How Retailers Can Drive Sales And Better Customer Experiences With Real-Time Inventory
Data is like inventory - the longer it sits, the less valuable it can become. Backend systems don’t always sync in time to provide updated inventory changes. Data traveling to centralized clouds and data centers only get delayed further. Retailers are now tracking inventory across channels and touchpoints, including online, in-store, and in-app. The goal of this omnichannel retail experience, in theory, is to provide a convenient experience for customers everywhere in the retail journey and to increase sales opportunities for retailers. To create a frictionless omnichannel experience, retailers need a real-time view of all of that data.
Data at the edge sits right next to customers, stores, and distribution centers. Instead of customer data being sent to a centralized cloud, data can be processed wherever customers and retail staff are, anywhere in the world or online. When retailers adopt edge technologies, they gain the ability to see a real-time view of inventory and other data at any access point. Retailers can move inventory across channels to the stores, warehouses, and mini-fulfillment centers. Website and application performance improves for shoppers and staff with faster response times.
Real-time offers not only benefits for inventory tracking but across all levels of the business. Buyers can analyze sales patterns and trends to adjust purchasing decisions. Marketing can offer social and email promotions based on inventory counts. Real-time data allows websites to recommend personalized, curated deals and product recommendations with greater context and relevance.
Deliver a globally visible, locally curated inventory
Many retailers operate globally or across many regions. In retail and e-commerce, it’s not unusual to have over a million SKUs across the world. Each geography will have a select set of products from the global inventory. These product inventory subsets add operational complexity. Mismanaged inventory can result in unnecessary mark-downs or other losses.
Real-time inventory change feeds provide an exact count of assortments and locations. It also simplifies the complex logistics of just-in-time inventory and dynamic pricing for the most profitable use of space. Retailers can determine what merchandise to move and what products to order with real-time analysis.
Customers and staff can seamlessly access available inventory by region with geotagging for product subsets. Plus, data residency is local on the edge so it can meet any and all privacy requirements.
Expand fulfillment options online and in-store
Extending the buyer journey over apps, websites, and in-store is now the industry standard. When we discuss topics like the future of retail, we’re speaking plainly about the ability of retailers to streamline inventory logistics and adopt the real-time connections between shoppers and stores. Omnichannel is the new reality of retail, and the companies that do it well will be the ones that see the most success.
Keeping store and online inventory separate is no longer an option. Traditionally, retailers kept in-store inventory separate from direct-to-customer (D2C) warehouses for online orders. Now, the line between online and in-store is permanently blurred. Shoppers can browse in-store and buy online for at-home delivery, or they can buy online and pick up in-store (BOPIS). Customers can buy online and ship-to-store (BOSS). Some retailers can cap shipping costs with buy online, and return in-store (BORIS). Customers prefer the convenience and if they come to the store, they may buy other items. Retailers need to be prepared for all the ways that customers browse, purchase, receive, and return inventory.
In the past, most distribution was handled through a large, centralized distribution center. Shipping times from these distribution centers largely depended on the customer’s proximity to that particular warehouse, which resulted in inconsistent shopping experiences. Now, retailers are moving away from this centralized model (Amazon, for example) and creating hubs. Stores now act as their own mini-fulfillment centers for retailers to ship from stores (SFS). In the past, retailers would mark down slow-moving inventory and lose profit. Now a shopper in Seattle can place an order that is fulfilled from a store in Seattle. If that store doesn’t have the inventory, it will be fulfilled by the next closest location. All these changes happen in real-time, enabling faster inventory turns and better use of selling space.
Retailers offer expedited shipping to compete with e-tailers. Fulfillment networks near the customer can use standard shipping instead. This lowers shipping costs and has a positive environmental impact while delighting the customer with a fast turnaround.
Data is also following this model. When we talk about cloud computing vs edge computing, it’s really just examining where we send and store and process data. Are you using a centralized fulfillment center (cloud computing) or are you using local stores and mini-fulfillment centers (edge computing)?
Improve online purchase paths
Keeping data close to the customers and staff delivers faster response times to improve customer journeys and increase sales.
Customers form an opinion about all company channels based on their website experience. Page load time determines organic search results and could impact future opportunities. Improved performance across applications can reduce cart abandonment and deliver the experience customers expect.
Create immersive customer experiences
Immersive customer experiences need real-time interactions and millisecond automation to support analytics, AI, and omnichannel touches. When a customer comes into a store, they can use virtual mirrors to try on clothes or makeup. Sales associates can upsell or assist customers based on real-time inventory suggestions.
Customers can also receive instant promotions and be directed to self-serve technologies like smart vending machines for faster checkout. After the transaction, they can receive a coupon for future purchases, or be shown where they can find a matching accessory.
Real-time data is a real-good business
Time and space are “money” for retailers. Real-time data and analytics - powered by the edge - are powering the most important business decision. Join our webinar to learn how your business can boost profits and customer satisfaction with real-time inventory management.
Macrometa for Retail
Data is active everywhere retailers do business with the Macrometa Global Data Network (GDN). Retailers can build a real-time inventory view for in-store, in-warehouse, and fleet management. Data is replicated in milliseconds and reconciled with automatic conflict resolution. Local copies of inventory data are kept in any of the Macrometa GDN 175+ points of presence.
Macrometa lets you store, serve, and process your data within 10ms of 80% of the global population.