Managing Inventory as an Omnichannel Business

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Organising inventory can be a complicated task in itself, but for omnichannel businesses, it can be even more complex. In this article, we explain the challenges involved in omnichannel inventory management and omnichannel businesses can navigate this complicated task.

What is an omnichannel business?

Omnichannel is a multichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience, whether they’re shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone, or in a brick-and-mortar store.

An omnichannel approach means there’s integration between distribution, promotion and communication channels on the back end.
For example, a customer service representative interacting with a customer in a store can immediately reference the customer’s previous purchases and preferences as easily as a customer service rep on the phone or a customer service webchat rep. Alternatively, the customer can use a desktop computer to check inventory by store on the company’s website, buy the item later with a smartphone or tablet, and pick it up at a chosen location.

The challenges of omnichannel inventory

Clearly, omnichannel businesses provide a comprehensive and convenient approach to customers and sales, and this can be a successful business strategy. However, omnichannel business comes with many challenges, and inventory management is possibly the most significant.

A company needs to be mindful of issues like the visibility of inventory within its system, conflicts with other channels for constrained inventory, order accuracy, and a myriad of other things that will all affect the bottom line.

Mismatched stock

Retailers often find their digital inventory count and the actual inventory count don’t match. There are a few common reasons this happens, including human error during manual inventory counts, incorrectly documented item locations and inefficient or incorrect returns processing.

Omnichannel retailers are more susceptible to inventory discrepancies. To avoid this, regular stock reconciliations are vital for an omnichannel business and can provide a more accurate view of your inventory.

Inventory Management Tips

Stock inventory across locations

Keeping inventory at several distribution centres offers two main benefits: You’ll fulfil orders faster by shipping from a location closest to the customer, and if your store runs out of an item, you can restock immediately from the nearest warehouse.

Keep in mind that online orders don’t always need to be fulfilled from a warehouse. You can make your store a distribution centre for online orders and ship products from it as well.

Be sure to identify sales patterns across channels, sources, and destinations. This allows you to make more proactive ordering decisions for each individual item and warehouse. By optimising the stock levels at each location, the omnichannel retail process becomes efficient and cost-effective.

Connect your systems

It doesn’t matter if you fulfil every purchase using store inventory. In-person transactions and online orders still impact stock differently. And if you choose to have your merchandise spread across multiple locations, a single source of inventory truth is especially necessary.

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

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.

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