The Challenges and Importance of Maintaining and Managing Inventory Accuracy in Omni-Channel Retail Stores

As retailers move to expand their omnichannel strategies to allow customers to easily purchase products both online and in store, inventory accuracy is critical to maintaining customer satisfaction.

Retailers effectively look to drive sales through initiatives such as BOPIS (buy online pick up in store), SFS (ship from store) and even customers just finding the products they desire during their in-store shopping experience. Having the right products at the right time when the customers want them is a challenge that all retailers struggle with.

Here are some of the key issues, expectations and consequences of maintaining and managing inventory accuracy in the retail omni-channel:

  • When store inventory falsely posts product availability retailers not only run the risk of lost sales but also an impact on customer loyalty.
  • When customers place an online order, they expect their order to be filled and they expect it to be filled fast. If their demand cannot be met than they will move to the next retailer that has what they are looking for.
  • When retailers are forced to send an apology email stating that the customer order cannot be completed, it shows that they don’t truly know their inventory levels. This will erode customer confidence.

However, there are many areas where retail stores and store Associates can help control, maintain and manage accurate inventories.

For example,

  • Accurate physical inventory counts. Retailers traditionally utilize third party vendors to periodically conduct physical inventory counts across their stores. Recently, some retailers have begun taking this process over and are now performing their own physical inventory counts with the hopes of better controlling the accuracy of the count.
  • Implementing an effective cycle counting program to update inventory on an ongoing basis.
  • Establishing a well-defined process and implementing associate training for proper product handling (receiving, replenishment, marked out-of-stocks, etc.).
  • Employing loss prevention strategies to minimize inventory inaccuracies due to theft.
  • Maintaining well-organized back-stock storage locations.

The bottom line…

If done well, a retailer may experience higher sales and increased customer traffic. If not, retailers run the risk of wasting labor looking for products that may not exist, ultimately leading to a negative impact on the customer experience.

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Nathan Steadman

Nathan is a Director for the Connors Group, specializing in developing labor improvement initiatives for organizations across retail, distribution and manufacturing channels. Key focus on optimizing labor deployment and staffing/service levels using engineered standards to staff the right people at the right time. Nathan specializes in execution and management of projects which focus on analysis, design, and implementation of LEAN process improvements, best methods migration, task-based engineered standards development and work area layout changes. More than 16 years of consulting experience. He has directly worked with 120+ clients across 15 countries.
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