Retail success isn’t only about getting customers into your store. It’s also about meeting their expectations. Having the right merchandise at the right time is one of those expectations. Consumers are smarter than ever before, and making it easy for customers to find what they want, when they want it, is something every retailer must take control of.

That’s not always easy to do. Customers’ buying habits can change rapidly, affected by such diverse influences as marketing campaigns or celebrity tweets. If you don’t have the ability to react to these frequent changes, you’ll miss out on connecting with your customers and therefore potentially lose good money.

On the flip side, if you’re overstocked, you’ve then wasted valuable shelf space and lost profits to discounting and reshipping. Finding the perfect balance is what could make or break your next sale.

The right inventory management solution can pay off in multiple ways, including:

  • Greater sales
  • Reduced waste
  • Higher margins
  • Improved customer loyalty
  • An edge on the competition

Knowing What’s Where, When

The good news for retailers is that the technology pieces of the inventory management puzzle have become less expensive. At one time, inventory project budgets were eaten up by expensive specialized mobile scanning guns and in-store IT infrastructure. Now, a simple smartphone or tablet can scan your product barcodes and transmit data to your inventory management systems — which, because they can run on virtual servers in the cloud, don’t require excessive capital outlays for infrastructure.

These savings are important, because you should focus your resources instead on software and information flows. At the simplest level, this usually involves tracking your point-of-sale data to appropriately replenish what your customers are buying — and even help you get a little ahead of the curve by projecting trends.

But there’s more to inventory management. With the right inventory solution, you can cut costs and speed replenishment by getting digital manifests from your distribution centers, instead of relying on time-consuming manual item counts. You can streamline restocking and return tasks. You can even leverage beaconing technology to work with a mobile app to guide your customers right to the items they want.

In fact, by using mobile devices and Wi-Fi to leverage merchandise barcodes into precise knowledge about the movement of merchandise, retailers can transform their businesses in all kinds of ways that improve margins and enhance the customer experience.

Three Keys to Success

Here are three principles to keep in mind as you re-engineer your inventory systems:

  • Stay modular: You can maximize the return on your investment by mixing and matching technology components in different ways to generate multiple business benefits. Pick your technology components to provide flexibility and efficiency.
  • Mind the management: In addition to giving you the information you need, your inventory systems must also be secure and easy to operate. Otherwise, they’ll put undue stress on users and draw down profits.
  • Map the journey: Attempting to achieve optimal inventory management in one giant leap is neither practical nor prudent. A smarter approach is to map out a plan from your current state to your desired state, targeting the simplest projects first.

Technology is transforming inventory management. Every retailer should take advantage of this transformation by dreaming big and starting now.

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