As a customer, there is nothing more frustrating than seeing that the item I have just clicked on has already gone to someone else. We consumers tend to believe that inventories are endless, especially when we really want something. So, when we cannot get what we want, our frustration often translates into finding another retailer that CAN offer it.
This is why retailers need to have complete, real-time visibility over their inventory—whether it is in the warehouse or in stores—in order to keep customers informed of stocks at all times. Real-time inventory visibility allows retailers to apply technology that shows inventory levels across all channels.
Powered by Connected Retail, real-time inventory visibility begins with technology. For example, radio frequency identification chips (RFID) can be placed on clothing, or even inside it, to give each garment an individual ID.
“With RFID chips — which don’t use [a] battery or electricity and cost just pennies to make — every item in a store can have a unique identifier. Thus, any specific item can be easily located by an RFID reader, a companion technology that communicates with the chip,” said an article in the Washington Post.
Along with other Internet of Things (IoT) enabled technology—a combination of store shelf sensors, smart displays, digital price tags and high resolution cameras—retailers can see what is where. From the store shelf to the back stock room, central warehouses and other stores, they can link these sets of inventory data for full visibility.
Macy's is using RFID to fuel its "Pick to the Last Unit" (P2LU) program for omni-channel order fulfilment. P2LU attempts to ensure that the last unit of an item in any store is made available for sale and easily located for order fulfilment.
For perishable goods this visibility is even more important. Software AG helped one of the world’s largest grocers achieve real-time inventory visibility by using in-memory technology. This creates a constantly updated inventory record that increments and decrements across multiple inventory master systems from stores, warehouses, suppliers, and other sources.
This detailed visibility is essential for giving omni-channel customers the insight inventory levels they expect but also provides detailed insight to assist retailers looking to redeploy inventory across channels.
Inventory control is not just limited to products in the warehouse or in the store; it can also come into play after the product has been sold.
“Major disruptors to retail supply chains are product recalls, which have struck everything from vegetables and dog food to baby products and appliances,” said Guy Courtin of Constellation Research.
Having data and improved visibility from the IoT would make it easier to rapidly track and trace a recalled product's origins, where it was distributed, and which retail outlets it passed through, he noted.
Knowing what you have, where it is and how many there are can mean the difference between making a customer happy or losing him. Having confidence in your inventory accuracy means you can find and make every item of inventory available for your customers. Then, when I click on “Last Item in Stock” I will get it!