With the ever-growing options of fulfillment providers in the marketplace, deciding which provider fits your business plan is crucial. As omnichannel and multichannel retail become more and more relevant in today’s marketplace, your customer wants your product in hand as easily and quickly as possible. With omnichannel options, customers are browsing in store, checking their mobile phones for deals online, coming home to further research product reviews and specs, and pulling out their tablet to finish their purchase. But what if they can’t see all of the real-time inventory you actually have on hand? This poses a problem for not only your customer, but for your business as well.
Over 52% of online shoppers abandon all in-cart purchases when one or more of their items are not in stock, according to Internet Retailer magazine.
How can you avoid abandoned items in your potential shoppers’ carts? Take a look at some of the most important ways to achieve successful checkouts and increase efficiency in your fulfillment inventory management system.
1. Clear Visibility Into Inventory Levels
In an article featured in TotalRetail’s Fall 2015 issue, Zeke Hamdani of Celerant Technology claims, “Efficient fulfillment of stock is impossible without clear visibility into inventory levels. Most small-to-mid-sized retailers fulfill web orders from physical locations, and disparate e-commerce platforms can’t see store inventory levels.”
If your company is running an omnichannel or multichannel retail platform, you are aware of the issues with inventory management across channels. Finding a fulfillment provider that offers clear visibility into real-time inventory across all channels is key. With fulfillment of web orders coming from multiple physical locations, it’s essential that every time a SKU is scanned in-store, the item quantity is simultaneously updated with each purchase and shows in real time to the online customer.
When choosing a fulfillment provider, make sure their inventory and warehouse management system offers real-time inventory management and full visibility to their current stock across all channels.
2. Avoiding Errors in Customer Messaging
Showing items as out of stock, when another omnichannel location may have inventory is one problem, but imagine your customer’s disappointment when they’ve ordered a product and the product isn’t actually available. This happens all too often. Customer puts item in cart, customer pays for item, customer gets verification email that their order is being processed and a short time later – BOOM! – “We’re sorry, this item is no longer in stock, and you will not be charged for your purchase. We will notify you when the item has been re-stocked.” Want to know what the chances are that the customer will return to purchase the item when it is re-stocked? A whopping 17%, according to Demandware. 17%! Not only did you lose a potential sale, you also potentially lost a return customer.
“[When there is not clear visibility into inventory levels] this increases the chances an item that cannot be fulfilled is sold, or an item that’s in stock may show up as unavailable.” (Hamdani, p. 9)
Your customer counts on a product that is listed as available to be available, and – if there is inventory sitting in a warehouse – that inventory is available to purchase. Efficient and effective fulfillment companies will ensure that up-to-date systems and processes are in place to make sure your inventory is 100% accurate, in real-time.
3. Integrated Platforms with Up-To-Date Systems
When running an omnichannel retail business, it is likely that different channels run on different systems. Outside of your business, other third-party providers such as logistics, warehousing, packaging and return processing (reverse logistics) may also be running on different platforms. Your easiest solution? Find a company that can do all of these things for you! But if that’s not realistic for you, it is important that your fulfillment provider can integrate with a variety of different platforms to run smoothly and efficiently.
“When platforms are integrated, inventories don’t have to be allocated to individual channels and reported availability occurs in real time.” (Hamdani, p. 9)
Allocating your inventory to specific channels prevents your customer from finding what they want, how they want, when they want – the benefit of omnichannel. Having an integrated platform allows your inventory to be shared across all channels, making more product available to your customer no matter how they’d like to receive it.
When searching for the right fulfillment provider for your business, make sure their inventory management software is something that fits you as an omnichannel retailer. One that offers clear visibility to current inventory, real-time inventory availability, and integrated platforms for sharing of inventory across channels.
Saddle Creek Logistics Services and our state-of-the-art inventory management system, powered by Softeon, can support all of these fulfillment needs and more! Contact us now to request a quote.