Offering great customer service and a positive shopping experience is the goal of all retailers – they know that the experience the customer has is the biggest influence in building loyal advocates who love the brand.
Great stores, well designed websites, helpful staff – these are all obvious ways to enhance the customer’s shopping experience. But what about the ‘behind the scenes’ factors, such as inventory, warehousing and logistics? These can impact the customer experience just as much as what happens in the store and on the web. And at the very heart of the back-office operation is a Single View of Inventory system. So how does a single view of inventory system help retailers deliver an outstanding shopping experience to their customers? Here’s my take on the top three:
Visibility of stock
One of the greatest changes in shopping habits is the rise and rise of the click and collect transaction. Shoppers love the convenience of buying online, with the immediacy of collecting at the store. But for click and collect to work efficiently, customers need to have an accurate view of which store has the item in stock. No point in going to one side of town if the goods are on the other.
For the more traditional customers whose first port of call is the store, visibility is still a useful tool – they might see the item they love, but not in the right size or colour. With single view of inventory, either through an in-store kiosk, or via an associate with a mobile device, they can find out which nearby stores have the exact item they want to buy. A customer with a smooth purchase of the right goods is a happy customer.
Rapid availability of goods
There’s nothing more frustrating when shopping online than landing on exactly what you want, then finding it is out of stock. Whether the customer wants to pick up in-store or have the goods delivered to home, they want them to be available. Single view of inventory really helps retailers here too – the more accurate their view of stock, the more quickly and efficiently they can get it to the customer. And a single view of stock, across all stores and warehouses, allows for greatly increased accuracy in forecasting and timely purchasing, meaning that out of stocks really can become a thing of the past.
Not every purchase is perfect and sometimes goods are returned. Shoppers don’t want to be restricted to having to return items to the same store where they bought them, but for retailers with outdated systems with a siloed view of inventory, returns to a different store cause a real headache when it comes to tracking stock. Single view of inventory removes this headache – the returned goods simply go back into the stock pool, from where they can be sold to shoppers in any store, bricks and mortar or virtual.
A Single view of Inventory system is one of the key underlying enablers of true omnichannel, helping to deliver a seamless shopping experience whatever the channel(s) the customer is using. It is an essential tool in the retailer’s armoury in the battle to win happy and loyal customers.