A Stock Control Guide to Omnichannel Inventory

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Omnichannel retail used to be solely the domain of large enterprises but building an eCommerce site or setting up an online marketplace is now much easier for smaller retailers and SMEs. The omnichannel pursuit, however, does have its challenges particularly when it comes to stock control.

Inventory ownership

The difficulty with inventory ownership is that the point where inventory stock changes hands differs depending on the sales channel.

In a brick-and-mortar store, the customer makes a purchase and leaves the shop with those goods. As soon as the transaction is made, the merchandise is no longer part of the store’s inventory stock.

In an online transaction, however, the delay between when the customer makes the purchase and when it is shipped means that merchandise in the warehouse belongs to the shopper but is still part of that store’s inventory stock. With online inventory management, purchases sold online or in-store are removed from stock records as soon as the sale has been made.

Traditional stock control

Prior to multichannel retail, the way of apportioning inventory generally involved a single channel model where retail sales used a single distribution. Separate lots of inventory stock where allocated to each individual sales channel.

This single channel approach was inefficient and meant that if an item was out of stock, it couldn’t be sold. Customers now expected a more convenient experience such as the option to shop from multiple channels. As a result, a single-channel strategy is no longer enough to attract increasingly demanding, digital consumers. Small business and larger retailers are now working hard to generate more from their stores, often holding extra inventory stock to enable online order fulfilment.

Omnichannel inventory

An inventory management system can act as the single source of truth for stock levels across locations and is necessary to maintain effective stock control over various sales platforms. It allows you to stay on top of orders and stock control with minimal hassle. If something sells out in your physical store, then that product will also be marked as sold-out online.

For some businesses, the features they are seeking are better met by integrating their POS with their chosen eCommerce technology. Ensure that the different platforms you choose have a track-record of easy integration or are systems with existing integrations that are proven to work well together.

Third-party providers can develop a strong integration for your business that provides both omnichannel retail and smarter inventory management, with custom features that work best for your business.

Omnichannel customers

Effectively implementing omnichannel solutions can greatly enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty. By offering customers a unified, real-time view of inventory stock online, both in-store and at distribution centres, customers are aware of what products are available and from where they can be purchased.

Small outlets and SMEs can provide a more one-on-one customer experience, making personalised service one of their core competencies. Implementing an effective omnichannel strategy will enable the customer to enjoy a seamless, tailored shopping experience, whatever the size of the retailer.

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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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