In our increasingly digital, and moreover, consumer-driven world, inventory management can be tough for business owners. Whereas traditional inventory management was fulfilled in bulk and only took into account the brick-and-mortar store, these days it’s much different.
Consumers are increasingly demanding newer, more efficient and more convenient ways of ordering and receiving products. This means that not only do consumers want the option to buy products online, but they also want the option to buy products online across multiple channels.
Furthermore, they also want to be able to choose from a range of order fulfilment options – whether online delivery or “click and collect”. For business owners, this provides both an opportunity for more business and also, a significant amount of work in the area of inventory management.
How do different customer demands affect inventory management?
If a company has one or more physical stores but no online presence, the primary way they fulfil orders is in person. This means that there is generally only a couple of places in which inventory is stored, and therefore only one area they have to manage. This is what traditional inventory management looks like.
However, in today’s age, the options for product consumption have proliferated, and now customers can access product catalogues online not only through a central website but also through social media platforms and other channels.
Furthermore, to meet this demand for convenience, businesses have begun offering a variety of ways to shop. Not only can consumers purchase goods entirely online without stepping foot in store, but they can also ‘buy now, pay later’, or ‘buy now, collect in store’ and more.
For business owners, the multitude of ways in which customers can place orders means that inventory management must take into account all points of contact – the inventory online (and across all channels) must match up with what’s in store, and accurately record things like ‘click and collect’ orders. Here are more tips on how to manage multichannel inventory.
As Mike Khodl, vice president of global solution management at Dematic says: “it’s an ever-evolving situation with more dynamics in play than I’ve ever seen.”
How can business owners adjust inventory management to suit?
Given all of these factors, how can business owners adjust their inventory management systems to suit our on-demand world? We recommend implementing cloud-based inventory management to ensure all of your inventory records sync up in real time. Using tools such as barcodes and barcode scanners, you can scan any given item and instantly pull up all information associated with it – for instance, how many units are left, where they are located, and who has placed an order for that particular product and when.
Inventory management software will also allow you to keep track of how much inventory you have and where it is stored. Furthermore, you will be able to maintain accuracy across your online channels and in-store premises to ensure stock levels are matching up.
What’s more, depending on who you provide access to, anyone in the company with an internet connection and a device (e.g. a tablet, PC or smartphone) will be able to review the inventory levels in real-time.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.