up letting one of them down.
At Wolfpack, we create a new real-time stock value, and there are a number of ways to achieve this. One approach our customers have found a lot of success with is the use of RFID tags. With our partners we put in place an RFID system that talks to your webstore so stock is always up to date. If you connect all your systems in as close to real-time as possible, then and only then, can you get an accurate picture of stock levels. That’s exactly what Wolfpack helps with.
But, what happens when an item is still missing? We automate the process of fixing that to minimize the time spent on that mistake. That includes automatically calculating and issuing refunds but also when stock issues are found, we can route customers to other nearby stores based on the contents of their order.
Getting a grip on your stock is not just about ensuring everything is accurate, but also setting up contingencies for when things do go awry.
If you want a better way to manage stock then you need to speak to Wolfpack today.