Recently, I drove to a large, brick-and-mortar bookstore in search of a specific novel. Although the book was on best-seller lists only a few years ago, the store didn’t have a copy in stock. A sales associate offered to order it for me, telling me I could drive back to the store and pick it up the next week. I told her “No, thanks” and ordered the book online, and it showed up on my doorstep two days later.
Not only did this interaction cost the brick-and-mortar store a sale, but I may even be less likely to shop there in the future. The lesson: Inventory management tools can make or break the customer experience.
Here are four problems that brick-and-mortar retailers commonly face and four inventory management tools that can solve them:
1. Online Competition
Limited shelf space doesn’t have to mean limited options for customers. A growing number of retailers are adopting endless aisle solutions, which let shoppers place in-store orders for out-of-stock items — and even for items that are never carried in-store. By offering to ship goods to customers’ homes for free, retailers can set themselves up to truly compete with popular online retailers.
2. Too Much Product (or Not Enough)
Retailers have huge amounts of historical information about sales and the conditions surrounding them, and predictive analytics tools can convert this data into inventory forecasts. In some cases, store managers don’t need help predicting consumer demand. For example, the first snowstorm is likely to move shovels, and if the local football team is playing in the Big Game, there’s certain to be a run on jerseys and sweatshirts.
But other correlations are subtler. Analytics programs can help retailers prepare, ensuring they don’t run out of a product just when demand is likely to spike or have excess product during a lull.
3. Novice Employees
Staff turnover in retail is notoriously high, and many stores carry thousands upon thousands of distinct items. It’s unreasonable to expect an employee who has been working at a big-box store for six weeks to be able to rattle off the benefits and drawbacks of a dozen different fishing rods. And yet, if employees can’t provide that level of service, many shoppers will turn to smaller specialty stores with knowledgeable staff, or buy online where they have access to customer reviews.
By incorporating product information apps into their inventory management systems, retailers can put expertise at their employees’ fingertips, helping them to convert sales and increase customer satisfaction.
4. Long Lines
Even a five-minute wait in line can cost a retailer a customer. Research shows that around half of shoppers will avoid a store in the future if they have to wait more than five minutes, and a third of customers forced to wait that long will simply abandon the checkout line.
By giving employees the ability to check shoppers out on the spot with mobile point-of-sale solutions, retailers eliminate the line completely, creating an experience conducive to repeat business.
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